Vaux-le-Vicomte

As the swarms descend on Versailles, it’s time to look to her little sis Vaux-le-Vicomte (the great palace’s original inspiration, don’t you know?). After hibernating through winter, the spectacular chateau flings open her shutters on 25 March... just as the jaw-dropping gardens start to break into bloom. Simply divine, and what perfect timing?!

Sprawling over 1,235 verdant, landscaped acres, the elegant estate of parliamentarian Nicolas Fouquet is a living testament to the glory of France’s “Grand Siècle”, the 17th century. The chateau boasts ceremonial salons on the ground floor, private apartments above, and kitchens and staff quarters below, including an exhibition on André Le Nôtre’s surrounding French formal garden; pay extra to visit the view-blessed dome.

If you like your history bling, then the ornate interiors will have you in a flutter. Awash with fabulous chandeliers, gilt-framed mirrors, lavish tapestries and frescoes, the decoration doesn’t hold back. This is maximal luxury on a grand scale, from stately furniture to vast Chinese vases.

Explore the chateau, then enjoy a picnic in the grounds or lunch at informal Le Relais de l’Ecureuil. Come afternoon, wander the gardens, ogle the Carriage Museum and raid the gift shop. Candlelit Saturday evenings (6 May-7 Oct 2017), with fireworks and fine-dining at alfresco Les Charmilles (res required) or champers and macaroons on deck chairs, add glamour. VIP luxury car or ‘copter transfers make the 55km-trip from Paris a breeze.

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte / Maincy / +33 1 64 14 41 90 / 10am-7pm daily (until midnight Sat) / vaux-le-vicomte.com