A Half Day From Paris: Giverny, Monet’s Home and Gardens

Situated in the Normandy countryside is the home of Claude Monet, Giverny. One of the founders of the Impressionist movement, this site is not one to miss! Even if you do not know much about art, consider visiting Monet’s home at Giverny. It is as beautiful in person as it appears in his paintings and, in my opinion, well worth a day trip from Paris if you have at least half a day.

Getting There On Your Own

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There are a couple different ways you can travel to Giverny from Paris: train, taxi, tour group or even drive. When I was visiting Paris in September, I did not have many options to choose from. There was a strike on all RATP and SNCF train lines in Paris. I opted to book a trip with a tour group since I did not want to spend huge money on a taxi or drive myself.

If you are adventurous and opt for the train from Paris, your final destination will be the town of Vernon. This will take you about 45-60 minutes of total travel time and cost about 15 Euros. Your journey will begin at Saint Lazare Station in Paris; you will be looking for trains destined toward Rouen or Le Havre. Saint Lazare station is reachable by the Paris Metro (M3, M12, M13 and M14).

I would highly recommend buying a roundtrip train ticket in advance. It will safe you a lot of time and the flexibility to return to Paris whenever you are done in Giverny. You won’t want to rush the experience, but it will most likely only take you about half a day to see the home and gardens. It helps to have an idea of the train timetable just in case. Note that on the weekends, train service can be a lot more limited.

Upon arrival to Vernon you have the option to take a bus shuttle, walk, taxi or rent a bike. Taxi’s cost about 20 Euros and are right outside the station in Vernon. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to reach Giverny. Bike rentals are outside the station as well.

If you walk or bike, the bike path signs to Giverny. The path is supposed to be well signed and is about 3-4 miles or 5km and is relatively flat. According to the official Giverny website:

Go down the Albufera street and cross the bridge over the Seine.

At the roundabout ignore the signs for Giverny which are meant for cars.

Go straight on, cross the first street “Route de Giverny” and  take the pathway to your right just before the drugstore. It follows the tracks of the ancient railroad.

It enables you to walk to Giverny away from the traffic. (5 km).

If you decide to take the bus from the Vernon train station, bear in mind that the bus timetable is timed to match the arrival of the train from Paris. It will not wait around long and can fill quickly in summer months. The bus is not available during the winter. The tickets for the bus are purchased onboard and currently cost 10 Euros. Total travel time is about 10 minutes.

If you are driving yourself from Paris:

Leave Paris by the Pont de Saint-Cloud and take the highway A13 (towards Rouen) for 55 km until you reach exit 14 (Bonnières) or exit 16 (Douains).

The A13 is free until Mantes-la-Jolie. The charge is 2.30 euros to go further.

After the exit follow Vernon and then Giverny road signs.

You may also leave the highway before the tollgate (follow green Vernon road signs) and go on the N15 past Rosny, Rolleboise and Bonnières.

The road follows the River Seine for a while

The total travel time to Giverny by car is about 2 hours. Parking at the Monet home is free.

Getting There By A Group Tour

The easiest way to reach Giverny is by booking a group tour to the house. I found this to be quite relaxing and the best use of time, in my opinion. I used one of the many companies in Paris offering tours of the city and surrounding area.The exact company was called the French Tourisme Office. I opted to use the company next to my hotel as they had the best rates and availability at the very last minute.

The tour itself was booked through one of the concierge agents (who spoke English and Spanish); they had options for a half day tour in the morning and afternoon available at 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. I selected the afternoon tour so I could do a few last minute visits to Sacre Coeur and Tuilleries. I was asked to pay 59 Euros (they accepted credit card, debit card or cash). The maximum number of participants was 30.

The tour includes roundtrip transportation and admission to the Giverny Gardens and home. Gratuities were not included. Meals and snacks are also not included. Once you make your decision, you will received a voucher with the tour meeting point and time. For the afternoon tour, I was adviseed to return at 12:45 for the 1 pm tour. They warn you that you tour guide would NOT wait around if you are late.

My Experience Getting to Giverny

When I arrived back to the office at the 12:45 mark, there were about 75 people in all waiting around inside and out chatting in English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, French and a host of other languages. The booking agents at the desk answered a number of times to anxious tour group members to wait until 1 p.m. and a tour guide would be right with them.

At exactly 1 p.m., two buses parked outside the office and everyone rushed out to try to be the first in line to select their seat on the bus. I waited for the rush to clear out. Two tour guides stood outside of the buses. We were asked to show our vouchers to the tour guides so they could check us in and advise us which bus to get on. One bus would be going to Versailles and the second to Giverny.

The entire boarding process took about 20 minutes. At 1:30, our tour guide announced to the bus of 25 that we would be going to Giverny and not Versailles to ensure we were on the right bus. She did not get off to look for any stragglers and we immediately took off.

The journey through Paris was beautiful. I only wish the tour guide had pointed out a few of the monuments as we drove by and gave us more information about the various neighborhoods of ParisThe commentary she did offer was mainly on the Eiffel Tower. The bus itself was comfortable. There was air conditioning and we were told we could eat snacks onboard if we had any. There was no wifi.

The bus drove on the crowded highway to the outskirts of Paris. It was refreshing to see the French countryside as we made out way up to the Norman countryside. Total travel time was about an hour and a half. The bus was fairly quiet and as I was traveling by myself, I opted for a nap.

When I awoke, the bus was just passing over the Seine river and through the town of Vernon. I wish I had had my camera ready to snap some photos of the peaceful village and some of the oldest homes in Normandy. The tour guide did mention that many cruise ships stop in Vernon on their way to Paris. I will have to investigate, but I believe you can take a boat from Paris to Giverny! Ten minutes or so outside of Vernon we pulled up into the parking lot for the visitors center.

Monet’s Gardens and Home

Before I go further on, know that the price of admission, if you go on your own, is currently 10 Euros for adults and 5.50 for children over the age of 7 and students. If you are disabled, the fee is 4 Euros. Children under the age of 7 are free. There are combination tickets available with the Impressionist museum and the Marmotten Monet museum. See here for further details.

It was about 3 p.m. when our tour guide had us get off the bus and follow her to the ticketing booth where she bought tickets and handed out maps of the grounds. We had a designated meeting point outside of the gift shop and were told to be at the meeting point no later than 5 p.m. The tour guide told us to save the Monet house for last and to spend most of our time in the gardens as the house was tiny. She left us to our own devices and we scattered.

Knowing what I know now, I actually would have started with Monet’s home and then explored the gardens. The gardens are lovely and words cannot express how much color and life lives in the gardens. They are broken up into two areas. The gardens by the home of Monet are more wild like and appear like the French countryside versus the water garden pond area.

I spent about 30 minutes just walking a loop and taking in the flowers and grounds. No matter when you decide to make your way over to the Japanese water lily garden it is going to be crowded. Don’t feel the need to rush over there. Soak in the atmosphere. It is the best advice I can give you.

Monet’s garden was not planted by himself. One of the many fascinating things you will learn is that the Giverny Foundation painstakingly referenced Monet’s paintings to serve as a guide for what flowers once flourished there. The flowers change each season.

The pathway to the pond involves going through a tunnel where the scenery changes from a valley to immediately what you will recognize as the water lily paintings come to life. You will see bamboo and willow trees and flowers and lilies that you again will not feel are real. The pond is larger than you would think and includes 2 bridges you can try to take a photo on.

The Japanese bridge Monet stood on is no longer there, but you can imagine him strolling through the gardens for inspiration. I will admit it was very humid out there so if you are going in summer or spring, bring insect repellent as water attracts hoards of mosquitoes. If you find a bench, sit on it and maybe even bring a sketchbook. I wish I had had one in my bag! You will feel inspired.

I ended up spending about another 30 minutes in this half of the garden. By about 4:15, I made my way up to Monet’s home. To my surprise, there was a long line of other tourists waiting to see the home themselves. We waited about 20 minutes to make our way in. Now this was where I was confused.

Signs posted in the house made it clear you are not supposed to take videos of the home, but unclear whether or not you were able to take photos. I tried to be respectful, but as soon as I noted that every single tourist in the house had their phones out taking photos (without the flash of course!), I joined in. I wanted a few memories to take away.

The house is rather small and you don’t have too much time to stop inside as the workers will keep you moving. It is tastefully decorated with many of Monet’s works, his friends and to my surprise, an overwhelming amount of Japanese art! The home looks very similar to when Monet lived there. I was shocked by the lack of wall space as art took up almost every available inch of space.

You will spend about 10 minutes inside by which point you will want to get out and away from the crowds of people. Near the Giverny exit are the restrooms and shop. Once you leave the shop, there is no reentry into the gardens or home. Ensure you have seen everything you wish to see before you exit.

If I had more time, I would have walked through the house again, but with 30 minutes to go, I wandered through the shop and made some gift purchases to take home.

Return to Paris

By 5 p.m., my tour group was in the meeting point, but we were missing 2 members. We had some drama, but the tour guide went frantic for about 15 minutes making calls and trying to find the missing 2 members. In the end, the two missing members were on the tour bus waiting for us and had ignored the meeting point instructions. The tour guide was going to leave Giverny without them if they were not on the bus.

Let this experience serve as a lesson to you just in case! We left Giverny at 5:30 and it took almost 2 and a half hours to return to Paris! Traffic was absolutely awful! I fell asleep, but only wish I had had my headphone or a good book to read over. By 8:15 p.m. we returned to the meeting point where I decided I wanted to book a night cruise on the Seine. I have another post up about in my Paris guide section.

Take Aways

If you are interested at all in Monet, go to Giverny! It will not disappoint you and is one of the most impressive sites in all of France to see. You will take away a new appreciation of Monet and his art from what you will experience. I would highly encourage you to go in the morning as I found by the afternoon I was tired and did not have as much energy. The morning tour was also not as crowded, according to our tour guide.

Do NOT try to combine Giverny with a Versailles trip. It is NOT an enjoyable experience. Versailles is almost a full day in itself unless you only want to see the chateau and not the gardens.

When you visit Giverny, wear comfortable walking shoes and ensure you camera is fully charged with plenty of space available on your camera. Know the hours the home is open and budget your time accordingly. If you go on your own, you may also consider visiting the nearby Impressionist Museum. Don’t be afraid to go on your own.

Wrapping Up

I hope my shared experience helps you decide whether or not you want to visit Monet’s home at Giverny. Until next time, happy travels!