Mont-Saint-Michel is a basically a gorgeous 12th century abbey and a village (where a bit less than 50 people live) standing on a tiny little island. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful and magical place in all of France. As a matter of fact, this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most visited destinations in France! Follow us while we explore this teensy island standing in Normandy on the border with Brittany, and be ready to get back in time. You won’t be able to get enough of the views offered by the Mont Saint-Michel and its thousand years of history.
We’ll also give you some tips (how to get there, what to see, where to stay,…) to enjoy as best as possible your visit to one of the most impressive and beautiful island in the world, one of the treasures of France.
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Quick facts about Mont Saint-Michel
The island of Mont Saint-Michel has been inhabited for a very long time, even before the monastery was built over 1000 years ago.
In the 12th century, the Mont Saint-Michel was a popular place of pilgrimage, but also of knowledge. From all over Europe, artists and scholars went to the Mont to work and be inspired. Much of this works have been preserved by the monks on the island.
But did you know that the Mont Saint-Michel was also used as a jail during the French Revolution (and until the late 18th century)? There sure was no way to escape this tidal island at the time…
What to see on the Mont Saint Michel
First, remember to lose yourself in the intricate architecture of the Mont St Michel
You don’t necessarily need a map to visit the Mont Saint-Michel, but you might get yourself a little bit lost, or unable to reach the place you want to reach. Why not grab a visitors map at the Office du Tourisme right when you arrive? The road going from the bottom to the abbey at the top is sinuous and crosses other paths, and you’ll be tempted to see them all (as should you).
Note that you’re going to be climbing and going down stairs and steep cobblestoned paths pretty much all the time, so be ready!
Mont Saint Michel Abbey (Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel)
The main feature of the island, the abbey, is a sight to behold. From afar, and from inside as well. It’s a breathtaking monument, with magical corridors, surprising architecture and impressive views. It’s a enchanting construction in the Gothic style where you can easily lose yourself for hours. Take plenty of time.
-We visited the abbey at the end of the day, while the lights show was on during high-season. Since it was the end of the day it was pretty free of crowd and we really enjoyed to have the place to ourselves!
-It’s best to take an audioguide (3€), so you can learn everything there is to learn about the history and architecture of the place.
Here’s a link to buy your 10€ ticket ahead of time on GetYourGuide or TripAdvisor.
Saint Pierre Parish Church (église paroissiale Saint-Pierre)
You’ll find the church of Saint-Pierre on the Grande Rue, halfway up to the Abbey. The small and quiet church is surrounded by a cemetery (where you’d find the tomb of La Mère Poulard). Don’t miss the beautiful details of the church and the Saint-Michel statue.
Chapel Saint-Aubert (la chapelle Saint-Aubert)
Even smaller and quieter than the church of Saint-Pierre, the chapel Saint-Aubert is also harder to find. Don’t miss the beautiful paintings and the precious altar.
La Grande Rue
Walking through the Grande Rue is sure to send you to a fairytale time. Full of tiny little shops and cafés, the main street of Mont-Saint-Michel is the embodiment of the adorable village of the stories you were told as a child. It can be pretty crowded (and therefore uncomfortable) with tourists, so the best time to stroll around would be the end of the day, when the island is getting empty of visitors and the shops are closing.
The gates of the Mont Saint Michel
The gates of the Mont Saint-Michel are a sight to behold. Watch out and observe the beauty of the archway of the Porte du Boulevard, the grandiose arch-tunnel with a portcullis that is the Porte du Roy, and the pretty stone brick door of the Porte de l’Avancée.
One of the best way to enjoy the views offered by the Mont Saint-Michel is to walk along the ramparts of the abbey, from Porte Échauguette and to stop by the Terrasse de l’Ouest panorama to appreciate the breathtaking view.
Accessing the tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel
There is now a bridge connecting mainland to the island, which is the safest and most recommended way to reach the Mont Saint-Michel by feet.
As it’s a tidal island, it is accessible on foot at low tide. But even then, it’s not entirely safe, especially if you’re by yourself and have no knowledge of the place. You would have to know the tides schedule, but tidal surges are unpredictable. And with the quicksands… It is possible to reach the island by feet accompanied by a guide, and that’s what I’d recommend to do if you really insist on not taking the safest and most practical option: the free train going from the car park, followed by walking along the bridge.
Our visit to Mont St Michel
As a French, I have been to Mont Saint-Michel when I was a child, and it was a fairytale – or fantasy – dream come true! This magical place (Hogwarts, much?) filled with little shops selling witch postcards and dragons miniatures, these walls oozing with history. I would have never left! At that time, tourists could still drive to the Mont Saint-Michel with their car, but it’s not the case anymore. So this time we left the van in the car park, and took the little train that brings you to the bridge going to the Mont. Already from the train, the view of Mont Saint-Michel from a distance was striking! And it only gets better.
Day trip to Mont Saint Michel from Paris (if you’re short on time)
There are several ways to go to the Mont Saint Michel from Paris.
- Rent a car and drive from Paris to the Mont St Michel. It takes around 4 hours and then you’ll have to leave the car on the car park and either walk or, best solution, take the free train that takes you to the bridge. | Check out prices for a car rental in Paris
- Book an organized coach day tour that will take you from Paris to the Mont Saint Michel. Everything will be organized for your visit, including the entrance ticket to the abbey, a guide for the tour and an audioguide for the abbey. | Check out on GetYourGuide this one from the Trocadéro and this one on TripAdvisor with lunch and drinks included .
- Take the train + bus: You can take a TGV (fast train) from Paris to Rennes which takes around 2h, then hop one of the 4 buses a day going from the Rennes train station to the Mont Saint Michel, which takes around 1h20. You can get more info here if you’re outside Europe, or here if you’re in Europe.
Saint-Malo – Mont Saint Michel
- You can easily drive from Saint-Malo to Mont St Michel (this is what we did). It only takes an hour, and then you leave your car at the car park of the Mont and take the free small train from the car park to the bridge that goes to the island.
- You can book an organized day tour from Saint Malo to Mont Saint Michel, with everything organized for your visit. For more info, visit the tourism board in Saint-Malo on the Esplanade Saint-Vincent.
- You can take the Keolis bus going from Saint Malo to Mont Saint Michel, but note that it only barely runs between October and March. Between April and September it runs everyday (except it only runs on Sundays in July and August) with a half day or full day offer. You buy your roundtrip ticket on the bus (23€ per adult, 12€ under 12 yo) with cash (no credit card). Check here for more info.
Where to stay around the Mont Saint Michel?
Best Mont St Michel accommodations
To have the best time at the Mont Saint-Michel, it’s best to sleep at least one night around, instead of going back to Paris, for example (even though it is totally possible to make it a day trip).
Mont St Michel hotels on the island
If you can afford it (it’s not going to be cheap!), spending the night on the Mont Saint-Michel is the ultimate experience. Can you imagine stepping into the shoes of the locals for 24 hours and live at the rhythm of this magical place? Spending a quiet evening on the Mont Saint Michel, listening to the sounds dying down with the night, seeing the stars and the moon shine on the abbey, sunrise on the Mont, hearing the bells or even maybe hearing the monks’ choir, seeing people getting ready to go to work, strolling around before the rest of the tourists arrive, experiencing the place by high and low tide… How dreamy would that be?!
From most to least expensive:
Les Terraces Poulard: Views to die for & great for couples | Check prices | Check reviews on TripAdvisor
La Mère Poulard: Locations couldn’t be better, also great for couples | Check prices | Check reviews on TripAdvisor
Le Mouton Blanc: The hotel has 3 buildings at the foot of the abbey, either with views on the Mont or with medieval-style rooms | Check prices | Check reviews on TripAdvisor
Auberge Saint Pierre: Cute hotel in a half timbered house | Check prices | Check reviews on TripAdvisor
Hôtel La Croix Blanche: Affordable and comfy hotel in the village | Check prices | Check reviews on TripAdvisor
La Vieille Auberge: Affordable rooms in two different buildings in the center of the island, with amazing views | Check prices | Check reviews on TripAdvisor
Accommodations outside the island
Otherwise, it’s perfectly practical to either spend a night in one of the villages close to the Mont (there are tons of little hotels, guesthouses and campings around), or to choose a home base in Saint-Malo (that’s what we did, we went from Saint-Malo to the Mont Saint-Michel) or in Rennes – both around one hour away.
When to visit the Mont Saint Michel
What’s the best time of year to visit Mont Saint Michel?
Of course, anytime outside of high-season (July and August) would be best to avoid the crowds. The Mont Saint Michel is positively packed with tourists in the months of summer, and it can be a little overwhelming. So try to go visit Mont Saint Michel off-season.
What’s the best time of the day to visit Mont Saint Michel ?
Try to get there early in the day…
However, visiting the Mont during peak season can be totally manageable if you go early in the morning or in the evening. We’re notoriously not early risers (well, I am not) so we haven’t been in the morning, but it’s guaranteed to be the perfect time to get amazing views of the Mont Saint Michel under the gorgeous morning light. Going in the early morning will also let you have plenty of time to visit the abbey free from the crowds and to go around.
…or pretty late
As we came from Saint-Malo and didn’t want to wake up at dawn, we decided to go visit the Mont Saint Michel in the late afternoon. The light was glorious too, and the island was not crowded at all, and got less and less so. We took our time to go around as we knew we’d miss the regular opening hours of the abbey.
However we also knew that there was a lights show going on in the abbey at night, and that was our goal! As we went at the opening of the night show, there was still light outside and we had the chance to visit as any other visitors, and also get some pretty lights show which gave the abbey a very interesting atmosphere. Was it breathtaking? Absolutely. So do try and catch that show if it’s on when you’re visiting, it’s worth it!
How long does it take to visit the Mont Saint Michel?
Mont Saint Michel is such a magical and gorgeous place, I strongly recommend you give yourself plenty of time to see everything there is to see, from the abbey to the little streets of the village. If you can spend at least half a day at the Mont, you’d have seen most of it and will have great memories of that trip. I would recommend at least a minimum of 4 hours to visit the abbey and have a good walk around the island, with probably a few short breaks to rest from walking and climbing stairs all the time!
What to wear when visiting the Mont Saint-Michel?
- Good walking shoes to bear the considerable amount of climbing up and down you’re going to have to go through. I love these Asics and Puma sneakers: comfy, practical, and great to walk for hours!
- A fleece jacket or at least a windbreaker jacket. Whenever you’re visiting, due to its situation the Mont can be pretty windy. It’s good to be prepared and have something to wear to not get cold. Check out this cute Superdry windcheater (male model here) and this classical Columbia windbreaker (male model here).
- A scarf for the same reason if you tend to get a sore throat easily like me. Here are my absolute favorite cheap ones from Asos (I’m a huge scarf addict, sue me!!): Geometric Fringe Scarf | Fab Lilac Thick Scarf | Grey & Light Blue Warehouse Scarf | Huge Monki Red and Black Check Knitted Scarf | Adorable Vero Moda Color Block Pink & Yellow Scarf
- A day backpack to bring your lunch (it can be pretty expensive and hardly vegan to eat on the island), your personal items and keep your jacket from getting lost if you don’t need to wear it: The classical Fjallraven Kanken Backpack (can I have it in every colors?!) and the Herschel Supply Co. Little America are the perfect cute bags for a day trip, a cheaper option would be the Herschel Supply Co. Daypack, otherwise Patagonia is always a great and comfy choice for travel days bags.
- Comfortable pants for all the climbing and walking: your fav jeans or leggings will do.
- Your camera and plenty of space on your SD cards! All these pictures have been taken with our beloved Sony A600.