Tips for visiting the Mont Saint-Michel

Posted on 28. Nov, 2012 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

I already wrote about how the Mont Saint-Michel was usually the kind of place you dream about, or read about - but never actually set foot there.

But one of the advantage of being an expat in France is how easy it is to drive to the other side of the country, i.e. Normandy, during the August holidays. And that’s pretty much what I did (well, I take all the credit as usual, but my husband did all the driving. I was merely the energy drink provider).

And boy, did the Mont Saint-Michel NOT disappoint. The excitement for this unique place in the world starts when you see it from afar, when getting closer and closer to the coast, and all through the visit, and even after as you enjoy a locally produced apple cider.

A bit of history about Mont Saint-Michel

The Mont Saint-Michel is perhaps one of the most and ancient Christian pilgrimage sites in the Western world, with the worship of Saint Michael’s going as far back as the 8th century, and the monastery foundations in the 10th century. The monastery gave its allegiance to William the Conqueror in his claim of the English throne in the 11th century, and was rewarded with a doppelganger of sorts in Cornwall - a site known as St Michael’s Mount today.

The island was repeatedly assaulted by the English during the Hundred Years War, but was never defeated. However, the French Reformation and Revolution left the monastery quite empty, and it was converted into a prison, until it was declared a historic monument in the 1800s.

Today, the Mont Saint-Michel is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and is the second most visited site in France, with over 3 million visitors every year (I’ll let you guess which is the first one).

The Village

Tips for visiting the Mont Saint-Michel

I had planned a whole day for my visit, but as it turns out, after 4 hours I had seen what I wanted. But after a week on the road I felt quite expeditive, so perhaps an entire day will suit you best.

However the best tip I can give is to get there as early as possible, as parking spaces fill up very quickly, and the island gets very, very crowded. Trust me, I am NOT a morning person but it is definitely worth getting up early for!

The island can be visited in three parts:

  • The village: Where you will find the pricey restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops and other quirky things. Make sure to take in the beautiful and ancient timber-framed houses, and to taste the famous local cider.
  • The Abbey: Perhaps the most iconic part of the visit. This area will definitely make you feel what the Mont Saint-Michel is all about, its energy and its long history. The Abbey is one of the finest examples of military and religious architecture, with strong Roman and Gothic influences. Since it’s so up high, it also offers excellent views on the bay and coastal Normandy. It was undoubtedly my favorite part of the visit, despite what my calves have to say about it.
  • The museums: There are many museums on the island, but for some reason I felt most of them were very touristy, and expensive as well. I didn’t get to visit any for these reasons. But if you wish to spend a full day at Mont Saint-Michel, the museums would be a nice way to spend time.
I would also suggest to make sure your camera battery is fully charged - because trust me, you WILL take a lot of pretty photos.
mont saint-michel

The Abbey

One of the many tourist souvenirs

Have you been to Mont Saint-Michel? Do you think it’s under or overrated? What are your tips for visiting?

 

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12 Responses to “Tips for visiting the Mont Saint-Michel”

  1. Michael Hodson

    28. Nov, 2012

    Really wanting to hit this soon and time lapse photograph the tides coming in and out.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      02. Dec, 2012

      Ohhh, take me with you! I really hope I can do that one day.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Ele

    28. Nov, 2012

    I went to it on a tour of Loir valley castles. It was June and it was heavy rain, so we climbed the whole of it carrying umbrellas, which didn’t help much. It was bad that our guide couldn’t talk in the monastery because they want you to hire their expensive guides.

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  3. Sonja

    28. Nov, 2012

    I have been there once a long time ago, but would like to return with my husband and kids. It’s an awe-inspiring, gasp-inducing kind of place. Love it.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Nicole Gagnon

    28. Nov, 2012

    Effectivement, cela vaut vraiment la peine d’arriver tôt.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Chris

    29. Nov, 2012

    My husband and i have been here twice and its never enough, next May we will be back and this time we will be staying there overnight, we want to see the tide come right in and cover the roads and feel the history,and anyway i have a good excuse my perfume that i bought from the Abbey shop has run out, so i just have to have some more.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      02. Dec, 2012

      I really hope I can make it back to see the famous tide!

      Reply to this comment
  6. Fig

    01. Dec, 2012

    What a great post! It does get crazy full of tourists and there are hundreds of steps but inspite of the crowds we agree it does have a special magic.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      02. Dec, 2012

      Yes, the steps and tourists are worth fighting in Mont Saint-Michel :)

      Reply to this comment
  7. Andi

    02. Dec, 2012

    I’ve been, it is beautiful, but all the shops and restaurants are overpriced and overrated. The buildings and churches and gardens are great for photography. Go early!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      02. Dec, 2012

      Yes, everything is overpriced. That’s why I only popped in for a visit, and didn’t eat/buy anything there!

      Reply to this comment
  8. Christine Hodgson

    18. Dec, 2012

    My husband and i have been twice now, the first time we didnt see the Abbey, extra cost and we had the grandchild with us, a lot of people were turning around and not bothering, please take my advice do not miss it, we came back again and it was the most beautiful experience, im so glad we were able to see all the glorious wonders the Abbey has to offer. In May we will return and enjoy once again.

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