Cliff top view of Etretat village from Falaise d'Aval

Etretat travel guide

About Etretat

Etretat is a charming town famous for the stunning cliffs of Etretat on the Alabaster Coast and one of Normandy's most popular tourist sites. The famous limestone arches and needle of rock make for a spectacular sight that is one of the most famous parts of the French coastline. Having inspired writers and artists alike, the cliffs are full of legends and history. Washer women used to wash their linen at the beach and hang it on the rocks to dry, whilst France's irascible literary hero, Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief, acted out one of his most well-known stories here in The Hollow Needle. The town is also famous for its association with Charles Nungesser and François Coli, who disappeared over the Atlantic in 1927 whilst trying to make the world's first transatlantic flight from Paris to New York. Their biplane, L'Oiseau Blanc (the White Bird) was last sighted in France from the cliffs of Etretat.

A monument dedicated to this pair of French aviators and WW1 heroes stands proudly in the town. The town also celebrates its association with Arsène Lupin at Le Clos Lupin, inside the author Maurice Leblanc's former house, a museum that explores the secret world of this most very Gallic hero. In the novel, Lupin discovers the treasures of French kings hidden inside the needle of rock just off-shore. Those looking for architecture of beauty will enjoy the half-timber houses, many now turned it cafés and restaurants; the pretty Chapelle Notre Dame de la Garde sitting on the cliff-top; and the charming Château les Aygues, which was built in 1866 and has received such famous people as the composer Jacques Offenbach and Alexandre Dumas.

You are never far from the sea and the cliffs, and it is easy to see why they draw so many visitors. Hiking trails will take you to the top of the cliffs or you can enjoy a more leisurely walk along Le Perrey, a concrete promenade that takes you onto the pebble beach. There are some wonderful flora and fauna including birds such as herring gulls, arctic fulmars and peregrine falcons, and red grass, sea cabbage and gorse bushes grow in abundance on the windswept cliffs. At low tide the 17th century oyster beds can be seen from the beach as well as the legendary trou a la homme, a hole in the rock said to have been created during a shipwreck in 1792.

There are plenty of places to buy a memento of your visit in the quaint shops on the main shopping street or inside the Vieux Marché (the old market) where a tablet commemorates the town's military hospital which saw service in both world wars. There are many cafés and restaurants along the promenade to enjoy the local cusine. Seafood, or fruits de mer, is especially popular on the menu here. The local goats cheese, La Valaine, is worth a taste, or perhaps try some norman moules frites - mussels and chips with a rich and creamy sauce? Crêpes are popular and be sure to wash them down with some Normandy cider, known locally as cidre. 

OVERVIEW

  • Country: France

  • Region: Normandy

  • Department: Seine-Maritime

  • Population: 1,500

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