Last summer when I was planning out my solo Europe trip, something told me inside that I should go visit a place by the sea. Specifically, a place by the sea with cliffs. Hence, I decided to do what anyone would do in that situation: I googled, “cliff next to sea in France”. I found an article that talked about the most dramatic sea cliffs in the world, and right at #10 was Étretat.
But how was I to get there? Étretat is 200km away from Paris by road, and I did not have a car (or a licence, but that’s another story). Google Maps did not find a route by public transport from Paris to Étretat either. Where was I to stay? There were no hostels in Étretat, only a few independently run hotels. After a ton of research and translation, I finally figured out a plan, which I’m going to share with you here, in case you plan to take a trip to this lovely Normandy town on the French coast.
Getting to Étretat
If you have a vehicle, it’s quite simple. It’s a 200km drive from Paris to Étretat and it will take you around 2:40hrs. You can get the directions on Google Maps quite easily. However, if you are relying on public transport, that’s when it’s not so obvious.
Here is the two step process from Paris to Étretat:
1. Train from Paris to Le Havre.
There are a number of trains that go from Paris to Le Havre, but you can’t just book any train. You need to take into consideration the timings of the bus from Le Havre to Étretat (detailed in the next step) so that when you reach Le Havre you’re in time for the bus that takes you to Étretat from there.
According to the bus schedule of Ligne n°24 (the bus from Le Havre to Etretat) there is a bus at 10:12hrs, 13:12hrs, 16:25hrs, 16:40hrs and 18:05hrs on weekdays throughout the year, and 10:15hrs, 11:30hrs, 12:30, 18:15hrs and 18:25hrs on Sundays throughout the year.
You’ll need to book a train at a suitable time so that you reach just before the bus from Le Havre leaves. I suggest booking a train that arrives at least 20 minutes before the bus leaves, in order to allow for any confusion. You can book a train at the sncf ticketing site here. The train leaves from Paris Gare Saint-Lazare, and will take 2:09hrs to arrive at Le Havre.
Fun fact: there are 7 stations in Paris, divided upon the region to which the trains go. Make sure you’re at the right one.
2. Bus from Le Havre to Étretat.
I hope you haven’t chosen a train such that you would have to wait too long at the Le Havre station. I found the station a little shady, and it was not at all a pleasure to wait there. You wouldn’t want to wait too long there.
You’ll need to take the Ligne n°24 (or line no. 24) from the Le Havre station to Étretat Mairie. The bus stand is right outside the station, and it’ll be written (or you could ask) where exactly bus 24 would be standing at. You’ll have to pay the €2 bus ticket at the bus itself.
Follow the exact same directions in reverse in order to get back.
You don’t wanna wait too long at Le Havre station. I found it quite shady.
Staying in Étretat
I stayed at the Hotel d’Angleterre in Étretat last summer, and I had a great experience. The rooms were very neat, the wifi was decent, the check-in and check-out process was quite simple. The hotel was close by to the beach area, and the hotel manager was quite friendly too. Overall I had no complaints.
You can access the hotel’s website here and make a booking. The site is in French, but can be translated to English using Google Translate. I paid €69/night for my room in June’16, and I found it to be the most reasonable among all the hotels in Étretat at the time.
What To Do in Étretat
Étretat is a small town, 4km squared, with around 1,500 inhabitants. It is best known for its cliffs which overlook the sea. Most people take a day trip to Étretat, but I decided to spend two nights and one whole day there.
There’s actually not much to do in Étretat. It’s all about the experience. It’s a fabulous place to take a break from the bustle of life, from the movement of the city, or just to experience some calm and serenity, which is often difficult to find in cities. I, for example, spent the entire time there near the beach and the cliffs, just walking around and taking photographs.
My first evening there, I was lucky to witness what I believe has been the most beautiful sunset of my entire life. I climbed up the cliff to the right side of the beach, and at the top I saw the most beautiful setting of a church right in the middle of lush green grass. There were other people walking around too, but it was far from crowded. I felt completely at peace.
My first evening there, I was lucky to witness what I believe has been the most beautiful sunset of my entire life.
My second day there, I started with climbing the other cliff on the left side. It was a beautiful hike, and I witnessed some very breathtaking views of the town from the top. After finishing the hike and getting back to Étretat, I got myself some raspberries and sandwiches from the grocery store and sat by the beach to eat my meal.
I then spent some time walking at the bottom of the cliffs, exploring the caves and different formations. Keep in mind that the tide can rise while you’re walking around, leaving you stranded with no way to get back other than by calling emergency services and having a boat sent your way. Hence, always follow the crowd and when you see people starting to leave/the tide starting to rise, start heading back to the shore immediately.
I got myself some raspberries and sandwiches from the grocery store and sat by the beach to eat my meal.
Unfortunately, by the end of my second day there it started getting very cloudy and started to rain later on in the night. Fortunately, I was leaving the next day for Brussels.
My Étretat Vlog
I think you’ll get a much better understanding of the vibe of the place if you watch the vlog I made about my experience there.
I really hope this post inspires you to take a trip to Étretat if you’re around the area at any point in your life. I can easily say that Étretat is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life, and I will always cherish my experience in the June of 2016 there.
Do leave a comment if you have any questions or thoughts, and I’ll be happy to answer them. You can even email me or send me a message on Facebook.