A van Gogh related hiking day trip from Paris

Auvers-sur-Oise van Gogh
Auvers-sur-Oise. Photo: Jim Cornall

Everyone loves a trip to Paris.

Unless there’s a strike, or it’s raining.

If you’re spending a week there, you may have breezed through Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, the Arc du Triomphe, and the Louvre in a couple of days. And now you’re looking for something else to do. Well, if you enjoyed the Louvre, and like art, then one great day trip would be to take a short train journey to Auvers-sur-Oise. But why? Keep reading…

One good thing about Paris (there are many) is that you’re not that far from being out in the countryside. You could very easily spend a day at the Bois de Boulogne just to the west of the city. You could even venture to another woodland, accessible by Metro, at Vincennes. It houses the city’s botanical gardens, as well as plenty of other walks, and a pretty good castle. And there are plenty of places to eat close to the Metro station. A little further afield is the Forest of Fontainebleau. However, it’s still less than an hour from Gare de Lyon.

I chose to head north. It’s not a long trip from Gare du Nord to Auvers-sur-Oise, a beautiful town on the banks of the Oise river. While Auvers-sur-Oise has a station, it’s maybe a little easier to get off the train at Méry-sur-Oise, as trains are more frequent, and walk. You’ll need to take the RER H train. It’s less than €5.

If you’ve not been to Paris before, or you have and haven’t ventured out of the city, this short trip will probably invigorate you. Once you’re past the suburb of Saint-Denis, you’ll start to see countryside. And as you go further, you’ll even see some hills.    

If you do get off the train at Méry-sur-Oise, you’re into a quaint French town. And, unlike in Paris, people even say hello. Well, bonjour. It’s about one mile (1.5km) to the Oise, but it doesn’t feel like it, and you can even head into some woodland or visit a chateau en route.

Once you get close to the river, you’ll see ahead of you a beautiful church on a hill. It’s a part of the reason why you’re here. Because Auvers-sur-Oise is the place Vincent van Gogh briefly lived and painted – prolifically – before dying in the small town, and the church features in one of his famous paintings.

A trip to Auvers-sur-Oise to walk in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh.

The famed Dutch painter didn’t live long in Auvers-sur-Oise. He moved there in May 1890, and died on July 29 of the same year from an infection after a self-inflected gunshot wound. Although there are other theories that it wasn’t self-inflicted. Imagine how social media would have treated it had that been today… However, in the short period of less than three months, he created at least 70 paintings. Given the beautiful and tranquil environment, it’s easy to see why he was so inspired.

Wherever you travel to, there will be places that capitalise on the people that were either born or lived there. Try avoiding Mozart in Salzburg. Or Shakespeare in Stratford. The list goes on. While there are other places that exploit their connection to van Gogh, Auvers-sur-Oise does so in a well thought-out and tasteful way. Many of the buildings around the town are very similar to the way they would have looked in 1890.

I would certainly recommend reading up on van Gogh’s time in Auvers-sur-Oise before you visit, as it will give more context to what you see there.  

And yes, you can buy souvenirs, the visitor centre has plenty to choose from, as do many of the stores in the town. There are signposts everywhere, leading you around the town to see places van Gogh either visited, lived or painted. And his gravestone, next to that of his brother, Theo, is also a major local tourist attraction.   


Of course, this is a walking site. So, what about a ‘proper’ walk? Well, you’ve walked to the town from the station (whichever one you choose), and you’ve walked around Auvers-sur-Oise, taking dozens of photos. Maybe walking around the van Gogh sites is enough, and you’ve bought a trailerful of souvenirs. Or it’s started pouring. In that case, maybe it’s time to head back into the city.  

But if you want more, there are quite a few trails you can take from Auvers-sur-Oise. One that’s particularly good, and you don’t even need a map for, is the walk along the north bank of the Oise. You can turn this into a circular, by going over any of the bridges, and walking back to Méry-sur-Oise.

The scenery is pretty much the same if you simply follow the opposite bank, as you’re walking along the same river. I’d recommend heading along the river to the beautiful town of L’Isle-Adam. The walk along the river, with its hairclip-like huge, green metal gates to get through (a different and bigger version of a kissing gate), is beautiful. People greet you and even make eye contact. And there’s wildlife, too. Along the way, I saw several lizards, a heron, and a green woodpecker. Although they probably won’t be there when you are. Unless they were cunningly-positioned replicas.

The journey to L’Isle-Adam from Auvers-sur-Oise takes about two hours. What’s great about the walk is that you can take the train back from several stations. There’s Valmondois, or you can walk across a bridge to Mériel, on the other side of the river. You can stop at L’Isle-Adam and catch the train back from Parmain, which sits across the river from L’Isle-Adam. Although, you do need to visit L’Isle-Adam first because it’s so picturesque. Alternatively, you can walk through L’Isle-Adam, and head back along the river to Mériel, Auvers-sur-Oise, or Méry-sur-Oise.

If you want an even longer walk, you can continue along the river to Beaumont-sur-Oise, or you can create other loops that don’t cross the river, to head back to Auvers-sur-Oise.

Getting there

On a practical note, you can get a return ticket from Gare du Nord, but do bear in mind that if you return from a different station, it might be further away from Paris than the one you initially bought the ticket from, so you may need to pay a little extra. You could always buy a return to Beaumont, in which case any of the stations back to Paris are fair game. Or you could buy a one-way ticket and purchase the return once you know which station you’re going to head back to Paris from. As it’s a local RER train, they are fairly frequent. I left around 9 a.m., and while there were a few people on the train, it was by no means busy.

After the walk, if you were inspired by all things van Gogh, on your return, or the next day, you can always head over to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which has more than 20 of his paintings. It’s not that far from the Louvre, although it is on the other side of the Seine. The current price for an adult ticket (as of 2024) is €16, and there is a lot to see. A word of warning, though – it’s closed Mondays.