Le Havre & Etretat – A day trip to the Atlantic coast (France)

Categories: Travel reports, Europe, France

After exploring the beautiful city of Rouen on our own yesterday and today in the early morning, we took part in the 5-hour excursion “Céte d’Albétre, Étretat & Le Havre” in the afternoon via the A-ROSA excursion program, which is offered in the excursion program for 59 EUR per person.


Le Havre – the city ensemble as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

From Rouen we took the bus to Le Havre, about 90 kilometres away. Le Havre is the largest city in Normandy with 190,000 inhabitants and is located right at the mouth of the Seine into the English Channel.

Le Havre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005 – the only urban ensemble of the 20th century in Europe. The city was badly destroyed during the Second World War and then rebuilt according to the plans of the architect Auguste Perret with a team of 60 architects. The cityscape is characterized by clean lines, a lot of space, light-flooded apartments and a lot of concrete, which was offset with color pigments.

The city of Le Havre has not been particularly beautiful or inviting to us. It all had something of a “cool Eastern Bloc charm.” And we really wondered how such a city can be a World Heritage Site? But apparently the reason was that Le Havre was one of the rare classified contemporary city ensembles in the world, and the reconstruction of the city was an urban, architectural and social feat. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore the city on our own. We passed Place General de Gaulle by bus only quickly, then on to the container installation of Vincent Ganivet on the historic waterfront road to the Catholic parish church of St. Joseph. Here we had 10 minutes for a few photos in drizzle, but unfortunately we couldn’t get into the church because a funeral has just taken place here. The church, completed in 1956, is very exceptional because it was built of concrete and forms a 107-metre-high concrete tower in the interior, illuminated by thousands of glass blocks.

From here we took the bus further along the coastal road, where we saw countless colourful beach huts. A really ingenious photo motif. Again, we would have liked to have taken a short photo, but unfortunately our bus did not stop here. Instead, we made a 5-minute stop at the “Boite aux Lettres Rouge du Havre”, from where you had a moderate view over the city.

Unfortunately, we did not like the visit to Le Havre. We would have liked to have had more time to walk alone through the streets. One or two bus stops more would have been nice. What a pity!

After we had left Le Havre, we continued towards the town of Tretat, which is about 25 kilometres from Le Havre.

The seaside resort of Etretat on the Atlantic coast

Etretat is a small seaside resort with only about 1,400 inhabitants on the so-called alabaster coast (French: The Cote d’Albétre). On the coast there are numerous chalk cliffs, the most famous of which are located on the cliffs of Etretat. The chalk cliffs, which are up to 100 metres high, frame the place on both sides and form a unique backdrop that makes it one of the most important landscapes in France.

Due to the small space in the center of étretat, our bus had to park slightly outside. From here we reached the city centre within a 7 minute walk. With our tour group and tour guide we went first directly to the beach. On the way there, our tour guide explained some things to us before we disbanded as a group and agreed a time for the departure.

Things to know about Étretat

For us, the place of the town of Tretat has given us the impression of a total tourist destination. Everywhere you will find hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops as well as leisure and sports activities, which are completely geared towards tourism.

There are no real sights in this small town. On the way to the beach we walked past an old market hall made of wood. In addition to regional products such as cider, calvados and camembert, you can also buy art objects and souvenirs.

Near the market hall is the oldest building in the village, the Manoir de la Salamandre. Originally, the building stood in the village of Lisieuxm, 80 kilometres away, where it was dismantled and rebuilt in étretat with some altered elements.

The seafront promenade

The beach promenade, which is supposed to serve as a kind of dam between the beach and the village, leads from one end of the steep cliffs to the other and has expired in a few minutes. On the promenade there are cafés, an apartment house and souvenir shops. From the promenade, wooden stairs descend from the sandy pebble beach, where you can also find white beach huts.

Unfortunately, the weather was not the best – the drizzle was our faithful companion. How nice a walk would have been here if the sun had been shining.

The rocky path on the cliff coast

Since we had enough time to meet again with our tour group, we wanted to hike on the rocks on the left hand of the beach. The top point is directly from the beach promenade via a well-kept staircase. Even if the ascent was short, it was still a bit exhausting 😉 But the effort was worth it, because from above we had a beautiful view of the village of Etretat with its beach, the rock pin Aiguille and the large gate Manneporte.

Back on the beach we were able to walk due to the low tide to a exposed shoreline at the edge of the beach close to the cliffs. Here we found overgrown remains of former oyster crops with green algae, but this was only operated for a few years.

A short time later, however, our attention was elsewhere. We had seen a large black hole in the rock face (“Trou l’homme”) into which many people went. So we became curious and ran to the black hole. An iron ladder was used to climb into a cave, through which an unlit path led. The end of the path was the beach on the other side of the rock, from which one had a beautiful view of the Manneporte. We had seen many signs in front of the cave, but also warning signs that one should definitely look at the tide times. Because it has already happened that visitors were trapped in the cave due to the flood and could only be saved by the fire brigade or had to endure six hours until the next ebb.

The rock formation “Porte d’Aval and Aiguille”

The scenery that was presented to us here in the town of Tretat was predestined to be viewed from the air. That’s why we unpacked our drone on the beach and sent it into the air. The result is great pictures of étretat, but also of the two rock formations Porte d’Aval and Aiguille.

The natural arch of porte d’Aval, also known as the elephant trunk, was once formed by an underground river and maritime erosion. Right next to it is the 70-metre-high acre acre acre of Aiguille. Both beautiful photo motifs created by nature.

We really liked the scenery in étretat, but everything would have been even nicer if we had also had blue skies and sun here. But since we had really good weather on all other days on the trip, this was also manageable 😉

All travelogues from our Seine River Cruise

Our river cruise with A-ROSA VIVA (offers at A-ROSA) led us for 7 days from the metropolis Paris along the Seine to the highlights of Normandy. Start of the journey is the city of love Paris, further to charming provincial towns like Les Andelys, an impressive cathedral in Caudebec-en-Caux and a trip to Honfleur and Deauville, the port city Rouen with countless half-timbered houses and an impressive light show in the evening, an excursion to Le Havre and Étretat, on the traces of Claude Monet in Vernon until it goes back again to the multicultural metropolis Paris. In between, the Seine winds its way between wide meadows and forests, apple orchards and castles.

Seine Cruise with A-ROSA

1. Day Seine River Cruise with A-ROSA VIVA (France)
1. Day Paris – Photo spots for the Eiffel Tower & the Louvre (France)
2. Day Les Andelys, Chateau Gaillard & Castle of Vascoeuil (France)
3. Day Caudebec-en-Caux – Tourist Attractions & Photo spots (France)
3. Day Honfleur & Deauville – A day trip to Calvados (France)
4. Day Rouen – Medieval alleys & half-timbered houses (France)
5. Day Le Havre & Etretat – A day trip to the Atlantic coast (France)
6. Day Vernon & the Gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny (France)
7. Day Paris – Tourist Attractions, Things to do & Photo spots (France)