The chalk cliffs of Etretat in France. Description, photos, coordinates.

The Cliffs of Etreta in France

The cliffs of Etreta are stunning in their beauty and color. This is one of the most stunning places in France. The coastline for many kilometers consists of steep chalk cliffs up to 90 meters high. Inclusions of silicon give the rocks even more amazing view. It is not for nothing that many artists, writers, musicians and other creative people drew inspiration here.

Among the famous people who were here, it is worth noting the famous artists Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse. Writers Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Guy de Maupassant (he actually spent his entire childhood here) visited Etreta.

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Carr, writer and editor-in-chief of Le Figaro, said the following about Etretat: “If I had to show a friend the sea who had never seen it, I would bring him to Etretat.”

The Cliffs of Etreta

Where is it

The Chalk Mountains are located in northern France in the Haute Normandie region between the mouths of the Seine and Somme rivers.

It’s fair to say that the chalk cliffs here extend for about 140 kilometers along the so-called Alabaster Coast of the English Channel. But it is in the area of the small coastal town of Etreta that these cliffs are probably the most impressive.

Note, on the other side of the Channel, in England, there are almost exactly the same chalk mountains. They are called the White Cliffs of Dover.

A little history and geology

In ancient times there was a sea in this place. Cretaceous deposits were formed millions of years ago. In the course of geological processes, the sea receded, leaving the Channel.

The tides, currents and surf began to undermine the coast, creating bizarre sculptures. Layers of chalk alternate with silica. The chalk is soft and dissolves over time with sea water. The silicon, on the other hand, turns into pebbles that are generously sprinkled on the beautiful beaches.

The Cliffs of Etreta

The chalk cliffs of Etreta

The main sections of the Etreta Cliffs

Of the 140 kilometers of Alabaster Coast it is Etreta that has the most striking chalk cliffs. It is customary to identify some of the most impressive sections here.

The waters of the sea have carved not only steep cliffs on the coast, but also stunning chalk arches. There are three such arches in total. Two of them can be seen from the city. They are the Port d’Aval and the Port d’Amont. But the third arch, Manneport (the largest of all) is only visible from the shore.

Interesting fact – Marie Antoinette, French queen of the late 18th century, had her own stretch of coast here to collect oysters.

La Falaise D’Aval.

It lies to the southwest of the city. In fact, it is an aggregation of the Cape D’Aval with the Aiguille d’Etretat geological formation. The whole structure, according to Guy de Maupassant, looks like an elephant dipping its trunk into the sea. In one of the stories he wrote: “…Ahead of it rose a rock of unusual appearance – round and with a through hole. It resembled a great elephant with its trunk caught in the waves…”.

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Arch D

The Arch of D’Aval

Tourists can safely pass through the arch at low tide. One must remember that it is very dangerous to be here at high tide, as it can cut off the way to the exit. Local rescue service periodically rescues gaping tourists from the trap. And for this, by the way, they charge money.

Needle Rock

This sharp peak is only 60 meters from the Arch of D’Aval. Its height is 70 meters. But photos from the past prove that its height used to be greater.

According to various stories and legends, there is a secret passage in this rock where treasure is hidden.

The Rock of the Needle

The Rock of the Needle

Arc d’Amont (La Falaise d’Amont)

This small arch is located to the northeast of the city. It is sometimes called la Falaise du Blanc-Trait because of the whiteness of the chalk. This section of cliffs is perfectly visible in the open sea.

Arch D

Arc d’Amont.

The Arch of the Manneporte

This large arch lies 470 meters southwest of D’Aval. It is so large that Guy de Maupassant wrote of it, “a ship could pass under the Manneport at full sail”.

Manneport Arch

Manneport Arch

Cape The Courtine.

This site is 700 yards from Manneport. There is no arch in this cape … yet.

The main sights of the Etreta Rocks

And here are all the major attractions of the Etreta Rocks at once. Cape The Courtine is below.

Etreta Beach.

The chic, picturesque pebble beach stretches for 1100 meters between the D’Amont and D’aval arches in the northern part of Etreta. The sea, dissolving the chalk, leaves flint pebbles on the coast and carefully polishes them to the delight of tourists and locals.

Etreta beach

Etreta Beach

The last flight of the White Bird

About 300m south of the Arch of D’Amont you will see a monument in the shape of a stone plane with the inscription L’Oiseau Blanc (translated as White Bird). It is a monument in honor of the French pilots Charles Nungesse and François Coly.

Monument to Charles Nungesse and François Coly

Monument to Charles Nungesse and François Coly

In 1927, they first attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane called the White Bird. The flight from Paris to New York was supposed to be a non-stop flight.

On May 8, 1927, the plane left Paris and flew over the town of Etreta. No one ever saw it again. Apparently, the plane crashed in the ocean. This event became one of the unsolved mysteries of aviation.

The monument erected to the brave pilots was destroyed during World War II. In 1963, the monument was restored and a small museum was built nearby.

Etreta in tourism

The city’s economy is based mainly on tourism. The city together with the chalk cliffs is positioned as the main tourist attraction in Normandy. In addition to the rocks, tourists usually visit the Beneictictine winery, the museum in Fecam, the Rouen Cathedral and the Claude Monet Museum in Giverny.

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The town of Etreta has an excellent pebble beach and a golf club with courses right above the sea. There are many hiking trails in the surrounding area. Most of them do not have fences, so it is not recommended to approach the edge of the cliffs. Remember – the chalk mountains are quite fragile. There is a high probability of their collapse. In addition, there are several large viewing platforms, from which the best views come off.

The Chalk Mountains of Etretat

Etreta offers all the entertainment and attributes of a typical French seaside resort. The old town has both modern and old buildings. They often stand side by side, and some of the older buildings are decorated with modern neon signs. There are many stores and restaurants. Prices can be at the level of Paris.

If you have a lot of money and don’t know what to do with it, you can gamble it away at the casino right on the beach. It’s open daily from 10:00 to 3:00.

How to get there

By car the way from Paris will take about 2 hours. Take the A13 towards Rouen/Caen. Follow the A131 Pont de Tancarville to Le Havre. From here take the A29 to the turnoff for Saint Romain de Colbosc. Then the D39 takes you to the town of Etretat.

Take the train from Saint-Lazare station to Brtaute Le Havre station in Le Havre. Then take a shuttle bus to Etretat.

The chalk cliffs of Etretat in France. Description, photos, coordinates.

How to get to Étretat in Haute-Normandie, France?

Étretat is a small resort with beautiful pebble beaches on the Alabaster coast of La Manche, one of the main attractions of Normandy, in northern France. It’s right on the beach, where the waters of the English Channel have shaped the cliffs with natural arches, one of the most beautiful scenery in France. These cliffs and the resort located by them have attracted many famous artists, including Eugene Baudin, Gustave Corbet, Claude Monet and Vasily Polenov.

Two of the three famous arches are visible from Etretat itself: the Porte d’Aval and Porte d’Amont. The third and largest arch, the Manneporte, is not visible from the city and must be walked to.

On a trip to Etreta it is desirable to lay all day to be able to walk to the arches, as the village itself is down by the sea, along the beach, and the path to the cliffs is uphill and quite long and high. It is not possible to run there and back in hours.

Étretat, Normandy, France - City guide: how to get there (transport timetable, prices), what to see - Étretat attractions

The tourist office is located in the center of Etreta, next to the bus stop, a few blocks away is the beach itself. The hiking trails to the famous cliffs start from the beach. Two large arches are located on the southeastern edge of the beach and one large arch on the northeastern side, both of which are stunningly beautiful.

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Etreta Weather:

Etreta Travel Guide:

Étretat, Normandy, France - City guide: how to get there (transport timetable, prices), what to see - Étretat attractions

Getting to Etreta:

The most convenient way to get to Etreta is by car, as this little village is not great with public transportation. There are buses from neighboring Fecam and Le Havre, but not too often. You can park, if you are lucky, right in front of the beach, there is quite a large parking lot. But if you are not arriving in the morning, the chances of finding a free spot are almost nil, at least in the warm season. When you enter Etreta, there is a big parking lot on both sides of the road, you can almost always park there (it’s a paid parking, minimum 5 euros), but it takes at least 5 minutes to walk to the village.

Etretat location map

By car :

  • How to get to Étretat by car (distance, travel time, cost of toll roads, parking).
  • From Paris: A13, exit Pont de Tancarville.
  • From Amiens: direction to the Pont de Normandie, A29 exit Bolbec

By plane:

  • Le Havre / Octeville airport.
  • Deauville Saint-Gatien airport.

By train : No train station.

  • The nearest train station is Le Havre (regular trains from Paris, Rouen).
  • You can get there by Bréauté or Fecamp.

by bus :

Around the city : on foot

Étretat, Normandy, France - City guide: how to get there (transport timetable, prices), what to see - Étretat attractions

Getting around Etretat

The village itself is small. Even if you park at the entrance, you can walk to the town center and even the beach in 5 to 7 minutes. You’ll have to go down the hill a little at the parking lots and walk down a dirt road to the normal street. You can walk here with a stroller. The road then turns left and you come to the beach, flanked by the famous alabaster cliffs with arches. But, importantly, the village is located down by the water, along the rocky beach there is a promenade, where it is nice to stroll. However, to see the cliffs closer, you will need to go quite a long way uphill, and high: you have to climb at least to the height of a nine-storey house, along the path and in some places on the steps. So, when planning a trip to Etreta, you should allow at least a day to explore the local beauty, so you have time to walk uphill!

In good weather there are quite a lot of people here, so don’t expect deserted trails. In addition, even in warm summer weather you may find a rather strong and cold wind waiting for you, so stock up on appropriate clothing!

Étretat, Normandy, France - City guide: how to get there (transport timetable, prices), what to see - Étretat attractions

To Etreta with kids

A walk to the picturesque cliffs with breathtaking views can be great fun for older kids. However, with toddlers, your options will be very limited. The streets and the promenade are safe for baby carriages, but getting close to the cliffs is a bit of a challenge as the most beautiful arches are accessed via a path up a green hill, without trees or shade, and sometimes the path turns into stairs. So it will be quite problematic to walk with a stroller. Complete babies can be taken in a backpack, but it will be pretty tedious walk, because you have to go in the sun and uphill for a long time. Toddlers under 5 or 6 are unlikely to make it on their own. So be careful.

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On the other hand, children can play on a stony beach near the embankment, where, as many years ago, picturesque fishing boats huddle. In this case, the cliffs can only be seen from afar.

Attractions of Etreta:

The historian and philosopher Elie Galevi (1870-1937) was born in Etreta.

Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) spent most of his childhood here at Les Verguies. In 1882 he wrote the story L’Anglais d’Étretat, based on an encounter in 1868 between J. E. J. Powell and the English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, whom he saved from drowning.

A dried human hand, displayed on one of the tables, was later purchased by Maupassant for his apartment in Paris. It served as the inspiration for another short story, “The Hand” ( La Main Écorchée ). In 1883 he built his own Mediterranean-style house, “La Guillette,” on rue Le Grand Val , later renamed rue Guy-de-Maupassant in his honor.

Etretat also boasted the villa of Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830-1914), a great opera baritone. A friend of Édouard Monet and a great collector of paintings, Faure painted amateur landscapes of Étretat, including the picturesque cliffs.

How to get to Étretat in Haute-Normandie, France?

The alabaster cliffs of Etretat

Visiting Etretat, you will know the names of these amazingly beautiful rocks of the Pays de Caux plateau: Courtine, Manneporte, Vaudieu Rock, Aiguille de Belval… Some people see them as the head of an elephant dipping its trunk into the waves of the Channel, others, like Guy de Maupassant, claim that an entire ship with all its sails could go through the arch of Manneporte.

Étretat, Normandy, France - City guide: how to get there (transport timetable, prices), what to see - Étretat attractions

The Old Market Square

A beautiful half-timbered covered market rises on the square, with cute stores inside. A commemorative plaque on the building mentions the British and American troops that visited Etreta during World War II. It is noteworthy that during World War I, Etreta was home to a British hospital, at which time some 550 British soldiers died there.

Étretat Halles

Le Clos Arsène Lupin

If you are not yet familiar with the amusing and beloved characters, the thief Arsène Lupin and his accomplice Gronard, created by French author Maurice Blanc, you can learn about them at Le Clos Lupin, a beautiful lodge once owned by their creator. English-speaking visitors are provided with specially prepared materials, so you can fully enjoy the fun tour. The detective tour will appeal to children and adults alike.

Le Clos Arsène Lupin.

Notre Dame

This medieval Norman church is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. It is located away from the beach, on the opposite edge of Etretat.

Notre-Dame

Chapel of Notre-Dame de la Garde

This chapel is located on the east elevation of Etretat. It was built by sailors in the 19th century, destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.

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Notre-Dame de la Garde

Monument to Charles Nangesseri and François Coly

This magnificent needle-shaped monument is located behind the chapel of Notre-Dame de la Garde. It was made in 1963 in memory of the French aviators, heroes of the First World War, who in May 1927 on a single-engine biplane “White Bird” (L’Oiseau Blanc) tried to make the first non-stop flight from Paris to New York. They did not reach their destination, the plane disappeared somewhere over the Atlantic, and the disappearance is considered one of the most mystical mysteries in aviation. They were last seen over the reef where the memorial now stands.

A monument to Charles Nangesseri and François Coly in Étretat:

Etretat charles nungesser

Trou à l’Homme.

One day in 1792, a raging sea tossed a Swedish ship onto these rocks. The inhabitants of Étretat could only watch in horror as the ship wrecked before their eyes. The next day the wind died down and the sea calmed down, revealing a cave in the rocks where the body of a man lay face down. When he was carried to a common grave to be buried with others, he came to his senses and was saved. The amazing cave where he was found is now open to the public, although it can only be visited at low tide when Jambourg Beach is accessible. Check the tide times before visiting.

Etretat Trou à l Homme

Golf d’Etretat.

This golf course is in an exceptional location on the steep cliffs to the west of Etretat, over 450m above sea level, which makes playing golf in Etretat a memorable experience. British fans of the resort were key figures in the creation of the course in the early 20th century; the first president was Viscount Bernard Forbes. The course was designed in 1908, in collaboration with Arnaud Massy, an exceptional professional who studied golf at Étretat and is remembered in golf history for being the first non-British to win the Open golf championship.

Étretat, Normandy, France - City guide: how to get there (transport timetable, prices), what to see - Étretat attractions

Étretat Tourist Office:

  • Place Maurice Guillard.
  • January 2 to June 14 and September 15 to November 11: 10 to 12 and 14 to 18.
  • November 12 – December 31: 10 – 12 and 14 – 18. Closed 11 November – 14 March (except school vacations)
  • June 15 – September 15: 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
  • Closed December 25th and January 1st

Etretat town

Map of Etreta

A map of the village of Etreta:

Étretat map

Etreta Rocks on Map:

The Rocks of Étretat - Map of Étretat

Etreta on artists’ canvases:

Etreta, with its magnificent cliffs and soft light, simply beckoned artists, among them names like Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet and even Vasily Polenov. The most famous Impressionists captured its recognizable silhouette on their canvases. You can walk along the coast along the path of the artists and see with your own eyes the beauty that so captivated the masters of the brush…

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