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An hour from Paris, but world’s apart, Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France are the most tangible location to experience French Impressionism in real life. Monet’s Home and Gardens still exist today, largely as they did when he passed away in 1926. Giverny is just as beautiful as the paintings would make it seem.
My love affair with Claude Monet’s Water Lilies started in 1997. I was living in New York and had Friday afternoon’s off work. I was young, poor and needed a place to get out of the summer heat. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) became a favorite spot.
On one of the upper floors, I found the Water Lilies: a massive triptych, angled out from the wall and completely filling my field of view. I could sit for long periods of time in the cool air and let myself get lost among the lilies. I’m not normally drawn to Impressionist art, but I was smitten. In many ways, this trip to Monet’s Gardens in Giverny was the fulfillment of the odyssey that began 10 years earlier.
On our trip, we felt like pilgrims. Over a half million people visit the Foundation Claude Monet and the water lily gardens. Having originally fallen into disrepair after World War II, the gardens were originally opened to the public in 1980 after countless hours and dollars went into recreating the gardens exactly as they were in his day. Using his paintings as a guide, the foundation had a blueprint for their restoration.
We first visited Monet’s House. The building has been restored as a lovely example of French country charm. Our one complaint about the experience is that there was very little information in the home about Monet’s life or even the house itself (no information placards or anything to provide context).
However, the famous gardens are the real reason people come to Giverny, France. Divided into a traditional flower garden (called the Clos Normand) and the water garden, Monet created his masterpieces…twice. First, he created the beautiful gardens and then he painted them.
The Clos Normand garden is neatly organized, with rows upon rows of flowers. The rows were broken up by a broad gravel walkway that passed under green steel hoops and ended at two green doors.
Beyond the doors and across a road (you cross through an underpass) and enter the Water Garden. The gardens are amazing! We spent about 2 hours strolling through the small gardens, cross the Japanese Bridge and soaking up the atmosphere. Of course, we took about a hundred pictures of the gorgeous gardens that were in full bloom.
Visiting Information for Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, France
Open daily from April through October from 9:30am to 6:00pm. The last entry is 30 minutes before closing time.
€9.50 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online allowing visitors to skip the line.
Tips for Visiting Monet’s Gardens
Visiting Giverny can easily be done as a day-trip or half-day trip from Paris. If you don’t want to drive yourself, there are a number of companies that offer packaged tours (such as this half-day trip to Giverny France, which has a 10% discount). We included it on a weekend getaway that included Honfleur as well. Monet’s house and gardens are well marked in the town and there is a convenient car park (and cheap takeaway restaurants) right near the entrance.