Only 40 minutes by train from Paris lies an idyllic village that inspired a famous school of painting. Less well-known and visited than Giverny (the site of Claude Monet’s famous house and garden), Barbizon is a tiny hamlet with a one-road main street surrounded by a thick lush forest and open green pastures.

Barbizon was the center of French painting between 1830 and 1870, a place to which artists flocked from all over to take advantage of the special light and landscapes.

A departure from indoor painting, the new realism relied on natural light and featured everyday workers and farmers.

visit Barbizon - Jean Francoise Millet

“Les Glaneuses” by 19th century Barbizon artist Jean Francoise Millet

The Barbizon artists

Jean-Francois Millet was the most recognized of the Barbizon artists, setting up a modest studio and home in the center of the village, now a private museum. The first two rooms contain the living quarters and the last room is the atelier, where he created his masterpieces.

Home and studio of Jean Francois Millet

Salon of Millet’s home

In later years, Vincent Van Gogh was so taken by Millet’s style, he painted 40 copies of his paintings, declaring Millet his master.

Other important artists of the same period include Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Charles-Francois Daubigny.

Musée de Barbizon is the official museum of Barbizon. Once an inn and pub for struggling artists, the space displays minor works of the Barbizon artists. The upstairs walls have original scribbles and drawings from the artists who stayed there in the 1800s.

Other nearby sensory delights

If you visit Barbizon, treat yourself to lunch at Hotellerie de Bas-Bréau. Ours was delightful – from a special fall menu consisting of game and mushrooms (Barbizon is known for its hunting grounds).

visit Barbizon Hotellerie de Bas-Breau

Wood-paneled dining room at the Hotellerie de Bas-Breau

You might even want to stay overnight.

Hotellerie de Bas-Bréau is a lovely privately-owned four-star hotel with 20 rooms.

Rooms are individually decorated in period decor and include Jacuzzis. The seven-acre property has beautiful formal gardens and a swimming pool.

The charming Hotellerie de Bas-Breau

You can also visit the nearby royal palace and gardens of Chateau de Fontainebleau, similar in size and scope to the Palace of Versailles.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • Historic Barbizon is a delightful walking village.
  • If you’re tired of the queues in Paris, Barbizon is an easily accessible day trip.
  • Art aficionados will enjoy seeing the works of Barbizon masters.

Take note

  • Unless you rent a car, you’ll need to take the train to visit Barbizon.
  • Barbizon is a 40-minute train ride from Gare de Lyon station in Paris, and trains leave approximately two to three times an hour. The stop is Fontainebleau; Barbizon is about a 15-20 minute taxi or Uber ride from the station.
  • When planning a visit to Musée de Barbizon, be sure to check the hours of operation. The museum closes mid-day (a perfect time for lunch).


Be sure to get the whole scoop on the charms of Barbizon and the Hotellerie de Bas-Bréau on I Prefer Paris!

A Tour of Barbizon, France                                                                           

*All photo credits: Richard Nahem


The author’s lunch at Hotellerie de Bas-Bréau was hosted by the property.

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