Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2008
If you’re spending three or more days in Paris, you may want to consider a day trip. Two of the most popular attractions within 50 miles from Paris are Monet’s Garden at Giverny in Normandy and Chateau de Versailles in Versailles (which is about twelve miles from Paris).
Depending on your time and budget, you can consider two approaches to visiting these two favorites.
Many would rank the Versailles Palace, home of French Bourbon kings (the most illustrious being Louis XIV, the Sun King), as being a ‘can’t miss’ event. You could easily spend an entire day in the Versailles gardens without ever setting foot in the Chateau.
Monet’s Garden (open from April to the end of October) offers the an intimate glimpse of a 19th century artist’s retreat while Versailles remains a trumpet call of pomp and gilded ostentation. The tranquil water garden at Giverny and the house’s adjacent rows of arching roses, carpets of pink and red geraniums, audacious poppies, tulips and firecracker dahlias offer the perfect foil to Versailles ‘green carpet’. The two totally different perspectives complement one another.
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You can actually visit both of these favorite gardens in the same day if you opt for a minibus tour. With a minibus or coach tour, you don’t have to worry about purchasing entrance tickets, waiting in line, or getting from the train station to the gardens (in the case of Monet’s garden, the actual grounds are located in Giverny which is approximately four miles from the Vernon train station.
I would suggest signing up for a minivan or coach tour if your heart is set on seeing both Versailles and Giverny and your budget allows for the cost of 159 Euros per person (which includes your transport, ticket entrances and lunch).
However, if you really prefer enjoying Versailles and/or Monet’s Garden at your own speed, I would definitely recommend two options which are also much less expensive than a bus or minibus tour.
Transilien (Line RER C) offers on certain days of the week a day pass (Forfait Loisir) which covers your roundtrip transport to Versailles and chateau admission. The price is less than $50. The train station is within walking distance of the Chateau de Versailles.
To get to Giverny, you’ll need to hop on a Rouen-bound train at Gare St. Lazare in Paris Buy a round-trip ticket to Vernon. From Vernon, you can either rent a bicycle, catch a local bus for Giverny, or take a cab for the four mile drive between these two neighborhing towns. A second class round trip ticket should cost less than $50.
The most important thing to remember about visiting either the Versailles Palace or the Monet Gardens is that they are BOTH CLOSED ON MONDAYS!
If you’re staying for more than three days in Paris, I would recommend devoting an entire day to either Versailles and/or the Monet Gardens. Be sure to save Monet Gardens for a sunny day (especially if you plan on walking or biking from Vernon) Ideally opt for a weekday rather than a weekend, and get there as early as you can in the morning. Or take the lazy approach and capture the last rays of light in the Versailles garden. Remember that the last admission at Monet’s garden is 5:30 pm (so don’t linger too long over your picnic enroute to Giverny).