Why you should visit Puy du Fou with kids: Voted the Number 1 attraction in Europe
Puy du Fou – the French theme park with no rides but big on thrills!
This week I have watched Vikings plunder a peaceful village and attack with might and cunning – setting light to buildings that stand in their path and their flagship appear as if by magic.
I have walked through a doomed seafarers ship laden with treasures and new scientific discoveries. I’ve felt the cold chill prevail through a dark, wooden cabin as we pass icebergs almost in touching distance. Then I’ve witnessed water pour though cracks and felt the wooden planks beneath my feet move as the boat seems to list side to side during our stormy journey.
Whilst I am still processing all I have felt and seen, I am transported to medieval times where I watch loyal knights celebrate with incredible horse riding and jousting skills as a brave maiden defends her castle with her mystical lance.
I journey through the Middle Ages following in the footsteps of France’s first king and enter one of his dreams under the sea.
I wonder what can possibly happen next, and then I am mesmerised as I watch the round table appear from a lake for King Arthur and Merlin.
I could go on, and I will reveal all my tips for visiting this incredible theme park. The truth be told my mind is still digesting all the incredible feats of showmanship, the illusions and actor performances whilst wondering in awe ‘how on earth did they do that?’
What is Puy Du Fou?
In a nutshell, visiting Puy Du Fou is like you are in the middle of various film sets and are experiencing history as a bystander. At times, you feel that you have been transported back in time with an assault on the senses visually, aurally, by touch and emotionally. As an adult I was enthralled and watched kids completely captivated.
There are six main seated shows, where shows last approximately 40 minutes, and on certain weekends and special dates, a late night evening spectacular show called Cinéscénie – which requires an additional ticket. Along with this, there are several walk through experiences plus smaller shows and performances. However, don’t expect the smaller shows to have any less impact than the larger ones. You will still be impressed!
The park is immersive in every way, from detailed and authentically styled costumes worn by the actors in the shows, the waiters and shop staff in the period villages and themed onsite hotels.
Many of the gift shops even sell items which have been crafted in traditional ways. No over indulging on plastic tat here – although the kids Viking helmets looked fun!
The team behind the performances, even lent some of their expertise to Efteling – the Dutch theme park who have a popular themed show, Ravjelin.
Puy du Fou is a theme park but it has no rides, yet it has many thrills and magical elements. It’s a history lesson, which leaves you wanting to find out more and googling immediately afterwards. It is continually evolving which makes you wonder what they will come up with next year.
Who is Puy Du Fou For?
When we visited, the park was full of adults and kids alike. Weekdays seemed to have more adults and couples, whilst a weekend brought the families out in full force.
Currently, the majority of visitors are from France where Puy Dy Fou is a household name, but the secret is beginning to become more widely known in the UK.
Most of the shows are suitable for all ages, including toddlers, but I think six years and up is the ideal age for most experiences, due to some children perhaps finding some walk through shows a little on the scary side. (More on that below.) Helen, from Actually Mummy talks about visiting Puy Du Fou from a teens perspective here.
Attractions for young children.
However, there are still attractions for little ones, including farm animals, a garden – Le Monde Imaginaire de La Fontaine which re-tells Aesops fairy tales (I saw a hen lay ‘golden’ eggs, a fox devour the cheese which the crow dropped, a talking tree (and talking statues) plus a castle themed playground and maze.
The grounds are sympathetically looked after, with even the gardeners authentically dressed, natural resources used wherever possible making the surroundings seem very peaceful, even when busy.
The winding paths are stroller and wheelchair friendly, although there are some deep uphill and downhill parts. If you are using a pushchair or stroller, you will need to park it in the stroller bay before entering the majority of the shows due to space restrictions.
Information about the live shows and walk through settings
Most shows last from between 20 – 40 minutes, with the main shows taking the longest. Each show is such a feast on the senses, that they all seem to end aftrr a few minutes! You literally do not realise how quickly the time passes.
The shows are all in French (well we are in France after all) but it is still easy to get around the park. Some of the information boards have an English and german translation below.
Maps are available in English, most of the staff I came into contact with speak excellent English, plus there is a Puy Du Fou App which means you can listen to shows in English.
Puy Du Fou App
This is essential and incredibly useful. You can easily book your stay and retrieve your tickets, hotel vouchers and restaurant bookings etc. I found the app useful for its English translations for the main shows so don’t forget your earphones. Free WiFi is available throughout the park, although it can be patchy in some areas.
If you are bringing kids with you, it may be useful to bring a earphone splitter unless they have their own phone.
Fast passes – Emotion passes
Planning is essential and don’t expect to see all the shows in one day. We whizzed through many of the queues with Emotion passes which cost €15 per person, per day. I thought these were incredibly good value compared to other theme parks fast passes.
Best of all, you get to sit in a dedicated Emotion seating area, which in my opinion offer the best views too. Sitting further back, usually gave the best overview of the performance too.
Top Tips for Visiting Puy Du Fou With Kids
- Plan ahead. You won’t be able to see all the shows and attractions in one day, especially with young children. Do research the shows and choose which ones you want to see. The park is huge (140 hectares) so try and organise it for you finish one area first.
- Buy the Emotion Fast Pass to save queue time and to bag the best seats. You can book these online.
- Buy or bring a poncho with you. It tipped it down torrentially almost the entire time during out visit in June – and most of the attractions are outside. We didn’t get wet thanks to these and it we still enjoyed every show.
- I also brought my water proof and light weight trousers which I used a couple of times too! So don’t the rain stop you – if you are prepared for it, you will forget it is raining! Ponchos are €6 for adults and €5 for the kids red ponchos.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Bring earphones for your phone to use the Puy Du Fou app. Consider a splitter for the kids if they don’t have their own phone.
- Do as the French do, and pack a picnic or grab a takeaway bite to eat at one of the park eateries whilst you wander around.
- Plan for two days to visit if you want to see all the shows. A visit to Puy du Fou could be easily fitted into part of your itinerary in visiting the area. Travel Loving Family has some good Brittany road trip suggestions here.
Le Dernier Panache – The story of the Vendée Revolution
The Le Dernier Panache tells the story of the Vendée revolution against the blues. It follows the life of one man as he battles for the Resistance. The show differs from others as your seat is on a revolving stand, so the entire audience glides around each set as the story moved on. (Note you can’t get off once it has started for safety reasons.) Each set is incredibly well made and performed with lots of theatrical tricks and detail.
Marvel at battles, how snowflakes fall from the ceiling, horses gallop across and how do they get a beach with sea and waves on the stage!?
Suitable for older children and teens due to the story line and some disturbing execution scenes.
Mousquetaire de Richelieu – The Three Musketeers
This is an indoor show with an impressively largestage. As everyone is taking their seats, actors warm up the crowd with some slap stick sword fighting, usually with an audience participant! Then the show begins. A tale of musketeers, with the expected swashbuckling and incredible horses who dance on stage.
This show has some spectacular human dancing too, with a strong Spanish feel and will leave you wondering how on earth did they get the pavilion to be covered in ‘rain water’
Suitable for all ages, especially if they enjoy horses and dancing.
Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantômes – The incredible bird show
Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantômes, is a birds of prey show weaved into a storyline. With over 300 falcons, eagles, vultures, owls flying and swooping so close, you can feel the wind as they pass.
For obvious reasons no food is to be consumed inside, so do explain that to younger kids before hand! On a fine, non windy day expect to see a huge balloon high up in the sky, which opens to perform a ballet of birds spiralling down as they seek their prey.
This show is suitable for all ages.
This show is set in a purpose built colleseum, where Gauls and Romans warm you up for the show. Emotion passes have you seated on the Gauls’ side, who are trying to play to the Romans to change their ways and laws.
The good bits
The cheering and banter before the show makes for an incredible atmosphere and the chariot racing was mind-blowing. You could almost smell the gladiators sweat and see the mud fly up and splatter around. The actors and horses left you gobsmacked as wheels are broken off, poles were jumped and the victor proclaimed.
The not so good bit
France doesn’t have the same laws as the UK, so wild animals are allowed to perform. In this case a tiger and some lions. They are not on for long and I chatted in depth to the knowledgable staff about why they featured, as the show is spectacular enough without them.
The animals are clearly well looked after, with gleaming coats (the tiger is fairly famous as he has been in the trailer for the Life of Pi) and trainers have been on the set of the Gladiator, so an experienced team handle them.
These wild animals all live off site with plenty of land when off duty and are trained as if it is a game. If they are not in the mood or don’t want to play, then that is taken into account. The animals take turns and work on different days/different times, so they all have a chance to rest.
French views are aligning and changing too, so the park acknowledges they won’t feature in the parks long term future. (Puy Du Fou are opening a version in Spain soon and they will be no lions or tigers)
That being said, it didn’t sit right with me.
After seeing lions in the wild in Africa, it seems odd seeing them ‘perform’. I struggle with seeing them in zoos too, especially as they love to roam – so in this sense, the Puy Du Fou lions and tigers do get to re-live boredom by performing as a game. I do also understand it is not a simple procedure of just stopping the animals performing – there are so many issues about their welfare to be considered.
You can clearly see my inner debate, but I feel it is important for people to know this before they go as it may affect your visit of this show or the park itself.
Secret of the Lance
Secret of the Lance is about a maiden defending her castle during the 100 years war. the enemy are the English, but her magic lance saves the day.
Expect to see some sheep, geese, battling knights, jousting, flames and a castle appear! This is one of the shorter shows, but even so it was very popular and for good reason! You can get an Emotion pass for this one.
Suitable for all ages
Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde (King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table)
Myth and legend have long surrounded King Arthur and Merlin. At Puy du Fou, you witness Arthur pulling Excalibur out of the stone, the mysterious Lady of the Lake hand it back to him, men floating above their ship (!) and Merlin perform magic to unite the Knights of the Round Table.
This is a short show at 20 minutes, and was incredibly popular. You can’t get an Emotion fast pass for this one, so check the timings and maybe grab a snack to eat in the queue.
Suitable for all ages
Immersive walk through experiences
Le Premier Royaume – the story of the first King of the Franks
Le Premier Royaume is the newest attraction at Puy Du Fou, retelling the story of Clovis, the first king of the Franks, later to be known as France. It is a walk through experience, rather than a sit and watch, so you can leisurely walk in at a time that suits you.
The attraction begins with a large forboding entrance, as you pass through the mouth of the Norse god Odin, as you then walk through some quite eerie monks chanting as they write. The path weaves you through Clovis’ thoughts and dreams as he begins his journey to become King. Expect, flames, rumbles, moving rocks and more.
This may be a bit scary for young children due to the deep rumbling voices and special effects.
Les Amoureax de Verdun – First World War Trench experience
Les Amoureax de Verdun is a walk through First World War trench experience, told through the love letters of a soldier. It is a stark reminder of the horror of war and what soldiers had to endure everyday in the trenches.
The constant sound of battle: guns and blasts of light, smoke and mustard gas, all while trying to eat, sleep, cook, mend clothes and wait fo their turn to go ‘over the top’.
Then the unofficial Christmas Day Truce, a day that humanised both sides once more, until the bloodshed continued. I left this feeling humbled, grateful and sad. We saw children of about 7 quite upset with this one. It was like walking through history and one we can relate to still.
This may be a bit overwhelming for younger children. Lots of bangs and smoke.
Les Orgues de feu – night show with fireworks and lights
Figures, lit up against the night sky, glide as if by magic across the lake to the sound of Mozart & Bach, with ballerinas, coloured lights, water shows and fire.
La Cinéscénie – The sell out late night performance
La Cinéscénie is a show-stopping outdoor performance, that always sells out. It tells the story of a little boy Jacques and his ancestors from the Middle Ages to World War 1.
The show is full of jaw dropping stunts, special effects, battles, war scenes, images on water, fireworks, horses, geese, sheep, goats and over 2500 actors from near the local area. The use of drones make candles and flags seemingly float in the sky.
New for 2019 is the gothic chapel ruins which rises up and if from nowhere. It starts late (22.30) so won’t be suitable for young ones, and lasts for 1.5 hours. If you can, grab a babysitter or have teens then buy a ticket as soon as you can. They are normally on sale by October and sold out by March.
Suitable for kids who can sit through 1.5 hours and stay up late. It finishes around midnight, but by the time you exit the seating area, it could be 1am before you are back at your onsite hotel.
You can watch local craftsman make their wares and by trinkets and souvenirs.New for 2019 is the dress up photo opportunity. Each village has a small area where you can dress up in themed costumes, many of them costumes from TV and film. A single photos costs €10 no matter how many people are in the photo.
Accommodation at Puy du Fou
La Cité Nocturne is the onsite hotel complex which has 5 themed hotels from various periods of history, from Ancient Rome to the 18th Century. Most of the onsite hotels are 3 star with the exception of the newest addition, La Citadelle which is 4 star. All rooms come with a TV and free WiFi.
Along with the onsite hotels, guests have the options of staying within the local area. There are several one to five stars hotels and campsites within a hours drive of Puy Du Fou. Travel Loving Family stayed at Domaine De Kerlann in Brittany and Travelynn Family stayed at a lovely place self catering cottage in the Vendee.
La Villa Gallo – Romaine is the first original hotel with 100 three star rooms decorated with Corithian columns and Roman furniture.
les Îles De Clovis is where I stayed and immerses you into the Middle Ages. As soon as you turn into the area you are greeted with thatched houses on stilts in a tranquil setting.
Often the only living thing you will see are the ducks, who are hoping for a tit-bit. I was asked about the mosquitos but I wasn’t bitten once – the lakes and rivers surrounding the huts are filled with carp who apparently like to devour mosquito larvae.
Rooms can sleep 5, with bunk beds, a queen sized bed and a single sofa/bed. Onsite, is the restaurant Le Banquet de Mérovée which offers a traditional buffet. I indulged in crepes, pain aux chocolat, fruit and cheeses, but there are also yoghurts, cereals and more provided including fresh orange juice.
For dinner I dined on salmon en croute, fresh salads, and oh, all the cheese and bread. I did manage to snaffle some dessert too, although I have to admit there wasn’t much room left!
Rooms come equipped with hairdryers, shape and body wash, and soap. Mirrors are treated to look old, which can make it difficult to see if you are particular about wearing make-up.
Le Camp Du Drap d’Or
I was dying to peek inside one of these, but they were fully booked during out visit. Brightly coloured royal tents bearing the arms of Francis 1st of France and Henry VIII of England. Rooms have four poster beds, embroidered tapestries and all the modern comforts.
La Citadelle is a medieval fortress with opulent fabrics. Penny from stayed there recently. You can read more about her visit here.
Le Logis de Lesucure
Le Logis de Lesucure are four duplex suites in an 18th century style building. Each suite is a different decor but are more ideal for couples.
Eating at Puy du Fou
There are 22 places to eat in the park and hotels from fast food to gourmet cuisine. Whether you want to grab a quick burger, crepe or cheese fondu or sit down and enjoy a traditional French meal.
Kids often have their own area in the main restaurants with items such as pasta and chicken or hot dogs that they can choose from if nothing appeals from the other menu.
To give you an idea of prices, here is where we ate. We didn’t eat at any of the fast food outlets but I have included details of food available below.
L’Ecuyer Tranchant (in La Citadelle): adult/child €23.50/€11.50. Unlimited buffet. Drinks included for children only. I found some vegetarian options here.
Le Bistrot: (in the park) We ate à la carte but there’s a 3-course set menu of €21/€10.90, excl. drinks (see link) – plus children get a free ride on the carousel. There are some vegetarian options, but do ask for a translation if you have dietary requirements.
Le Café de la Madelon: (in the park) set menu €26.90/€11.90. Drinks included (red wine, coffee, mineral water) This is an incredible show, where even your waiter joins in! Do ask for a vegetarian option as it is a set menu and the normal vegetables did come in the dame juice as the chicken.
La Mijoterie du Roy Henry: (in the park) adult/child €15.50/€8.90 for a 3-course buffet lunch excl. drinks. This restaurant is a kind of a buffet but not a never ending one! At your table, you are given a wooden tray with 3 circles. You can go up and choose a starter, main and dessert from a selection of two or three choices. There wasn’t a great deal, if any vegetarian option for a main, but there is plenty of bread, salad, cheese etc, so I just had two starters instead.
Le Banquée de Merovée (Iles de Clovis): adult/child €21/€11.50. Drinks included for children only.
There are plenty of ‘fast food’ and other meal options within the park, if you don’t want to have a longer, sit down meal. Most places have shaded or covered areas for food bought there or your own picnics. I did ogle the baked Camembert option at one place. At others you can find:
- Mixed salads
- Roasted and grilled meats served with potatoes
- Chicken goujons
- Hotdogs & more
- Desserts, ice-creams and sweets
Getting to Puy Du Fou.
The nearest airport is Nantes, which is an easy and straight forward drive, predominately on one main road.
The closest towns if you are staying onsite are Les Epesses, which is one minute by car and Les Herbiers which is seven minutes by car. The larger town of Cholet has a rail connection if you are arriving by train.
if you are like me, and like to read up extensively on attractions before you decide to go, these view points may help too.
- A weekend at Grand Parc Du Fou from My Travel Monkey
- Show guide to Puy Du Fou By Tin Box Traveller
- By Mummy Travels
I was invited on a press trip which included my flights, meals, hotel room and park tickets in order to write this review of Puy du Fou.