Étretat Unveiled: Beyond the Cliffs and Into the Heart of Normandy

Advisor - Abby Rieb
Curated By

Abby Rieb

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  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Active Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Adventure Travel

  • France

  • Island

  • Outdoors

  • Small Town

guide picture backside island
Curator’s statement

The allure of Étretat transcends its physical beauty; for me, it represents a dreamscape I've yearned to step into. Every arch, whisper of the waves and twilight glow is a brushstroke of the enchanting dream I've long held in my mind's eye. Being in Étretat isn't just a journey through a town; it's a voyage into the depths of the tapestry of the heart.

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Where to stay in Étretat

Dormy House Hotel

Where relaxation and charm intertwine, inviting you to unwind in style.

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Things to do in Étretat

green places and island

Getting There

By Car: Étretat is roughly a 2.5-hour drive from Paris. Navigate your way via the A13 and A29, and immerse yourself in the scenic countryside views.

By Train: Take a train from Paris Saint-Lazare to Le Havre or Bréauté-Beuzeville. From there, busses or taxis can whisk you to Étretat in less than 30 minutes.

From the Seine River Cruise: From there, Étretat is only a short drive away. Many river cruise companies may offer excursions to Étretat, or you can choose to explore independently.

What to Do in Étretat

Étretat’s Cliffs and Arches

The Falaises

Porte d'Aval: This is the most famous arch and is often photographed with the free-standing needle-like structure, L'Aiguille. It's the ideal location for an early morning or sunset stroll.

Porte d'Amont: Located to the northeast of the beach, it may be less renowned than Porte d'Aval but is equally mesmerizing. Close to this arch is the white chapel, Église Notre Dame de la Garde, a perfect backdrop.

Manneporte: The largest arch and a bit of a walk, but worth every step for its grandeur.

Hiking Opportunities: Trail paths vary from beginner to advanced. The most notable being the cliff-top path offering panoramic views of the town, beaches and the expansive sea.

Le Jardin d'Étretat

Design Philosophy: Inspired by the surrounding nature, the garden integrates avant-garde designs without overshadowing the natural beauty of Étretat.

Themed Areas: The garden is divided into multiple sections, each having its theme and unique collection of sculptures. From the 'Avatar' garden to the 'La Manche' garden, there's a story in every corner.

Interactive Exhibits: Some sections invite visitors to become a part of the art. Whether it's posing amid the installations or manipulating the movable pieces, it's a haven for art enthusiasts.

Église Notre Dame de la Garde

A Beacon of Hope: Built in the 19th century, this chapel was a beacon for fishermen at sea. Inside, you'll find votive ships and dedications from sailors thankful for safe returns.

Architectural Wonder: Its stone façade, against the vastness of the sea and sky, is a harmonious blend of man-made and natural wonders.

Events: Occasionally, the chapel hosts musical evenings. If you're lucky, you might catch a local band or choir performance.

Marché d'Étretat

Fresh Seafood: Here, fishermen often sell their day's catch. It's an opportunity to see the town's maritime culture up close.

Normandy Specialties: Look out for regional specialties like Cidre, Calvados and various local cheeses.

Artisanal Wares: The market is also a gathering place for artisans. Handmade jewelry, crafts and regional souvenirs can be a unique memento of your trip.

Stroll through the town

Historic Homes: As you wander, you'll come across homes that once belonged to famous figures like Maurice Leblanc, the creator of the fictional detective Arsène Lupin. The character is intrinsically tied to Étretat, with stories setting him against the backdrop of the town's cliffs.

Art & Literature: Thanks to its beauty, Étretat has been a muse for artists and writers. Exploring the town gives insight into its artistic heritage, with various galleries and exhibitions scattered around.

Local Shops: Boutiques and local stores sell everything from handmade crafts to specialty foods. The Maison des Produits Régionaux is a particularly good spot to pick up regional delicacies and wines.

Étretat, with its surreal landscapes and rich culinary heritage, stands as a testament to the timeless beauty and flavors of Normandy. Whether it's a swift day trip or a prolonged stay, this charming coastal town offers an enriching experience at every corner.

Places to eat & drink in Étretat

daytime picture of the town and island-greenery

Moules Marinières

Sourcing: The mussels are sourced from the cold, clear waters of the English Channel, ensuring freshness and a distinct taste.

Pairing: Best enjoyed with a glass of white wine from the Loire Valley.

Fresh Oysters

Varieties: The oysters come in various sizes and flavor profiles – from the creamy to the slightly nutty.

Serving: Typically presented on a bed of ice, with lemon wedges, shallot vinegar and rye bread.

Camembert

Origin: Native to Normandy, this cheese is characterized by its soft, creamy texture and strong aroma.

Dishes: Often found in local dishes like "Camembert rôti" (roasted camembert) served with garlic, rosemary and crusty bread.

Cider

Production: Made from locally-grown apples, Normandy's ciders range from sweet to dry.

Calvados: Don't miss out on trying this apple brandy, another specialty of the region.

Tarte Normande

Ingredients: Made with caramelized apples, creamy custard and sometimes a sprinkle of almonds.

Perfect Finish: Savor it with a dollop of crème fraîche for a sweet end to your meal.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Samantha Dwinell guide, Immersive Guide to Provence, France.

Advisor - Abby Rieb

Travel Advisor

Abby Rieb

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to France.