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Last updated on 22nd September 2021 by Lena
No matter if you are longing for a fresh sea breeze during the hot Parisian summer, or just want to enjoy an outdoor and nature trip to see more of France than “just” Paris – Étretat has you covered! Étretat is great for a day trip but also an excellent weekend getaway from Paris.
Where is Étretat?
If you want to spend time by the sea, you should head to Étretat. The little coastal village lays just 200 km northwest of Paris and is one of the closest towns by the sea that you can reach from Paris. Click here to see if rental cars are available for your travel dates!
Luckily, Étretat is not only close to Paris, but it’s also a very beautiful destination. It’s right on the magical Alabaster Coast in Normandy and absolutely worth a day trip from Paris.
What is Étretat famous for?
Even though Étretat is indeed just a little village by the sea, it is one of Paris’s most popular day-trip destinations and an UNESCO World Heritage Site!. Interestingly, it is one of the destinations, that is rather visited by Parisians and French travelers, and less by foreign tourists that are staying in Paris for a few days.
But what has Étretat that attracting so many visitors each day? There are many reasons why visiting Étretat is worth it.
… the beautiful white chalk cliffs of Étretat
The Alabaster Coast is famous for its white chalk cliffs, and Étretat lays just in a recess between rock formations. It is a breathtaking scenery, with white cliffs rising high above both sides of town.
… for inspiring many famous impressionists painters
Normandy is a beautiful region and acted as a strong source of inspiration for many painters. Hence, it’s not surprising, that the distinct cliff formations in Étretat provided a popular motive. Claude Monet is probably the most famous impressionist, that was drawn to these majestic cliffs.
Tip: If you are traveling to Étretat by car, Giverny lays just on the way! It’s where Monet lived most of his life, and you can visit the famous garden with the waterlily pond.
… for the Oysters of the Queen
Marie Antoinette had more than a soft spot for oysters and loved especially those from Étretat. Luckily, the fisher village was just close enough to deliver fresh oysters every day. The ruins of the oyster park are uncovered at low tide, and you can set off exploring them.
… and of course for Arsène Lupin
If you are a fan of TV series, you are probably familiar with the gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, the protagonist of the very successful Netflix series Lupin from 2021. Parts of the first season were filmed in Étretat, mainly because the writer of the original books, Maurice Leblanc, originated in the region.
Top 5 things to do in Étretat
You can visit Étretat and spend a laid-back day on the beach, enjoy ice cream and crêpes, have a stroll in town, or maybe go for a splash, and by the end of the day return to Paris and have spent a perfectly fine day. OR: you can fill your days with some top activities in Étretat!
1. Admire the white cliffs of Étretat
The most prominent features of Étretat on the Alabaster Coast are the steep white chalk cliffs that are conceding the village. Apart from being a beautiful photo motive, they are great for short as well as long hikes.
Small leisure hikes in Étretat
The cliffs on both sides of Étretat are very easily accessible. A short hiking trail is leading up the cliffs, and even inexperienced hikers with no particular gear can enjoy the walk. Some parts of the trail are even just stairs, so totally suitable for families with kids.
Long hikes in Étretat
The Alabaster Coast is an amazing place to go for longer hikes as well. You can even hike along the entire coastline, 186 km from Le Havre to Le Treport!
However, if you are not up for a multiday hike in Normandy, there are still options for hikes that fit into a day trip to Étretat.
The best option is to take a circuit hike that starts right on the left-hand cliff. The one that is suggested here covers 8.6 km and is easily done on a day trip. Alternatively, you could also just hike up along the cliff until the next village – Yport, 20 km come and return.
2. Visit the Jardins d’Étretat
Buy your tickets for the garden here
This amazing neo-futuristic garden on top of the cliff of Étretat is well worth the visit. Inspired by Norman nature, the architect Alexander Grivko created the garden in 7 different sections, each dedicated to different aspects of the region. The garden opened in 2017 to the public and received the European Garden Award in 2019/2020.
3. Enjoy a day by the beach
Spending time by the sea is certainly not a bad choice. Especially not in Étretat – the tides are uncovering secret ancient areas and inviting for exploration. Étretat has no sandy beach though, it’s rather pebbles that are extremely uncomfortable to walk on with naked feet.
4. Follow the tracks of Arsène Lupin
Knowing that the creator of Lupin is originally from Étretat, it’s not surprising to find a Maurice Leblanc Museum in the village.
If you plan to extend your day trip to Étretat to an overnight trip, check if the Detective Hotel is available! It is a very original Hotel honoring Maurice Leblanc and Lupin but has also all kinds of themed rooms: Colombo, Sherlock Holmes, just to name a few.
5. Immerse yourself in local food culture
One thing that I really like about France is that every region has its very own specialty, which is served and celebrated in every shop and restaurant.
Normandy is of course no exception. The region is overall famous for delicious cheeses and apples, in all shapes and forms. Make sure to stock up on it before heading back to Paris.
When eating out, you should make sure to eat some of the following, though:
Crêpes and Galettes
The very thin pancakes are a typical thing to eat when in Normandy, even though you get them all over France. The sweet type is usually called Crêpes, while the savory version made with buckwheat flour is usually filled with cheese and cold cuts.
Fries with mussels are a specialty in the north of France, but also in Belgium. It’s a typical dish to eat in Normandy. The most classical version comes with wine, butter, parsley, and onion topping. However, you can order your mussels as well with Camembert, cream and curry sauce, beer sauce, just to name a few
Cider and Calvados
As the region is famous for apples, it’s not surprising that Normandy is the source of Cider and Calvados. Cider is a light alcoholic drink that is served in bowls and fits perfectly to Galette and Crêpes. Calvados – named after a department in the Normandy region – is a strong liqueur, mostly from apples, but sometimes also made from pears.
When is the best time to visit Étretat?
Étretat is an extremely popular destination for day trips and weekend trips from Paris. Paris is just a couple of hours away, and many Parisians are using this proximity for a few relaxed hours by the sea. Hence, Étretat can become extremely packed on the weekend, especially of course in the warmer months, but even in winter.
My experience: I have been to Étretat around 5 times, in summer but as well in winter. Every time on the weekend. It was, of course, full and with quite some traffic, but we always found a parking place and a seat in a restaurant. However, if you prefer a deserted beach and some solitude, avoid the weekend and/ or arrive as early as possible.
Based on my experience, there is no time or season where you should avoid Étretat. But keep in mind that it often rains in Normandy, and it’s cold in winter. However, it tends to be milder – yet more humid – than in Paris.
How to get to Étretat?
Independent: Visit Étretat by car
As Étretat is really not too far from Paris, the easiest is to rent a car in Paris and drive the distance by yourself. This allows you as well to take a short stop in Rouen or to explore more of the coastline in Normandy. You can use the form below to compare rates for car rentals in Paris:
Just know that the highway is not free. You can expect to pay around €40 for the round trip.
Where to park in Étretat?
As mentioned before, Étretat can be pretty packed on weekends. As most visitors arrive by car, finding a parking spot in the city center can be tough. However, just outside the city are many parking places, and it is just a short walk to the center. If you see that the sides of the streets are getting used as parking spots, don’t bother to drive down until town, but find a place outside. It allows you to save time, and you get the opportunity to enjoy a walk through the city before heading to the beach.
Budget-friendly: Visit Étretat by bus
Click here to reserve your bus tickets
If you don’t want to rent a car to drive to Étretat, you can also take a bus from Paris to Normandy. The Flixbus from La Defense (west of Paris) takes around 3.5h and prices start at €25 roundtrip.
Important: direct busses run mostly on the weekend, especially during the low season. If you plan to head out to Étretat for 1 day only, you might run out of time when traveling by bus because the earliest arrival in Étretat will be 11:50, and you need to catch the latest bus back to Paris at 16:45.
Think about extending your trip and make it a weekend getaway to Étretat. The Hotel La Residence Manoir de la Salamandre is excellently located just 100 m from the beach and is also the most budget-friendly hotel in Étretat. Check here now if they have free rooms on your travel dates.
Eco-friendly: Visit Étretat by train
Even though there is no direct train from Paris to Étretat, the journey is rather short. It takes only 2.40h to travel to Étretat from Paris – considering traffic and rush hours, it might be even the quickest option at times. Check here for tickets.