Giverny, a little village located 80 kms northwest of Paris, may be small, but it attracts its fair share of visitors, thanks to its most famous resident, Claude Monet (1840-1926). The Impressionist painter's house and gardens have become a popular day trip destination for Parisians and tourists over the years. Whether a fan of Monet or unacquainted with his work, you're bound to fall under the calming, charming spell of this little town just as Monet did, and even more so with his home, which inspired his most famous paintings.
It's the color that strikes you at first: a facade of pink bricks and green shutters, surrounded by green trees, all under a bright blue sky. This is the house where Monet lived from 1883 up to his death in 1926. A walk through its rooms and hallways gives you an intimate peek into the life of the artist, and you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that there is as much color inside as there is outside. The restored dining room, for example, is a bright yellow, where you'll find some of Monet's collections of Japanese prints hanging on the walls. Next door is the kitchen, with its dominant blue Rouen tiles and copper pots and pans hanging next to several ovens. Spend some time in his studio, where he painted until 1899, a bright space with huge windows looking out into the beautifully landscaped gardens.
A narrow staircase leads you to the bedrooms (there are quite a few – the artist moved here with his wife and eight children), with Monet's room overlooking his beloved garden once again.
There's no doubt about it: the main attraction of Giverny are Monet’s gardens. Having inspired brilliant works such as Japanese Bridge (1899) and Water Lilies (1914 and 1917), it's easy to see why. The gardens consist of two parts: facing the house is the Clos Normand, a colorful landscape of flowerbeds and trees. Metallic arches hover over the main pathway, alongside of which flowers of every possible origin seem to bloom according to the season.
Access the Water Garden by crossing a little tunnel from the far end of the Clos Normand, taking you to the other side of the railway which is part of Monet's property, purchased ten years after settling in Giverny. It's in this garden where you'll most probably get the “Ahhh... now I get it!” moment; you'll recognize the scene before you from Monet’s tableaux. Weeping willows tumble gently to touch the surface of the pond, covered with Monet's famous water lilies. You can cross the wisteria-covered Japanese bridge and stare at the colors reflected on the water. Other bridges can be found littered across the garden with bamboo trees being a regular feature. Visiting the Water Garden evokes a magical moment, as you literally find yourself standing in a Monet painting.
Monet's 300m2 studio, the Atelier de Nymphéas (Water Lilies Studio) now serves as a gift shop, where reproductions of his famous paintings and a vast selection of souvenir items can be purchased.
Just next door to Monet's house and gardens is the Musée des Impressionismes, a lovely modern space designed by Philippe Robert (also known for designing the Grande Halle de la Villette and Halle Tony Garnier). In keeping up with the impressive garden theme of Giverny, it has a beautiful (and free to roam) garden by landscape architect Mark Rudkin. The museum aims to highlight not only the history of Impressionism, but also the way this aesthetic movement has evolved since then.
Monet’s garden is open from April to November. If you’re planning on going, do yourself a favour and buy your tickets online, as the line can get very long, especially during peak season. Or else, visit the Musée des Impressionismes and get a combined ticket for the museum and Monet's House and Garden. Getting to Giverny involves a 45 minute train ride from Gare St. Lazare to the town of Vernon, and from there, a bus ride to Giverny; planning ahead for your trip will save you a lot of time. Read more on how to get there, guided tours and possible bike tours, which will be a fun thing to do in the summertime.
Monet’s Garden / Musée des Impressionismes
rue Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny
Open daily, 9h30 – 18h, last entrance 17h30
From April 1st to November 1st
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