Do you wonder if the Van Gogh Village Nuenen is worth visiting?
You came to the right place. I had the same question.
So I headed south to explore Vincent Van Gogh in Nuenen and Van Gogh’s Brabant, the Dutch province he loved so much.
In this post, I share my experience about my trip to this town.
I’ve been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam numerous times (my Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam tips are here). I live just 30 minutes away.
I love his paintings and have replica posters hanging inside my home. I know his story, and I know of the many places that were significant in his life. But I haven’t paid a visit to these towns yet.
Since I am a fan of his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, learning more about his life in Nuenen and his early paintings was first on my list and I loved every second of my time here.
I had a fantastic day out from Eindhoven. I’m excited to share the things to do in and around Nuenen with you here.
In this article, you’ll learn about why this town is called the Van Gogh Village and where to find locations we know from his art. And we explore the Van Gogh Village Museum (formerly known as Vincentre).
PS: If you’re in a hurry, here is a quick summary: Nuenen is worth your time, not only for the museum, but there’s much more to see.
The town has many modern buildings taking away some of its charm (especially when walking from the bus stop to the museum).
But after that, his world opens up with streets lined with poplars so familiar to his drawings and paintings and many of the main sights appear we know so well from his paintings.
By the way, they are now all accompanied by interactive information signs.
For a unique way to explore the area, I recommend booking this electric fat bike tour experience, a special way to enjoy the many important places with a self-guided tour.
Table of Contents
Vincent van Gogh in Nuenen from 1883 to 1885
Why did Vincent Van Gogh move back to Nuenen in December 1883?
Before Nuenen, Vincent lived in Nieuw-Amsterdam in the eastern province of Drenthe before he decided to take the train back to his parent’s home in Nuenen, North Brabant, he grew lonely in Drenthe, and he had financial problems.
Read more about “Vincent Van Gogh in Drenthe” in my post here.
As you might expect, his parents were not thrilled about him returning home, but they took him in. His father, Theodorus, set up a small studio for him in the rectory.
But Vincent couldn’t bear working here because of the many arguments he and his father had. So he found a small place for himself in Nuenen. And this place is where he painted the now-famous Potato Eaters.
What surely must have been a temporary arrangement turned into an extended stay. Vincent fell in love with a neighbor’s daughter (who lived in Nune Ville next door), and he fell in love with the people working the lands.
Peasants were his passion, and he wanted to immortalize the essence of their existence. He even gave art lessons to locals, like Willem van de Wakker and others.
So his stay extended from his arrival in December 1883 until he left for Antwerp and subsequently to Paris in November 1885. Thus Van Gogh stayed for nearly two years in Nuenen.
PS: in Vincent’s day, it was possible to take the train here since the town still had a train station. Today it doesn’t. I saw a blog recently stating they took the train to Nuenen, interesting. I’m unsure if they ever got there.
But getting there by bus from Eindhoven or by bicycle is easy, so don’t worry.
Things To Do In Nuenen
There is plenty to do in Nuenen today related to Vincent van Gogh. They’ve done a fantastic job preserving his legacy.
This town offers a unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of this iconic artist and experience the world through his eyes.
The town is dotted with no fewer than 23 locations directly linked to the artist. You will find interactive informational signs around the village where you can read and listen to stories about Van Gogh and the locations you’re standing in front of.
Here are some great things you can do:
- Go to the Van Gogh Village Museum (formerly Vincentre)
- Go on a tour at Nune Ville’s house.
- Track down the interactive information signs around town (and all over Brabant) and listen to his stories.
- See locations that Vincent immortalized on canvas and paper. Quite a few still exist today.
- Cycle the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Cycle Path
Vincent Van Gogh Paintings in Nuenen
Vincent was incredibly productive during his time in Nuenen. The weaving mills, landscapes, and the typical Brabant residents became his subjects, as he passionately captured scenes from everyday life.
He created hundreds of paintings and drawings during his almost two years in town.
His palette was filled with earthy tones like browns, greys, and yellows during this period of his life.
It’s fascinating to think that the bright colors we love in his work today only emerged after he moved to Paris, where he transformed his style from dark to color.
The Potato Eaters: A Masterpiece Born in Nuenen
This large figurative painting is a testament to Vincent’s dedication to capturing the essence of rural life. The scene, based on a peasant family, is a poignant reflection of the hardships and simplicity of their existence.
Vincent was convinced he was now a real painter and delivered a masterpiece. The opposite response came. He was harshly criticized for it. In his day, the critics did not appreciate what we now call a masterpiece today.
People called it too dark, not in the right proportions, and not life-like. Vincent replied all of that was true. But there was meaning behind that. It was not meant as a portrait. It should evoke emotions watching it instead—compassion, hardship.
The criticism must have taken a huge toll on him, especially in the content that he never, except once, sold his work while he was alive and the mental problems he endured in the years following (leading to his suicide just a few short years later).
Locations in Nuenen linked to Van Gogh:
1. The Vicarage at Nuenen – The House Where Van Gogh Lived in Nuenen
The most photographed location must undoubtedly be the vicarage where his parents lived. It was (and is) the house of the pastor of the Dutch reformed church.
It’s right across from the Van Gogh Village Museum (formally called Vincentre).
PS: A great tip is to have a coffee at the museum‘s beautiful modern cafe with a gigantic window looking straight at the house.
Did you know the house is still the home of the church’s current pastor, just like in Vincent’s days when his father was?
You can’t go inside. It has a sign at the gate firmly reminding you of this. Still, it’s a great photo opportunity since it resembles his painting so well.
Looking at the house in real life, you see one big difference compared to the painting: in real life, it’s much more beautiful.
On canvas, it’s dark and heavy. This a reflection of how Vincent felt about his parental house.
2. Nune Ville
Nune Ville is the large house next to the vicarage where Vincent’s love interest Margot Begemann lived.
They had a love affair that must have been deep because Margot tried suicide when their families disapproved of the relationship.
Today the current owners still organize house tours for just a few euro and tell the intriguing stories of one of the world’s most famous paintings. Just sign up by adding your name to the list outside.
3. The Van Gogh Village Museum (formally called Vincentre)
You might read this is a small museum in Nuenen on outdated blogs. Well, it isn’t so small anymore. It expanded quite a bit.
Re-opened in April 2023 by Queen Maxima, there is now a large modern extension attached to the old building (a former city hall). The experience has been brought to the current century, and it’s wonderful.
You don’t come here for his paintings. For that, you go to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Instead, this is a wonderful place to learn about him as a person, his early years as a painter, and his heritage.
The exhibitions are beautifully done. The new Vincents Lightlab at the end of the tour is mesmerizing for kids. Try to drag them out. It will be a challenge.
You can start (or end) your tour with a break at the gorgeous cafe. The large window offers a great view of the house Vincent lived in.
The staff is super friendly. And you have to try the amazingly affordable and delicious “Van Gogh Koek,” almost like carrot cake but no icing, and so fluffy!
You can get your tickets for the Van Gogh Center Museum here.
4. The Weaver house – Het Kosterhuisje
Vincent took a keen interest in peasant life in the area. He also painted many of their houses, as you can see here. It’s the type of house where “The Potato Eaters” has been created.
But because the Potato Eaters was created here, this town became more significant in the Netherlands.
PS: Did you know you can rent this gorgeous little house? Experience life like van Gogh did. There is not a nicer way to stay in Nuenen, I think. But it will be challenging to get a reservation.
5. Van Gogh Church in Nuenen
In the center of town stands a testament to Van Gogh’s deep connection to the place: the Van Gogh Church.
Here, Van Gogh painted “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen,” capturing the simple act of parishioners exiting the church.
This work is special because there were no people in it originally. Vincent made the painting for his sick mother. He wanted to bring the church to her when she fell ill and could not go anymore.
Only after his father died, he added the people. Making it look like a funeral just occurred.
Did you know this work (together with one other) got stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam?
After being missing for 14 years! They were safely returned in 2017. A small miracle if you ask me. After being restored to their former glory, they’re again on display at the Museum.
6. Brievengaardershuis (Letterman’s House)
One of my unexpected finds was the “Brievengaardershuis,” or the letterman’s house. This is where Thomas van Otterdijk lived when Vincent was here.
He was responsible for collecting the villager’s mail and taking it to the train station (when the village still had a train station).
Vincent brought all the 134 letters he wrote to this building and the paintings destined for his brother Theo in Paris.
Standing before it was pretty cool, knowing Vincent had numerous times walked up to the same historic house.
7. Church of Gerwen
After exploring the town center, I left for the 6 miles / 10 kilometers long Van Gogh walking tour. Walking through the landscape that Vincent loved and captured so often was fun.
I was hoping to find more recognizable spots along the way, that wasn’t the case, but one highlight was passing the Church of Gerwen.
Vincent made a beautiful drawing of the Saint Clemens Church still standing today. Not in the open field like then, but you can still take the photo from the exact angle he used. Which, by the way, many people get wrong.
To get the same angle, don’t take your photo from the information sign, but go to the side in front of the graveyard, where you get the same frame with the tower on the right of your photo.
Which Famous Places Are NOT There Anymore?
Unfortunately, not all places in his works still stand today, like the wooden cottage where he created the Potato Eaters. A new house has been built in the same spot. But in case you like to go, you absolutely can. The address is Gerwenseweg 4.
Another well-known painting is the Old Tower of Nuenen, which was demolished soon after Vincent left. But he captured it numerous times. Today you can only see the tower’s foundations in a residential area (Tomakker).
The Unique Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Cycle Path
A highlight for many is the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path, designed by the world-famous Daan Roosegaarde. This path is inspired by Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” now on view in the MoMA in New York City.
This bicycle path between Nuenen and Eindhoven is 600 meters long (650 yards), illuminated by thousands of twinkling stones, creating a mesmerizing experience for cyclists.
TIP: to enjoy its full effect, it must be dark outside. When you’re coming during summer, the Netherlands has long days. It can stay light till 11 pm on the longest days, and daylight will already return just after 5 am.
To best time to visit and experience this bicycle path is in Spring and Autumn when days are shorter.
Where to See Real Van Gogh Paintings?
The paintings are scattered around the world in private collections and Museums. Here are some of the best places to see the most of them.
- The Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam > The most extensive Van Gogh collection in the world > You might enjoy my post with Van Gogh Museum tips.
- The Kröller-Müller Museum inside the National Park Hoge Veluwe (separate entrance ticket) > Here can see the 2nd largest collection of Van Gogh in the Netherlands. Here is my article on Kröller-Müller Museum tips.
- Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch > You see many works leading up to the potato eaters. Here is my post with Things to Do in Den Bosch.
- Musee d’Orsay, Paris > They have most of his work from the final stages of his life, like his time in Auvers-sur-Oise. Wondering how to get to Paris from Amsterdam? I’ve written a post about that.
- Museum of Modern Art, New York > Where you see a few works of Van Gogh, like The Olive Trees, and of course, one of his most well-known paintings: “The Starry Night.”
The Stolen Van Gogh “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen” is Back!
The stolen Van Gogh masterpiece, “Lentetuin, de pastorietuin te Nuenen in het voorjaar,” has finally returned, on Monday September 11, 2023. Once the only Van Gogh painting of the Groninger Museum, this unique piece was taken in March 2020 while on loan at the Singer Museum in Laren, near Amsterdam.
Surprisingly, after missing for over three years, it was returned to a private art detective, wrapped in an old cushion and bubble wrap inside an Ikea bag. It’s a storyline from a movie, but it all happened for real.
The painting is now carefully restored at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, so hopefully, it can soon be showcased again for us all to see.
Nuenen is an experience if you’re a fan of Vincent van Gogh. Coming here almost feels like you’re ‘out and about with Vincent.’
Visiting the Van Gogh Center is an absolute highlight of your time here. But also don’t forget to take some time to walk around and take photos of the Dutch reformed church, the vicarage, the weavers’ house, and the other unique locations dotted around town.
The Museum has booklets for sale with walking and cycling routes through the countryside. Or follow the self-guided routes that start here.
PS: If you didn’t arrive on a bike and still want to rent one? You can do this easily for just a few euro at “De Concurrent.”
As you tread the paths once walked by Van Gogh, you’ll find yourself transported back in time, seeing the world through the eyes of one of history’s greatest artists.
At least, that’s how I felt.
Do You Plan To Visit In Vincent's Footsteps?
I’d love to hear your thoughts: If so, where do you plan to visit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.
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