Weekend on the theme of an artist’s house: Van Gogh, Auvers-sur-Oise and the surrounding area
Vincent van Gogh, probably one of the best-known painters in the world, spent the last months of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise. The beautiful countryside of this region, spreading out around the house where he lived, has been a source of inspiration for many artists. This is an opportunity for a weekend of exploration, pilgrimage, recharging and contemplation. A generous serving of art, in the open air, awaits you!
Vincent van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise in the spring of 1890 on his return from the south of France, where he had been committed to a psychiatric institution. “Auvers is seriously beautiful,” he wrote to his brother Theo. He spent the last 70 days of his life there, an extraordinarily prolific period during which he produced more than 80 paintings, before dying in tragic circumstances shrouded in mystery.
Today, Auvers-sur-Oise is like an open-air museum. It has lost none of its rustic, picturesque charm. Visiting van Gogh’s final resting place is like a pilgrimage. This mini-break begins, of course, with the Auberge Ravoux, known as the “House of van Gogh”, where the artist’s bedroom is preserved in its original state. It’s an emotionally-charged experience that you’ll never forget.
Before you continue your exploration of the village, it’s already time for a refreshment break. Make your way to the Relais des peintres, a bistronomic restaurant housed inside a 17th-century building, one of the first coaching inns on the North Road after leaving Paris. A little bonus: from your table, you’ll have a view of the church bell tower painted by van Gogh, which you’ll be keen to visit during a delightful stroll through the village.
Le Relais des Peintres 6 Rue du Général de Gaulle - 95430 Auvers-sur-Oise
And now, it’s time to head off for the walk! After getting yourself a map at the tourist office, explore with the help of a signposted trail of the sites associated with the history of van Gogh in Auvers. Its route through the village is vividly evocative. One of the highlights of the walk is the church, famous worldwide thanks to the picture it inspired van Gogh to paint, and which is today in the collections of the musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Next, the trail takes you to the village cemetery, the resting place of the artist and his brother Theo, surrounded by the wheatfields that inspired his final painting, “Wheatfield with Crows”. Throughout the walk, at each site of interest, “picture-plaques” reproduce the artist’s works. Adults and children will enjoy spotting the exact place where he was standing, and comparing the landscapes of past and present. An outdoor game of “Spot the Difference”!
And why not finish this lovely afternoon with a little aperitif worthy of the Belle Epoque? Head for the charming Absinthe Museum, dedicated to the favourite drink of 19th-century artists and poets. After exploring an incredible collection of objects and archives devoted to the demonic “Green Fairy”, you’ll have the opportunity to taste it, together with a demonstration of the ritual, of course!
After this excellent day, you’ll be able to enjoy a well-earned rest at the l’Hôtel des Iris, a charming little hotel and tea room, housed in an old restored post office. In this cosy and modern setting, located just opposite the Auberge Ravoux, you’ll find little nods to van Gogh and the Impressionist painters.
Hôtel des Iris, 21 rue du Général de Gaulle - 95430 Auvers-sur-Oise
After a restful night’s sleep and a good breakfast, the morning continues gently with a beautiful and peaceful ride on the Oise. And not just on any boat! An enthusiasts’ association has reconstructed the Botin, the boat-studio of the painter Charles-François Daubigny, Auvers-sur-Oise’s other iconic artist, of whom van Gogh was a great admirer. From this picturesque little boat, you’ll also be able to view the countryside along the banks of the Oise which has inspired many artists.
Le Botin, 38 rue du général De Gaulle - 95430 Auvers-sur-oise
It’s back to dry land to explore Daubigny’s house-cum-studio. It’s an absolute gem, and not on any account to be missed. The walls of this house, classed first as an Historic Monument and later granted the status of “Maison des Illustres”, were decorated by the artist himself, helped by his friends Rousseau and Corot. Don’t miss the pretty garden that inspired one of van Gogh’s paintings.
Fancy a little break? Head for the lovely terrace of the “Sous le Porche” restaurant. Here, you can enjoy fresh seasonal produce and fortify yourself.
Restaurant Sous le Porche 35 rue du Pois Auvers sur Oise
You’re now ready for an active afternoon. You’re spoiled for choice. With Val d’Oise aventures, you can enjoy numerous activities in the vicinity of Auvers-sur-Oise. These are off-the-beaten-track experiences, by canoe or bike, enabling you to explore the places immortalised by painters in Auvers-sur-Oise and the surrounding area. If you hire bikes, you can also ride through the sublime countryside of the Regional Natural Park of the Vexin Français by following part of the route of the London-Paris Avenue Verte (Greenway). It’s another way of exploring the countryside that has inspired so many artists, and an ideal way to round off your stay in this beautiful location.
Val d’Oise Aventures 6 avenue Marcel Perrin, 95540 Méry sur Oise
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- Copyright image: Les Oiseaux Voyageurs/Alisson Ressy/CRT IDF