Claude Monet's gardens are a riot of color, texture, and variety, with a team of gardeners working year-round. The artist's famous Pink House, where he lived for forty years, has been lovingly restored. Monet's gardens are located in the quaint town of Giverny, just about an hour from Paris.
It's really a magical day trip out of the city and into the beautiful countryside of Normandy. Let's take a look at the extensive gardens and the artist's house and also learn about the best ways to get there. We'll start with a descriptions of the best guided day trips. Remember, though, the gardens and Monet's house are only open in the warm months of the year.
What we like about this activity is that there is no need to worry about how to get to Giverny. On this small-group tour, you're picked up at your Paris hotel (and returned later) in an 8-passenger, luxury, air-conditioned Eurovan.
You start the afternoon by riding through the Normandy countryside to the charming village of Giverny where the tour of Monet's gardens begins. Wandering through the exquisite gardens you view the water-lily pond and the famous Japanese bridge, which are central to his Impressionist masterpieces. Inside the big pink house you'll love seeing the yellow dining room and the dazzling blue kitchen.
There's also time to visit the nearby museum dedicated to American Impressionists, and to shop in the gift stores. This activity is our top Monet recommendation. Tour runs from April to October. Also available as a private tour.
This was our favorite tour and highly recommended for anyone visiting France. We were picked up and dropped off at our hotel and It was a comfortable drive of about an hour and a quarter. The gardens were extensive and exquisite, and Monet's home was charming and filled with his art. It was a breathtaking experience!"
– 5-Star Review
We've come to like these tours that combine two popular sites in one easy day — Monet's gardens at Giverny and the Chateau de Versailles. First stop is Giverny to see the gardens that inspired Claude Monet.
Next, stop for lunch at a charming restaurant on the banks of the Epte River before you're driven to the world's most opulent palace ever built, the Chateau de Versailles. You explore French royal history at the opulent Grand Apartments, the dazzling chandelier-lit Hall of Mirrors and the Queen's Apartments. Along the way your expert guide brings the past alive with illuminating details of courtly life in the palace. Entrance fees are included and return transportation to your Paris hotel.
Giverny, as you now know, is where Claude Monet lived and worked for the last 43 years of his life. Not far away is Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh worked and died. This two-in-one activity takes you to both artists' milieux on an easy day trip from Paris
Your private guide picks you up at your Paris address and takes you on the leisurely one-hour drive to Giverny, to walk in the footsteps of Claude Monet. You'll have priority-access passes, so you can skip the link ticket line.
After lunch at a nearby restaurant, it's over the Auvers-sur-Oise, guided tour of this picturesque village, where Van Gogh spent the final seventy days of his life in 1890. You'll recognize some of the sights, including the local church that he painted (pictured).
Claude Monet was one of the leading Impressionist painters at the end of the 19th century and his work still vibrates today. Monet bought the property at Giverny in 1883. Over the next years he designed and built the pond, the Japanese bridge, and the gardens specifically for his work. In fact, many of his famous paintings were inspired by the lily pond and the flowers in the gardens.
It was at Giverny that Monet created the place of his dreams where he could paint, garden, and relax in a natural and peaceful environment. He lived in Giverny with his family from 1883 until his death in 1926. Unfortunately, there wasn't a long-term plan to care for the gardens that inspired some of his most-loved paintings. From 1926 until 1977, the estate experienced a slow decline. Luckily for all of us, it's been restored to its original state. Now, let's look at some of the best and easiest ways to get to Giverny from Paris.
All my money goes into my garden."
– Claude Monet
Claude Monet did not like organized gardens, he grouped flowers together by color and left them to grow freely. He loved to mix simple flowers like daisies and poppies with rare varieties. Monet had a real passion for botany and he often exchanged plants with his friends artist Gustave Caillebotte and Primer Minister Georges Clemenceau. He was always on the hunt for rare flowers, which he bought at great expense.
The main garden, named Clos Normand, is 2½ acres (just over one hectare) of flowers planted directly in front of the Pink Mansion. A series of decorative arches connect the profusion of sunflowers, dahlias, and nasturtiums.
A decade after his arrival at Giverny, Monet bought the property across the road, which featured a small creek. First he had to get permission from the local prefecture (sort of like a regional administrator) to dig a pond. He then hired local craftsmen to build the Japanese bridge. His neighbors strongly opposed the the pond, believing his odd plants would poison their water supply. The water garden, inspired by the Japanese gardens (which Monet only knew from the Japanese prints he collected), was designed to be used exclusively as a location for him to paint.
Before Monet built his garden at Giverny ornamental gardens were only found in mansions and castles. Gardens of the time were used for practical purposes, to grow fruit and vegetables. Monet was a leader in the 19th century movement to grow a garden for pleasure and inspiration.
The famous green Japanese bridge, covered with wisteria, surrounded by weeping willows and bamboo, overlooks the equally-famous nympheas (water lilies) which bloom all summer long. For more than twenty years, Monet would be inspired by his magical water garden. To get to the Japanese pond, you walk through a short tunnel beneath the roadway that links the Clos Normand gardens to the pond.
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It's no secret that Claude Monet loved color. He brought the colors of his garden into his living space and made his house come alive with bright, vibrant hues. The Pink Mansion was just an old apple cider press shack when he purchased the property. Over the years, he would make several additions with extra bedrooms, sitting rooms, and two studio spaces.
Always a trendsetter, Claude Monet ignored the dark, heavy Victorian interior fashion of the time in favor of bright colors. The dining room was painted in two tones of saturated yellow to enhance the blue dishes on display in the buffet. Offsetting the intense yellows are vibrant orange and white floor tiles. The walls of the dining room are lined with the Japanese prints that he so adored — Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Utamaro.
Connected to the yellow dining room is the vibrant blue kitchen. Monet wanted guests to see the proper color harmony from the open door leading from the dining room directly into the kitchen. The walls are covered with blue tiles from nearby Rouen. The ceiling is painted with a shiny, high-gloss paint. A large coal and wood stove burned year round, keeping the unheated kitchen warm and cozy.
When Monet died in 1926 at the age of 86, he left Giverny (the house and gardens) to his sole heir and only living son, Michel Monet. Not much planning went into maintaining Giverny after Claude's death. Michel Monet didn't live at Giverny and he left his step-sister Blanche Hoschede Monet to care for the estate. After her death in 1947, the property fell into disrepair, both the house and the gardens were in shambles.
On February 3, 1966, just days before his 88th birthday, Michel Monet died in a car crash in nearby Vernon. In his will he had donated the entire estate to the Academie des Beaux Arts.
It took another decade for the restoration to start. Construction began in 1977 and it would take ten years of of hard work to get the gardens and the pink house back into the condition that Claude Monet had left them. The Japanese pond had to be dug again; care was given to source the same flowers that Monet had originally planted. Giverny was finally opened to the public in September, 1980.
Not many art lovers know that Monet suffered from cataracts for the last twenty-five years of his life. As his eyesight declined, his paintings changed from the bright, fresh color palette to dark browns, greens and reds. It's fascinating to visit Musée Marmottan in Paris to see how his paintings of the Japanese bridge changed over the years.
Although he had two surgeries for his cataracts, art experts now believe that he still suffered from color discrimination and that his vision would have been very blurred. However, his cataracts did not prevent him from painting some of his best work.
The gardens are open from late March to November 1. Flowers will be blossoming the entire season. The best time to visit is when you can get there!
When you're at Giverny, explore the Musée des Impressionnismes that houses numerous works by American painters who met Claude Monet and drew inspiration from his techniques. It's right outside the grounds of Monet's Gardens.
If you're a self starter, make your way to the Gare Saint-Lazare train station in Paris. The station is virtually unchanged since Monet famously painted it in 1876. Take the SNCF – Grandes Lignes exit. It's advised to buy your ticket to the town of Vernon in advance. It's about a 45-minute ride.
There are several disadvantages to this method. You're can't purchase train tickets more than 90 days in advance, and you have to be very patient dealing with SNCF. Prices vary depending on several factors — time of day, first or second class, etc.How to get from Vernon to Giverny. At the Vernon train station, taxis will be available to take you to Giverny. A one way taxi fare is about 15€. There's also a shuttle from the train station that runs from spring to summer. The round trip shuttle is about 8€. Or, you could walk from Vernon to Giverny. It's about 3 miles. Just follow the Route de Giverny. It's a romantic, flat walk that follows the train tracks of an abandoned railroad.
Is DIY worth it? We calculated that with the price of the train (about 40€), shuttle (8€) or taxi (30€), plus garden ticket (10€) you'll be spending as much as 80€. For many travelers, who think their time is as important as money, a small group tour makes more sense. Besides, you may even save money. You know where we stand — we always opt for a time-saving tour.
After your trip to Giverny, it will be a thrill to see Monet's work in museums in Paris. Pay a visit to Musée Marmottan Monet in the 16th Arrondissement to see the collection of paintings that Michel Monet bequeathed to the museum. At Musée d l'Orangerie you can see the massive, curved paintings of the water lilies that Monet did in his later years. And, of course, at d'Orsay you can see Monet amongst all the other great Impressionists.
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