Mont Saint Michel is one of the most magical wonders of the Western world, attracting over three and a half million visitors who stop to admire this charming location each year. This island-sanctuary, standing as a great tower in the heart of an immense bay in the north-western portion of France, is located just across the border where Britain leads into Normandy.
On the island, within several fortifications are found a village and an abbey. If you arrive from the mainland along the dam road (parking fee required € 4) you will access the village through its fortifications which reach the sea. Climbing up the only steep road, home to many shops and restaurants, you can reach the abbey, which boasts another fortified wall.
Mont Saint Michel’s fame is mainly due to the extraordinary tides of the bay which, courtesy of the gravitational pull exerted by the moon, are repeated with intervals of approximately six hours from each other allowing visitors to enjoy a quite unique scenery. By no surprise, Mont Saint Michel has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979.
Until fifty years ago, the sea surrounded completely the island during the high tide, and you could exclusively get to the mountain on foot during the low tide. It is said that during the Middle Ages it was not uncommon for pilgrims to drown by the rapid tide or vanish under the quick sand.
Through the Church, the route leads to a complex building situated on the side called Merveille, where on different floors visitors can admire the cloister, the refectory, the guest and knights rooms, several crypts and other rooms related to the monk’s life and activities (and the life of the prisoners in the aftermath of the French Revolution when the complex was used as a prison).
Centuries ago, Mont Saint Michel was a simple oratory situated on a small island completely surrounded by the sea, but now it is home to the Benedictine Monastery, an abbey occupying the part above the island, looking down the walls that were once supposed to protect the religious building from the enemy’s attacks. Over the centuries, the building was used in several ways: first as a study center, then as a prison, and now as a monastery visited by thousands of tourists.
Things to see:
La Grand-Rue (the main road of the island) boasting the ancient fortified walls and the gardens of the abbey should not be missed.
The Musée Historique: located at the foot of the Abbey, this attraction boasts 1000 years of history bringing to life the activities of the monks of Mont-Saint-Michel, the prisons, and the famous periscope allowing visitors to observe and enjoy the bay. In the museum are also found beautiful collections of antique weapons.
The Auberge de La Mere Poulard is a house founded in 1888, inextricably linked to the famous Mont Saint Michel “omelette de la Mère Poulard” a gastronomic symbol of the place.
The Archéoscope offers a multimedia show that traces the history and legends of Mont Saint Michel, from its origins to the present day.
The Musée de la Mer et de l’Ecologie, located on the main road, offers collections of relics derived from Mont Saint Michel and the bay dating back from the sixteenth century to the twentieth century.
Le Logis de Tiphaine, located in the house of Bertrand Du Guesclin (1320 -1380) cherishes the lives of Connestabile of France and his wife Tiphaine de Raguenel, by offering viewings of the furniture, upholstery, curious objects and more, typical of the fourteenth century.
Night Walk in the village with music and enchanted lights offers a suggestive alternative to common touristic attractions.
Mont Saint Michel is characterized by a nice assortment of charming boutiques and small shops, situated along the main road, selling typical local products such as butter cookies and cider. At certain times of the year, it is almost impossible to walk because of the crowd of tourists flocking to the village. On the external part of the village, visitors can admire a beautiful view over the bay of Mont Saint Michel.
Getting to Mont Saint Michel:
Mont Saint Michel can be reached by car and it is located about 220 miles from Paris.
You can effortlessly travel to Mont St Michel by plane by reaching the airports of Paris and Rennes. From Paris to Mont Saint Michel it is necessary to hop on a fast train, the TGV, from the train station of Montparnasse to Rennes, a journey lasting about 2 hours with the ticket starting at € 55.00. From Rennes you must then take a bus to Mont Saint Michel. From Rennes there is a bus that leaves daily at different time bringing directly to Mont Saint Michel and costing around 12.00 €.
When to go to Mont Saint Michel:
The only drawback of Mont Saint Michel is the crowds of tourists. A vacation in Mont Saint Michelle is much more pleasant when the shops are closed and when the tourists have left. Although the village will never be empty, it is preferable to avoid going to Mont Saint Michel in July and August and instead go in spring, autumn or winter. In fact, the temperatures are much lower, and with fewer tourists around, Mont Saint Michel becomes much more beautiful to visit. It is a good idea to get well informed on the exact timing of the tides by contacting the French Government Tourist Office of the area.
Clothing and luggage for Mont Saint Michel:
If you go to Mont Saint Michel in the summer, invest in a hat and light clothing because you will be under the sun all the time, but remember to dress with sober clothing so you can enter the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel. Also, wear comfortable shoes, to climb those steep roads, stairs and narrow alleys.
Places to stay:
Mont san Michel and its surrounding areas offer a handful of places to stay and enjoy a tasty meal.
Le Relais Saint Michel
31 Route du Mont Saint-Michel
50170 Mont Saint-Michel, France
Phone number: 02 33 89 32 00
Starting from 168 € per person per night
This is a Hotel that offers a beautiful view of the Abbey of Mont Saint Michel, has large and beautiful rooms. Free public parking and free wireless Internet.
The hotel also has a panoramic restaurant serving fantastic and tasty traditional cuisine.
F – 50170 LE MONT SAINT MICHEL
Phone number: +33 2 33 60 14 03
Fax: +33 2 33 48 59 82
E-mail: [email protected]
From 190 € per person
Located in the heart of Mont Saint Michel the hotel is located in a house of the fifteenth century, very close to Abbey of Mont Saint Michel, this hotel restaurant will bring you back to medieval times.
As seen, Mont San Michel offers tourists a nice assortment of historical sites and spectacular views. This charming location is certainly worthy of being visited at least once in a life time.