Mont Saint Michel (often written Mont St Michel, with other variations) is a small UNESCO World Heritage listed island located just off the coast of the northern French region of Normandy. Keep on reading for more information on how to visit Mont Saint Michel.
The island is best known as the site of the spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel at the peak of the rocky island, surrounded by the winding streets and convoluted architecture of the medieval town.
When exploring the Normandy in France, it’s definitely a travel stop worth seeing. Mont Saint Michel was officially inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Related Read: The best beaches in Normandy
Visit Mont Saint Michel
Due to the tourist nature of the Mont it can get very busy, especially in high summer. Because of the steep steps up to the abbey, people can sometimes feel unwell, and may want to rest in the numerous gardens throughout the mont with plenty of seats. Please though, no matter how pretty the view is, don’t just stop to look when others are behind you, it can infuriate people.
The local Office de Tourisme is located in the Corps de Garde des Bourgeois (the Old Guard Room of the Bourgeois), at the left of the town gates (tel 02-33-60-14-30). Open daily all year except for Christmas Day and New Years Day. You can get your Mont Saint Michel tickets here.
The only way around Mont St Michel is on foot, and there are two gates into the walled city.
The Porte de l’Avancée, the main gate at the end of the causeway, leads straight to the Grande Rue, which is packed chock-a-block with souvenir shops and tourists.
Insider travel tip for your visit to Mont Saint Michel
Escape right up the stairs to the ramparts, which are a little less packed and offer great views of the mudflats. The lesser-used Porte Eschaugette, to the left of the main gate, is the quietest route up. All three routes converge at the Abbey on top of the island.
The Abbey of Mont Saint Michel
(L’Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel), once a humble little monastery. The island and its fortifications have effectively grown up around it. During the French Revolution, the abbey was used a prison, and an extensive restoration was required to restore it. A few prison-era showpieces, like the human hamster wheel used to lift supplies in and out of the complex, have been kept.
Mass is celebrated daily except Monday at 12.15PM. Open 2 May – 30 August 9am-7pm (last admission 6pm), 1 September – 30 April 9:30am-6pm (last admission 5pm), admission (unguided visits): €8.5 adult, €5 18-25 yrs (free for citizens of the EU), and free for under 18s. Closed 1 January, 1 May and 25 December, €4 audio guide (French, English, German, Spanish, Italian).
Notre-Dame Sous Terre Chapel
The Carolingian church named Chapelle Notre-Dame-sous-Terre (Our Lady underground) was built around 966 by the first Benedictine monks at the very place of the oratory erected by Saint-Aubert in the early VIIIth century.
Warning: Dangerous quicksand and very fast tides at Mont Saint Michel
Note that the tidal flats surrounding the island are rumored to harbour quicksand.
Visitors to the island are advised NOT to attempt crossing the flats by foot. Better safe with a group, than (sorry) exploring on your own.
However, if you decide to trek through the tidal flats (with a group), be prepared to take off your shoes and clean up your feet after, since the flats are quite muddy. The tide here is one of the fastest in Europe. The tide got a speed of more than 20 km/h.
Try to run that fast in mud and a long distance.
So you should NEVER attempt any walks on the sands without checking the tide tables.
It is advised only to attempt any kind of crossing using a qualified guide.
Finding a place to stay overnight at Mont Saint Michel
When you visit Mont Saint Michel, you’ll find a number of small hotels located within the island township.
A selection of much larger hotels are available on the mainland opposite the island and in the nearby town of Pontorson, but many visitors choose to daytrip from Rennes or Saint-Malo instead, as the island can be uncomfortably covered in a few hours.
The car park allows motorhomes to stay overnight as part of their standard parking fee, making camping Mont Saint Michel a possibility.
Getting from Paris to Mont Saint Michel
Getting to Mont Saint Michel by car
Driving is by far and away the most efficient way of visiting Mont Saint Michel.
Within the region of Normandy, drive from Caen along the A84 south-west to Pontorson, then continue a few more kilometres to Avranches. Merge with the D43, following the signs to its Mont-St-Michel at its end.
Parking costs €4.
From Paris the total driving time is about 4.5 hours.
Getting to Mont Saint Michel by train and bus
There are no direct train services between Paris and Mont St Michel, but rail travel to the island is nonetheless feasible.
The best option is the TGV from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes, where a bus run by “Keolis Emeraude (ex Courriers Bretons)”(www.keolis-emeraude.com) provides a 90 minute transfer to the island (there are 2-5 departures from Rennes per day, depending on seasonal demand – most departures are timed to match to the arrival of the TGV in Rennes).
The bus station is immediately outside the Rennes train station, at a bus terminal building on your right, after leaving the station by the north exit. The bus costs around €11, with a reduction to around €9 for people under 25 or older than 60, a reduction to around €6 for children under 12, and it’s free for children under 4. Bus tickets are sold by the driver when boarding the bus, not in advance at the bus terminal.
When returning with the bus, the driver might ask if you have a reservation for the TGV to Paris and give priority to people who have one.
The bus stops at the entrance to the Mont St Michel itself. You can also ask the driver if you want to stop to the hostel before Mont St Michel.
Another option is to take a TGV train to the Pontorson-Mont St Michel train station (up to 4 a day), with a stopover in Rennes. The Pontorson train station is no more than 15 minutes from Mont St. Michel. Buses are available several times a day. You can get a schedule from the Pontorson train station.
There are also two buses daily from Saint-Malo to Pontorson (line 17, 1 hour, around €3.50 single trip), which are timed to connect to buses to Mont St Michel (€2.50 single trip).