Best Things to Do in Etretat, France


Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Visit Etretat, Normandy

Etretat is one of France’s most beautiful coastal towns and will likely steal your heart too. One of the top places to visit in Normandy, Etretat, is world-known for its impressive cliffs, represented in some of Monet’s masterworks.

Etretat is located in Northern France, 20 km north of Le Havre, in Normandy. It is possible to visit Etretat on a day trip Paris to Etretat (198 km) or – even better – as part of a Normandy road trip.

If you are wondering what to do in Etretat, France, go on reading. We have listed the best things to do in Etretat, France – from iconic landmarks to unique experiences – that are not to be missed when you visit Etretat, France.

Etretat Normandy

Is Etretat worth visiting? Well, YES! The Etretat cliffs form a unique landscape in this seaside town and the Etretat beach is lovely too. However, the summer crowds may turn you down, so we recommend visiting Etretat during the shoulder season, even if the weather may not be perfect.

Are you planning a trip to Etretat, France, last minute?

Below are some of the best Etretat tours, hotels, and more!

Paris to Etretat: It’s a 200km drive (2 hours) by car. You can travel from Paris to Le Havre by train (2 hrs, direct) and at Le Havre train station, take bus #13 to Etretat (35 min, hourly). Click here to buy your train tickets to Le Havre

You can also visit Etretat on a Normandy day tour from Paris (small group), which visits Honfleur and Etretat.

Top Experiences and Tours in Etretat

Top Etretat Accommodation and Lodging

Domaine Saint-Clair Le Donjon (top suggestion), Dormy House  (mid-range),  La Villa 10  (mid-range),  Detective Hotel (giving tribute to famous detectives around the world!).

Don’t leave for Etretat without travel insurance!

  • SafetyWing, our trusted travel insurance policy for long and short trips (starting with a minimum of 5 days), covers COVID-19 for new policies purchased, and since April 2021, unplanned quarantine is covered, too. 

Arsène Lupin and Etretat

Arsène Lupin is a fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise. Created in 1905 by the French writer Maurice Leblanc, Arsène Lupin came to life in 19 of his novels and other short stories. Later in the 1960s, the French could follow Arsène Lupin’s adventures on an evening radio series on France Inter.

Today, Netflix’s new TV show ‘Lupin,’ based on this fictional character, knows an incredible success in Europe and the United States. If you enjoyed Maurice Leblanc’s novels (or the TV show), come to Etretat to follow one of Lupin’s most famous enigmas, the hiding place of the kings of France’s treasure. The legendary Needle of Etretat contains the most fabulous treasure ever imagined, a collection of queens’ dowries, pearls, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds…

What to Do in Etretat, France

Here’s the list of the best things to do in Etretat, France. This Etretat things-to-do list includes some landmarks and natural wonders.

1. Admire the Etretat Cliffs

From Dieppe to Le Havre, the Alabaster Coast is made of no less than 140 km of impressive chalky cliffs, and it is in Etretat, Normandy, where the view is the most magical.

The coast of Etretat is a small pebble beach with two grand white chalk cliffs on both ends. These rock formations were sculptured by winds and waters for thousands of years. With their majestic arches, the cliffs at Etretat offer a unique spectacle and are a natural curiosity to be seen at all costs during your trip to Normandy.

The famous painter Claude Monet shed light on this unique place, creating more than 80 works that depict the Etretat cliffs.

Etretat in Normandy is known thanks to these impressive Etretat cliffs that attract visitors worldwide. Sun or rain, rare are the days when the cliffs are desert, even in wintertime. For a magical view of the cliffs at Etretat, you may want to come at sunrise before the day crowds arrive.

2. Take a Stroll along the Seaside Promenade

Etretat Beach

The seaside is bordered by a dike promenade. This beach’s promenade is also wonderful, an excellent place for a stroll and to get a closer view of the Etretat cliffs.

In some places, you will see concrete bunkers built into the rock. They were made by the Nazis as a defense against the Allies during WW2. Some information panels provide historical information about these sites during WW2.

This sea promenade and the Etretat beach can get very crowded, but it could not be otherwise with such a spectacular view!

3. Climb up to Notre Dame de la Garde for Outstanding Views

The chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde is an Etretat must-see. The Chapel is a relatively new construction dating from 1950, which replaces a previous chapel of fishermen and sailors destroyed by the Nazis in 1942.

Built in a Neo-Gothic architectural style, the Chapel’s main characteristic is its hull-shaped nave, recalling an environment familiar to sailors and fishermen.

The climb up to the Chapel is one of the best things to do in Etretat. It makes an excellent excuse for more panoramic views of the Etretat cliffs, this time from a higher point of view.

4. Learn about the Oiseau Blanc

The Oiseau Blanc at Bourget airport

Behind the chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde, a sculpture with the shape of a white arrow pays tribute to François Coli and Charles Nungesser, the two aviators who, on 8 May 1927, made the first attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Oiseau Blanc (the White Bird), a brand new large Levasseur biplane immaculate white.

The plane left the Bourget airport in Paris at 5.18 am, direction of New York, and it was seen for the last time flying over the cliffs at Etretat at 6.05 am. Then, the Oiseau Blanc disappeared into the mist.

The Oiseau Blanc never reached New York, and its disappearance is considered one of the great mysteries in aviation history. Investigations starting in the 1980s suggest that it probably reached the American continent and may have crashed in Maine, but there is not enough evidence.

Visitors interested in the Oiseau Blanc history can learn more about the plane and the project in the small museum located next to the sculpture.  

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5. Visit the Jardins d’Etretat (Etretat Gardens)

The Etretat Gardens is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Etretat and Normandy. They sit on top of the cliffs overlooking the iconic ‘Etretat Needle’ rock cliff, not far from the chapel.

One of the top Etretat attractions, the Gardens of Etretat are an interesting blend of landscape art and land art sculptures. They were designed by the renowned landscape architect Alexandre Grivko. Here, Grivko was inspired by the flora typical of the Normandy coast to design a complex and bewitching itinerary of plant sculptures and contemporary art.

The Etretat Gardens has different spaces (Impressions Garden, Avatar Garden, Feelings Garden ..), but they all offer an exceptional opening onto the surrounding landscape, with the cliffs and the Etretat beach.

Practical Information: Avenue Damililaville, Etretat. Open every day from 10 am to 7 pm – Click here to buy your tickets online.

6. Visit the Clos Arsène Lupin

Clos Arsène Lupin – (CC) Gordito 1869

Le Clos Lupin – Maison Maurice Leblanc is a traditional two-story house that belonged to the French writer Maurice Leblanc, Arsène Lupin‘s creator. Maurice Leblanc was originally from Rouen, but in 1918 he moved to this house in Etretat, where he wrote 19 novels and shorter stories about Arsène Lupin.

The visit to the Clos Lupin is very entertaining. Learn about the greatest of the thieves and help him solve the riddle of the Hollow Needle through a scenographic tour under a decoration from the beginning of the century.

Practical Information: 15, Rue Guy de Montpassant, Etretat. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 12.30 pm and from 1.30 pm to 6 pm. Entrance Fee: 7,50€ (adults).

7. Stroll around the Old Town

Etretat is one of the most beautiful towns in Normandy. It is a lovely place for a stroll, mainly because all the crowds are on the beach.

Etretat has a beautiful architecture of half-timbered houses built in Anglo-Norman style. Some of them have beautiful wooden decorations on beams, pillars, and roofs. The recently restored market hall is also worth the visit.

Etretat’s restaurants offer a fine selection of fresh fish and seafood. For a more casual meal, go for the typical moules-frites, washed down with a cold beer or white wine.  

8. Microlight between Etretat and Deauville

If you have an extra day in Etretat, what to do? With a car, consider this fun microlight from Etretat to Deauville to admire the Alabaster Coast and Etretat cliffs from a unique point of view. Board in a pendular microlight for an unforgettable experience above the Normandy coast.

Departures are from Le Havre-Octeville airport, and you can choose from four different flight routes of 15 to 40 minutes, depending on your interests. An equipped helmet will allow you to communicate with the pilot and control tower – Click here to book your microlight over Etretat

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