Sunflower Field Arles

Painting Inspiration: 5 Landscapes That Inspired Great French Artists


Bianca Blades

Bianca is a lover of the written word and travelling the world. When she's not catching high-speed trains and getting lost in art museums, she enjoys exploring new forms of storytelling.

12th March 2019

Painting Inspiration: 5 Landscapes That Inspired Great French Artists

A visit to Paris is an art lover’s dream but boundless inspiration awaits in French destinations on the road less travelled…

For art and culture lovers travelling to France, Paris tends to top the list of every guidebook.

And it’s not hard to see why, with a long list of painters, writers and poets who’ve immortalised Paris in their art.

In the heart of France, you can join Parisians at a café in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, look for French classics in the book stalls lining the Seine or lose hours in the Louvre Museum and Centre Pompidou.

But looking beyond Paris, there’s much more to discover in France. The best part? You don’t even need an art history degree to appreciate the landscapes that inspired great French artists.

Read on for 5 must-see destinations for an art-inspired journey in France.

1. Giverny

On a sunny day in Paris, Monet fans flock to the Musée de l'Orangerie to see his Impressionist oil paintings in a new light.

We’ll let you in on a little local secret: Monet’s Water Lilies are best viewed when natural light streams through the glass roof to create a shimmering effect over his brushstrokes.

But what about Monet’s real flowers? Visit Giverny, a small village picturesque village, to explore the beauty of Monet’s gardens.

Thanks to the vibrant and exquisitely maintained estate, the French master of Impressionism lives on.

Why visit? See the real-life water lilies and weeping willows painted by Claude Monet.
Trip: La Belle France
Monet Garden Giverny

2. Honfleur

As French as the tricolour flag, the famous River Seine has inspired artists including Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh.

The river flows from Paris through Normandy and eventually connects France with the English Channel at the beautiful portside city of Honfleur.

This enchanting harbour town inspired the work of Impressionist painters, who weren’t concerned with realistic portrayals and instead attempted to capture the essence of movement across the harbour. Go and soak up the beautiful sights for yourself.

Why visit? Be inspired by Impressionists at picture-perfect Normandy.
Trip: La Belle France
Honfleur france

3. Nice

It’s impossible to be bored with life on the French Riveria with its history, natural beauty and glamour to get wrapped up in.

In fact, the perpetually bright and sunny South of France once attracted the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh who lived and worked here.

In Nice, don’t miss the Chagall Museum and the light-filled Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence: a chapel created by French artist Henri Matisse.

Why visit? Take in the sun, sights and art of the French Riveria.
Trip: Paris to Nice through Vineyards & Mountains
Nice France

4. Arles

Ever wanted to visit the land where lavender blooms as far as the eye can see? Welcome to Aix-en-Provence, where you’ll visit some classic Provençal villages and towns, like Arles.

If you feel like you’ve wandered into a Van Gogh painting, that’s probably because you have!

The Dutch Post-Impressionist painter spent one of the most prolific years of his life in Arles, where his art flourished.

You’ll learn more about his life and mental health, artistic legacy and those famous yellow sunflowers here in Provence.

Why visit? See the best of Provence with a visit to Arles.
Trip: Provence & the French Riveria
sunflowers arles france

5. Loire Valley

As the most famous of all French castles, Château de Versailles tends to overshadow thousands of other châteaux in France. Unfairly so, when you consider the beautiful scenery of the Loire Valley, a couple of hours south of Paris.

The castle most deserving of the Loire Valley crown is Château de Chenonceau, which dates back to the 13th century and needs to be seen to be believed.

In 1515 the castle took its present shape after some royal finances helped along construction, and later, Catherine de Medici herself helped to create the gardens and famous art gallery (built over a bridge spanning the Cher River).

Lovers of fine art will lose track of time in the famous art collection featuring paintings by Rubens, Poussin and Tintoretto.

Why visit? Visit the French château that houses royal art and treasure.
Trip: Loire Valley Cruise

Are you inspired to see the best French landscapes and art for yourself? Check out our Back-Roads trips to France and Western Europe.
Château de Chenonceau France