Explore Van Gogh’s Europe by Train
Vincent van Gogh is a name that brings to mind bright yellows and blues and inspires people across the world. But what inspired Van Gogh? The Dutch artist travelled around Europe almost as much as any Eurailer, so there are plenty of places where you can relive his experiences and see his art. Here’s how to embark on your very own Van Gogh tour and see the world through his eyes.
While working as an art dealer, Van Gogh spent a few years living in London. You can see the boarding houses he lived in at 87 Hackford Road and 295 Kennington Road. He was a keen walker, so follow him on foot and explore the city’s many sights from Hyde Park to Embankment.
During your visit to London, art-lovers can get inspired by some of London’s famed cultural institutions including the British Museum and the National Gallery. Or take a trip to one of Van Gogh’s favourite London attractions, the beautiful Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Travel tip: The Eurostar train connects London to Paris and Brussels. This journey is covered by the Eurail Global Pass, though you’ll need to book a reservation.
Antwerp and Mons, Belgium
Van Gogh spent time in several regions of in Belgium. He was briefly enrolled in the Art Academy in Antwerp and did several sketches of Het Steen Fortress in the old city centre. He is known to have viewed the artworks by Rubens housed in the Cathedral of Our Lady.
In his twenties, Van Gogh worked as a preacher in a mining region, near Mons, Belgium. When in Mons, check out the Van Gogh House in Cuesmes, which is a short bus ride from the train station. The Grand Place and the 17th century baroque belfry in town are also worth a visit.
Travel tip: Both Mons and and Antwerp are easily reachable from Brussels by train in under an hour.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Van Gogh spent a short time living in the Dutch capital as a student, but he was more interested in strolling the city streets than working on his studies. He spent his days visiting the flower market and viewing the collections at cultural institutions like Museum van der Hoop and the Trippenhuis. Unfortunately neither musuem exists any more, but both of their collections are are now on view at the Rijksmuseum.
Van Gogh may not have lived in Amsterdam for long, but today the largest collection of his artwork is found in the city, at the Van Gogh Museum. In the spirit of Van Gogh, walk to the museum from the station instead of taking the tram; maybe the city will inspire you the way it inspired him.
Travel tip: The journey to Amsterdam Central takes just over an hour from Antwerp.
The Hague, the Netherlands
Van Gogh lived in The Hague twice, first as an art dealer and then to learn painting from his cousin. In The Hague, Van Gogh kept a studio on Schenkweg and frequented Scheveningen Strand to paint the life he saw there.
Scheveningen, one of the most famous beaches in the Netherlands, is a must-see on any visit to The Hague. After your visit to the beach, explore the city’s multitude of museums housing the work of other famous Dutch artists from Vermeer to M.C. Escher.
Travel tip: The Hague is easily reached by frequent trains from Amsterdam.
Many of Van Gogh’s famous works can be found in Paris in the permanent collection at the Musée d’Orsay. Van Gogh himself also called the French capital home for two years. During his time in Paris, Van Gogh lived in Montmartre at the Rue Lepic. There he took drawing lessons and visited major Parisian galleries the Louvre and the Musée du Luxembourg.
While Van Gogh lived in Paris, he spent a lot of time in cafés discussing art and life with the other artists that flocked to the city. Though his usual haunt, Le Tambourin, no longer exists, there are plenty of other cafés across Paris that give off similar bohemian vibes. Café Lomi and Café Marlette are great places to start.
Travel tip: Get to Paris in just over 3 hours by high-speed train from Amsterdam.
When Parisian city life became too much for him, Van Gogh headed south to Arles. He had the desire to set up an artists’ colony in the sunny French country side. While living in Arles he created 300 works including The Night Café and Starry Night over the Rhône and infamously cut off his ear.
In Arles, follow the Van Gogh Trail to see the locations where the artist lived and where some of his most famous works were painted. While you’re there check out the ancient amphitheatre and other Roman ruins dotted throughout the city. The Camargue Nature Park, known for its flamingos, is also nearby.
Travel tip: It takes 4 hours to get to Arles by train from Paris.
At the end of his life, Van Gogh headed back north and eventually settled in Auvers-sur-Oise just outside of Paris. There, he lodged at the Auberge Ravoux, which you can visit. While living in the town he painted around 70 paintings inspired by his surroundings including Wheatfield with Crows. Auvers is where Van Gogh passed away and where he is buried. You can visit his grave at the Cementerio Auvers su Oise, which is open to visitors during daylight hours.
Visitors to Auvers-sur-Oise can also step into Van Gogh’s shoes by sampling Absinthe, the drink beloved by him and other artists of his time, at Auvers’ Musée de l’Absinthe.
Travel tip: Auvers-sur-Oise makes a great day trip from Paris. It takes just 57 minutes by train out of the centre.
Spread out across four countries, all these destinations are easily accessible with a Eurail Global Pass. So pack your paints and get to know Van Gogh a bit better by adding these cities to your next European itinerary.