World In Paris
Best side trips from Paris

Bougival – Impressionists’ Open Air Workshop

Bougival is a smiling village by the Seine River, at only 17 km from Paris. During the XIXth century, the Impressionists chose this peaceful place as their favorite 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.

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

An easy day trip from Paris by train

Bougival is a small town very easy to reach by train from Paris. SNCF trains leave every half an hour from Saint Lazare Station, in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris. When you arrive at Bougival you will have a 5km walk to reach the river but there are beautiful things to see 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 the 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. Unfortunately, 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 stone fountain are the most interesting sights here.

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Notre Dame de Bougival Church

We find the church of Notre Dame de Bougival and its square incredibly beautiful and photogenic. The Romanesque style building was founded during the XII century by King Louis VII. The construction of the nave was built 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 of the church is nothing special, in our opinion, but it is worth a short visit.

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Blanchisseries of Bougival

Between the XIXth and XXth centuries, Bougival was an important center of linen cleaning and whitewashing. This kind of jobs allowed women to start working and bring some money home. 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.

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The Impressionists Walk

From Bougival to Argenteuil the Seine River offers beautiful landscapes along its banks which attracted the Impressionists during the XIXth century. Turner was the first painter to be captivated by the beauty of Bougival and Corot and Louis Français followed. The 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”.

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Today there is a beautiful 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.

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

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Bougival and La Belle Époque

The XIXth century was also the century of La Belle Époque 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.

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And what about the Eighth Wonder of the World? In the end, we have decided to write a dedicated post.

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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 🙂