Explore Étretat

  • Sports & outdoors
  • France
  • 5 min read
Explore Étretat

Escape to the beautiful white cliffs and stunning views of Étretat for your next holiday and experience the exquisite French coastline.

Home to a variety of painters and writers across the years, the cliffs of Étretat and the area’s natural beauty make visiting this part of Normandy worth your while. Enjoy warmer days on the pretty pebbled beaches with a dip in the sea, or cooler ones exploring the Notre-Dame de la Garde and the old Market Square.

The short coastal drive from Calais to Étretat makes it the perfect destination for an easy but beautiful break, or the perfect place to stop if you’re planning a trip to other destinations in Northern France.

View of the white cliffs of Étretat, the pebbled beach and a blue sky with white clouds

Where is Étretat?

Étretat is found on France’s northern coast within the Seine-Maritime department of Haute-Normandy. Thanks to its position on the Côte d'Albâtre, or Alabaster Coast, this stretch of white cliffs and pebble beaches is easily enjoyed, offering visitors plenty of opportunities to explore on foot or from the water. The village is ideal for those who want to immerse themselves in a new world for a few weeks, or as the perfect stopping point for those making their way along the coast from Calais to Brittany and beyond.

The natural landscape

Framed by two chalk cliffs and the dramatic coastal scenery, Étretat’s relationship with the sea has inspired generations of painters including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet, and even Claude Monet.

The beauty of the cliffs is not lost on the modern visitor, with the white chalk face and coastal stretches offering a variety of walks and opportunities to indulge in the gorgeous views. The most distinct and recognised section of the cliff face has been artistically dubbed ‘Cap Blanc-Nez’, which translates to “Cape White Nose”.

Family walking down the steps to the pebbled beaches in Étretat surrounded by grassy banks beneath a blue sky with white clouds

Notre-Dame church

One must-see spot for anyone planning a stroll along the cliffs is the ornate Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. Nestled at the top of Falaise d'Amont in Étretat, the church is a short yet steep walk from the town and surveys the coastline famously captured by Monet.

The chapel was built in 1856 following a mission preached by a ‘Father Michael’, who had allegedly found a written note from the Virgin Mary herself at the site. Although sadly destroyed during the German occupation in 1942, the building was resurrected in an identical fashion in 1950. The views and the history combined make the Notre-Dame church well worth the trip for all visitors.

Panorama of Notre Dame de la Garde chapel and the cliff of Etretat, Normandy, France beneath a clear blue sky and surrounded by calm blue waters and grass

The old market square

Another site ideal for those looking to soak up more of the village’s history (and possibly buy a souvenir to remember your trip by) is the vieux marche (the old market). Once the site of the WWI and WWII military hospital, today the market is lined with stalls, cafés, and restaurants for you to enjoy.

From crepes to local goat’s cheese and Normandy cidre, there’s plenty of options depending on your preference. Seafood is particularly popular, especially the Normande moules frites. If you are planning a visit, our guide to mining and dining in Northern France is worth a read to ensure you don’t miss out on any delicious local delicacies!

Old covered market building Etretat with clock tower and hanging floral baskets in the windows

Étretat gardens

Sitting on the cliff tops surrounding the villa of the famous Parisian actress Madame Thébault are the Étretat Gardens. Complete with ‘living sculptures’, these experimental gardens were reopened to the public in 2017.

Winner of the European Garden award, the space is divided into seven parts including a ‘clockwork forest’ in the Jardin Avatar, the ‘drops of rain’ art instillation in Jardin Émotions, and a maze in the Jardin Zen which mimics the crashing waves below.

View of the famous white chalk Etretat cliffs from the garden (Jardin d'Etretat) with visible ocean stretch and swirling green hedge in the garden

Best enjoyed on foot

Whether you’re a serious hiker or not, undoubtedly the best way to enjoy all that Étretat has to offer is on foot. There are a number of natural walks in and around the area, including the three arches found in the nearby cliffside. Porte d'Aval and the Porte d'Amont are visible from the town, but the Manneporte is the third and biggest arch that requires seeking out and visiting in person.

A popular walking route begins at a German WWII bunker, offering visitors the chance to head towards the famous L’Aguille or The Needle, a 77m high pointed rock formation. Undoubtedly, the final destination is definitely worth the walk, but along the way you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views across the channel.

For keen golfers, the Golf d’Étretat overlooks the bay, providing breath-taking views and wild coastal conditions to challenge even the most seasoned player.

The town also has a delightful promenade that spans across most of the beach and is ideal for less experienced hikers or those who want to take things easy. Promenade sur le Perrey provides the perfect setting for a stroll and is the viewpoint from which the two nearest cliff arches can be spotted.

What’s the climate like?

The temperature in Étretat varies during the year. The warmer months generally range from June to September, although it can still be cloudy and windy then. The cooler months tend to be from November until March, with the lowest temperatures hitting in February, although if you’re prepared to wrap up warm and embrace the colder weather, you’ll be guaranteed plenty of quiet in some of the more popular areas.

Places to stay

The enchanting cliff tops and history of the area means you won’t be short of options for places to stay in Étretat. Anyone looking for a romantic getaway should consider a room in one of the popular boutique country houses located nearby.

For families, or anyone who wants a bit more freedom and privacy, there are also plenty of apartments and villas on offer as well as stunning hotels in the local area.

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