Just 30 kilometres from Paris, the rustic charm of rural France can be enjoyed in Auvers-sur-Oise. This quaint village is tucked away between the river Oise and a chain of rugged cliffs that once provided stone for Paris’s famous boulevards. If you’re on a fleeting visit, here’s how to spend 24 hours in Auvers-sur-Oise.
Follow in the footsteps of famous artists
There are 22 signposted panels across two separate trails marking the spots where famous artists have set up their easels in Auvers-sur-Oise. Each one compares their masterpieces to the real scenes they represent. The 11th-century Church of Auvers was eternalised thanks to an enigmatic painting by Van Gogh, The Church at Auvers, and is definitely the highlight of the tour. The church was constructed atop a hill to commemorate the death of King Louis VI’s eldest son, with the historic centre clustering around below.
Visit the house where Van Gogh spent his final days
The tiny garret of the Ravoux Inn in Maison Van Gogh (Van Gogh’s House) is a place that sends shivers down the spine. It’s the only residence of Van Gogh’s to remain intact and is where the artist spent the last 70 days of his life. Aside from one chair, a tiny window and a few scratches from where he battered nails to hang wet paintings, no furniture remains. There isn’t actually much to see, but there is everything to feel. The idea is to furnish the room with your own emotions and to reflect on Van Gogh’s legacy. It’s incredibly authentic and the visit is followed by a short poetic film.
Pro tip: The quickest way to travel from Paris to Auvers-sur-Oise is to take the direct train that runs from Gare du Nord on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays (April 7 to October 28).
Fuel up with dinner at Auberge Ravoux
An artists’ cafe since 1876, serving the same classic dishes delivered to Van Gogh’s age-polished oak table, Auberge Ravoux is the best place to enjoy an afternoon meal. The decor is tender and timeless, with tea towel art that pays tribute to when Van Gogh ran out of canvases. The house speciality is a leg of lamb marinated for 24 hours and slow-cooked for seven until soft enough to eat with a spoon. The portions are hearty but be warned, the place can get booked up two weeks in advance.
Take an art class at Atelier d’Art Créatif
Atelier d’Art Créatif is a creative art workshop that is especially great if you want to escape the hot afternoon sun. You don’t need any experience to take part, just enthusiasm to get creative in a fun three-hour workshop. All painting materials are provided and you’ll leave having decorated a light wooden plaque small enough to slip into a suitcase. The workshop is run by English-speaking Hélène and must be reserved in advance via their website. It takes place at 48 rue Daubigny, which is convenient if you’re heading to the Daubigny Museum afterward.
If there’s time, check out the Absinthe Museum
There’s no art without absinthe, as the sizeable collection at the Absinthe Museum (Musée de l’Absinthe) shows. When you first walk in, you’re greeted by an aromatic garden whose plants are used to create the potent alcoholic drink. After visiting the garden, you then trace the history of this legendary ‘green fairy’ from its medicinal origins to its mythical legacy, replete with rituals that were banned by 1915 due to the drink’s potency. It was said to induce madness. Afterwards, you can brave a tasting of this once-forbidden muse from €4 in the museum cafe next door. Alternatively, simply settle for buying a jar of absinthe mustard (€5).
Pro tip: The tourist office stocks free maps of the village with walking trails. Even when closed, you can use the machine here to send a map to your mobile. Download the Van Gogh Natures geolocation app for a personal multimedia tour.
Grab a bite to eat at Sous Le Porche
While the other terrace cafes in Auvers-sur-Oise fill up quickly, especially in the sunshine, there are four different catering spaces at Sous Le Porche, so you’re sure to find a seat for an evening meal. In fact, there’s a second terrace hidden out back that offers three courses from €31. The tables on the main square are drink-service only, but it’s incredible to think you’ll be dining in the spot famously painted by Van Gogh in The Town Hall at Auvers.
Loosen up with a glass of wine at Auvers de Vin
Located just 500 metres from Auvers-sur-Oise station, the modern and friendly wine bar of Auvers de Vin is one of the best drinking venues in the village. The wine menu changes every 15 days to stay fresh and in season, with a glass costing from €4.10–10. Reasonably priced charcuterie and cheese boards (€8–15) combine deliciously with the decent selection of wine. Chablis and Champagne are also on offer.
Enjoy a concert at Café de la Paix
Evening entertainment options are fairly limited in Auvers-sur-Oise. However, there are live music concerts and cultural events in selected venues around town, such as Café de la Paix, which doubles as a bar opening until midnight twice a week. Founded in 1900, this lively brasserie and bar boasts the biggest TV screen in the region (7.5 m x 2.5 m) and is dedicated to football, with the space to welcome 180 supporters. The nights here are animated with a vibrant and varied program of events like tango classes, improvisational comedy, open mic and concerts.
Stay the night in a Van Gogh-themed farmhouse
The best way to enjoy this quaint village is to spend a couple of days wandering leisurely around its ancient streets and so, staying the night is highly recommended. The most authentic place to stay is a 500-year-old farm that has recently been renovated into the gorgeous Gite les Tournesols. Shoving open the stiff barnyard doors, chewed by centuries of cattle farming, you’re greeted by 18th-century grandfather clocks and other curious relics. There are four self-catering apartments themed around Van Gogh and, except for the windows, everything is original with old beams propping-up the once asparagus-stuffed basement.
Pro tip: The quickest way to travel back to Paris is to take the direct train that runs from Auvers-sur-Oise station on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays (April 7 to October 28).