World In Paris
Best side trips from Paris

Impressionists’ Open Air Workshop (Bougival)

Bougival is a smiling village by the Seine River, at only 17 km from Paris. During XIX century Impressionists chose this peaceful place as their favourite open air workshop. People like Monet, Sisley or Berthe Morisot spent long periods in this village trying to catch the beauty of the river and its banks and soon Bougival’s landscapes became the subject of some of their masterworks.


But this colourful revolution was not the only revolution in Bougival. Two centuries before a king who decided to construct the Eighth World Wonder in peaceful Bougival . .

By train

Bougival is very easy to reach by public transport. SNCF trains leave every half an hour from Saint Lazare Station. When you arrive to Bougival you will have a 5km walk to reach the river but there are nice sights on the way. A good option is to take your bike with you on the train.

Quartier Saint Michel

On the way to the river you will cross Quartier Saint Michel, the most picturesque suburb in Bougival. During Norman invasions (846) the villagers asked Saint Michael to protect them. Normans could not take Bougival and its thankful inhabitants decided to call this area Saint Michael and built a little chapel dedicated to him. The chapel did not survive the French Revolution, only the name. Today a beautiful stone lavatory with a central impluvium (very rare in Ile de France) and a a stone fountain are the most interesting sights here.


Notre Dame de Bougival

I found this church and its square incredibly beautiful and photogenic so I spent a lot of time taking pictures here. The Romanesque style building was founded during the XII century by Louis VII. The construction of the nave will come later, in the XIII century. The richly decorated clock tower, also from the XII century, is the most interesting part of this church. The interior is nothing special, in my opinion, but if you arrived to here go and have a look anyway.



Between XIXth and XXth centuries, Bougival was an important centre of linen cleaning and whitewashing. These kind of jobs allowed women to start working. Today some of these buildings (laundries) still remain and its owners still use the traditional whitewashing techniques. Most of the buildings include the ironing room and a wash house supplied by a well.


Impressionists Walk

From Bougival to Argenteuil the Seine River offers nice landscapes along its banks which attracted the Impressionists during the XIX century. Turner was the first painter to be captivated by the beauty of Bougival. Corot and Louis Français followed. Impressionists Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Berthe Morisot expressed on their paintings Bougival’s light, water, sky and nature. For this reason Art historians call Bougival “the cradle of Impressionism”.


Today there is a nice walk with real scale panels showing the reproductions of some famous Impressionists paintings at the exact point where they put the easel and found the inspiration.




Some of these places have not changed a lot. This is a pleasant walk to do, especially in spring and autumn.


La Belle Epoque

The XIXth century was also la “Belle Epoque” for this little town, with its promenades, boaters, taverns, restaurants and hotels. Le Bal des Canotiers and le Bal de la Grenouillere competed to have Parisians dancing on their Sunday Bal while the Casinos of Rueil-Malmaison and Bougival had a fleeting success.



And what about the eighth Wonder of the World?

Coming soon in our next post : -)

Bougival is in Yvelines Department. SNCF trains leave Paris from Gare Saint Lazare.


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  • Arni
    02/12/2017 at 5:12 pm

    I am captivated by Bougival! I can spend an entire summer here painting and admiring the architecture and landscape that inspired the masters of Impressionism.

    • WorldInParis
      02/12/2017 at 11:22 pm

      Oh, I am very bad painting! I prefer Bougival for a quiet ride by bike 🙂

  • Alex Datsev
    07/18/2016 at 11:56 pm

    Great post! I did not actually know that the Impressionists had such a connection with Bougival.

  • Stephanie
    07/16/2016 at 5:08 pm

    I love the idea of walking through the places that inspired some of Monet’s masterpieces. I imagine it would be like walking into a painting!

  • Nancy
    07/16/2016 at 5:07 pm

    Bougival is so cute! Love the way you put the current photo with the paintings of old. You can see that the only thing that has changed in all these years is the growth of trees!

    Staying tuned to the 8th Wonder of the World!

    • WorldInParis
      07/19/2016 at 1:18 pm

      Yes! And there are many more examples along the Seine 🙂