Europe Travels

A weekend in Normandy – Etretat

Part 2 – Etretat

Etretat is the jewel of the north coast of France. It is known for the striking rock formations carved out of its white cliffs, including the Porte d’Aval arch and L’Aiguille (the Needle), a pillar rising up from the sea. And it is perfect for a leisurely weekend or a day trip from Rouen. Read here for your Rouen itinerary.

How to reach

For me, Etretat was a day trip from Rouen where I was spending the weekend. In the summer months, the most convenient way to reach Etretat is via the train to Bréauté-Beuzeville from where you will get a bus straight to Etretat. You can buy the tickets for the train at the train station in Rouen (return tickets cost about EUR 18 in July’19) and the journey to Bréauté-Beuzeville takes about 40 mins. Once at the Bréauté-Beuzeville station, you will find a bus waiting for Etretat, getting you there in about 30 mins. If you show the train ticket, the ride is free. Both the train and the buses run at regular intervals, with the last bus being at 1840 hrs from Etretat.

Etretat is also possible as a day trip from Paris albeit with slightly longer commute. Take the train from St Lazare station towards Le Havre and get down at Bréauté-Beuzeville. And then the same bus, as mentioned above, would take you the rest of the way to Etretat. The total one way journey would be just under 3 hrs.

Flixbus also has a service from Paris (Paris Porte de St Ouen) to Etretat taking about 3.5 hrs one way. Do check their website to get the latest schedule.

What to do in Etretat

The focal point of Etretat are the white chalky cliff arches and the L’Aguille jutting out of the sea. And while both of them are visible from the sea beach, the best vantage point is from the top of either of the two cliffs, Falaise d’Aval or the Falaise d’Amont. You could hike your way up both the cliffs and from what I have read and heard, its an easy walk up.

However I didnot have the luxury of time as I was in Etretat for only 4 – 5 hrs and a luck would have it, just as I walked into the old town centre, I saw the Le Petit Train getting ready to leave. This is one of those little buggies that take you to Falaise d’Amont and get you back to the town centre after 40 mins for just EUR 6 per person. Its a great time saver if you are in a hurry.

Once at the top of the cliff, you will get stunning views of the Falaise d’Aval and L’Aguille as well as Falaise d’Amont. Once at the top of the cliff, you will see the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Garde, a little stone chapel looking very unlike a chapel and standing guard over the town of Etretat.

You will also find here the arrow like monument built in the memory of Nungesser and Coli, the first aviators who attempted to cross the North Atlantic Ocean to New York from Paris aboard the White Bird on May 8th 1927. The White Bird was last spotted over Ireland but never made it to New York and was never found.

By now you would have spent almost 40 mins, taking in the splendid views of the cliffs, lying around on the green grass or simply clicking a thousand pictures because truly the beauty is ethereal.

Right at the cliff, there is also the Gardens of Etretat or Les Jardins d’Etretat which is an eclectic mix of sculptures and flora. The French actress Madame Thebault, a close friend of Claude Monet, built a house and started a small avant-garde garden here in 1905 which later transformed into what it is today. I didnot visit the garden this time, mainly because I was time starved but if you have another couple of hours to spend and do not mind the EUR 12 per person ticket then do visit this. Its definitely an instagrammers paradise. If you have used the Petit Train to come up the cliff and intend to visit the garden, it should be possible as they make several trips up the cliff. But make sure to ask ahead on the timing.  Also remember to keep the Petit train ticket with you because they usually check for the ticket on the return journey.

Once back at the town centre, you could head off to the beach which is just a couple of minutes walk. From there you will be able to see the cliffs up close and personal. It is also possible to walk under the arch of the Falaise d’Aval at low tide, but read the warnings posted at the entrance to the beach.

The beach is a gravel beach, so it is not conducive to swimming but great for sunbathing or simply lying down and admiring the magnificent views.

When it is time for you to leave, spend a few minutes at the local produce shops at the town centre. Although a bit expensive, these shops sell a variety of local produce which can also serve as a great souvenir from your trip.

If you have any questions or comments, do leave me a note below.

Till then, happy travels.

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