Unlock the secrets to creating an enchanting day in Mont Saint-Michel. Delve into its historic marvels and immerse yourself in the magic of this captivating destination. Join us for a journey brimming with wonder and enchantment.
It all started when we spent our summer vacation with Thomas' parents in a small village near Amiens, Picardie, in 2016. While discussing the region's highlights, I asked about Mont Saint-Michel, but was told it was too far away. However, the idea of visiting this magnificent landmark stayed with me, and in 2017, we finally planned a trip during the long weekend of All Saints' Day.
The journey from Amiens takes around five hours by car, so we decided to spend a night in a nearby city called Pontorson, which gave us the chance to explore one of the beautiful cities around. Upon asking for suggestions, Thomas' parents recommended Saint-Malo, which they had visited and loved. You can read all about our adventures in Saint-Malo in our blog post here. Join us as we discover the history, charm, and breathtaking beauty of Mont Saint-Michel and the surrounding region.
We had limited time to explore the neighboring cities of Saint-Malo, like Dinard and Cancale, but we didn't let that stop us from experiencing the magic of Mont Saint-Michel. After dropping our bags at a cozy B&B in nearby Pontorson, we headed straight for the walled city, under the cover of darkness! For those seeking a spiritual escape, the abbey offers lodging with its monks and sisters.
But for us, a nighttime visit was the perfect way to see the illuminated beauty of Mont Saint-Michel. While parking can be pricey, we discovered a sweet deal – if you arrive after 7 p.m., parking is free until 2 a.m.! So we took advantage and caught the magical lights of the castle until midnight. While the views were stunning from the outside, we found the morning visit to be more enchanting. We still cherished our nighttime visit and wouldn't have had it any other way!
| Opening hours - all year round |
| Admission - free of charge |
| Parking - between 9 and 14 EUR a day |
WHEN TO VISIT?
We wanted to make the most of our Mont Saint-Michel experience and stay within the walled city, but we found out that at night the place turns into a ghost town, losing its magical atmosphere. So, we opted for a nearby city called Pontorson, which was a better choice for us, as we had a car to get around.
More than three million visitors flock to Mont Saint-Michel every year, especially during the summer months. We visited in late October, which was supposed to be a quieter time, but it happened to coincide with a holiday, so the place was still packed. We decided to return early the next morning to take photos without the crowds. It was a challenge, but totally worth it. Our advice to you: resist the urge to snap the perfect shot as soon as you step off the bus, because the streets will soon be swarming with people. Instead, wait until you're leaving the abbey and take your pictures from the outside.
The architecture and beauty of Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are breathtaking. But it gets even more spectacular during high tide when the walled city reflects in the sea water. Unfortunately, we were there during low tide, but you can check the tide schedule here and plan your visit accordingly.
Mont Saint-Michel has a fascinating history that dates back to the 8th century. Legend has it that the Archangel Michel appeared three times to the Bishop of Avranches, Aubert, instructing him to build a temple atop a mountainous island at the shore of the sea. Thus, a small church was erected on October 16th, 709, and it quickly became a popular pilgrimage site.
In 966, a group of Benedictine monks settled on the island and began constructing a larger church and an abbey. Over the years, the abbey continued to expand and became a prominent cultural and religious center.
During the Hundred Years War between England and France in the 14th century, Mont Saint-Michel gained strategic importance as a fortress, and its abbey was fortified with walls and military constructions. Despite being under siege for 30 years, the abbey managed to withstand the English attacks.
The village of Mont Saint-Michel, which grew on the southeast side of the rock during the Middle Ages, prospered due to the pilgrimage and military activities. The village included shops and inns and it became an essential part of the island's cultural and economic life.
ONE DAY AROUND MONT SAINT-MICHEL
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TAKE INCREDIBLE SHOTS FROM THE BRIDGE
As you approach Mont Saint-Michel, the anticipation builds as you catch your first glimpse of this stunning piece of architecture rising up from the horizon. The sight is truly unforgettable and you'll definitely want to snap some iconic shots of this beauty. The atmosphere is reminiscent of something out of a Harry Potter novel, with winding streets, stone walls and the occasional glimpse of the sea. As you get closer, the sound of seagulls and the scent of the salty sea air only add to the magical ambiance. It's no wonder that Mont Saint-Michel has inspired artists, writers and travelers alike for centuries!
WALK THROUGH MAIN STREET
The main street of Mont Saint-Michel, known as Grande Rue or Grand Rue, is a captivating thoroughfare that winds its way through the heart of the island. The charming narrow lanes and quaint storefronts on either side reminded us of Diagon Alley, the bustling wizarding marketplace in Harry Potter. Lined with historic stone buildings, charming shops, and quaint cafés, this bustling street offers a glimpse into the island's rich history and vibrant atmosphere.
As you stroll along Grande Rue, you'll be surrounded by the timeless beauty of medieval architecture, with intricately carved façades and narrow cobblestone pathways. The street is filled with an array of shops selling everything from souvenirs and artisanal crafts to traditional French pastries. One of the highlights of exploring the main street is the opportunity to visit the various boutiques and galleries showcasing the work of local artisans. From handcrafted pottery to intricate lacework, these shops offer unique treasures that make for perfect mementos of your visit to Mont Saint-Michel.
VISIT THE ABBEY
The Abbey is a must-see destination and fortunately, it is open for visits every day. You can easily check the timetable for guided tours in French and English at the entrance and they don't require any prior booking. However, it's good to know that it's polite to tip the guide after the visit. During our visit, we stumbled upon a guided tour and it was a wonderful experience. Despite following the same path as the normal visit, the guide provided us with fascinating historical details and even made some hilarious impersonations of the monks' lives in the abbey. As it wasn't during the holidays, the English-speaking tourist group was small, making it more intimate and approachable. The only downside was that we couldn't take as many photos as we wanted due to the tour's pace.
Inside the Abbey, we were impressed by the grand common salons with little furniture, the cloister with a garden for contact with nature, and rooms and chapels for prayer and meditation. The simplicity and restraint of the decoration reflect the daily life of the Benedictine monks who inhabited the Abbey. Founded in the 8th century, Mont Saint-Michel Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a masterpiece of medieval architecture.
| Opening hours - from 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. |
| Admission - 13 EUR (guided tours 20.50 EUR) |
WALK ON THE RAMPARTS
Exiting the Abbey grounds, visitors are treated to a stunning view of the town from atop the walls. From this vantage point, you can see both the interior and exterior of the town, with its enchanting gates, towers, and ramparts. Taking in the breathtaking scenery, we couldn't help but feel like we had been transported to a scene straight out of a fairytale.
As we made our way through the narrow streets, we were constantly awed by the charming details of the town. Every corner seemed to hold a new discovery, from the quaint shops and restaurants to the picturesque alleys and pathways. It was like stepping into the world of Harry Potter, with its winding cobblestoned streets and charming storefronts. We could have easily spent hours strolling around, taking in the beauty of the town and capturing it all in photos!
STROLL AROUND MONT SAINT-MICHEL
As we were about to leave Mont Saint-Michel, we couldn't resist taking advantage of the low tide and exploring the sandy surroundings to capture some stunning photos of the iconic structure from a different angle. It was a breathtaking sight and definitely worth the extra time.
However, we don't recommend following in our footsteps and completing the entire tour around the Mont. It can be a long and tiring walk, especially if you're with someone like Thomas, who complained the entire way! Instead, we suggest exiting through the gate in Tour Gabriel and heading clockwise towards the Chapelle Saint-Aubert. This small chapel was built outside the walls in honor of the bishop who oversaw the construction of the first temple dedicated to Saint-Michel. From there, you can return counterclockwise and stop a little after the main gate to snap a photo of the Mont from the sandbanks, which will undoubtedly be a cherished memory of your visit to this marvel of faith and architecture.
Exploring the bay area freely is not recommended due to the unpredictable and rapidly changing tides, making it extremely dangerous. It's best to avoid such a risk. However, if you're interested in further exploration of the area, you can opt for guided tours with expert professionals who can ensure your safety while offering unique viewpoints and access to seldom-seen locations. Additional information regarding such tours can be found here.
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
Regardless of our personal beliefs, we couldn't help but feel moved by the grandeur and magnificence of Mont Saint-Michel. For those who are fans of Harry Potter, it may feel like a dream come true to be walking around the magical shops of Diagon Alley. Whether you hold a specific faith or not, one thing is certain: Mont Saint-Michel has a way of enchanting and providing a magical experience for all who visit! To fully immerse yourself in the charm of this French region, consider embarking on a day trip to the fortified town of Saint-Malo (check out our post here).
Mont Saint-Michel is accessible via various transportation options, ensuring visitors can reach this iconic destination conveniently. Here's a breakdown of the different ways to journey to Mont Saint-Michel:
- By car: Driving to Mont Saint-Michel allows for flexibility and the opportunity to explore the scenic countryside along the way. From Paris, take the A13 highway towards Caen, then merge onto the A84 towards Mont Saint-Michel. Follow signs for Mont Saint Michel, and upon arrival, park your vehicle in the designated parking areas (between 9 and 14 EUR per day). From there, shuttle buses or a scenic walk will take you to the island itself.
- By bus: Several bus companies operate services from major cities like Paris, Rennes, and Caen to Mont Saint-Michel. FlixBus, Ouibus, and regional bus companies offer affordable and convenient options for travelers. These buses typically drop passengers off at designated stops near Mont Saint-Michel, from where shuttle buses or walking paths lead to the island.
- By train: Although there is no train station directly at Mont Saint-Michel, you can take a train to nearby cities like Pontorson or Rennes, and then take a bus or taxi transfer. The train journey offers scenic views of the French countryside and is a comfortable option for travelers. Pontorson is particularly close to Mont Saint Michel and serves as a common transit point.
- Join a guided tour: Joining a guided tour to Mont Saint-Michel is a hassle-free way to explore this enchanting destination. Numerous tour companies offer day trips from Paris, Rennes, and other nearby cities, providing transportation, guided tours of the abbey, and free time to wander the narrow streets. These tours often include informative commentary, skip-the-line access to attractions, and optional add-ons like lunch at a local restaurant.
Regardless of the transportation mode chosen, a visit to Mont Saint-Michel promises a memorable experience steeped in history, breathtaking views, and architectural marvels. Choose the option that best suits your preferences and embark on an unforgettable journey to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When planning a visit to Mont Saint-Michel, finding suitable accommodation is crucial for a comfortable and memorable experience. While there are lodging options available on the island itself, such as hotels and guesthouses, another popular choice is to stay in nearby towns like Pontorson and use them as a base for exploration.
During our visit, we opted to stay in an Airbnb called Le Grenier du Jardin located in Pontorson. This charming accommodation provided us with a cozy and homely atmosphere, allowing us to unwind after a day of exploration. Pontorson, situated just a short drive away from Mont Saint-Michel, offered convenient access to the island while also providing a quieter and more relaxed environment compared to the bustling tourist crowds on the island.
While exploring Mont Saint-Michel, there are several dining options to satisfy your hunger after a day of exploration. For a budget-friendly option, consider bringing your own sandwiches and snacks for a picnic in the beautiful Jardin Sainte-Catherine. This option allows you to enjoy a meal amidst the stunning surroundings of the island at minimal cost. Additionally, here are some places to consider:
- La Mère Poulard: Famous for its iconic omelettes cooked over an open fire, La Mère Poulard offers meals ranging from €20 to €40 per person.
- Au Pèlerin: A cozy snack bar with picturesque views of the bay, Au Pèlerin is known for its simple menu featuring pizzas and sandwiches. Prices here usually range from €10 to €20 per person.
Additionally, in Pontorson, you can indulge in delicious salted galettes and crêpes at Le Grillon, typically priced between €10 and €20. This local gem comes highly recommended by locals for its affordable yet tasty offerings.
We'd love to hear your impressions, thoughts, and tips on visiting the Muggle world's version of Hogwarts. Have you had a chance to visit Mont-Saint-Michel yet? Please share your comments with us in the section below. We're excited to read your feedback!