Monet’s Garden in Real Life!
Claude Monet is one of my favorite artists of all time. His paintings mesmerize me and inspire a sense of serenity and wonder that is still unrivaled. He’s famous for his Impressionist paintings of water lily ponds, serene and colorful gardens, and Japanese footbridges, all of which I love. But I never knew that these paintings were all based on his own garden, AND that I can actually visit these gardens in person!
So when Ken and I decided to visit Mont Saint-Michel, we knew that we also had to visit Monet’s Garden, also located in the Normandy region of France. Come with me as I explore this enchanting garden full of impressionist flower beds (yes I just made that term up!), flower arches, a lush water garden, and yes, the famous water lilies and Japanese bridge! It really is just like stepping into a Monet painting!
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About Claude Monet
A little bit about Claude Monet, in case you’re not familiar with one of the most famous painters in history. 😉 He’s one of the founders and a master of the French Impressionist style of painting, which aims to reflect landscape rather than historical or mythological scenes while painting in sunlight directly from nature (plein air painting).
Monet, the son of a grocery store owner who defied his father to become an artist, most enjoyed painting the French countryside. So much that he and his family settled in Giverny, a small idyllic village located approximately 50 miles west of Paris, in 1883. In the last 40 years of his life, he primarily painted scenes from his garden that he painstakingly created.
He became famous for painting the same scenes in different seasons, showcasing the changing effects of light. His famed “Water Lilies” series of 250 oil paintings depict scenes from his garden in Giverny and were the main focus of his artistic creations during the last thirty years of his life (many painted while he suffered from cataracts!). Eight of the water lily murals have a permanent home in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.Claude Monet
He was passionate about gardening as well as color and designed his garden of flowers as if they were works of art. In turn, his garden became the inspiration for many of his greatest works of art, such as those with the Japanese bridge and the water lily pond.
Our Visit to Monet’s Garden
As with many other places we visit, Ken and I tried to be among the first ones there, determined to get some pictures before the crowd. However, since we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our amazing hotel that morning, there was already a short line ahead of us when we arrived just before the opening time of 9:30 am. That’s OK, I can deal with a few people! (or so I thought…)
The first thing I notice about the garden is that it’s huge! The house and gardens are spread over one hectare (about 2.47 acres) and are separated into two distinct parts: the Clos-Normand with the pink plaster house, flower arches, and multiple garden paths; and the Water Garden across the street. The Water Garden is where you’ll find the famous Japanese Bridge and the water lilies that he painted so often!
Mad Dash to the Japanese Bridge
Following advice that we read online, we headed straight for the water garden and bridge since that is a popular area for photos and can get crowded. To get there, we had to cross the entire Clos-Normand area and go through an underpass to get to the Water Garden.
I want to paint the air in which the bridge, the house, the boat is. The beauty of the air where they are, and this is nothing but the impossible.Claude Monet
As we approached the underpass, I was surprised to see a large tour group and wondered how they got there ahead of us. I thought there were only a few people ahead of us?! It turns out there’s a second entrance for larger groups near the underpass! Slightly alarmed and sensing the urgency, I started walking faster.
When we got there, slightly out of breath, there were 2 or 3 people already on the bridge (they must have run all the way there?!). I quickly positioned myself and my cute straw bag (similar here) at the bridge overlooking the pond and asked Ken to take some pics from behind me with our trusty Nikon D750 and 24-70 mm lens. Very soon afterwards though, the bridge became quite crowded with a line forming for pictures on the bridge. When I went back later to take pictures from another perspective, we had to wait 10 minutes for our turn, and we had to make it very quick since I was sure that the bridge had reached weight capacity by that time!
Just Like in the Monet Paintings!
After that, we decided to do the polite thing and get off the bridge and not add to the madness. We strolled around the large pond and felt transported to one of Monet’s paintings of this exact garden because it really does look just like the paintings, with the water lilies, weeping willows, glittering light upon the pond, and even an old wood boat that we imagined he and his family rowed on!
We all went to the garden; I was digging, planting, hoeing myself; in the evening, the children were watering.Claude Monet
The water garden is also filled with plants such as bamboo, maple trees, Japanese peonies, and white lilies. Truly a wonderful garden!
By the time we walked around the whole pond, it had gotten even more crowded, with numerous flag-waving tour guides shepherding groups around. There were moments of relative calm in between the tour groups, but not for long!
A Storybook Setting at the Clos-Normand
Having fully enjoyed the Water Garden, we headed back to the Clos-Normand, which was less crowded (except for inside and around the house). This whole area is so charming and looks just like a picture book. The garden is full of carefree wildflowers with areas of more organized plantings. Plants are allowed to overflow onto the paths for a less formal look, which I loved.
There’s a long metal archway in front of the house that’s covered with wispy and colorful flowers such as poppies and daisies that look slightly wild and untamed and utterly charming. I immediately started wondering how I can fit one into my own backyard as well!
Depending on the season, the Clos-Normand may be blooming with: peonies, roses, tulips, narcissi, daffodils, poppies, forget-me-nots, daisies, climbing wisteria, lilies, and a plethora of other flowers. For more information on the flowers of the garden, please see the Fondation Monet’s website section here.
The Pink House Where Monet Lived
The second most popular spot in the garden is the pink house that Monet and his family lived in. By the time we made it there, the inside was very crowded and it was difficult to even move around, much less take any pictures! We did a quick tour and went back outside instead. We did spend some time appreciating the layout, the many paintings hanging on the walls, and the historical notes.
Next to the house, there’s a gift shop in the greenhouse where he painted his large water lilies paintings and murals, including those exhibited in Paris’ Musée de l’Orangerie!
About Monet’s House and Garden Today
After years of neglect following his death in 1926, Monet’s house and gardens were restored according to his own specifications. It opened to the public in 1980 and is managed by the non-profit organization Fondation Claude Monet. Monet’s Garden is now the second most visited tourist site in Normandy after the Mont Saint-Michel!
The Garden is open every day from March 23 to November 1 from 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. (last admission 5:30 p.m.) for 2019.
Admissions for 2019 are:
Adults: € 9.50
Children over 7 years and students: € 5.50
Children – 7 years old: free
How to Get to Monet’s Garden
There are several ways of getting to Monet’s Garden from Paris:
- Driving – It’s about 1.5 hours west of Paris by car.
- Joining a tour for a day trip from a tour company such as Viator.
- Taking the train from the Gare Saint Lazare in Paris to Gare de Vernon, then taking a shuttle from the station to Giverny, close to the Garden.
More information can be found on the Fondation Claude Monet website.
Since we visited Giverny as part of our Normandy road trip, we rented a car and drove there ourselves. Our drive from the CDG airport was approximately 1.5 hours long, passing by the beautiful French countryside.
MONET’S GARDEN TRAVEL TIPS
- The garden is a very popular attraction, so be prepared for crowds! The peak visitor season is May-June.
- Book your ticket online in advance if your visit date is set. More information here.
- Allow for 2-3 hours at the garden.
- If you’re interested in taking pictures standing on the bridge without 500 other people, then I suggest you do as we did and go there first thing in the morning and head straight there! Or, you can try later in the afternoon after the tour groups have left.
- Monet’s garden is most beautiful from April to October. If you’re interested in seeing specific flowers, make sure to consult the garden’s website’s section on what’s in bloom by season.
- Enjoy lunch at the lovely terrace at Restaurant Baudy, only 5 minutes from the garden. Make sure to visit the lovely yard in the back with a preserved artist’s studio full of period details! The restaurant has been frequented by many artists such as Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley, Rodin, and Mary Cassatt from Monet’s time!
- Why not stay overnight in Giverny and explore more of this charming town? I highly recommend La Dîme, the beautifully renovated historical farmhouse that we stayed in. Read more about my stay in Giverny here.
- For pictures, accessories such as this straw bag or a straw hat from Amazon would fit in well with the French countryside setting. I made sure to bring mine!
- Bonus tip: make sure to book your hotels, rental cars, airlines etc through the Rakuten (eBates) shopping portal for easy cash back! Sign up through my link for a $10 bonus! 😊
MY FAVORITE SOUVENIR FROM FRANCE!
I first tried this amazing shower gel from the French brand Caudalie at my hotel in Giverny near Monet’s Garden. I loved it so much that I bought four bottles from them and carried it during my entire trip! Then I found out I can get more of the shower gel from Amazon when I run out! I love the delicate fragrance of white rose and pink peppercorn, and that it contains 97% ingredients of natural origin.
All photos on this page were captured with the fantastic Nikon D750, using a Nikon 24-70 mm lens and a Nikon 50 mm f/1.4G Lens, and edited with Adobe Lightroom. Read more about my photography equipment here.
My Normandy Travel posts
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to check out my other posts from this series!
If you found this article helpful, please pin, share or leave a comment below! Thank you and I hope you have an amazing trip there if you have one planned! ❤️