Etretat is one of the most scenic landscapes of France. The impressive cliffs falling into the cold water of the English Channel create a dramatic atmosphere.
Angelique shares her experience about Etretat
Etretat is known to be one of the most iconic places in Normandy! I’ve always lived in Rouen but as surprising as it can be I had never been in Etretat. I’ve always loved traveling, and must of all I love discovering new countries and cultures. But with the COVID, all the border have closed, and when the lockdown ended the government didn’t open them yet. So, it turned out to be a good opportunity to stop going further and start discovering what is around us. As we weren’t working yet and the weather was really good; we decided to start our trip by Etretat, as I had never been there.
Only one hour away from Rouen, we arrived at Etretat around noon. As the lockdown just ended, there weren’t many people. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy the city and the landscape quietly. We started our day around a picnic up to the hill with a perfect view of Etretat’s city. Then we walked through the South cliffs, what a beautiful view. It is such a wonderful walk to do. Actually we walked a lot so when we headed back to the city we stayed at the beach, walking in the water, enjoying the view. We didn’t go to the cliff in the North of Etretat but we will be back for sure and we will start by that part of the city.
I was surprised by the size of the city. I thought it was a little bigger but it was a good surprise! It’s a small city with a lot of beauty. I think during the summer it can be very crowded so if you wanna enjoy I would recommend you to come very early but I think the best time to enjoy is during spring or at the beginning of the fall (around September-October). It’s not too hot and not too crowded. I’m glad I’ve finally visited Etretat, it’s as pretty as on the picture.
The city of Etretat is in between incredible cliffs. To see those cliffs, the best is to park in the city. Some car parking lots are free, others are not. The place is very crowded, so consider paying the parking if you do not want to waste too much time. Don’t worry, I will give you tips to get back this money by avoiding tourist restaurants.
You can either use your GPS or viamichelin.com to get drive time and distances. The town is on the ocean and has a pebbly beach in a cove protected by beautiful cliffs on the sides of the cove.
A typical day in Etretat
The cliffs are impressive, but staying here more than one day is too much. That’s why I will share with you my one-day travel guide.
Start with the South Cliffs in the morning
The best is to arrive as early as possible to the cliffs to avoid the crowd. Do the hike starting from Etretat heading to the South. This hike to Les Pisseuses de Valaine will take you 30 minutes of walking. However, you will probably stop several times to enjoy the view. Since you have to do it twice to come back to the city, it will take around two hours. Don’t worry, doing a round trip is not annoying here because the landscape does not look the same in one way and another.
Eating in Etretat
It should be lunchtime now. If you are not hungry you can skip this step and go the next one directly. If you are, your goal will be to avoid the tourist’s restaurants. Sadly, lots of tourists cannot recognize them. Here is what I recommend. Do not go inside restaurants which look “so French”. Check the prices on the menu outside of the restaurant. If the meal is over 20€, it is a bit expensive. You will not find a lot of restaurants where it is cheaper, but high prices do not always mean high quality. Sometimes, sober restaurants can be very tasty. I am not giving you names because the best is to wander in the picturesque streets and choose the one you prefer.
The afternoon in Etretat
After lunch, it’s recommended to rest. You can do that on the beach. It isn’t a sand beach, but it is still very relaxing to lay down for a bit. Once again, it is a bit crowded, so you may have trouble finding somewhere to sit down.
If you planned to stay one full day in Etretat, you can head to the cliffs in the North of the city. Doing a roundtrip just like in the morning is a good plan.
However, if you are not staying a full-day, you can head to Le Havre, Honfleur, and Deauville. Le Havre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its dramatic story. It was the most destroyed town of France during World War 2. 80% of the buildings were razed. However, it was rebuilt using new technics and that’s why it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just like the Yosemite Valley, Ha Long Bay, and Uluru.
Honfleur and Deauville are two amazing villages in France. I will not present them to you in this article but you can find more info about What to do in Honfleur and What to do in Deauville in those two articles. Those cities are so close to Etretat that it would be a shame to miss them.
The White Cliffs of Dover?
In England, there are some cliffs looking similar to the ones around Etretat. However, the arches of Etretat are one feature you cannot find anywhere else. Those English cliffs are called the White Cliffs of Dover. I have never been there but it would be fun to make the comparison.
The arches of Etretat
The coolest feature of those cliffs is not their color, it’s their form. Some of them are so recognizable that they have names: L’Aiguille d’Etretat, Le Chaudron, and so on… If you follow my plan, you will be able to see them all, so there is no need to hurry.
This kind of arches may remind you of The Cathedral Beach ones. It is a good comparison, even if the colors are not the same. If you are going through a rut or some issues in your life, facing the wind of Etretat will refresh your memory and reset your mind.