Humid sunshine and ominous clouds greeted us as we tumbled off the train in front of the minuscule train station. We had arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small village where the public transport comes only once an hour. We were already slightly sticky, and the sun high in the sky, as we followed the only road, guided by a map I had downloaded on my phone.
I’m sure there are many beautiful towns in Île-de-France, but I chose Auvers in particular for its place in art history as the last residency of Van Gogh before he died. That, and it’s a relatively easy day trip from Paris. You’d just better watch the train schedule, or risk sipping an iced lemonade in one of the cafés while waiting for the next train, an hour later. (Speaking from experience.)
After bumbling through Carrefour for picnic supplies, we continued down the road, eventually running into the auberge where he rented a room for 3,5 francs per day. The map we were relying on was not interactive, and only 15 minutes into our stroll did I realise it was not in English nor French, so we decided to tag behind other tourists who looked like they knew the route. I’m never opposed to adventure, and getting lost is always an adventure!
As Avuers-sur-Oise is quite small, it’s easy to find what is called the “painters’ path,” heralded by signs and pictures of Van Gogh’s works in the appropriate location. You could probably walk the whole town end-to-end in 30 minutes, making it a very doable half-day trip. Although, again, watch the train timetable.
We waltzed through the sweeping wheat field where Van Gogh shot himself, and despite its somber role in art history, it was something of a fairytale…never ending, golden, swaying gently in the breeze that halfheartedly promised rain.
The last stop is the house of Doctor Gachet, and on the way is a the château of Auvers-sur-Oise (do stop in the gardens; it’s quite lovely). At this point, the clouds were quite thunderous-looking, and a flash storm (which lasted, as usual, seconds) had us turning around, waiting out the next train in a café, sipping lemonades.
Day Trip to Auvers-sur-Oise
Get yourself to the train station Gare du Nord in Paris. From there, you’ll need to take the Transilien H in the direction of Créteil. Get off at the stop Valmondois and then take the H train in the direction of Pontoise and get off at the station Auvers-sur-Oise.
Downloading City Mapper is highly recommended, as it will tell you exactly what trains and directions you need to take.
Note that you may need a supplementary ticket depending on the métro pass you have; the fare may not cover the outer regions. However, I believe if you have the Navigo unlimited pass, you can take this train at no extra charge. (Please do your own research though.)
Explore Auvers-sur-Oise, the Last Home of Van Gogh
Reference this map for all the sights we saw. Make sure it is in your preferred language, or embrace the adventure of being slightly lost.
As previously stated, you can take the Painter’s Path, which covers major landmarks in Van Gogh’s life and work. It’s not too long, but incredibly beautiful. If you’ve done your art history homework, you’ll recognize many of the spots from his paintings.
Not on the path but worth a stop: the château d’Auvers. The gardens are lovely and you can walk right in. The château itself allows visitors to explore the Impressionist art movement.
As far as food goes, there is a Carrefour (grocery store chain) as you exit the train station and turn left. However, I would have opted for the boulangerie a few meters father down the road. We did a picnic lunch in the cabbage patch next to the wheat field on the Painter’s Path.
The walking tour is free. Entrance to museums (Musée d’Absinthe; Auberge Ravoux; Musée Daubigny) require a ticket.
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