Annual celebrations in Vichy

For the past five years, Vichy has dedicated a long weekend at the end of April or beginning of May to events recreating the dress and dancing of the Second Empire, in honour of Napoleon III who transformed his favourite spa town by introducing more parks, a casino and a train station.

One of the main events is a grand parade of hundreds of men, women and children in traditional costume, who make their way through the street towards the opera house where Napoleon III and his wife Empress Eugenie will arrive in a horse-drawn carriage to watch them dance.

Onlookers are encouraged to get involved too by donning a replica Second Empire mask or taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. A special ‘quartier d’autrefois’ is also set up in the town, where street performers demonstrate lost arts such as the camera obscura.

Another highlight is the Napoleonic ball, held in the suitably sumptuous surroundings of the Vichy opera house. While the wine and the banquet is being served, there is music and dancing, before the ball begins – all for the very reasonable price of €49 in 2013.

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