The world-renowned island of Mont-Saint-Michel, or Saint Michael’s Mount, is an absolute must-visit when you get to France. The massive abbey and monastery are unbelievably impressive, and there’s more than enough to see and do here for an unforgettable day trip. As you walk through the commune you’ll be surrounded by tons of beauty and history. This guide will tell you everything you need to know in order to have the best time possible in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Brief History About Mont-Saint-Michel
Mont-Saint-Michel was originally called Mont Tombe and founded by an Irish hermit. Legend says Saint Michael the Archangel came to the bishop of Avranches in 708 and told him to build a church on the islet. Its impressive fortifications kept it from being conquered even by the powerful English. The mount officially became part of Normandy in 933 thanks to William Longsword, Normandy’s second ruler. With very few monks in residence by the start of the French Revolution, the famed abbey was converted into a prison. Thanks to influential figures like Victor Hugo, the prison was closed in 1863 and the architectural treasure was named a historic monument in 1874.
How To Get To Mont-Saint-Michel From Paris
Paris is about 225 miles or 362 kilometers from Mont-Saint-Michel, so it’s not going to be a short trip, but it will be worth it. There are a few different ways to get to Mont-Saint-Michel from Paris.
1. On a Guided Tour:
Book a tour with one of the tour companies around Paris. It will be a full-day tour, but it will take the stress out of having to navigate through traffic or a train station. Typically these tours will include a guide who will give you information on the areas you pass through as well as Mont-Saint-Michel itself.
PARISCityVISION offers tours from Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel and they come highly recommended.
2. By Car:
For the most freedom, you can rent a car and do the trip at your own pace. The drive is about four hours, before traffic. There will be a charge for parking, and depending on your route, there may be toll roads.
3. By Public Transportation:
Take the TGV (France’s intercity high-speed rail train) from Gare Montparnasse in Paris to Rennes. The train ride will be about two hours and cost around €56. From Rennes a coach bus runs to Mont-Saint-Michel and takes about an hour and 20 minutes. A one-way coach ticket is around €15.
What To See And Do in Mont-Saint-Michel
The obvious answer is the abbey and monastery. Once you conquer the 350 steps leading to the abbey and monastery and pay the €10 entry fee, the magic begins. This megastructure boasts impressive Gothic and Romanesque architecture, and everything from the great halls to the courtyards feels so regal. Some of the highlights within the complex include the views from the west terrace and the cloisters with double-row pillars. Guided tours are available as well as audio tours and non-guided tours with a guide booklet. The abbey is generally open until 7:00pm in the summer and until 6:00pm during fall, winter, and spring, with the last admission permitted one hour before closing.
While the abbey is what everyone comes to see, there are some other things that are worth your time as well…
1. La Grande Rue
Yes, it’s steep, but Mont-Saint-Michel’s main street is like something out of a fairytale. As you walk up the street you’ll be surrounded by cafes and quaint shops. Keep in mind that the island hosts more than three million tourists annually, so this street can get quite crowded. It’s perfect in the evening or when it’s quiet, so if you can check it out during the low season, you can experience it at its best.
2. La Chapelle-Saint-Aubert
A lovely, hidden gem, this chapel is perfect if you’re looking for some serenity. Inside this stone chapel there are paintings to enjoy. It’s important to be mindful of the tides when you’re here, as high tide can bring dangerous winds.
3. Barrage du Mont-Saint-Michel
While you probably have never set out to see a dam, you’ll thank us for this one later. The stretch of metal and concrete provide some amazing views, and the site is perfect for a picnic lunch. Depending on the weather and when you visit, they may even offer a free guided tour at 3:30pm.
Though the island is small, there are plenty of cute, historic places to visit as you travel to and from the abbey.
Where to Eat in Mont-Saint-Michel
If you ask anyone where to eat in Mont-Saint-Michel, the answer will be La Mère Poulard. Annette Poulard added this restaurant to the hotel of the same name in 1888 to satisfy hotel guests. Annette became renowned for her giant souffle-style omelettes, and that is why everyone from celebrities to royalty travel here to taste her masterpieces. Just be prepared that your budget will take a hit if you eat here. They also have a cafe that’s a bit more affordable. It has a simplified menu, but the views are better.
The island only has a population of about 50 people. Because of that, most of the places you see will be tourist traps. Just be sure to check out the prices and menu before ordering.
Where to Stay in Mont-Saint-Michel
Many people just do a day trip to Mont-Saint-Michel from Paris but in case you’d like to stay longer on this charming little island, we have listed some places to stay for you below.
There’s a reason Mont-Saint-Michel is world-famous. Everything people say it is, it is, and it absolutely must be experienced firsthand. It’s time to make your dreams come true with a visit to Mont-Saint-Michel.