Visiting Giverny by bike was one of my favorite adventures this year. Being a great lover of Impressionist art, I had always wanted to visit the home and gardens of Monet. But even though Giverny is only one hour from Paris, getting there can be a challenge, especially if you don’t want to take a bus or rent a car. Neither option appealed to me, so I had never gone. While researching bike itineraries near Paris, I discovered that there was a bike route/walking path connecting Vernon to Giverny, and bike rentals close to the train station. So I made plans to visit Giverny for two days while my husband had business meetings in Switzerland. My journey to Giverny by bike was the ideal way to travel to this very special place, and this is a trip that I highly recommend to any visitor to Paris.
There are group tours offered by Fat Tire Bike Tours from Paris, but I’m not fond of organized tours, especially when traveling by bike. I hate timetables. I like the freedom of being able to take the time to discover the back roads, best pastry shops, markets, have a glass of wine, or two. And, I wanted to spend the night in Giverny, to really experience the home of Monet, after all the tourists were gone. So my journey to Giverny was my first solo bicycling adventure. And it could not have been more perfect!
From my arrival in Vernon, to renting a bike, to buying picnic supplies and biking along the 6 km voie verte to Giverny, the route was well-marked, safe and full of gorgeous scenery. As I leisurely pedaled along the abandoned rail line, I wondered what Giverny was like in the days of Monet, and what it would look like now. Would it be busy and commercial with lots of souvenir shops and tour buses? As I slowly approached the village, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The approach to the village was quaint and charming with small homes and cottages covered with ivy and filled with flowers in brilliant colors of the autumn season. The late afternoon sun cast a light on the buildings and flowers that made everything glisten. As I rode down the street, Giverny slowly revealed its charm, and I began to understand why artists so love this area. Riding down the main street of Giverny was magical.
The main street was busy, but I had timed my late afternoon arrival perfect, as most tourists were completing their day’s visit. When I arrived at the Giverny Museum of Impressionism most of the afternoon’s visitors were enjoying the gardens, leaving very few people in the museum. I was so lucky to visit during the Clark Collection Exhibition, with over a dozen Renoir paintings, along with Monet’s and Manet’s. I stayed until the museum closed, savoring every minute viewing many paintings I had never seen before. I was able to take some pictures in the garden with the setting sun, but planned to take more in the morning. With all the tour buses gone, I bicycled down the street to my charming B and B for the night, looking forward to exploring the simple treasures of this charming town. The streets were full of artists hoping to capture the best light of sunset, the colors of the setting sun were breathtaking. I realized that bicycling to Giverny from Vernon enabled me to experience the town in a very different way than ordinary tourists.
Enjoy some of my favorite pictures, and perhaps you will be enticed to plan an overnight to Giverny the next time you are in Paris!
Follow the yellow bicycle signs to Vernon town center. Go through town towards the river, and take the bridge over the Seine. The scenery is beautiful, so be sure to stop and take some pictures. When you see the following church, watch for a sign on the right that points to Giverny. It’s easy to miss as it looks like a parking lot, but the path starts at the far end. If you come to this church, you have gone too far!
Trains to Giverny leave from Paris Gare St-Lazare. The direct trains take about 45 minutes. Other connections can take an hour and a half, so be sure you pay attention to the schedules. Since I planned on spending the night in Giverny, I took the 12:20 which arrived into Vernon at 13:04. If you plan to do a day visit, there is a 10:20 which arrives at 11:04, and a return at 6:53, arriving back in Paris at 7:40. Depending on the time of day you travel and if you are able to purchase discounted tickets, the round trip fare runs from 28 to 38 Euros.
There are two cafes directly in front of the Vernon train station that rent bikes. At the time of my trip in late September, only one of them was open.
You will be asked to leave some sort of document like a drivers license or credit card to rent a bicycle, so be sure that you have something with you. I would not suggest leaving your passport.
The route is very well marked and safe, even to travel alone as I did. Be sure to allow some extra time to walk around the town of Vernon, with its half-timbered houses, museum and one of the best pastry shops in Normandy, Rose Pastisserie at 74 rue d’Albufera.
For additional information on Vernon, contact the Vernon-Giverny Office of Tourism. If the English translation of the website is not functioning, use Google Translate!