Étretat is a unique natural landscape with its huge limestone cliffs – the most impressive on the French coast! And every year, more than a million tourists visit this small French commune to hike the winding paths that connect the beach to the surrounding green hills.
The fishing town of Étretat is located in the Seine-Maritime department – which in turn belongs to the Normandy region (in French, Normandie). In summer, it’s a particularly popular destination, due to its white pebble beach with privileged views over the English Channel.
So, do you want to know more about 1 Day In Étretat: The Perfect Étretat Itinerary? Keep reading!
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Brief History of Étretat
The archaeological remains that were found in Étretat suggest the human presence in this region since Prehistory. However, the first most significant artifacts and ruins date back to Roman Antiquity, when a small Roman settlement was installed on the Amont Cliff.
Like much of northern France, the area where Étretat is now located was colonized from the 10th century onwards by the Normans, a Germanic people with direct descent from the Scandinavian Vikings – and who ended up designating this entire French region.
It’s not known how the name Étretat came about, only that it happened between the 14th and 15th centuries. But according to historians, it may be an evolution of a Latin or Nordic term. Furthermore, it was discovered that the village was baptized Saint-Sauveur in the 2nd century and later changed its name to La Roche.
After centuries subsisting almost exclusively on sea fishing, Étretat gained international fame in the 19th and 20th centuries, when artists such as Charles-François Daubigny, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, and Claude Monet portrayed its landscapes in dozens of paintings.
First of all, it’s important to note that Étretat is a popular destination for Parisians, especially during the summer holidays. In other words, if you’re thinking of visiting the town at this time of year, be prepared for the inflated prices in accommodation, restaurants, and shops in town!
There are countless ways to get to Étretat from Paris, whether you decide to explore the town on a day trip or a weekend getaway. I traveled by car on the A13, then on the A131 Rouen/Caen (Pont de Tancarville exit), and finally on the D39. It’s the most convenient and fastest way and it took me 2h45 to do around 215 km.
If you prefer to travel by public transportation, Flixbus has direct buses from Paris to Étretat, but this service is seasonal. The option for the rest of the year is to leave Paris La Défense towards Le Havre (2h20) and then take bus 24 to Étretat (1h05).
There’s also a direct train from Gare Saint-Lazare (in Paris) to Le Havre (2h15), after which you must take bus 24. You can also travel from Gare Saint-Lazare to Rouen Rive Droite (1h30), change trains to Bréauté-Beuzeville (40 minutes) and then take bus 17 to Étretat (30 minutes).
Étretat Beach (in French, Plage d’Étretat) is usually the first stop for travelers who have just arrived in the town. Here, you can walk along the huge seawall next to the beach – the Promenade d’Étretat – and contemplate a series of stranded fishing boats, testimony to those who still live from the sea today.
If, on the one hand, the south area of the beach (near the Aval Cliff) has fewer tourists and more fishermen, on the other hand, the north area (next to the Amont Cliff) is full of hotels, cafes, bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops. And those who enjoy water sports will also find activities such as rowing, sailing, and kayaking.
The Aval Cliff (in French, Falaise d’Aval) is Étretat‘s best-known postcard. By the way, did you know that this 140 km long coastline is called the Alabaster Coast (in French, Côte d’Albâtre)? The name comes exactly from the light color of the giant limestone cliffs, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs!
At the Falaise d’Aval, you can clearly see the effects of coastal erosion on its arch, nicknamed Porte d’Aval. And of course, in the nearby Aiguille d’Étretat – a 51-meter high “needle” that has broken off the coast somewhere in these millions of years of history!
The Chapel of Our Lady of Guard (in French, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde) was built between 1854 and 1856, in neo-Gothic style. Its hull-shaped nave, as well as its gargoyles imitating fish heads, refer to a place of worship mostly frequented by sailors and fishermen.
During the Second World War, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied much of France, including all of Normandy. And like many other buildings, the small chapel didn’t survive the conflict and was razed to the ground in 1942. When it was rebuilt in 1950, it received its current name and a new blessing from the then Archbishop of Rouen.
If you continue your hike beyond the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, you’re going to find the Amont Cliff (in French, Falaise d’Amont) – a natural monument, which until recently was called Falaise du Blanc-Trait (ie, White Line Cliff).
The Falaise d’Amont was immortalized by the French writer and poet Guy de Maupassant in his 1883 novel “Une Vie”. In this book, the artist compares this cliff’s arch (or Arche d’Amont) to an elephant that dips its trunk into the sea and describes how the rest of the animal’s body merges with the landscape!
If you go back towards the Chapel of Our Lady of Guard, you can visit the Étretat Gardens (in French, Jardins d’Étretat). This neo-futuristic garden with stunning sea views opened in 2017 and is made up of seven distinct parts, displaying topiaries and contemporary works of art:
- Jardin Avatar
- Jardin Émotions
- Jardin Impressions
- Jardin d’Aval
- Jardin Zen
- Jardin La Manche
- Jardin d’Amont
The Étretat Gardens are open every day from 10 am to 7 pm. The ticket costs €10.50 (adults) or €7.20 (children aged 2 to 14), and you can buy it directly at the Jardins d’Étretat online ticket office. Even so, advance booking isn’t mandatory.
Musée du Patrimoine d’Étretat
The Étretat Heritage Museum (in French, Musée du Patrimoine d’Étretat) is just a few steps from the Jardins d’Étretat and right in front of the Monument “l’Oiseau Blanc” – Nungesser et Coli (a monument in memory of the homonymous airplane and to the two French pilots, who disappeared without a trace on May 8th, 1927).
In this museum, you can learn about the history of Étretat, with an emphasis on the impact that World War II had on the small fishing town. Besides, there’s an exhibition room dedicated to aviators Charles Nungesser and François Coli.
The Étretat Heritage Museum has very restricted opening hours: from 2:30 pm to 6 pm (between April and May), or from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm (mid-June to mid-September). The ticket costs 3€, but entry is free for children under 14 years old.
Map of the Étretat Itinerary
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