How to spend a day at Mont Saint Michel Normandy

Written by on November 2, 2017 in Guest Blogs

Mont Saint Michel, the medieval town on an island in Normandy France

Visited by more than 3 million people per year, Le Mont Saint-Michel is one of France’s top tourist attractions. And it’s not hard to see why when you consider its history and spectacular location.

A brief history of Mont St Michel

Mont St Michel’s origins can be traced back to 708 when the Bishop of Avranches built a sanctuary on the outcrop in honour of the Archangel, St Michael. Over the next few hundred years, Benedictine monks settled in the Abbey and a village started to take shape below its walls. By the 14th Century the monastery, abbey and church were completed as they appear today.

Located approximately 600 metres offshore, it was accessible to the mainland during low tide but completely cut off at high tide. In fact, the bay lays claim to having the highest tides in Europe. It was perfect for pilgrims to make their peaceful visits but a major headache for any would-be assailants trying to launch an attack. So impregnable was the Mont that it survived every attempt by the English to take it during the Hundred Years War. As a result, it became a symbol of national identity for the French.

After the Revolution, the Abbey was used as a prison. More recently it’s been the subject of ongoing restoration and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Getting to Mont St Michel

Causeway leading to Mont Saint Michel island in Normandy

There’s a huge, new car park about a 10-minute drive from the island as you’re no longer able to drive right up to its entrance. Which is good news considering the sheer volume of traffic it attracts. Not so good news is the near 12 euros parking fee for anybody staying more than 30 minutes. Which means pretty much everybody.

It’s possible to do it as a day trip by train and bus from Paris. The train from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes takes about two hours. And from Rennes, there’s a connecting bus to Mont Saint-Michel (12 euros one-way) which takes about an hour and twenty minutes.

Walk or shuttle bus?

You can queue for the 10-minute shuttle bus to Mont St Michel (which is free with your car park ticket) or take a 45-minute walk. It’s as flat a walk as you could possibly wish for. And, best of all, after the first 10 minutes or so, you’ve got a perfect view of the Mont right in front of you.

As you approach the entrance, a glance up to the church spire reveals a golden statue of St Michael, which literally gleams in the sunlight. It’s a truly spectacular sight and one that’s worth lingering over.

The ramparts

View of the Bay of Mont St Michel from the high ramparts

Just inside the entrance, the tourist office is on your left inside a building called the Burgher’s Guardroom.

You can get to the Abbey by walking through the village along the Grand Vue and then take the Grand Staircase on your left. Or take a right after you pass through an archway into the village, up the steps and then turn left so that the sea is on your right after you pass through the archway into the village, up the steps and then turn left so that the sea is on your right This will give you access to the ramparts and you’ll reach the Abbey with much less exertion.

The route takes you past the rooftops of medieval houses and restaurants with open terraces looking out to sea. And you’ll find various viewpoints where you can gaze down over the mudflats some 90 metres below.

Hang on. Mudflats you say? Why on earth would they be of any interest? To be honest, they were the best surprise of the day as they gave a perfect sense of what it must have been like to gaze out from these very same ramparts a thousand years ago. Multiple hues of orange, pink, green and grey interspersed with the white specks of resident seagulls. And they’re also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, too (the mudflats, not the seagulls).

The Abbey

Pointy turret of the Abbey of Mont St Michel, Normandy

Eventually, you’ll arrive at the Abbey. You do have the option to walk straight past and continue along the ramparts but it’s well worth the 10-euro entrance fee. Apparently one in three visitors misses out on the Abbey which is a shame as it is really quite spectacular.

Guided tours are available or you can rent an audio guide or you can also get a free leaflet from the ticket counter and work your own way around. It’s all signposted and easy to follow.

You’ll discover ancient crypts, corridors, staircases and even a huge wheel which was used to hoist food to the prisoners during the Abbey’s time as a prison.

Once you’ve completed your tour of the Abbey you’ll exit at the opposite side where you’ll again be able to take in views of the coastline and mudflats.

The village

Once you’ve followed the exit route back to the Abbey entrance you can then complete your circumnavigation of the ramparts and return to the village.

Along the Grand Vue, you’ll see shops selling clothes, ice creams, pizza slices and rows of biscuits from the famed Mère Poulard, renowned for making omelettes here back in the 19th-Century. And where lunch will cost you around 40 Euros for an omelette made today.

The village is as quaint and pretty as you would imagine it to be. It does get crowded and inevitably touristy especially in the summer months – but it really does live up to the hype…

More on Mont St Michel
Photo gallery of Mont St Michel
France at a glance – Mont St Michel 
Wiggly, wobbly, wonderful Mont St Michel
Mont St Michel tourist office website
Times of the tides

Ian and Nicky Mackenzie are house sitting fans and avid travellers who blog at

Related Articles

Honfleur | The Belle of Normandy

Honfleur | The Belle of Normandy

Written by on August 8, 2019 in Guest Blogs

Honfleur is a French fishing village in the department of Calvados, Normandy. It sits on the southern bank of the Seine estuary where the great river flows into the Atlantic Ocean. If you love authentic old French towns, then you will find Honfleur one of the most beautiful there is. What to see in Honfleur […]

Continue Reading

The Lot-et-Garonne | Authentic France in Fongrave

The Lot-et-Garonne department is in the southwestern of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region (previously Midi-Pyrénées). It’s has been described as “the France that you always hoped existed but could never quite find”. It’s idyllic; a paradise… Discovering Fongrave I looked over at my friend as she was talking feverishly about the still, quiet beauty of the […]

Continue Reading

Vintage Cars and Campers, Bicycles and Bader in Saint Omer, northern France

If you’re looking for a fun way to visit northern France, Les Belles Echappees in Saint Omer fits the bill. Located within the peaceful Ferme de L’Abbaye at Clairmarais, this family run organisation hires out restored classic vintage vehicles. Choose from sparkling VW camper vans to prestigious Citroen 2CV cars and VW convertible Beetles. There’s […]

Continue Reading

What did the Pont d’Avignon originally look like?

Sur le Pont d’Avignon L’on y danse, l’on y danse Sur le Pont d’Avignon L’on y danse tous en rond Many of us learned that song as kids, about the famous Pont d’Avignon in Provence (real name: Pont Saint-Bénézet). For those of us lucky enough to visit Avignon and see the bridge in all its […]

Continue Reading

How the French do politics

I live part of the year in Provence and one day I was reading Le Monde and a headline about a “sexy politician” caught my eye. “Well, those are two words you don’t see together very often,” I thought. So I read the article and found out that there had been a poll asking French […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.