Located approximately 70 kilometres Northwest of Paris, art lovers flock to the town of Giverny to marvel at the gardens captured in Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s paintings. While the Foundation Claude Monet is certainly a must-see, it’s worth noting that the picturesque village and its surroundings have even more to offer. Here are eight things to know before you visit Giverny, France.
While it may be tempting to let a tour operator take care of everything from Paris, it’s best to plan the journey via train. Booking a tour not only involves travelling through heavy traffic and on uneventful toll highways, Giverny is not a somewhere where you want to be on someone else’s schedule or clustered into a group with tourists. The best option is to take the train directly to Vernon-Giverny, which departs several times a day from St Lazare station. It takes approximately 45 minutes, and the cost is as low as 9 EUR for a one way ticket. From the Vernon station, there are shuttle busses to Giverny every 15 minutes that cost a mere 10 EUR roundtrip.
Travelling via Vernon allows for exploring this charming town, which was also frequented by Monet. It has a small museum dedicated to the Impressionists that includes one of Monet’s famous Nymphéas paintings (while there are replicates of Monet’s work in his house in Giverny, there aren’t any of his actual paintings on view permanently in the town). Other noteworthy sites in Vernon include the Old Mill and the church Collégiale Notre-Dame, both of which Monet painted, and the château des Tourelles, a 13th century castle classified as a Historical Monument of France that sits alongside the Old Mill on the banks of the Seine River. Another way to spend time here is enjoying a picnic lunch along the Seine before heading back to Paris, rather than dining on a potentially overpriced meal in Giverny.
Along with the Claude Monet Foundation, the Museum of Impressionism also merits a visit to discover even more of what Giverny has to offer. Tickets for the two museums can be combined in order to take advantage of some savings, however can only be done so on-site at either museum or at the Tourism Office of Vernon, which may mean waiting in a line. If you’d rather save time than money, tickets can be purchased individually online in advance. There are also bundle options to include entrances for the Musée Marmottan Monet, L’Orangerie and the Musée d’Orsay, all of which are museums highlighting Impressionist artworks in Paris.
Taking the train and not booking with a tour operator also means that you’re not set up with a guide. Those who seek to have a little context surrounding their visit can book a guide directly through the Foundation, however it needs to be done so in advance. Otherwise, the garden is easily explored on a self-guided basis as is the house, which has curators stationed throughout to answer questions.
Unsurprisingly, Giverny is a popular destination that attracts herds of tourists particularly during the summer months. If possible, it’s best to visit during shoulder season in April or October. The Foundation opens as early as the end of March, and remains open until November 1. The weather may be slightly overcast (which, on the positive side, often makes for better photographs) but the gardens are still perfect. If summer holiday plans don’t permit a visit during quieter times, then plan for an early arrival to the town and visit the Foundation upon opening at 9:30 am to beat the crowds.
It can be difficult to remember that Giverny is a town in itself and not just another name for the Claude Monet Foundation. The town is lovely for taking a stroll, dotted with charming country houses that rival Monet’s. Giverny also remains the home of many modern-day Impressionist artists who have set up their own small private galleries, such as Claude Cambour, Florence Ramier and Christophe Demarez, all of whom are located on the same road as the Claude Monet Foundation. There’s also the aforementioned Museum of Impressionism and just 900 metres away from the Foundation is Saint-Radegonde Church, where Monet’s tomb can be visited.
The surrounding hills adorned with wildflowers create the perfect setting for nature walks, rambles and hikes. Route maps can be collected from the Tourist Board or found on their website. Those with an adventurous streak can venture out on their own; the old railroad path is a great option that when followed keeps you from getting lost and can even take you all the way back to Vernon. The walk between Giverny and Vernon is approximately five kilometres.