While one can spend years exploring every nook and cranny of Paris and its banlieues and still have an infinite number of new places to discover, it doesn’t hurt to make an effort to get out of the city every once in a while to see what the rest of the country has to offer.
Not that France is a hard sell. From north to south, east to west, the country is full of gorgeous beaches, stunning countryside, incredible mountains, adorable villages, exciting cities, and have I mentioned the food?
You don’t even need to venture that far out from the capital to discover something that’s a far cry from Paris’ motorcycle-ridden streets and Haussmanian rooftops. The town of Giverny is a mere 45-minute train ride away if you get your timing right!
What to do in Giverny
Giverny is a village in the region of Normandy in northern France. It’s a stone’s throw from the town of Vernon – a place that’s a treat to visit in its own right!
Giverny makes an ideal day trip from Paris thanks to its picturesque French cottages, green fields, local art galleries, quaint coffee shops and restaurants, and, of course, Claude Monet’s house and gardens.
The famous French artist lived in the town from 1883 until his death in 1926. His love for gardening and colours is reflected in his pink house and the gardens themselves, which makes one feel as if they are standing in one of his paintings. Without a touch of sarcasm, they are the closest thing I’ve experienced to living art. But we’ll go more into that later.
Besides that obvious attraction, Giverny also has a Museum of Impressionist Art and the Eglise Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny where Monet is buried.
The list of things to see is not immense, but more than satisfy the need for a culturally-rich day trip. I would recommend getting a full day in so that one has time to leisurely explore the village, have a picnic on the grass, try some local cider, and take a look around nearby Vernon before catching the last train back to Paris.
How to get to Giverny
The two main ways I’d recommend getting to Giverny are by car or by train. If you have access to a car in Paris, or rent one, it’s a short, pleasant drive from the city that will take you through some stunning French countryside.
I personally visited Giverny by train. Numerous trains depart from Gare Saint-Lazare to Gare de Vernon-Giverny every day, but watch out – they’re not all direct! As such, be sure to check on Trainline to see what times the direct trains are. These will take 45 minutes as opposed to the two hours plus that’ll it take you if you end up on a transfer train.
You can buy these tickets online, at a desk, or via machines at Gare Saint-Lazare. A machine will give you an open ticket that is valid for a couple of days and will ring up at around €15 for a one-way or €30 for a round-trip.
You can also save up to €10 by buying your tickets from the manned desks, where tickets are usually only €10 for a one-way. However, these are for specific trains and times, so if you decide to go this route, make sure to not be late to the station!
Once you arrive in Vernon, there is a clearly marked path to shuttle buses that will take you to Giverny. A round trip ticket costs €10, with the drive taking approximately 15-20 minutes.
If you don’t want to fuss with the trains, you also have the option of taking a minibus, which has prices ranging from €61-115 per person.
Claude Monet’s House and Gardens
As I wrote earlier, Claude Monet’s house and gardens are absolutely gorgeous and, in my opinion, are absolutely worth every cent of the €10.20 admission price.
A ticket will give you access to Monet’s house, which is filled with art prints, old furniture, and the most amazing French kitchen that I’ve ever seen (that blue tile and brass cookery!), as well as his two gardens.
The first garden is called the Clos Normand. It slopes down from Monet’s house and is made up of ornamental trees, climbing roses, and flower beds full of everything from the simplest poesies to more rare breeds. Its crowning feature is the central alley, which is covered over by iron arches on which roses grow.
In the Clos Normand, you get a feel for Monet’s method of gardening. That is, putting together flowers according to colour and letting them grow freely.
The second garden, the water garden, can be reached by an underpass. It inspired elements of Monet’s most famous paintings, that is wisterias, weeping willows, the Japanese bridge, and Les Nymphéas or waterlilies.
Price of Tickets for Monet’s Gardens
The €10.20 price that I stated above is for a regular ticket for adults and seniors. Children and students only have to pay €7.20 to get in, and disabled visitors €5.70, while children under the age of seven get in free of charge. They also have prices for guided tours and big groups on their website.
Special skip-the-line tickets can be purchased online. I’d highly recommend looking into this option if you visit Giverny in the spring or summer. While there wasn’t an outrageous amount of visitors when I went in early October, I’ve read that there are long lines and half-hour wait times during peak season.