City Guides Normandie (Normandy)

Things to Do in Etretat, France


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Visit Etretat, Normandy

Etretat in Normandy is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in France 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 20 km north of Le Havre, in the Seine-Maritime department in the North of France. It is possible to visit Etretat on a day trip from Paris (198 km) or – even better – as part of a Normandy road trip.

We have listed 7 fun things to do in Etretat, France – from hidden gems to iconic landmarks – that are not be missed during a visit to Etretat.

Etretat Normandy
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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 in 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…

How to Get to Etretat in Normandy

Etretat is easiest reached by car, but public transportation is also available. For most travelers using public transport, the easiest option is to take a train to Le Havre and from there take the hourly bus #13 (59 min) to Etretat.

Click here to buy your train tickets to Le Havre

Fixbus has buses from Paris to Le Havre, where you can take the local bus #13 to Etretat. In the summer, there are direct buses from Paris to Etretat.

Where to Sleep in Etretat

This list of things to do in Etretat, Normandy, will keep you busy for some hours. However, it is a good idea to spend at least one night in Etretat, this famous seaside resort is an invitation to relax and enjoy the sea, and good regional food.

For a unique stay in Etretat, book at the hotel Domaine Saint Clair – Le Donjon. The place is unique for its architecture, its view, and the unusual decoration of its rooms with the illustrious names of the former occupants: Offenbach, Proust, or Sarah Bernhardt.

Click here to book your stay at the hotel Le Donjon

Other good hotels in Etretat near the beach are:

Top Things to Do in Etretat France

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

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 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. For thousands of years, these rock formations were sculptured by winds and waters. 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.

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

Today, Etretat in Normandy is a place known thanks to these unusual Etretat cliffs that attract visitors from all over the world. 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.

Take a Stroll along the 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 Etretat beach can get very crowded, but it could not be otherwise with such a spectacular view!

Climb up to Notre Dame de la Garde for Outstanding Views

The chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde is a relatively new construction dating from 1950. This chapel replaces a previous chapel of fishermen and sailors, destroyed by the Nazis in 1942.

Built in 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 makes an excellent excuse for more panoramic views of the Etretat cliffs, this time from a higher point of view.

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 May 8, 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 to 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.  

Visit the Etretat Gardens

The Etretat Gardens are another fascinating site to visit in Etretat, Normandy. They sit on top of the cliffs overlooking the iconic ‘Etretat Needle’ rock cliff, not far from the chapel.

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. Entrance Fee: 7,50€ (adults).

Visit the Clos Arsène Lupin

Close 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 route in 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).

Stroll around the Old Town

The town of Etretat is one of the most beautiful villages 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.

As for Etretat’s restaurants, it won’t be hard for you to find 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.  

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