The white chalk cliffs and natural arches of Etretat are stunning and without a doubt the most impressive landscape I have found in Normandy. Unfortunately, a day trip from Paris to Etretat, although feasible, is a long stretch. Whether you drive or go from Paris to Etretat by train, you’d spend longer in transit than enjoying the views and it will be quite tiring. If you only have one day, I suggest
If you only have one day, I suggest booking a tour* so you can relax during the three-hour drive. Spending a week end in Etretat to see the cliffs and visit some other places in Normandy is a fantastic idea. I grew up near Paris and went to uni in Normandy. I loved exploring this region and now that I live far away, I wish I did it even more. Here are my tips to organise your trip:
From Paris to Etretat if you rent a car
Paris – Etretat Day Trip by car
It takes 2.5 hours to drive from Paris to Etretat when there is no traffic. And it’s unlikely that you don’t get stuck in traffic. It’s a good idea to break the drive with a detour in Rouen, a lovely historic town that will only increase your driving time by 15 minutes. You’ll only need a short walk in the town centre to be amazed by the ancient architecture.
The drive from Rouen to Etretat crosses the lovely countryside and beautiful roads of Normandy for a bit more than one hour. Parking in Etretat can be challenging during the high season (a sunny weekend or summer time), but you forget the pain as soon as you get a glimpse at the magnificent cliffs. I had often heard about them on TV and from famous French artists – such as Monnet and Courbet, who painted the landscape of Etretat or Maupassant, who wrote about it. Hence, finally getting to see it for real was special.
The dramatic coastline spreads for several kilometres. The Normandy weather does not have the best reputation, and it was threatening when I visited Etretat. So I chose only to have a look from the beach and climb the cliffs to the spectacular lookouts, but I did not go further. On a beautiful day, there are several short walks to explore the top of the cliffs.
Etretat is a popular tourist destination, and the little town is also worth a look at.
Driving back to Paris at the end of the day might be your only option. But if you can stay one night in Normandy, you won’t regret it.
Paris – Etretat Week End Trip by car
A drive to Etretat is an opportunity to make a road trip in Normandy.
You’ll have time the next day to make a short detour to Honfleur and Deauville, two charming resort towns. Lisieux isn’t too far if you want to check out the second most important pilgrimage site in France. If you still have time on your way back to Paris, the Chateau Gaillard and Giverny are great spots to visit.
You may also choose to carry on further along the coast to check out the D-Day Landing Beaches on your second day. It’s a two-hour drive from Etretat and then three hours to go back to Paris. Caen has a very interesting museum on the way and Bayeux is worth a look for its UNESCO-listed tapestry.
From Paris to Etretat by train
Paris – Etretat Day Trip by train
There is no direct way to go from Paris to Etretat by train. You can check the quickest and cheapest itinerary for the day when you want to travel on this website.
For just over 20 euros, you can catch a train from Paris to Breaute and then a bus to Etretat. If it all goes smoothly, it won’t take you longer than driving from Paris to Etretat and you’ll arrive just before lunchtime (11.30 am). The bus back to Breaute to catch the train back to Paris leaves Etretat at 6.40 pm, so you’ll have a short afternoon to see the cliffs and the town.
You’ll be back in Paris at 9.40 pm so it’s really a long day. But as trains are comfortable in France and you’ll avoid traffic near Paris, it could be a better option than driving there. There is an earlier bus that leaves at 4.25 pm to be back in Paris just after 7 pm, but you’d spend more time on the train than in Etretat so I wouldn’t recommend it. If you can spend a couple of days in the area, you’ll enjoy your trip a lot more.
Paris – Etretat Week End Trip by train
If you want to spend more time in the area, Fecamp is only a short bus trip away from Etretat (40 minutes). You can go back to Paris from Fecamp the same way you’d do it from Etretat: catch a bus to Breaute and then a train to Paris.
Unfortunately, the bus connexions from Etretat to other cities in Normandy aren’t very good. You’ll have to transit to Le Havre and wait, which often ends up in taking more than three hours to reach a town that’s only 45 kilometres away…
Alternatively, from Breaute (where the bus takes you to catch a train back to Paris), you could choose to catch a train to Rouen instead and visit the charming historical town. The train liaison between Rouen and Paris is very good with many direct trains during the day.
Map of these places for a Paris – Etretat trip:
Have you visited Etretat? How did you go there? Share your experience in the comments below!
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Eloise lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures. Eloise is originally from France and, before moving to Brisbane, she lived in Sydney, Istanbul and England.