“A magical evening that surpassed our expectations!” is how a young American couple from New York City described their experience of the Night Fountain Show that runs every Saturday night from June 16th until September 15th in the gardens of the castle of Versailles.
This very unique experience combines the extravagant backdrop of the castle, with the more natural, yet exquisitely designed gardens by Louis XIV’s landscape architect, Andre Le Notre. His work represents the height of the jardin a la française or French formal garden style.
Just as the castle’s design and décor reflect Louis XIV’s desire to show the best of France’s artistic and architectural achievement, the garden is an extension of this vision to surpass anything that had been done before, in terms of scope and scale.
From the famous Hall of Mirrors, one can appreciate the Grand Perspective, a long avenue through the garden that crosses a Grand Canal measuring 1, 670 meters long. This section of the garden alone took 11 years to complete. Once it was completed the area was used for extravagant parties, much like the garden show itself. It also served to allow the king to tinker with various sailing vessels, and when its surface was frozen, for skating and sledding.
However it is walking through the garden itself, particularly on the days of the garden shows, that one can fully appreciate the vision that the king and his gardener fulfilled. There are no less than 400 sculptures, representing mostly Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, allegories, and classical themes. Just as the décor in the castle highlights the glow of Apollo’s rays, so too does the garden highlight particularly the mythological triumphant stories of the sun god through such fountains as the Latona and Dragon fountain, as well as Apollo’s grove.
There are 55 pools and fountains to admire shooting 600 jets of water, which are all supported by a piping system that has been unchanged since the 17th century.
Luckily for us, a more modern hydraulic system supports the original pipes, which allows all of the jets of water to flow at the same time, something that was not possible during the time of the kings.
Our American couple also brought along their 4 year old daughter who absolutely loved the adventure of walking through the walkways and entering the groves which each had its own particularity and theme. “There is a surprise around every corner!”
The family was carried away into the past by the baroque music playing in the background that added to the ambience of the evening.
To highlight the whole experience, this past Saturday evening, June 24th was also the night of the castle’s masquerade ball.
This meant that people who were attending the event were dressed in period pieces and present in the gardens before they danced the night away in the king’s Orangerie or orange grove. For those who love the 18th century, nothing could surpass this experience. There were nobles, marquis, bishops, dukes, countesses, duchesses, and even someone dressed as the king himself, Louis XIV! So there was a lot of, “Look momma, look at all of the princesses!”
One truly feels transported during this event and can imagine the evening parties that the king provided the members of his court during this reign. There is a feeling of being a part of history with hundreds of other people from all over France and all over the world.
The finally of the whole event is the firework display which begins at 10:50pm and runs until 11:05pm. The fireworks are shot from the Apollo fountain in front of the Grand Canal. The lights are reflected on the canal and in the night sky. This is a perfect way to end a unique and very French experience.
Our friends summed up the evening best, “What a better way to experience Versailles than with masquerades, bubbles and fireworks! This was a wonderful family event and an unforgettable experience!”
The Night Garden Shows run from 16 June to 15 September 2018.
The Grand Perspective opens from 8:35pm to 11:05pm and fountains run from 8:30pm to 10:45pm. Music from 8:35pm to 11:05pm. Groves open and fountains run from 8:30pm to 10:40pm. Final fireworks from 10:50pm to 11:05pm. Tickets are from 26 to 44 euros, if you’d like to enter through a private entrance and have a glass of champagne.
The Grand Masked Ball at the Chateau de Versailles (2019 date in June to be announced)
98 to 330 euro tickets exist for a basic entrance to the event, the more expensive tickets include access to private areas and tables with food provided. The event starts at 11:30pm until the sun comes up. There is music, entertainment and lots of wigs all night long. Costumes are mandatory and renting one can average between 150-300 euros.