A great way to spend time with the kids if you’re in the Toulouse area is to go to the Labyrinth in the Merville castle. Created in the 18th century by the Marquis de Chalvet-Rochemonteix, it is the largest boxwood maze in Europe. Enter the ‘Enigma’ course and try to find the numeric codes to open the gates and water doors. It’s a fun day out for young and old!
A couple of years ago, I accidentally discovered the Merville castle Labyrinth when we were holidaying nearby. I remembered that the kids had a great time finding their way out while solving fun assignments in a beautiful setting. So, when the family and I stayed in Toulouse for our last holiday, I wanted to go back. With the kids being teenagers, I feared it would be a bit boring for them. But entering the labyrinth immediately sparked their curiosity, and off they went. Of course, Oldest- 16 years old- didn’t want to do all assignments and tried to take shortcuts. The twins- 13 years old- disagreed though, and seriously tried to answer all the questions and riddles.
In order to get out of the labyrinth, you have to correctly answer the main questions from the booklet given at the entrance. If not, you won’t find the correct numbers and the gates stay closed, or you will get wet at one of the water doors. The questions on the theme of fairytales and legends involve all kinds of skills. Math, biology, language, puzzles, and even physical action are required to get the right answers. In total, it will take about 2 hours to find the exit. The excitement on the kid’s faces- even Oldest- was golden. Especially when they cracked the codes to stop the water from running at the water doors.
The entrance fee to enter only the labyrinth is 10.50 euros for people 12 years and older, or 8.50 euros between 4 and 12 years old. You can also combine it with a guided visit to the castle. In that case, you’ll pay 16.20 euros (> 12 years) or 14.20 euros (between 4 – 12 years). You can also visit the château without the labyrinth for 10 euros (> 12 years) or 8 euros (between 4 – 12 years). This includes a guided visit as well as an entrance to the ‘Parcours Dédale’ (another word for labyrinth). Wandering through this maze will make you meet the castle’s family members that marked its history. You can also download an application that gives background information and anecdotes.
Venice at Merville
This time though, I wanted to go to the castle as well, which had much less acclaim from the family. However, during our visit the event ‘Venice at Merville’ took place. This meant that historically dressed up ladies and gentlemen graced our guided visit, making it extra special. In 1734, the Marquis de Chalvet-Rochemonteix inherited the lordship from his brother. He decided to build a luxurious castle using the region’s renowned pinkish brick. He also designed a boxwood maze integrated into the garden of 4 hectares. The boxwood walled pathways cover no less than 10 kilometres, located in the pleasant shade of ancient oak trees. Both the castle and the labyrinth are officially classified as ‘Historic Monuments’. On top of that, the labyrinth is also a ‘Remarkable Garden’. Nowadays, the Château de Merville is still in private hands, belonging to the descendants of the Marquis de Beaumont du Repaire.