Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
Visit Mont Saint Michel – The Wonder of the Western World
France is filled with history, art, amazing cities, and quirky little towns that mingle the past with the present. It also has stunning sites like Mont Saint-Michel, a tidal island just 1km off France’s north-western coast in the Normandy region of France.
The island is tiny and hosts an abbey built in the Gothic style dedicated to the archangel Saint-Michel. The island is home to less than a hundred people but has been an important pilgrimage site since Medieval times.
Visiting Mont Saint-Michel is one of the best things to do in France. One of the most famous French landmarks, Mont Saint-Michel was inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 because of its unique appearance and importance to the history of Christianity.
So, if you’re looking for some unique experiences while you’re in France, here’s a quick Mont Saint-Michel guide with the list of the best things to do in Mont Saint-Michel, how to get there, and our top tips.
Table of Contents:
- Best Time to Visit Mont Saint-Michel, France
- Best Hotels in and around Mont Saint-Michel
- How to Get to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris
- How to Get to Mont Saint-Michel from Bayeux
- What to Do in Mont Saint-Michel
Best Time to Visit Mont Saint Michel, France
Mont Saint-Michel is open to visitors all year round. The island is busiest in the summer, which is in July and August. This is when you’ll enjoy longer days, better weather, and amazing light for taking pictures of the famous Mont Saint Michel abbey.
However, if you’d prefer to explore the monument without the crowds and the serenity that such a sacred place deserves, then the best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is in the low season, from November to March. Just be aware that the weather is less predictable at this time of year, with shorter days, and everything closes at 5 pm, giving you less time to explore.
Plan your Mont Saint Michel Visit with the Tides in Mind
The area is known for its high tides, which make the abbey inaccessible for some hours and give Mont Saint-Michel a picturesque setting as if it was floating above the water. For a unique trip to Mont Saint-Michel, plan your visit during the highest tides for the most spectacular view of the island and the Mont Saint-Michel abbey – Click here to view the tides calendar around Mont Saint Michel.
Best Hotels in and around Mont Saint-Michel
To really enjoy the magical views and atmosphere that Mont Saint-Michel is famous for, you should stay at least one night on-site. This is a particularly good idea if you’re taking a trip from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel, as it’s a four-hour trip one way from the famous capital and you won’t see much on a day trip.
Staying overnight will also allow you to see the island and Mont Saint Michel Bay, with the highest tides of that day, a truly spectacular and iconic sight. There are several atmospheric hotels in Mont Saint-Michel for you to choose from, and those within the walls are full of history.
How to Get to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris
Getting to Mont Saint Michel is fairly simple, which is why it’s a popular stop on road trips around Normandy. If you choose to visit Mont Saint-Michel as part of a road trip, then make sure you arrive early in the morning, so you can explore the site without the crowds.
You can also take public transportation or a Mont Saint-Michel tour, but just be aware that you’ll arrive at the same time as the crowds!
1. Mont Saint-Michel By Car
Traveling by car is the easiest way to visit Mont Saint-Michel. The Mont Saint-Michel route is just four hours or 358.6 km from the French capital along some of the region’s major roads.
The fastest Mont Saint-Michel route is via A13, then A84 highways, and it takes 4 hrs. All the routes to Mont-Saint-Michel have tolls.
If you arrive by car, there is a dedicated car park along the Mont Saint-Michel road, 2.5 km away from the island, to preserve the maritime beauty of the place. Once your car is parked, you must walk to the Place des Navettes and board the free shuttle to the island. Place des Navettes is 800m from the car park, and the shuttles stop 450m away from the island itself, so there is a fair bit of walking involved too. The shuttles operate every day from 7:30 am to midnight.
TIP: this beautiful road trip in Britany ends in Mont Saint-Michel!
2. Mont Saint-Michel By Train
You can also travel from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel Normandy by train. The trains are fast and affordable, but you may need to make several transfers along the way.
Take an early TGV from Paris’ Gare Montparnasse to Rennes. From Rennes, Keolis buses travel to Mont Saint-Michel up to four times a day (follow the signs “Exit North” and “Bus Station”).
Once you arrive at the edge of the mainland, you can either take the shuttle or walk across the 900 meters long causeway (Pont Passerelle) that connects the mainland to the island. The shuttle will cost you €2 shuttle one way.
3. Mont Saint-Michel By Guided Day Tour
Taking a day tour is one of the easiest ways to travel to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris. Guided tours like this top-rated Mont Saint-Michel day trip from Paris (14 hours) will make your travel quick, easy, and hassle-free.
TIP: Discover two of the most beautiful places to visit in France with this 2-day guided tour of Mont Saint-Michel + Castles of the Loire Valley
4. Paris – Mont Saint-Michel by Bike (Veloscénie)
If you love exploring the world on two wheels and have the time, consider taking the Véloscénie, the 450 km cycle route from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel. The route is well signed-posted and for all levels of cyclists. On the way, expect to see beautiful places (Versailles, Rambouillet, Chartres, …) combined with gourmet stops.
How to Get to Mont Saint Michel from Bayeux
1. Mont Saint-Michel By Car
Mont Saint-Michel is around 1.5 hrs or 114.8km from Bayeux, making this an easy day trip. This Mont Saint-Michel route is straightforward as well. Take the A84/E401 toll autoroute and continue towards Mont Saint-Michel on the N175/E401 national highway.
If you don’t have a car, click here to rent one in Bayeux.
If you arrive by car, there is a dedicated car park on the mainland, 2.5 km away from the island, to preserve the maritime beauty of the place. Once the car is parked, you must walk to the Place des Navettes and board the free shuttle to the island. Place des Navettes is 800m from the car park, and the shuttles stop 450m away from the island itself, so there is a fair bit of walking involved too. The shuttles operate every day from 7:30 am to midnight.
2. Mont Saint-Michel By Train + Shuttle Bus
If you want to visit Mont Saint-Michel from Bayeux by train, you must combine the train and a shuttle bus to reach your destination.
There’s a regional TER train from Bayeux to Pontorson, which leaves every three hours, and it takes 2.5 hrs. From Pontorson, a shuttle bus (Nav – Navette Pontorson to Le Mont) will take you to Mont Saint-Michel in about 20 minutes. The shuttle bus departs three times a day.
3. Mont Saint-Michel By Guided Day Tour
If you want to travel easily and hassle-free, take a tour with a knowledgeable guide. This full-day guided tour from Bayeux (8 hours) is limited to 8 participants and always gets good reviews.
What to Do in Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy
1. Mont Saint Michel Abbey
The Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most iconic structures in Normandy and France. Soaring 155 meters above the sea, it’s a marvel of Gothic architecture built between the 8th and 16th centuries.
Once an important pilgrimage site, today, the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey boasts a mix of styles and artwork as well as several floors to explore. While inside Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, don’t miss the cloisters and the church for the most remarkable sights and ambiance.
2. Mont Saint-Michel Village and Walls
Mont Saint-Michel is a window into medieval times, from the village’s winding streets to the stone buildings, many of which date back to the 13th to 16th centuries. One of the most beautiful Normandy villages, Mont Saint-Michel is surrounded by ancient walls that kept its inhabitants safe through the Hundred Years’ War and other conflicts.
So when you go inside Mont Saint-Michel, stroll along the Ramparts Pathway, known as the Chemin des Remparts, and take in the views from the observation deck of the North Tower or Tour du Nord. The view of Mont Saint-Michel Bay is particularly good from this tower.
TIP: Book this insightful private walking tour with an enthusiastic guide and explore the area on a custom journey. Learn about its changes throughout time and the most fascinating histories – the better and less known – of Mont Saint Michel.
3. Other Museums of Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint Michel is known mostly for its historical significance, so visiting some museums while you’re there is a must-do. There are four museums on the island, and they are all interesting:
- The Historical Museum of Mont Saint-Michel traces the great epochs of the island
- The Maritime Museum recalls the great project of sand ladders for its bay
- The historical residence of the Knight of Guesclin, one of the colorful characters of the island
- The Archeoscope Museum reveals the mysterious history of Mont Saint-Michel.
TIP: Save time and money with this 3 Museums Entry Pass, which gives quick access to the Historical Museum, the Maritime Museum, and the residence of the Knight of Guesclin
4. Explore the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel (Guided Tour)
To get the most from the island’s ambiance, you must see it from the sea. And what better way than with a guided tour around the bay?
The Tourism Office of Mont Saint-Michel Normandy offers guided tours of the Mont Saint-Michel Bay that can be tailored to your interests. You can wander through the bay’s quicksand, explore the islet of Tombelaine, or take a round trip from the Bec d’Andaine or the Grouin du Sud to Mont Saint-Michel. The guides are local and fully certified by the Préfectures, so you can only expect a fun (and safe) excursion out in the bay.
5. See Mont Saint-Michel from Above
Experience tandem skydiving and fly over the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to admire the Wonder of the Western World from a unique point of view! The departure point is from Val-Saint-Père, 25km northeast of the island, while the drop zone is located by the sea, which allows you to admire the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel from a unique point of view.
If this sounds too scary to you, then try the microlight flight over Saint Michel Bay in Normandy, accelerations that will certainly remind you of a motorbike, except that you are in the air!
6. Take a Night Stroll (Sound & Light Show, Seasonal)
This July and August 2023 only, Mont-Saint-Michel reveals all its secrets with the Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel Night Stroll, a special Millennium-Elevation experience.
Plug into the audio guide for a magical and poetic perspective of Mont-Saint-Michel at the all-new Millennium, Elevation.
Walk around the atmospheric abbey by night; it’s a totally different feeling without the crowds! The visual and audio tours will take you beyond the stone to discover the abbey’s many symbols and the meaning behind them.
The gates open at 19:30, and the last entry is at 23:00. You can take this audio tour whenever you want during this time period – Click here to buy your tickets to the Sound & Light Show
7. Hike through Mont Saint-Michel Bay (GR34)
The hike from Roz-sur-Couesnon to Mont Saint-Michel (13 km, 4 hrs) explores the last section of the famous GR34 coastal hike, also known as Sentier des Douaniers. The hike evolves between polders and herbus (vast spaces covered by the sea with the highest tides), where only halophile plants (plants supporting salt) can grow. It is a beautiful and inspiring itinerary to take at a slow pace, perhaps with some moments of meditation.
8. Enjoy the Local Cuisine
There’s no need to worry about food while visiting Mont Saint-Michel; there are places to eat within the walls for everybody.
Mère Poulard’s fluffy omelet is the most famous dish in Mont Saint-Michel, and it is also supposed to be the best omelet in the world.
La Mère Poulard restaurant has been around since 1888. It is located close to the King’s Gate and in front of the Tourism Office. Book your table well in advance and be ready to pay around 30 € for a traditional (but super famous) omelet.
Another must dish in Mont Saint-Michel is the Lamb (AOP) Prés Salés du Mont-Saint-Michel. These are the lambs that you see eating the salty grass around the island, and they are carefully selected to resist harsh climatic conditions, the risk of getting bogged down, prolonged walking, and halophilic vegetation. The lamb’s meat is tender and has an exquisite, slightly salty taste.
You will find many restaurants serving ‘classic’ lamb in the area, so be sure you eat the real one. To taste the authentic, best lamb of the pré salé (AOP), book a table at Le Pré Salé (Route du Mont Saint-Michel | Bp 8, 50170 Mont-Saint-Michel).
So there you have it, the Mont Saint-Michel guide with everything you need to know to plan your trip to Mont Saint-Michel, France.