Make the most of Monet, by combining a trip to his gardens in Giverny with our tour of the Orangerie museum.
Claude Monet enjoyed years of artistic inspiration in his beloved gardens at Giverny, where he lived from 1883 to 1926. Today, visitors flock to this charming village in Normandy, only an hour from Paris by train. It was there that Monet created one of his most ambitious works, the Water Lilies (Nymphéas) cycle, now the jewel of the Orangerie Museum in Paris. Our tips below will help you craft a more meaningful Monet experience at both the Orangerie and Giverny.
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The Orangerie Museum in Paris
Only at the Orangerie Museum can you experience Monet’s Water Lilies cycle in person, and in the location where the artist intended them to be seen — 8 enormous floor-to-ceiling canvases displayed “in the round” between two galleries. In his last masterpiece, Monet sought to capture the ephemeral effects of light on water, as observed in the ponds at Giverny. Each of these larger-than-life canvases capture the atmosphere of a different moment of the day, from dawn to dusk. The two oval galleries form a kind of figure 8, in order to suggest the infinity of nature’s cycles.
Designed as an oasis of tranquility in the otherwise rushed, urban environment of Paris, Monet proposed the project as “a monument to peace” in 1918 at the end of WWI, and donated the canvases to the French state in 1926. The Orangerie installed them the following year in a space designed by the artist himself to enhance the immersive experience.
Explore this often overlooked but essential museum with Paris Muse educators on our Monet and More at the Orangerie tour. You and your private guide will begin with the story of Impressionism and other modern movements in the museum’s outstanding Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection, featuring artistic giants such as Renoir, Cézanne, Utrillo, Soutine, Modigliani, Matisse, and Picasso. This introduction to turn-of-the-century art will help you to understand Monet’s place in history. Our tour culminates with a deep, unhurried look at the famous waterlilies upstairs. We look closely at the innovations of the Water Lilies, to appreciate how this great 19th-century Impressionist—creating his most daring work at 80 years of age!— anticipated many of the ideas of 20th-century abstraction. Monet was indeed ahead of his time.
The Orangerie is open 9:00 am – 6:00 pm and is closed Tuesdays.
Day-trip to Giverny in Normandy
Monet’s gardens and cottage home in Giverny are today a popular draw for art and nature lovers. Both are intimate spaces, so arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds and tour buses. “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece,” Monet once said. When you see see them in bloom, you’ll understand why.
Monet’s gardens are open daily, 9:30 am – 6:00 pm, March 25, 2016 – November 1, 2016. Please note that they are closed during the winter months. Tickets to Monet’s gardens can be purchased on site or in advance on Giverny’s tourism website.
One of our favorite places for lunch nearby is Restaurant Creperie La Musardiere, which serves galettes (savory crêpes made with buckwheat flour) and sweet crêpes for dessert, both of which are regional specialties. Sit outside on the covered patio if the weather is nice and be sure to order cider, the traditional crêpe drink pairing.
After lunch, take in nature-inspired paintings at Giverny’s other main attraction, the Museum of Impressionisms, located just a short walk west along the Rue Claude Monet. In addition to their small permanent collection, the museum showcases a robust program of temporary exhibitions. This museum is open everyday, March 27th – November 1st, and houses gardens and a restaurant as well.
Finally, head further west on Claude Monet street and you will encounter Sainte-Radegonde church, the final, humble resting place of Monet where you can pay homage to this giant of modern art.
Getting to Giverny: Practical Information
The village of Giverny is easily accessible from Paris on the train from the Gare Saint-Lazare train station. Buy a ticket for Vernon which is the closest stop to Giverny. Train tickets can be purchased on site at the station or on the SNCF website.
The trip to Vernon is at minimum 45 minutes. Be sure to stamp your ticket before boarding at one of the yellow machines before entering the platform.
A bus or taxi will take you the rest of the way (7 kilometers) from the Vernon train station to Giverny. The buses are easy to locate, just follow the Monet-themed footprints.