garden art travel visit

Les Jardins d’Étretat

Views of the coastline were part of the attraction of the garden.

We’ve been to France about a dozen times over the years, but we’d never been to Normandy. We knew we wanted to see the Normandy D-Day beaches, and we wanted to see some of the historic sites in that part of France. After two years of limited travel during Covid, this was our first trip abroad together. (Leslie has dinner in Europe once a week with her job!).

Once we decided that Normandy was going to be our first trip after Covid, we started looking at things to do while we were there and of course one of the first things I look at is what gardens are available for us to tour. We’ve been to Monet’s Giverny previously – we were going to try and do it again – and we did. More on that in a future post.

I started looking at gardens to visit. There’s not tons of gardens in this part of France to visit, large ones anyway. One that stood out is the Les Jardins d’ Étretat, in Étretat, Normandy. I’ve seen photos of parts of this garden before and I didn’t realize it was a garden in France. I thought, because of these large faces, it was a garden in Asia!

Étretat is the bold circle. We stayed 2 hours away in the middle circle, near the D-Day beaches. We also visited Mont Saint Michel on this visit, the circle on the left.

We stayed in a town called Crépon in the central part of northern France, right on the coast, very near the D-Day beaches. A Étretat was about a two-hour drive from where we stayed, so it was going to be an all-day trip. The only problem we had during the entire trip was a gas refinery strike in France – we weren’t sure where we were going to be getting gas since only about one-third of gas stations had no gas. It was nerve wracking taking a day trip – not knowing if we’d have gas to get back to our hotel in Crépon.

This was a fascinating garden – there were no flowers! The garden was all arborvitae, shrubs, and boxwoods, and it was all green! The gardens are on a hillside, a pretty steep hillside. There are seven distinct parts of the garden, each with a defining artwork. There’s a cool interactive map here of the garden’s sections.

I’ve never been in a garden like this. It’s not your run-of-the-mill botanical garden. It had more the presence of a curated outdoor garden art gallery. It had many creative touches and artworks throughout. It took two hours to wander through. It’s not that big of a garden, but every time you rounded a corner you got a different view of the gardens, the art, or the spectacular coastline below.

The Normandy white-cliffed coast near Étretat looks at first like England’s cliffs of Dover, except even more beautiful! After we toured the gardens we went for a hike along the cliffs. Hiking trails start just outside the garden gates and go for dozens of miles in both directions. The cliff formations of arches and rock outcroppings were spectacular. The views were stunning.

The garden and property was owned by a French actress, Madame Thébault, a friend of Claude Monet. Monet painted many scenes in and around the cliffs of Étretat, including many from the site of this garden. Thébault created her gardens inspired by Monet’s work. In 2017 The gardens were “re-conceived” by landscape architect Alexandre Grivko incorporating some aspects of Thébault’s gardens but adding plant “sculptures” evocative of the Normandy coast with a collection of contemporary art from around the globe.

Claude Monet spent much time in Étretat painting the cliffs. Some from the site of the garden itself!

You cannot drive to the gardens. You have to park in the town below and take a tram up. We were there when the tram wasn’t running – matter of fact there was only about five other people in the gardens when we were there. We parked in the train station lot below and did the 10-minute walk up to the gardens. You could easily park in the town and climb stairs to get to the gardens too. It is a climb though!

Tickets were only €12 (a great value about $12!). There was a small gift shop, and a cute little caravan for lunch, snacks, and refreshments. It may be the first garden we’ve ever been to that was awarded a Green Guide Michelin Star!

Don’t miss these other great gardens to visit!

Jim Charlier is an advertising designer/photographer/crafter with a serious gardening problem. He's co-written a garden design book featuring the funky, quirky and fun gardens by the gardeners of Buffalo titled "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" (; he writes a long-standing garden blog (; led the largest garden tour in America, Garden Walk Buffalo; has written for, or provided photography for dozens of magazines and books; has made presentations and participated in panel discussions on garden design and garden tourism nationally and internationally.

4 comments on “Les Jardins d’Étretat

  1. connie661

    These images look like something out of a child’s storybook. Very cool! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love those large faces embedded into the garden. It makes you think that is what is missing from other gardens. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Helen Battersby

    Wowowowowow! A new entry on my bucket list, for sure! And my husband has a family history connection to Normandy! Double win. Thanks, Jim.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been following this garden on Instagram for a while and am dying to see it. I so enjoyed your tour. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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