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The main attraction to Giverny and the thing it is most famous for are the House and Gardens of Claude Monet. Both are maintained in keeping with the time that Monet lived here, with all the artistic flair that he himself bought to the landscape and design. It is said that in 1883, when Monet was passing through the Normandy countryside on a train, looking out of the window he set upon Giverny. Initially renting a property in the area, he ended up staying here until his death in 1926. You can further follow the trail of his life by visiting the Church of Giverny, his final resting place, or by travelling the short distance to Giverny’s sister town of Vernon to have a look around the Musee Alphonse-Georges Poulain, a museum that is privileged enough to display some actual works by Monet himself. Although Monet is the main draw to the area, there are many other noteworthy attractions to be seen. In Giverny itself you can visit the American Museum of Art. With many artists attracted to the town, looking for the inspiration that Monet found, there is some interesting works to be viewed. Travel slightly further afield to the surrounding countryside and towns and there are some really beautiful buildings to be explored. Castles and churches, that are detailed below, offer some amazing architectural masterpieces nestled within the French countryside.
Read more on this destination in the AA Key Guide to Normandy.
Must-see attractions in Giverny
Maison de Claude Monet (House and Grounds): Falling in love with Giverny when he saw it from a train, so the story tells, Monet ended up living here from 1883. His obsessions included irises and the lily pond that he painted here. The tour focuses the main portion of its time on the splendid gardens but the house, laid out as it was for Monet, is just as captivating.
Musee D’Art Americain (Museum): Giverny drew other aspiring artists looking for inspiration once Monet started exhibiting his work in Paris, though Monet chose to distance himself from them. Collections of works by these visitors are housed in this museum, including works by Theodore Wendel, Louis Ritter and Willard Metcalf, Americans who were among the first to arrive.
Eglise de Giverny (Church): Most of this church was built during the 15th and 16th-century, with some 13th-century sculpture, and its full title is Église Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny. Its is famous as the place where Monet would attend Mass, where he married and eventually, in December 1926, was where he was buried. If you wish to pay your respects, his tomb can be found just behind the church.
Vernon Musee Alphonse-Georges Poulain (Museum): In the neighbouring town of Vernon, which has its own identity, you can visit this museum that has actual works by Claude Monet, the impressionist (1840-1926), which, surprisingly, none can be found in the artists home town of Giverny. View the cliffs of Pourvill and a circular study of waterlilies in this stone and timber building.
Church of Ecouis: Ecouis is a undistinguished yet prosperous market town, close to foret de Lyon with its royal hunting grounds and it is probably this royal passion for hunting that led to the unexpected appearance of such a magnificent church here. Consecrated in 1313, its upgrade was awarded through royal and papal permission, originally being the St. Aubin the local parish church.
Chateau Gaillard (Castle): In the middle ages this was the heart of Anglo-French politics. Travel to Les Andelys, overlooking the River Seine and high on a hilltop, you can visit the castle built by Richard the Lionheart. Today, only several walls, a keep and a tower remain but this does not take away any of its awe and majesty.
The Old Mill: Once illustrated by Monet, and over the years by many artists, this unusual mill is half timbered construction that straddles two piers over the River Seine between Vernon and Giverny. It can be easily seen from the Clemenceau bridge or from the Park of the Tourelles Castle.
Château des Tourelles(Castle): Although a ruined castle, it is one of only a few in France that has remained unchanged for 800 years and consists of four turrets some 20 meters high. It was built in 1196 when Philip II France made Vernon a military base as he fended off Richard the Lionheart.
Chateau et Parc de Bizy (Park and Castle): Both the park and the castle are classified as historic monuments. Inside the castle you can take a tour around the rooms and the famous stables while outside in the grounds you can enjoy the water garden and majestic courtyard.
Château de La Roche Guyon: A 10km journey takes you to this castle to discover 1000 years of history in one of the most protected site of Ile de France. Built into the chalk cliffs this strange and unusual construction offers visitors a tour of the keep, cave dwellings, amazing tunnels, gardens and stables as well as the castles themselves.