Updated on 12 July 2023
Reading time: 7 minutes
Nestled along the Alabaster Coast, Etretat is a truly enchanting destination to explore in Normandy.
Unsurprisingly, the picturesque village is highly popular and draws in a large number of tourists in the peak season. So why go there at the same time as everyone else when you can find ways to escape the crowds? Here are some top tips to experience Etretat in a different way, making the most of its fabulous scenery, far from the crowds.
Protecting this magnificent site and taking care of ourselves
We can’t stress it enough: the cliffs, while a magnificent natural environment, pose inherent risks due to erosion. Informative signs and markers have been placed to ensure your safety and the preservation of this precious ecosystem. As a general rule, it is important to always stay away from the edge. Environmental conservation is a shared responsibility, especially during the busy summer season, so please remember to bring a plastic bag with you for your litter. Last be not least, while it may be tempting to collect pretty pebbles from the beach, refrain to do so as they serve as a natural defense against storms and crashing waves.
When Is the Best Time to Visit ETRETAT?
For an optimal experience, it is highly recommended to plan your visit to Étretat outside the bustling months of July and August, but also holiday weekends and french school holidays. That said, if you do happen to visit Étretat during these times, brace yourself for a lively atmosphere filled with conviviality ! The time of the day with the highest influx of visitors is between 11 am and 4 pm .
To revel in a more serene and intimate experience, truly savoring the charm of Étretat at its own vibrant pace, plan your visit during the off-season or when the French kids are back in school. Ideal times are on weekdays in the spring, in autumn, or even in winter when Etretat exudes a truly magical atmosphere as the lights cast a mesmerizing glow. The tranquil village takes on a new enchantment, with a sense of serenity and stillness in the air. Visiting Etretat off-season presents a wonderful opportunity to engage with the friendly locals, develop a deeper appreciation for the local traditions and folklore and immerse yourself in the authentic spirit of Etretat!
HOW TO GET TO ETRETAT?
Between April and early November, the national railway network SNCF provides combined train + bus tickets from Paris. During the off-season, access to Etretat is possible by train to Fécamp or Le Havre train stations, followed by a short NOMAD bus ride. If you are looking to visit Normandy from Paris, long-distance buses also provide direct connections between the capital city of France and Etretat.
Exploring Etretat by bike offers an immersive experience that goes beyond mere transportation. Embracing the freedom and rhythm of cycling, you can discover the stunning beauty of this coastal town and its surroundings at your own pace.
There are convenient options for renting bicycles either in Etretat (Electric bike rentals with Panda Motion), in Les Loges, 6 km from Etretat (with E-Motion) or even in Fécamp (at Coffee Bike) to venture beyond Etretat and explore the picturesque countryside and coastline.
If you have a preference for traveling by car, it is worth noting that finding parking spaces may require a bit of patience. Nevertheless, there is an option to park free of charge at the town’s entrance, on Route de Criquetot-l’Esneval (la Guezane). From this point, a dedicated pedestrian pathway facilitates easy access to the Haules Path, allowing you to embark on your pedestrian exploration of Etretat.
For further options on parking your car near Etretat, information in french is provided on the Department’s website about spots made available to visitors by the Grand Site des Falaises d’Étretat – Côte d’Albâtre organisation.
Finally, there is another option to reach Etretat in an original way if you have the luxury of time: hop on a railbike (vélorail) from Les Loges and enjoy a leisurely journey through breathtaking landscapes.
What is the best time of the day to enjoy the beach?
Even if you aren’t usually an early bird, watching the sun peek over the horizon in Etretat is an experience sure to have you catching your breath. Definately worth waking up at dawn! Ah… the ineffable feeling of having this landscape exclusively for yourself… Amazing! As the day unfolds, the beach becomes less crowded after 4 pm, creating a tranquil and serene atmosphere. It’s an ideal time to relax, lie down on the pebbles (allowing a few minutes to find that perfect, oh-so-comfortable position! ), take a swim, marvel at the scenery that once inspired Impressionist painters like Claude Monet, and relish the spectacle of a sunset in Etretat.
A Change of perspective
All it takes sometimes is a step back to enjoy a unique perspective from a different point of view. Step off the beaten path and trade the usual promenade or the climb to the Falaise d’amont (where the chapel stands) or the Falaise d’aval for a visit to the Gardens of Etretat. Not only do they exude a poetic ambiance, but they also provide an unhindered vantage point of the iconic Etretat needle rock formation. Another option is to join a nature outing with the Naterra association, where you can discover the beauty and fragility of the local flora and fauna. An original way to explore Etretat and its famous arch is by taking a sea excursion. Paddleboarding along the majestic cliffs of Etretat and the unique geological formations towering above the water offers an incomparable experience! From Fécamp, embark on an old sailing vessel with Captain Astérix to discover Etretat from the water: a unique viewpoint, freedom and adventure!
Hiking trail in etretat
Taking the time to enjoy a leisurely hike during your stay in Etretat is an absolute delight. Stretching across 180 km from Le Havre to Le Tréport, the GR® 21 Coastal Trail of Normandyearned the esteemed distinction of “France’s Favorite Hiking Trail GR®” in 2020 (GR® stands for Grande Randonnée – long hiking trails ). If you are planning to visit Etretat soon, we highly recommend exploring the section that follows the dramatic coastline, from Etretat to La Poterie-Cap-d’Antifer.
Spend the night in Etretat…
One of the best ways to truly capture the essence of this former fishing village is to spend one or a few nights on-site, either in the centre of Etretat or up on the heights. Waking up in the morning in one of France’s most beautiful coastal town is a bliss! While you’re there, make sure to indulge in the local cuisine and savour the regional specialties. Whether you’re seeking a romantic dinner for two or a delightful gathering with your entire group, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the diverse range of restaurants available: Etretat hosts an excellent selection of top-notch accommodations and restaurants to suit solo travelers, couples, friends, and families alike.
Alternative options include staying in nearby villages, towns or cities such as Les Loges (6 km from Étretat), in Fécamp (15 km from Étretat), or in Le Havre (28 km from Étretat).
…Or in surrounding towns and villages around Étretat
For alternative accommodation options, consider staying in the nearby vicinity. The fishing town of Fécamp, located just 15 km from Étretat, boasts a variety of appealing hotels, guesthouses and holiday rentals. Once again, we have some recommendations listed below. For an even closer location to Etretat, albeit slightly inland, the village of Les Loges offers a charming stay. If you’re willing to venture a bit further, Le Havre is a vibrant and dynamic city with a rich cultural scene. Besides a direct access to beaches and to the sea, visitors experience a unique blend of modern architecture (Le Havre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage city), coastal beauty, arts and museums, and a vibrant urban atmosphere.