Château de Voltaire at Ferney-Voltaire

The Château de Voltaire at Ferney-Voltaire

Wanting to take full advantage of our time house- and cat-sitting in Thoiry, France, I avidly browsed local websites and scanned any tourist brochures I came across. I was excited when I discovered that Voltaire’s home-in-exile-from-Paris for 20+ years was in nearby Ferney-Voltaire, France, only 15 minutes away. I’m a fan of the famous, witty and irreverent French philospher and writer. We had to go!

Banished from Paris by Louix XV, Voltaire (né François-Marie Arouet) lived at Ferney (later Ferney-Voltaire) from 1758 to 1778. Among other well-known works, Voltaire wrote Candide at the château in Ferney in 1759.

The Château de Voltaire at Ferney-Voltaire sits on extensive gardens perched above Lake Geneva and only a few miles from the city of Geneva. The outside is much as it was in Voltaire’s time, but the interior was changed significantly over the years. The last private owner reassembled furniture and art belonging to Voltaire and the property now belongs to the French state. Displays of models and diagrams depict the changes and show how the château looked when Voltaire lived there with his niece, Mme Denis née Marie Louise Mignot, the daughter of Voltaire’s sister. Mme Denis served as hostess for the many guests who visited the château. Although they never married, Voltaire was reported enamoured of Mme Denis and she inherited his estate upon his death.

Statue of Voltaire just inside the front door of the château

The interior of the château is beautifully maintained with inlaid floors and period furniture. A life-size statue of the puckish Voltaire stands just inside the front door. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit of the château, which finishes with a room of books and comic books depicting Voltaire in some way. The variety of books and the way in which Voltaire remains relevant to so many is surprising and a tribute to the man.

Looking towards the Alps from the château gardens

The château offers views of the Alps from the formal gardens. A small orangerie at one end is apparently an event venue now. In addition to the main gardens, the château grounds include woods, a tree-lined bower, a field with sheep and plots used for farming.

Practical info: From April 1 – September 30, the château is open from 10am-6pm. From October 1 – March 31, the château is open from 10am-5pm. During both seasons, it is open every day with the last entry 45 minutes before closing. The château is closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25. Check here for more details and prices.

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