Giverny: A Day Trip from Paris

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How to plan and enjoy an active and budget-friendly trip to Monet’s Gardens

Dvora and Eric posing with the water lily pond and sunny skies in the background.
At the Water Lily Pond

If you love Impressionist Art, especially Monet, you will love taking a jaunt to Claude Monet’s home and gardens in Vernon, Normandy, just about one hour outside of Paris. Paying for the convenience of a group tour may be worth it to some, but see here how I created our own itinerary in which we explored local transportation and integrated recommendations from friends and different resources.

Planning Your Trip to Giverny

  1. Choose the day
  2. DIY or Company Tour
  3. Create Your Timeline
    • Reserve/buy your tickets:
      1. Monet’s Garden
      2. Train Ride
      3. Bicycle Rental
  4. Choose your lunch site
  5. After Lunch Activities
  6. When to return to Paris
The Lily Pond in Giverny with flowers and leaves floating.

Giverny on Wednesday

On this 8 day trip to Paris, we chose Wednesday, May 31, 2023, as it seemed to be one of the least busy days of the week and it would break up our week a bit. Giverny Monet’s Garden is typically opened every day of the week from late March/early April through October 31st. Check the website for ticket availability, usually in early February.

DIY or Company Tour

We chose to travel to Giverny on our own vs. signing up for a group tour. We knew we wanted to make it an active day including riding the train and bicycling, but we wanted the flexibility of being able to be spontaneous, and appreciated the affordability of not committing to an expensive tour. We think being on our own can be romantic!

Enjoying the lovely spring weather and blooming flowers in Monet’s Garden – May, 2023

Creating a Timeline for the Day (Digital Itinerary)

Buy Tickets for Monet’s Garden

Monet’s Garden opens at 9:30 so we secured tickets for that time slot, and worked with that as the anchor of our schedule for the day. On the Giverny Monet’s Garden website there are links to buy tickets for entrance to Monet’s Garden from three different companies.  We chose See and the total amount for two was €25.45. After purchasing the tickets online, they send an email with a digital pdf of the tickets. I printed a hard-copy AND I put the digital information into my Apple calendar (which I can always access from my iPhone). I also created a dedicated email box for all my Paris trip-related emails and could access that from my iPhone. Sometimes I also hyperlinked these type of tickets in my Google Doc Itinerary. 

Train Tickets and Bicycle Rental

The next step was to get our train tickets. Despite some people saying it was fine to go to the station that morning and buy them in person, I wanted to make sure we knew what the schedule was in advance and to secure tickets for the right train. I downloaded the SNCF Connect app on my iPhone to buy our tickets. You can also buy tickets on the website, but the app was very convenient to use and I was easily able to cancel tickets and rebook for a different time, and the e-tickets were always there in my app.  However, the schedule for the trains on the desired dates of our excursion were not available until just a few weeks before.  For Paris to Giverny, you start at Gare St. Lazare and travel to Vernon.  When buying timed tickets online, you may need to change the time of your computer to be in Paris time zone so that you can see the  tickets available for that (Paris) time zone (for me it was 9 hours ahead in California PST).  Once the schedule for the route from Gare St. Lazare to Vernon was finally available,  we booked the 8:14 train from Paris which arrived at Vernon-Giverny at 9:03 a.m. Why? The bike rentals were not avalable until 9:00 a.m. and they told us it only took 20 minutes to arrive in Giverny.

A view of a bridge over the Seine from inside the train right outside of Paris.
View of a bridge over the Seine after exiting Gare St. Lazare
This is the bridge over the Seine that we biked over to get to Giverny.
Bridge Over Seine in Vernon

Next decision: How long to spend in Giverny?  From my research I learned that we would likely want to stay at the gardens for about two hours followed by lunch. We also planned to check out the nearby Giverny Impressionist Museum, as well as Monet’s actual grave which is alongside the Eglise Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny church.   We only had a few choices for the return trip, either around 2 pm or 5 pm. Again, I emailed the bicycle rental station and they assured me that we would love exploring their quant town of Vernon after visiting Giverny and should take the later train back to Paris. In the end, we were worried that 2 pm would be too limiting so we chose the later time.  

Bicycle Rental

We love being active on vacation and in Paris we used the Vélib bikes every day (see my post on A Guide to Riding Vélib’ Bikes in Paris). Many people recommended that we rent bikes and ride from the Vernon train station to Giverny.  and we chose Givernon Rental Station which is right across the street from the train station.  It was easy to make those reservations, the daily rate was 10 euros, and they were good about emailing me back with answers to my questions.

A door and brick wall along the road in the village of Giverny.
Door in Giverny Village
People in line to enter the Claude Monet Gardens and Home
Foundation Claude Monet Entrance

Lunch in Giverny

There are several cafes and restaurants to choose from that are walking distance from Monet’s Garden.  I always make sure to look things up in advance to avoid planning to go somewhere on a day that it is closed. We weren’t looking for a fancy expensive lunch, and I also prefer to inquire in advance if there is a vegan menu option available for me. I knew that we wanted to visit the Giverny Impressionism Museum after lunch, so we chose their onsite restaurant, Le Brasserie des Artistes.

After our trip, I subsequently read on other sites that there is an open-air market in Vernon on Wednesday morning and many people go there to get provisions for a picnic.  We did not see an open-air market when we were there, but if we had, we may have considered planning a picnic.  However, we would have needed to carry everything with us during our two hour walk through Monet’s Garden, as well as choose a picnic site along the Seine.

After Lunch Activities

When to Return to Paris

When deciding which train to take to return from Giverny to Paris, consider this:

  • Only take a direct train: the train is much nicer and the ride is much shorter
  • You can probably buy your ticket directly at the station in Vernon if you want the flexibility to decide on your return time.
  • If you choose a later time (closer to 5 pm), have a good idea of what you want to do.  We wandered around the little town of Vernon looking for a charming local cafe and could not easily find one.

Our Lovely Day in Giverny

We Love Monet!

Claude Monet, the renowned French artist, is undoubtedly one of the most famous Impressionist painters, his Water Lilies (Nymphéas) being one of his most well-known series of paintings. Claude Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny, in the Normandy region of France were the subject of many of his paintings, especially the Water Lily Pond and Japanese Bridge. 

Phhotograph of Water Lillies painting by Claude Monet
Photograph of Japanese Bridge painting by Claude Monet

We are big Monet fans and attend museum exhibits featuring his works whenever we can. On my first trip to France in 2019, we enjoyed viewing as much Monet as we could during that time in Paris, making sure to put Musee de l’Orangerie, Musee MarMottan Monet, and Musee d’Orsay on our itinerary. Just a little more than four years later, in planning our next trip to France, Giverny was at the top of my must-see list! Incidentally, on this Spring 2023 to Paris, we booked a guided tour of the Leon Monet exhibit at the Luxembourg Museum on the very day we arrived!

In front of SF Monet Exhibit
San Francisco Monet Exhibit
Street view of Leon Monet exhibit at Luxomberg Museum in Paris
Leon Monet Exhibit @ Luxemborg Museum

A Day of Adventure and Romance

From the City to the Countryside

We left our hotel in Paris early that morning, riding the velib bikes to Gare Saint Lazare, and stopping off for vegan croissants and coffee on the way at Land and Monkeys. We’d been at a Paris train station when we visited France four years ago, so we knew that you needed to look at the posted schedules to find out both the number of your train and which platform it is on. Those schedules are constantly being updated so you have to pay attention and once your train is listed, you should go straight there to board.  We were a little surprised that it was not that easy to find anyone who spoke English and could confirm that we were in the right place, but we made it onto the train. We enjoyed the peaceful ride from the urban setting of Paris through the French countryside to Normandy. Note of caution: Sometimes when you exit the train, you may not be on the correct side and you have to figure out how to cross over (or under) the train tracks.  If you use the City Mapper app, it details exactly what train car to be on and which side to exit, etc. When we arrived in Vernon, despite how small the station and the town are, it took more than a few minutes to get to the bike rental station.

Waiting to find our train at Gare St. Lazare
Paris St. Lazare painting on the wall that you see from the train as you exit the station.
Looking out from inside the train at Gare St. Lazare.
Inside the train to Vernon you can see the plush seat and a reflection in the window.
Inside the Train

Bicycle Ride from Vernon to Giverny

We did finally find Givernon Rental Station and got our bikes. They give some basic instructions but we found that the bike route to Giverny was not clear and obvious. In general, you have to get onto the bridge that crosses the Seine, and then turn right. Take a look at this and it should help! During the ride along the bike path with the Seine to our right, we traversed through the pastoral area that set the bucolic mood for our day. The ride from the bike station to Monet’s gardens is supposed to be 7 meters but may have been a bit longer for us, as we passed the left turn we were supposed to make into the village of Giverny and had to back track.

Riding bikes to Giverny from Vernon.
Rental bikes parked in rack at Giverny.

Once inside the village of Giverny, we parked and locked our bikes at a bike rack in a parking lot.  Then we started up the path toward’s Monet’s house and gardens.  It was well-past 10 am by then and already hot!  When we got to the entrance, we were again confused. We saw a line for people who were paying to enter but we’d already purchased our tickets online.  Finally we realized we were supposed to enter by walking down a pathway and entering in the same place that the tour groups were entering. We got in line in back of a large group and when we finally got inside the gates, it was crowded and packed with people as if it had been opened for hours.

The Lily Pond at the Giverny Gardens

Spring is the perfect time to enjoy the botanical explosion of color that is Monet’s Garden! We were a little envious of the guides who were explaining some information to their groups, and next time (yes!) I will preview this site to see which different types of plants and flowers I can expect to see blooming during my visit.  You have to appreciate the layout of the property and know that you’re going to walk through the main gardens, then to the lily pond, then go through the gift shop and then Monet’s house.  One can’t help but notice the impressive number of gardeners and maintence staff toiling happily to keep the grounds in optimal condition.

The gift and book shop itself was a highlight, offering an extensive range of Monet and Giverny souvenirs and keepsakes. I could easily spend at least 30 minutes browsing and shopping in there. I chose a few decorative glass dishes, two “Monet” themed scarves, and a Monet tote bag. We actually visited the gift shop before we walked over to the Lily Pond area. Oh Lily Pond! What a magical experience, where you continue to be in awe of the magnificence of this horticultural masterpiece, connecting your appreciation for Monet’s physical art with the real-life sources. I feel like I actually stepped into one of Monet’s paintings! You find yourself smiling and feeling a dopamine-like haze as you finally wander back to the main area to see Monet’s actual house, where the rooms are set-up to look like the time period during which he and his family lived there.  In total, It took us about two hours to see all the areas, and extra time to browse through the gift shop. I think it is safe to allot 2-3 hours maximum, depending on the crowds at the time you visit.

View of Monet's Gardens from Monet's house.
View of gardens from Monet’s house.
Eric and tourists outside of Monet's home with rose garden.
Outside of Monet’s Home.

Galavanting in Giverny

Since we had planned to go to the Giverny Impressionism Museum, it made sense to enjoy a nice lunch at the restaurant there, Le Brasserie des Artistes.  I happily savored the vegan Falafel Bowl Salad in a lovely outdoor garden setting. 

The Cafe Garden of the Impressionism Museum in Giverny.
The Cafe Garden of the Impressionism Museum in Giverny.
The Falafel Salad Bowl at the Restaurant at the Impressionist Museum in Giverny.
Falafel Salad Bowl

Following lunch, we spent the next hour enjoying the exhibit on Children in Impressionism (and we even got a discount with the Carte Blanche card!).  Ready for some outside activity, we biked further down the road to visit Monet’s grave and the neighboring Eglise Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny church and graveyard. It really gave you the feel of the small French village that Monet’s Giverny was.  

Monet's Grave with plants aroud ti.
Monet’s Grave
Street view of front of Eglise-Sainte-Radegonde-de-Giverny-church
Eglise Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny church

The Ride Back to Vernon

Once we were ready to leave Giverny, it was only around 2 pm – too late for the 2 pm train from Vernon back to Paris, but still several hours until the 5 pm train. The ride back on the beautiful country path is just lovely, and this time we rode beyond the bridge that crossed over the Seine so we could stop briefly to look at Tourelles Castle before returning to the train station.  En route to returning our bikes, we did not see any local cafes where we’d want to hangout. We found ourselves back at the bike rental just after 2 pm, and had already missed the earlier direct train.  Again we were on the wrong side of the train station and took a long diversion to get to the other side. The station agents were not that helpful, but we ended up getting on a 3:30 local train back to Paris, mostly because we were just tired and ready to go home. The local train was not nearly as comfortable and took almost twice as long.  Beware not to put your feet up on the seat in front of you. I was scolded by two armed police that this was not allowed!  No one checked for our train tickets either way, which confused us.  When we exited the train, we couldn’t figure out how to get out of the gate and had to hop over – no police that time!  

Biking back to Vernon from Giverny
Biking back to Vernon from Giverny
Tourelles Castle in Vernon
Tourelles Castle in Vernon

Giverny is Great!

We LOVED our day trip to Giverny and highly recommend it! Clearly, we didn’t have all our details straight in terms of how to use the train e-tickets and the app, and could have use the advice of a local. But it was an exciting adventure and bicycle riding was a main theme of this trip. Visiting Monet’s Garden brings a much deeper connection to how you will enjoy and appreciate his art. I enjoyed it so much, that I hope to return again.  Next time, I might consider a guided tour that explained more about the intricacies of the different species in the garden, as well as the Monet’s family history living in this beautiful country home. I would also return on the 2 pm train unless I had a better plan about about what else I could see in Vernon, or I was staying longer in the area. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy my souvenirs and look forward to visiting future Monet exhibits.

Approximate Cost of Giverny Day Trip for 2:

  • Train tickets – 67.20 euros
  • Monet Gardens – 25.45 euros
  • Impressionist Museum – 14 euros (we had discount as Carte Blanche members)
  • Bike Rental – 10 euros
  • Lunch and Souvenirs – extra

Did you visit Giverny?  What were your favorites?

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