Château de Noël

By Taylor Spill

Imagine yourself in a winter wonderland, full of spectacular decorations and bright lights, housed in and around a French Revolution-inspired manor reminiscent of a Château de Noël (Christmas Castle). Just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of London, a Christmas oasis awaits. After a two years hiatus, the Waddesdon Manor is bringing its annual Christmas celebration back for its 20th year. Find out more in Château de Noël

The story of this magnificent and quintessential English Christmas celebration begins around 1874 with Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, a renowned art collector and member of the banking family. Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild needed somewhere special to house his extraordinary collection of 18th-century French art. 

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild was originally from Austria, however, he spent most of his formative years in Paris and the UK. He was a banker, much like most of his family, but also sat as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons. His most outstanding attribute was as an art collector.

Rothschild’s vision of the perfect home for his art came as soon as he brought sprawling land from the Duke of Marlborough in Waddesdon. The seemingly endless amount of green grass in the countryside was the perfect touch for the space.

In order to fully emulate the aesthetics of his 18th-century French art collection, Rothschild envisioned building a massive château, inspired by the corresponding French Revolution. This vision would come to be known as the Waddesdon Manor.

This grand project took around eleven years to complete, from 1874-1885. Gabriel Hippolyte-Destailler was responsible for the building and designing of the manor to correspond with Rothschild’s vision. Once the Waddesdon Manor was finished in 1885, Rothschild took full advantage of the space, using it to house his collection and to host parties to show it off to high society. 

Eventually, the manor was used to house Rothschild’s family as well as it was used for intimate showings of his collection. This remained the case for a while until the Second World War, when it was used to house over 100 children from London, fleeing the chaos occurring in the city. 

Following the aftermath of the Second World War, the Waddesdon Manor was endowed with the National Trust, and it was opened to the public in 1959. Rothschild’s refined taste in art was now something to be enjoyed by all. 

Since its opening to the public, repairs and restoration began in 1984. This closed the manor from 1990-1994 for more extensive restoration. And eventually, the garden was restored in 2003, made to emulate that of a French château, consistent with Rothschild’s vision. 

And now, Waddesdon Manor brings us the spirit of Christmas. Maintaining the beauty of the château while also boasting a variety of colourful displays and decorations, Christmas at the Waddesdon is the perfect fusion between the classic and the modern. It becomes Château de Noël.

In honour of the 20th anniversary of the Christmas celebration and its first reopening since 2019, Christmas has become even more elaborate. With the same uniquely decorated rooms, with new touches in addition.

Some of the spectacular displays within and around the manor include a tunnel illuminated with rainbow star lights, twinkling butterfly lights, a 22-foot tree with over 10,000 pixels, a peacock statue as the dining room centrepiece, colour-changing stepping stones, and more. These modern and innovative displays help represent the beauty of this manor. 

In addition, the manor boasts a Christmas Fair, with over 70 artisan stalls full of gifts and decorations. The fair has over 1,000 meters of lighting and is a unique way to shop for gifts while enjoying the essence of Christmas. A new addition to this fair experience is the Food Village, with myriad options for food and drink to enjoy while galavanting around the light displays.

Overall, the Waddesdon Manor is the perfect way to admire the visual history of the space while also getting into the holiday spirit. Extraordinary 18th-century art housed in rooms embellished with various decorations matching the aesthetic of each room as well as the use of the lights illuminating the outside space makes this Christmas something special.

The Waddesdon becomes a Château de Noël from 12 November to 2 January. It is a great way to enjoy art, beautiful architecture, and the holiday season in a single manor. Check it out at

If you enjoyed reading Château de Noël why not read An Alternative Christmas

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