It’s always been a magical place. The château of Vaux le Vicomte, 35 miles southeast of Paris, is a jewel box of a castle nestled in the same hilly green region that produces fromage de Brie. Built by Louis XIV’s finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, who enlisted the finest talents of his era—the same trio that later built Versailles—it was the scene of Fouquet’s triumph in 1661, a housewarming celebration that dazzled even the Sun King. Shortly afterward, Louis had Fouquet arrested for embezzlement. He was imprisoned for the rest of his life and never saw his beloved château again.

Today Vaux is privately owned by Comte Patrice de Vogüé and his family, who have buffed its luster to a sheen that would have made Fouquet proud. The exquisite castle is even lovelier during the visites aux chandelles, when both castle and grounds glow in the flickering light of thousands of candles. And during the holiday season the château sparkles even more,with an allée of glittering white Christmas trees flanking the entrance, a magnificent decorated tree in the Grand Salon and festive fires crackling in the imposing cheminées. The dining table is set for a holiday feast, and garlands of lights outline the swirling boxwood patterns of the Le Nôtre gardens. New this year: a glittering carousel spinning in front of the great gates to the main courtyard. Visitors of all ages will also be delighted by performances of Le Bossu de Notre Dame (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)—see the website for the play schedule and reservations.

Dec 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22-24, 26-31, 2012, Jan 2-6, 2013. 10:30 am–5:45 pm (to 5 pm Dec 24 and 31).

Roundtrip transportation from Paris to Vaux le Vicomte is available through ParisVision. See the ParisVision website for information.