When you look for French best landscapes, Etretat is usually named as one of them. But it looks very far away from everything else. Indeed, it is 3 hours away from Paris, 3 hours away from Mont Saint-Michel, and even further away from Southern destinations. Then, you are probably asking yourself: since this place is so far away from the others, should I really make a detour and visit it. As a Frenchie, I will tell you what I sincerely think of that place and whether you should make that detour. So, is Etretat worth visiting?
Etretat is definitely worth visiting. If it is usually named in the French best landscapes, it is for good reasons. Les Falaises d’Etretat (Etretat cliffs) are breathtaking. They are made of huge white arches, covered by green grass and even flowers if you visit it during spring and summer. This color palette is something you won’t see anywhere else in France.
The closest landscape I can think of is the White Cliffs of Dover, located in England. But in France, there is just no such thing. Admire Etretat’s beauty in the next picture.
Do tourists think it is worth visiting Etretat? Look at their feedbacks
French people definitely love Etretat. It was listed as the number 6 favorite village of the French people back in 2014. Here is the YouTube video which was shot in Etretat for the TV show.
Of course, that video is in French, so you will have trouble understanding it. I will let you browse through it quickly to see the cliffs and the town. However, it shows the interest that French people accord to that place.
Sometimes, touristic places are seen negatively by the locals. They are crowded places that you should avoid. This is not the case for Etretat. Parisians love Etretat so much that they even drive from Paris to Etretat during weekends.
If you want to become a Parisian for one weekend, that’s pretty much the best destination. The reason behind this is that Normandy is the closest place where there is the sea for Parisians. Hence, they drive only three hours and enjoy the sea for the weekend. They especially do it during the month of May, because workers have public holidays.
This also means that if you visit Etretat in May, you should make sure to avoid those public holidays. Both the 1st and the 8th of May are public holidays and are dates when Parisians tend to visit Etretat. However, this does not mean that you should cancel your holidays if you want to visit Etretat at that time. Just note that it may be crowded. That could translate into full car parks at 11 am and full restaurants at 1 pm.
Thanks to YouTube and the vloggers, we can now also see what foreigners honestly think about the places they visit. Here, I found one video from The Endless Adventure visiting Etretat. As French tourists, it looks like he enjoyed his time in Etretat, even if there are some things I would not recommend doing like him.
The best is to start viewing the video at around 4 minutes, because before that moment, he is visiting Le Havre, another town on the coast.
In that video, there are some things I would not recommend you doing. For example, hiking with such wind is a dangerous. Then, visiting Etretat during the winter period may not be the best choice. The best season to visit Etretat is spring, followed by summer.
During summer, there are lots of tourists, making the hiking paths a bit crowded. However, at spring, the paths are a bit less crowded, and the flowers are growing, making the landscape even better.
If you want to have an idea of the temperatures throughout the year, here they are.
As you can see, it’s not extremely cold during the winter period, but it is very rainy and windy. This will spoil both the hike and the landscape. However, between May and September, the weather is just better to visit Etretat.
If you are sensitive to heats, this is not an issue in Etretat. On French West Coast, it rarely exceeds the 30 degrees during the summer period.
A French citizen shares her opinion about Etretat
Angélique lives near Etretat and had the chance to visit it. I asked her about what she thinks of this place. Whether she recommends it or not, and what she enjoyed and did not enjoy there. Here is what she answered.
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.
Great, you now heard what people think about Etretat, but it does not say what you should visit. This is what we will dive in right now. Indeed, it is not because people say that Etretat is worth visiting that you should instantly love it. Hence, I will do my best to now objectively show you what you can see in Etretat.
The city of Etretat
First, even if tourists mostly come for the cliffs, Etretat is already a lovely city to visit. It is not the favorite village of the French for no reason. The Normand look of the street makes the village charming. Spending one or two hours wandering in the streets is a good idea.
You will like the architecture, the colors, and the activity of the village. This is true if you visit this place during summer, or at weekends. If you visit Etretat on a random Wednesday in January, it will not be active at all.
You will recognize the first paragraph about Angéliques opinion. After that, you will have a detailed guide to choose your hike. I will also give you my best day plan. I have already been to Etretat, and I can tell you that this is probably the best way to experience it.
Where should I eat while visiting Etretat?
Once again, this was detailed in the other article I wrote about Etretat, so I invite you to read it. Basically, the goal is to avoid tourist restaurants. It is not the storefront that makes the quality of the food inside it.
The issue is that even French people visiting Etretat are tourists! They are usually from Paris. So, choosing a restaurant where the customers look French may also be misleading. Maybe the best way to find a great restaurant is to look for reviews on the Internet.
Where should I stay while visiting Etretat?
Etretat is totally visitable in one day. This is why I proposed you a one day plan with one hike in the morning, a lunch in the city, and another hike in the afternoon.
Since you can visit Etretat in one day, you can either choose to sleep there and head to other cities next morning, or you can choose to drive in the evening and sleep in another town.
There are tons of lovely villages in Normandy, and Honfleur is definitely one of them. It is only 1 hour away from Etretat, and it is a great place to sleep.
Otherwise, if you want to sleep elsewhere, you can choose to sleep in Deauville or in Trouville. Those two villages are next to each other and are really pretty too.
Those are just ideas to sleep. I do not want to recommend you one precise hotel or one precise place because we all travel differently. Indeed, it could also be a good idea to book an Airbnb. There are tons of them in Etretat, Honfleur, Deauville, and Trouville.
I hope that this article was helpful and that you learnt everything that you wanted to before visiting Etretat. Etretat is definitely worth visiting if you plan on going in Normandy.
The Coasts of Normandy have a lot to offer and can be visited relatively quickly. I hope you will choose to visit them!