Last Updated on 13/09/2023 by secretmoona
Nestled on the picturesque coast of Normandy, Etretat is a charming destination that will leave a lasting impression on you. This delightful coastal town is one of the most beautiful places to explore in Normandy. If you’re uncertain about what to do in Étretat, France, this guide will provide you with all the essential details on must-see landmarks, scenic walks, delectable seafood restaurants, and more.
Is Étretat Worth Visiting?
Normandy is renowned for its picturesque strolls, delectable seafood eateries, and the striking contrast of its dusky waters and skies. The awe-inspiring chalk cliffs of Etretat, moulded by the power of wind and water into magnificent formations like the Arch Porte d’Aval and L’Aiguille (also known as the Needle), gained popularity through the admiration of writer Alphonse Karr and impressionist artists such as Gustave Courbet and Claude Monet. The Netflix series “Lupin” recently brought newfound attention to this quaint town.
Visit Etretat Normandy
Étretat is a charming seaside town on the Alabaster Coast, featuring a magnificent pebble beach that stretches between breathtaking white cliffs jutting out of the water. Located just 25 km north of Le Havre, 70 km from Rouen, and 182 km northwest of Paris, it’s a popular destination for a day trip or weekend getaway, offering a refreshing sea breeze.
When visiting Étretat, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the beautiful pebble beach and admire the stunning cliffs. With only a two-hour drive from Paris, it’s the perfect place to unwind and recharge. If you’re looking for fun activities and unique places to visit during your weekend stay, there are plenty to choose from. Where would you like to start?
Things to Do in Étretat / What to do in Etretat, France
If you’re planning a trip to Etretat, France, a few must-see sights are definitely worth the visit. While it’s a small town, spending at least two days here will give you enough time to explore the landmarks and natural wonders. Here are some top things to do in Etretat:
- 1. Check out the famous cliffs of Etretat.
- 2. Take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful Gardens of Etretat.
- 3. Wander through the charming streets of Etretat.
- 4. Visit Clos Lupin, the house where writer Maurice Leblanc lived and created the famous gentleman burglar. The museum dedicated to the character is a must-visit attraction.
If you’re short on time, I recommend starting your journey at the shopping street of Étretat, which will lead you to the beach. Along the way, you’ll pass by the market halls, and the Salamandre manor and finally reach the customs officers’ path, which will take you to both cliffs. Enjoy your visit to Etretat!
Admire Étretat’s scenic Cliffs
Etretat, a charming seaside town located on the Alabaster Coast, boasts of its magnificent white chalk cliffs, known as falaises d’Etretat in French, that offer breathtaking views. The 130-kilometre-long coastline, dotted with seaside resorts, pebble beaches, fishing villages, and valleys, has enchanted visitors over the years. However, in Etretat, Normandy, you can behold the most stunning cliffs, some towering up to 120 metres!
The town and beach are situated between the two main white cliffs, Falaise d’Aval and Falaise d’Amont, and require some walking to see both. The Aiguille Creuse is one of the famous formations that visitors should not miss, where the fictional character Arsène Lupin hides a treasure.
Admiring the cliffs from the beach or climbing them, you can find different vantage points and capture stunning photographs. Hiking the cliffs and taking photographs along the footpaths are the main activities to do in Etretat, Normandy. Etretat, Normandy is not only famous for its breathtaking beauty that inspired many artists, particularly Monet, but also for its delicious seafood. The town hosts several food-related festivals throughout the year, where visitors can taste the wealth of fruits de mer or seafood caught off the coast.
SecretMoona’s tips: If you plan to visit, remember that it can get quite windy up there, so make sure to wear layers and a windbreaker. Also, please note that the Normandy sun can be deceiving, and even with the fog, you can get sunburned, so covering your head is a must.
Take a Stroll along Etretat Beach
Etretat is a charming destination with a small pebble beach surrounded by cliffs, making it an ideal place to unwind and take a refreshing dip in the sea (though the water can be chilly!). The seafront boasts a dike promenade that allows visitors to stroll along the coast and admire the stunning cliffs from multiple perspectives. Along the promenade, you’ll find plenty of options for food and drink, including bars, cafes, restaurants, and the Étretat casino. Additionally, there are WWII bunkers and war memorials situated along the beach.
For a unique perspective of the cliffs, you can rent a kayak, paddleboard, or take a boat trip. However, it’s important to be mindful of the tides to avoid getting trapped between the cliffs. It’s also worth noting that pebbles should not be removed from the beach as they protect the coastline, and doing so could result in a fine of 90 euros.
Stroll the Jardins d’Étretat
Nestled atop the pristine white cliffs, just below the picturesque Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde church, is the Jardins d’Etretat – a must-visit destination in Etretat Normandy, along with the cliffs of Etretat.
Designed by the renowned landscape architect Alexandre Grivko, the garden is a stunning open-air gallery showcasing skilfully landscaped gardens and seven terraces, each with a unique theme. Every visitor can find an area that speaks to them – from the Zen garden, Impressions garden, Avatar garden, Emotions garden, Amont garden and Aval garden to the Manche garden. The garden is adorned with beautiful plants and art sculptures while you take in the breathtaking view of the iconic “Etretat Needle” cliff. It’s hard to find a more inspiring and dramatic setting than this.
- Opening hours: The gardens are open daily from 10 am until 7 pm.
- Entrance fee: the entry ticket costs € 14. Children up to the age of 14 only need to pay €7,50.
- Address: Avenue Damilaville, 76790 Etretat
See the Notre Dame de la Garde Chapel
If you’re visiting Etretat, make sure to visit the Notre Dame de la Garde chapel. Overlooking the Porte d’Amont cliff, this charming chapel was built by fishermen in 1856 to protect sailors and fishermen and has both religious and architectural significance. Although it was destroyed by the Germans in 1942, it was rebuilt in a neo-gothic style.
To access the chapel, follow the well-marked footpaths from the bottom of the village. Keep in mind that it involves uphill walking, so wear comfortable shoes. Despite the challenging climb, it’s one of the top things to do in Etretat as it offers breathtaking views of the Etretat cliffs.
Once you reach the front of the chapel, you’ll have a splendid view of the beach with its grey pebbles, the town on the left, and the southern cliffs on the right with the first arch and the needle. It’s a perfect spot to sit and admire the view or even have a picnic, but be aware that it can be a little windy up there. Remember to take your trash with you when you leave!
Learn about the Oiseau Blanc “White Bird”
Close to the chapel is a remarkable spire known as “The White Bird.” This structure was built in 1963 as a tribute to Charles Nungesser and François Coli, aviators who attempted the first nonstop flight from Paris to New York. Their plane, called “l’Oiseau Blanc,” is believed to have crashed in Étretat on May 8, 1927, but it was never recovered. The plane never made it to New York, and its vanishing remains one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history to this day.
Hiking Escapades along the Chemin des Douaniers
If you’re looking for an exhilarating hiking experience, the Alabaster Coast has got you covered. One of France’s most famous hiking trails is the Chemin des Douaniers, also known as the Customs Officers’ Path in Étretat and Normandy. Originally used by customs officers in the 19th century to combat smuggling, this long-distance footpath offers some of the most spectacular views of the Normandy coast and the English Channel.
For those who want to explore the panoramic views from atop the cliffs of Étretat, the GR® 21 Coastal Trail of Normandy stretches across 180 km. However, be warned that the hike can be strenuous depending on the portion covered, so it’s best not to go alone.
SecretMoona tips: Always be careful and attentive while hiking, as there are many steep paths that can easily lead to injury. It’s important never to leave the marked trail to approach the edge of the cliff. While the cliffs are always open to visitors, it’s recommended to avoid visiting in the dark as it can be difficult to spot the edges of the cliffs.
In the footsteps of Arsène Lupin, the gentleman burglar
Etretat, known for its stunning cliffs, gained renewed attention thanks to the Netflix series Lupin. The finale of season 1 showcased Etretat for its significance.
Maurice Leblanc, a native of Normandy, created Arsène Lupin, often referred to as the French version of Sherlock Holmes. Unlike Holmes or the Lupin of the series, the original Lupin was more of a French Robin Hood – a thief, a master of disguise, a mischievous character, but never a murderer. He was charming and fought for justice by stealing from the wealthy.
Most of the locations mentioned in the books are in Normandy. The rock formation in Etretat inspired the title of the book “The Hollow Needle,” while other places such as Dieppe, Le Havre, and Fécamp were featured in other books.
Visit the Clos Arsène Lupin
Le Clos Arsène Lupin Museum is housed in a beautiful 19th-century former residence of French author Maurice Leblanc, who created the fictional character Arsène Lupin. Originally from Rouen, Leblanc moved to Etretat in 1918 and wrote about 17 novels and other short stories about the gentleman burglar.
The house is now a museum dedicated to the stories about Arsène Lupin. Visitors learn about Maurice Leblanc’s work throughout the audio guide tour and the things that inspired him. Clos Lupin is one of the places to see in Étretat and one of France’s most visited writer’s houses.
- Entrance fee: The entrance fee is € 8,50 for adults and € 6 for children. Note that the museum is closed on Monday.
- Address: 15 Rue Guy de Maupassant
Stroll around Etretat Village
Etretat is a charming village that exudes timeless appeal and is situated on the picturesque Normandy coast of France. The quaint cobblestone streets wind through lovely architecture and are dotted with cosy cafes, artisanal shops and tourist shops. The village’s rich history is evident through its half-timbered Anglo-Norman style houses, fishermen’s cottages and Belle Époque structures, which offer a glimpse into its past.
Take a leisurely stroll through the streets, explore the hidden corners of the town and bask in the coastal ambience while sitting on the terrace of a charming cafe/restaurant.
Admire the Salamandre Manor
As you take a leisurely walk through the village, you’ll surely come across the Salamandre Manor, a striking three-story, half-timbered building that’s considered one of Etretat’s most iconic landmarks. Originally constructed in the 14th century in Lisieux, the structure was later relocated and reconstructed with modifications.
Today, the building is home to the Hôtel de la Résidence Manoir de la Salamandre, a hotel-restaurant that’s renowned for its stunning sculptures and carvings, including a depiction of a salamander that’s believed to have the power to withstand fire.
Visit the Covered Market Hall
If you enjoy immersing yourself in local culture and have some free time, be sure to check out the “Vieux Marché” covered market. This market hall is impossible to miss, as it is located right in the heart of Étretat, France. The Compagnons de la Manche rebuilt the halls in 1926. You may notice that some of the materials used are quite old, as they were recovered from the surrounding area, particularly the town of Brionne. The market halls are truly unique, constructed from beams and slates, and are now home to vendors selling a variety of souvenirs, decorations, and regional items.
Feast on fresh seafood and local delicacies
Before leaving Etretat, it’s worth trying out some of the local seafood. After enjoying a scenic walk along the hiking trails and taking in the breathtaking views from the cliffs, head over to the village to indulge in some delicious Normandy cuisine.
Plenty of restaurants serve seafood, moules and frites, or galettes (savoury pancakes), so you’re bound to find something that suits your taste buds.
What to visit around Etretat?
Etretat has plenty of activities to keep you occupied, but if you have access to a car and are interested in exploring other charming areas, Normandy has many options to choose from.
Honfleur is a delightful town that can be reached from Etretat in 45 minutes by crossing the impressive Pont de Normandie. Once there, spend a day or afternoon wandering the winding cobblestone streets, admiring the half-timbered houses, stopping by the Vieux Bassin (old harbour) to see the yachts and leisure boats, and enjoying a crepe or moules-frites. Check out my blog post, Things to do in Honfleur, to learn more about this beautiful town.
Côte Fleurie of France
When on a road trip, exploring the Côte Fleurie of France’s Normandy region is a must. The Flowery Coast extends from Honfleur to Cabourg via the seaside resort town of Deauville. This town has half-timbered buildings, Belle Epoque villas, and vast sandy beaches.
Rouen is also worth stopping at on your way from Paris to Etretat. As the capital city of Normandy, it holds significant historical importance from both the Roman era and the Middle Ages. Rouen is where Joan of Arc was famously burnt at the stake. The city centre consists of cobbled streets lined with medieval half-timbered houses and Gothic churches, including Saint-Maclou and Saint-Ouen. Cathédrale Notre-Dame is a recognizable landmark that dominates the skyline, famously painted by Impressionist artist Claude Monet. To find out more about Rouen, check out our blog post, Guide to the Best Things to Do in Rouen, Normandy.
Practical Information about Etretat, France
How to get to Étretat, Normandy
If you’re planning a trip from Paris to Etretat, you have several options available to you.
Travelling by car is the most flexible option, as it allows you to take pit stops to explore cities such as Rouen or embark on a road trip along the Normandy coastline. To reach Etretat from Paris, take the Normandy motorway towards Rouen/Caen (A 13), then take the A131 towards Le Havre, cross the Tancarville bridge, and finally take the D39 exit at Etainhus / Angerville. The direct drive from Paris to Etretat covers 216 km (134 miles) and takes between 2 hours and 15 minutes and 3 and a half hours.
When renting a car, choose one that is comfortable, sturdy for long distances, and compact enough to navigate narrow streets. You can compare car rental prices using our preferred platform, DiscoverCars, or fill out the form below.
Parking in Etretat:
When visiting Etretat by car, parking can be a challenge due to the town’s limited parking spaces and the high volume of tourists during peak season (April to September) and weekends. Parking near the city centre fills up quickly and is chargeable (red zone) but free from November to January. You can find parking spaces at Grand Val, Fréfossé, or outside the village. A complete list of parking options and prices is available here (in French only).
By train and bus:
Etretat has no train station, so you’ll need to travel from Paris-Saint Lazare to Le Havre station (direct, 2 hours) and then take either bus 13, operated by Lia or bus 509, operated by Keolis. Alternatively, you can travel to Bréaute-Beuzeville and take bus 87001 / 504 to Etretat, but this route is not very frequent. You can purchase your train tickets to Le Havre or Bréauté-Beuzeville by clicking here.
You can travel from Paris to Etretat in the summer by Flixbus or BlablaCar. The coaches depart from Paris-Bercy and take about 3 hours and 27 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
You can also visit Etretat on a Normandy day tour from Paris or Le Havre. The small-group tour includes the towns of Honfleur and Etretat. Book your tour from Paris by clicking here or from Le Havre by clicking here. For more about Etretat, check out the dedicated page on Tripadvisor.
The Tourist Office of Etretat is located on Place Maurice-Guillard.
Getting around Etretat on foot
When visiting Etretat, it’s best to explore the town on foot as it’s small enough to navigate by walking. The main attractions in Etretat can only be accessed on foot, and cars are not permitted on or near the cliffs. Although you can expect to walk a lot to admire the stunning scenery, the distances are not particularly long. The city centre is highly concentrated, so you can easily enjoy strolling around the central streets. bRenting a bicycle is also a good option.
Where to stay in Etretat, Normandy
Check out Booking.com for the best hotel options in Etretat and Normandy.
How Long to Stay in Etretat, France?
I recommend planning for a day and a half or even two days when visiting the city of Etretat, Normandy. This will allow you to fully enjoy the city, its beach, and the beautiful cliffs. Staying overnight will allow you to witness the breathtaking sunset at the top of the Amont cliff, a must-see attraction in Etretat.
What is the best time to visit Etretat, France?
If you want to avoid crowds during your visit, going outside of school holidays and weekends is best. However, if you visit during those busy times, try arriving early or later in the day to avoid the tourist rush. To fully appreciate the charm of the small town, visiting during the off-season (spring/autumn) is recommended, particularly on a weekday.
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