What to see in Etretat

Last Updated on 02/04/2023

Etretat the essence of the Alabaster coast of France, the best of the best. Let’s see what you can see here and how to get to Etretat

There are many such cozy small resort towns on the Normandy coast. It is to this one that people go to look at the amazingly beautiful white cliffs that form large arches in this place. Famous writers and artists have been here, including Delacroix, Monet, Manet, Offenbach, Dumas, Hugo, Maupassant. There are several paintings by Monet dedicated to Etretat.

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Etretat is a pretty little resort town in a hollow between the hills on the Normandy coast. Already in the Roman era, a Roman road passed here, and in the 19th and 20th centuries the city has become a fashionable resort.

How to get to Etretat

Train Paris – Le Havre (2 hours, about 30 euros round trip), bus number 24 (1 hour, about 4 euros). Buses run approximately once an hour. The bus schedule can be found on the website https://www.lehavre-etretat-tourisme.com/infos-pratiques/venir-a-etretat/.

What to see in Etretat

City and cliffs

The Etretat map can be taken from the tourist information (near the bus stop), but you will not need it – it is impossible to get lost there. The cliffs can be viewed from above and from below. To the left of the city you can see the falaise d’Aval arch, to the right – the falaise d’Amont arch, the third Manneporte arch is visible if you make your way through the falaise d’Aval cave, or from the path that runs along the top.

Falaise d’Aval

The first thing to do is check the tide schedule. It is better to do this in advance via the Internet if you plan to spend only part of the day in the city, because otherwise you may not get downstairs. The tide timetable also hangs on the slope leading to the falaise d’Aval. This is not an unnecessary precaution. The tides here are not instantaneous, but still quite fast and high. You can accidentally fall into a trap and spend a certain number of hours on a deserted pebble beach. Once it was possible to climb up a dangerous steep staircase from it, but a landslide destroyed even this insecure descent and now it is closed.

Compare these two photos. The first is low tide, through the dark opening of the cave you can get to the beach between the arches falaise d’Aval and Manneporte (the one shown in the very first photo on this page), the second is high tide, the cave is inaccessible.

On dark slippery rocks covered with algae at low tide, they collect oysters. Once, in 1777, a special “nursery” was created here for Marie-Antoinette, where oysters were grown. It is clearly visible from above

The passage to the beach between the arches can be accessed through a cave called Trou a l’Homme.

Legend says that in 1792, during a terrible storm that lasted 24 hours, a Swedish ship was thrown onto the rocks. There was no rescue for the sailors. They all died, except for one unnamed sailor who clung to the ledge in the cave. When he was picked up after the storm and carried to join the dead, he woke up. The sailor said that he prayed all the time for salvation and was thrown onto a rock. The cave was therefore called “a man’s refuge” (trou, actually, a “hole”, but also a “refuge”).

Etretat what to see

The path to the cave is covered with water at high tide, good shoes are required. Older people should consider whether they can handle it. You will have to climb stairs or large slippery stones. Another unsafe activity (which is honestly warned by the announcements written by the city authorities) is to climb the huge ledges under the Manneporte arch).

Behind it will open another secluded beach, where locals gather oysters at low tide. We return back in the same way.

Etretat what to see

And so Manneporte saw Monet.

Monet Manneporte

Views from above

The next station on the program is viewing platforms on the cliffs. Above – an amazing landscape, which is pointless to describe. This is the case when photographs do not embellish, but only diminish the magnificence of the original. Fences only exist in the most dangerous cliff places – watch out, especially with children.

On one of the cliffs there is a narrow cave called the Chambre des Demoiselles. According to legend, one disgusting man, the lord of the castle of Frefosse, wished three beautiful sisters. They opposed him, for which they were walled up in the rock. The locals heard the girls singing for three days, and then they saw only the silhouettes of three angels.

Falaise d’Amont

After descending the cliffs and walking along the embankment, climb the cliffs on the opposite side, falaise d’Amont (the beginning of the ascent is the stairs at the end of the embankment). From this side, you will find rugged cliffs and a view of the Alabaster Coast (la cote d’Albatre) to Fecamp.

Etretat view to Fecamp Alabaster coast
Etretat Alebasterküste / What to see in Etretat

In the time remaining before departure, it is worth stopping by one of several fish restaurants on the embankment. It is here that you should try oysters – after all, they are harvested here.

There are also two mansions and a new garden of Etretat as additional entertainment.

Etretat is the place where you can spend even a few days. Someone will be attracted by the peace and quiet of endless cliffs, where there are few walking, seagulls scream overhead, and you can watch the endless sea for hours. Some will be attracted by sailing and surfing, and some, perhaps, golf on the cliffs.

In conclusion, a couple of photos of the town.

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