If there’s one place you should have seen when traveling the North of France, it’s without a doubt the Mont Saint-Michel! This stunning landmark leaves you in awe because of its majestic architecture, cute cobblestone streets, and wood-timbered houses. The abbey on top is just as spectacular and gives you also a breathtaking (but windy) view of the surrounding region.
Whether you’re coming to take wonderful pictures or to learn more about the rich history of Mont Saint-Michel, there’s something for everyone! In this post, I hope to give you the most accurate information to plan your trip to Mont Saint-Michel!
Let’s get into it!
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History of the Mont Saint-Michel
The Mont Saint-Michel only became known as such in the 8th century when an oratory was built after bishop St. Aubert had a vision of archangel St. Michael. Before that, the island was known as Mont-Tombe. The place became a pilgrimage destination and a few centuries later an abbey was built. The fortified island resisted many wars, among others the Hundred Year’s War between France and England.
However, after the French Revolution, the abbey was closed and the island was used as a prison instead. In the second half of the 19th century, it eventually became a historical site and the abbey was restored. These days, the abbey is not only open to the public but also again inhabited. In total, 40ish people live on the island, while it gets over 3.5 million visitors each year!
Things to do in Mont Saint-Michel
Visit the abbey
The highlight of visiting Mont Saint-Michel is without a doubt the magnificent abbey. With either a guide or an audio guide you can get a tour of the abbey to get to know more about its history and structure. Personally, I think a visit is well worth it! If not for the visit, then definitely for the view!
Time slots are limited so make sure to book your visit a day beforehand online. This way, you are certain about your spot and you can skip the line when entering. If you haven’t booked beforehand, you’ll likely queue for quite some time and the abbey might be full.
According to 2022 prices, an adult ticket costs €11 and an audioguide €3. If you’re an EU citizen under 25 years old, you’re lucky! Because that means you can enter for free! When booking a time slot, please take into account that it’s a 45-minute walk from the parking lot.
Wander the cobblestone streets
It’s definitely worth it to take some time to explore the small streets, souvenir shops, and historical elements of the city. I recommend going all the way up to enjoy the view and to not only stroll through the main street but also visit the fortified walls with their towers.
Admire the St. Peter’s church
Besides the abbey, there’s also a tiny church on the island. Although small, the space is magnificently decorated and this is the ideal place to light a candle for your loved ones. Have a seat and take the time to let it all sink in!
Walk around the island
If it’s low tide, you can actually walk around the island and I do recommend so because otherwise, you would be missing out on some gems! But don’t do this without proper shoes. Besides sand, it can get quite muddy so I do recommend wearing hiking boots.
Make your way to Chapelle Saint-Aubert
Chapelle Saint-Aubert is one of the places you would miss out on if you wouldn’t walk around the island. Therefore, most of the tourists don’t even come here!
The little chapel is located on the back side of the island and only accessible through stairs that start in the rocks below. To get there, you’ll have to conquer some sand and water, only to discover that the chapel isn’t open to the public.
You can, however, go up the stairs to admire it from the outside. I must admit that the pictures don’t look bad either!
Visit one of the other museums
If you like history, there’s more to discover than just the abbey. The island namely counts three other museums as well! Although I would recommend to first see the abbey, which is the heart of the Mont Saint-Michel, these museums are nice alternatives if you have some time left.
- MUSÉE HISTORIQUE
- MUSÉE DE LA MER ET DE L’ECOLOGIE
Hike in the region
If you feel like doing something more sporty, then you’ll definitely find a nice hike in the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel. Many GR routes namely pass by the Mont Saint-Michel of which you can hike a piece. The fields with grazing sheep are also the perfect scenery for a nice walk!
Best time to visit the Mont Saint-Michel
The best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is definitely outside the peak season, namely the months of July and August. This is also the case if you want to avoid climbing all those stairs in the burning sun!
Thus, go for late spring or early fall, when the weather is still pleasant and days are still long enough so you can walk your way back and forth to the island. It also helps to visit on a weekday instead of a weekend or holiday. When visiting in other periods of the year you run the risk of having lots of cold wind and rain.
High tide & low tide
You also want to consider the tides when you visit Mont Saint-Michel. Make sure to check the tides forecast beforehand.
The highest tides will occur when there’s a full moon or new moon coming. Then you’ll witness the island being isolated from the mainland. Luckily, because of the bridge, you can still visit Mont Saint-Michel, even during high tide.
Low tide can be a great moment to explore the surroundings of Mont Saint-Michel and walk around the rock. But keep an eye on the time because the water can come up quickly. If you decide to take a walk at low tide bring decent shoes with you!
How to get to the Mont Saint-Michel
Going to the Mont Saint-Michel by car is quite straightforward. Make sure to put your navigation on the tourist information center near Mont Saint-Michel. 5 minutes before you arrive you’ll see car park indications, make sure to follow the sign for cars and not buses!
Parking is paid and costs you €15 for a day. There’s no alternative to this except for the night tariff which is slightly less. You can pay for the parking at one of the parking meters at the tourist information center.
Take into account that it’s still a 45-minute walk from to parking lot to the Mont Saint-Michel over the pedestrian bridge! Alternatively, you can get on one of the free shuttle buses for which you’ll have to queue a bit.
By public transport
There’s a bus station at the tourist information center where you can arrive by bus. Flixbus is probably the most convenient option to get there as they have direct connections from Paris and other places. BlaBlaCar is another bus provider that offers connections.
When arriving by bus, you’ll also need to walk 45-minutes up to the Mont Saint-Michel or take a shuttle bus.
Hotels at Mont Saint-Michel
Believe it or not but there are actually quite some hotels at the Mont Saint-Michel! This means that you can stay the night on the island and explore the town by dawn and dusk when all day tourists are gone. I don’t think it can get any more romantic!
When you’re looking for a hotel on the island then Auberge Saint Pierre will be the best choice! This hotel is the highest rated and absolutely cutest hotel on the island!
Since Mont Saint-Michel is located on the coast, many seagulls can be found here. Unfortunately, they can be very aggressive! To give you an example: my boyfriend’s lunch was stolen almost from his hands… So beware!
Bring your own lunch
Because Mont Saint-Michel is a very touristy destination, hotels and restaurants cost significantly more than on the mainland. Therefore, if you’d like to save some money it’s recommended to take your own lunch with you and sleep outside the island.
I hope these tips will help you to have a marvelous time at the Mont Saint-Michel! The island is simply a bucket list destination so I’m sure you’ll like it as well! If you have any other suggestions or questions, feel free to comment below ;).