I love nature and art, so it follows that Impressionism is my favorite art form. The movement was started in the late 1800s around Paris when life got a little easier and people were able to get out into the countryside. Artists such as Claude Monet began to break with traditions of painting myths, people and religious iconography and started painting landscapes and people at leisure. The artwork celebrates nature and light and much of it is set in the French countryside where Monet did many of his paintings. He was especially inspired by the gardens at his house in Giverny. It has long been on my bucket list to visit this area and see the inspiration of this game changer. The day I spent biking from Vernon to Giverny with my son more than exceeded my bucket list expectations and was one of my favorite days around Paris.
Getting from Paris to Giverny (Vernon), France
Taking the train from Paris to Giverny
Using the Metro in Paris is generally very easy, but this was the only time that I had any problem. I tend to travel free and loose and don’t book tickets ahead of time unless I have to. This is a time that I recommend doing that. If you wait to buy the tickets at the station, only one computerized kiosk is available to buy them at and it is not well-marked. You cannot buy these tickets at any of the other ticket or Metro counters.
The train from Paris to Giverny leaves from the Saint-Lazare Paris station, which is pretty cool because Monet painted it and it still looks pretty much the same. You can take the Metro easily to this station, but first buy your Paris to Giverny tickets here. If you don’t the kiosk is right in front of the train platform. The track is on the top floor of the train station in the ‘Grandes Lignes’ area on the right of the platform. Once you find it, the rest of your trip to Vernon will be very easy, taking around 45 minutes.
Exploring Vernon, France
Most people leave Vernon right away, but the town is worth poking around. You can check out the Vernon Travel Guide for highlights. Since we rode our bikes to Giverny, we were able take a spin through town. We also stopped to pick up a picnic lunch from a boulangerie. We also spent about an hour in the small, inexpensive Musee de Vernon ( Museum Poulain). It is very small, but does a great job explaining the origins of impressionism and relating it to the sociology of the people involved. You can also see great paintings from lesser known artists. It was a great way to start our day immersing ourselves in the art form.
Getting from Vernon to Giverny
The train station is still around 2.5 miles to Giverny through the town of Vernon and across the Seine River. Monet’s House and Gardens are another half mile through the town.
Walk from Vernon to Giverny
The walking path is flat and follows the old railroad line.
Take a bus or taxi from Vernon to Giverny
When you get off the train you will see a queue of taxis just waiting to jet you off to Giverny. This will cost around 20 Euros. You can also catch the shuttle bus for 10 Euros, payable on board. Here is a timetable for the bus.
Ride a bike from Vernon to Giverny
I am so glad that this was the way we got to Giverny. It gave us a chance to really experience the countryside in Normandy. We saw various flowers, country homes, villages and churches.
Where to rent a bike in Vernon, France
The bike rental shop is right across the street from the train station in two cafes: Bar Restaurant du Chemin de Fer or Les Amis de Monet cafe. The bikes are a sorry lot, but the ride is flat and easy, so they are more than sufficient for around 12 Euros with a helmet.
The bike path from Vernon to Giverny
The 3 mile bike path is well-marked and will first lead you through the medieval town of Vernon either in bike lanes or along the sidewalk. You will cross over the River Seine with gorgeous views and the remnants of a historic bridge. The only part of the trail that confused me was right over the river. But there are signs, so keep following the ones that say “Giverny bike path” even though it seems to be taking you in the wrong direction. Watch the above YouTube video to see what the path looks like.
We took time to stop for a picnic lunch in the Normandy countryside, which was so peaceful and enjoyable.
We came to Giverny, like most people, to see Monet’s gardens in person. However, this small artist colony and village is adorable with small patioed restaurants, sprawling chateaus and numerous gardens set among stone buildings. I would love to return and stay at night, perhaps at the charming La Dîme de Giverny. This would be an ideal place to spend a day slowly meandering through the various museums and gardens and having lunch. We had a train to catch back to Paris though, so on to Monet’s House we went…
Visiting Monet’s House and Gardens in spring
The formal gardens at Monet’s house in Giverny
When you first enter from the ticket office you will be in the formal gardens, also called Clos Normand. The gardener’s placement of color and species is beyond talented and follows the theories that Claude applied in planning the garden. Although they are more formal, they are not structured or stiff. His goal was “a garden full of perspectives, symmetries and colours”. To read more about that visit Giverny’s garden website. If you are a garden lover, this place is a treat to immerse yourself in. When you are done exploring this garden follow the signs to Monet’s backyard…
Claude Monet’s Japanese-inspired water gardens
Monet’s most famous works are his Water Lilies series, a painters depiction of a world of his own creation. There he captured how nature and light interact in a the mirror of his pond. Here you will see the lilies, ponds and famous Japanese bridge, along with lots of other tourists…
On to Monet’s house
Monet raised his family and perfected his craft in the house still on the property. It also contains his famous and extensive Japanese art collection which inspired his construction of his ponds. However, he never had the opportunity to visit the distant land. There is also the chance to visit his studio where many of his works were painted.
We then rode back to catch the train back to Paris. Some people try to do this as a half day trip with the other half at Versailles. Even this hare traveler can’t imagine that, but you can see how I spent my whole day at Versailles, complete with its amazing gardens in the Queen’s Hamlet.
What are your favorite gardens you have visited? Please let me know in the comments. This definitely sits at the top of my list!