Visiting Monet's Garden and Famous Water Lilies in Giverny
Even if you're not a fan of art, I'm sure you've heard of the famous French impressionist painter Claude Monet. Some of his most famous prints include the larger than life renditions of beautiful, ethereal water lilies, and stunning landscapes. But what many people might not realize is that much of his inspiration, and the source for many of his paintings, was in his own backyard in the spectacular gardens he built and cultivated near his home in Giverny. Giverny is a small town in Vernon, where Monet lived and painted from 1883 until his death in 1926. This is one of my favorite places in the world, and is a great day-trip because it's just west of Paris, in a village in the Normandy region of Northern France.
If you've read some of my other posts, you've probably seen that I'm a big fan of European River Cruises. A few years ago my mom and I decided to take our first river cruise along the Seine, which started and ended in Paris. Lo and behold, one of the first (and my favorite stop), was in Vernon, where Claude Monet's house is located nearby, in a small town called Giverny. As much as I love art, I'm an even bigger fan of nature, plants, flowers, and really anything that grows outdoors, so I was beyond thrilled when I learned we were making a stop here to tour his home and famous gardens. In all honesty, before this trip, I didn't even know his home was still maintained and that you could visit his gardens at all, so it was an extra special trip.
The amazing archways leading to the front of the house
So many amazing flowers in bloom!
Getting to Giverny:
But first things first, how do you get there? Giverny is VERY easy to get to, especially if your home base is Paris, Rouen or Le Havre, which are all about 45 minutes by train. Get off at the Vernon-Giverny train station and then take a bus shuttle or taxi to Giverny. If you'd like to rent a car in Giverny, it would be better to get off at the previous station Mantes La Jolie which has car rentals. There are also Bus and Half-Day tours operating from Paris' city center that will pick you up and transport you to the gardens.
The Town and Surrounding Areas:
Although Monet's home and gardens will certainly be the most show-stopping area in Giverny, I'd recommend also spending some time exploring the nearby Musée des Impressionnismes, which highlights the Impressionist art movement. I also have to say that there are a number of absolutely adorable French shops and cafes around this area which are great for shopping or a light lunch or beautiful dinner if you have the time. If you have more time you might even consider staying at one of the several quaint bed and breakfasts in the area for a night or two.
Once you get to Giverny spend time exploring the artist's former home (my favorite area is the kitchen with the beautiful blue tile and copper cookware). However, the biggest showstopper will certainly be his beautiful gardens which he painstakingly cultivated to relax and draw inspiration from. Most notable is the small pond which houses countless water lilies and was the inspiration for his most famous series.
But first, a bit more about the house, where Monet lived, drew inspiration from and painted many of his masterpieces. While there he painstakingly cultivated many different gardens spaces and ponds, which he regularly drew inspiration from. After his death in 1926, his son inherited the house, while his step-daughter took care of it. Unfortunately, like many old estate homes, the home went into neglect especially after WWII until 1966 when Monet's son gifted the home to the Academie des Beaux-Arts. It took almost 10 years to restore the garden and the house to its former glory, but since then the property has been open to the general public since 1980.
Monet's famous indoor art studio
The 'happy' yellow dining room and stunning blue kitchen, with the most gorgeous copper cookware
The house is of course impressive and beautiful to see, especially the kitchen and art studio. But we have to spend some time talking about the gardens. It's what makes this place famous after all! There are actually two parts to Monet's garden, the flower garden called Clos Normand in front of the house and a Japanese inspired water garden on the other side of the road.
The Clos Normand is the area surrounding the home and is divided into different types of flowerbeds and flower clumps to create different heights and volume. There are also fruit and ornamental trees and climbing roses, long-stemmed hollyhocks and the colored banks of annuals. Monet also mixed simple varieties like daisies and poppies with rare varieties. I absolutely loved walking through these colorful pathways and seeing the giant arches covering the central walkway where the climbing roses grow. Monet was famous for purchasing beautiful and rare plants and famously said:"All my money goes into my garden," But also: "I am in raptures." I would reply, same Monet, same...haha
The water garden is a bit of a difference experience. 10 years after he first arrived in Giverny, Monet bought the piece of land neighboring his property. It was crossed by a small brook that ran as a tributary from the Seine. He first built a small pond, which was later expanded to include the larger waterway we can see today. In the water garden, spend time wandering around and getting lost. Here, you'll find the famous Japanese bridge covered in wisterias, other smaller bridges, weeping willows, a bamboo forest and of course the famous water lilies, which bloom all summer long. I found out that Monet would constantly change his location when painting his famous garden and water lilies to catch the best light.
I mean....there really were no words for me here...
The famous Japanese Bridge over the water lily pond <3
I honestly think I could go on and on talking about how beautiful his home and gardens are, but you really need to just take a day and see them for yourself. I'm also happy to report that the gardens are now back open to the public since April 2022, after being closed due to COVID.
The gardens are generally open everyday including public holidays from 9:30-6pm (last admission at 5:30) from April 1st- November 1st (open only 7 months out of the year). Tickets can be purchased online in advance and are about 13 Euros for adults, with children under 7 free of charge.
If you'd like to learn more about my time in France on my river cruise, or read about some great day trips from Paris, including Giverny and Monet's Garden check out some of my other posts:
And if you're a nerd like me and like to do your research prior to a trip, here are some other great links about Monet, his plants and flowers, and other great visitor information for the area:
Thank you for reading, I hope you get to stroll through Monet's garden, take some time to stop and smell the roses, and admire the amazing water lilies that call this place home <3