Normandy France! France is known for many things but history is definitely one of them! This is why I am so excited to share this blog with you. This will be on how to get the most out of your visit to one of the many beautiful cathedrals of France, Mont Saint-Michel.
Have you ever visited a location that you thought was pure paradise? I just did! Now I’ve been to white sand beaches and places that are deemed to be paradise. When I went to Mont Saint-Michel, to me it was a paradise more than sitting on a white sand beach.
Don’t stone me for that last sentence. Part of that statement is because, though I love the beach, I am not a beach bum. I enjoy going to the beach and warm crystal clear waters (especially if I’m diving). However, when it comes to finding a location I would call paradise, I enjoy finding locations that have history built, literally into the stones. So once we were done visiting Bordeaux, we packed up the car and headed North to Normandy.
Before you visit Mont Saint-Michel, it is good to have a little history behind this beautiful island.
The island was originally called Mont-Tombe but became known as Mont-Saint-Michel in the 8th century, when St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, built an oratory there after having a vision of the archangel St. Michael. It rapidly became a pilgrimage centre, and in 966 a Benedictine abbey was built there. In 1203 it was partly burned when King Philip II of France tried to capture the mount. He compensated the monks by paying for the construction of the monastery known as La Merveille (“The Wonder”).
Where to Sleep During Your Visit to Mont Saint-Michel?
So, how can you navigate your way around this beautiful island without missing out or feeling overwhelmed? There are only two options that are available so that way you are covered either way!
1. Staying on the Island
There are a few, and I mean few, hotels and Airbnb options to sleep on the island. To me, this was the best option. When the afternoon crowds would jam the streets we were able to escape to our room without dealing with the transportation to and from the island (I’ll explain this portion momentarily). It was easy and very convenient.
Plus, waking up in the morning to that view couldn’t be beat, the streets were quiet say for the delivery hand carts and forklifts making their daily drop offs before the streets become impassable. The evenings were my favorite! Most people had left the island for dinner and back to their hotels or campers so it once again left the streets nearly empty and peaceful. We would finish dinner and go walk the ramparts to enjoy the quiet and the view in peace!
I highly recommend this option, even if it was for one night. If you are driving your car or rental, very important *YOU CANNOT DRIVE YOUR CAR TO THE ISLAND*. The hotel you are staying at will give you access to parking lots 1-3. From the parking lot you will need to hop the shuttle.
You have three options for transportation to the island:
- Free shuttle
- Paid shuttle (same thing but it takes you slightly closer to the front gate)
- Horse drawn carriage (paid also)
Checking in to your hotel on the island:
If you are staying on the island with one of their hotels (not the Airbnbs) there is one central check-in location. You are going to walk over the draw bridge (I never thought I’d say that) and you will see the post office on the left side La Poste. If you keep walking you will see a narrow alley way up a set of stairs, at the first landing there will be an office where you check in! All of the hotels on the island use this location for a central check in to minimize on manning in the winter and thus far COVID-19 safety procedures
2. Staying on the Mainland
Staying on the mainland is much easier and very straight forward. Only a few of the hotels closer to the marshland and the bridge to Mont Saint-Michel you will need a special pass code to enter the gate but the hotel will provide that to you. No shuttle required.
Tips to Visiting the Abbey
Like most large tourist attractions, you will need to purchase a ticket to visit The Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey. The tickets aren’t expensive but I would HIGHLY recommend also getting an audio guide. This totally made our trip to the Abbey, I also spent the extra 3 euro to get an audio guide for my toddler because it kept her entertained for the entire visit. I also would suggest purchasing the digital booklet for the Abbey. It gives you a lot of information and I printed off pages of it later to use for a scrapbook.
- Purchase your tickets at least one day before you want to visit. Tickets sell out fast and they don’t like selling tickets at the door. This isn’t like visiting Granada, where you need to bring your passport to match your name to your ticket.
- There are two lines going up to the entrance, be sure you are standing in the line that already has their tickets. I was a little confused when I got in line because I thought I was standing in the right one – I wasn’t. Thankfully I was with the first groups in the abbey in the morning so there weren’t AS many people.
- GO IN THE MORNING – the crowds get crazy in the afternoon and they only let so many people into the Abbey at a time. I even saw them turning people away that had purchased a morning ticket and didn’t arrive in time and tried to visit in the afternoon. You will have a much better time and not feel so rushed in the morning.
- DON’T BRING A STROLLER – I saw a lot of parents who brought their strollers struggling. The entire island is an incline and stairs. There is no where to “park” your stroller and if you are traveling with your children along (like I was) trying to enjoy yourself while hauling around a stroller will be impossible. My backpacker holds my nearly 4 year old toddler and it was perfect!
5. Take a lot of pictures! When we were getting ready to head north I was looking up all the things to do around Mont Saint-Michel one tip I read is that the view changes with every new angle. As a photographer, I didn’t doubt it per say, but I didn’t believe that it was as grand as they were making it sound. I was wrong. I took almost 300 photo in the 2 days we were there just around the island, not even in the streets or the Abbey.
6. Bring an umbrella. Just because you are visiting France in the Summer (or whenever you visit) but you should be ready to face some rain just in case.
My Top Things Not To Miss at Mont Saint-Michel
This chapel is a hidden gem from around the backside of the island walls. A tiny stone construction with paintings inside. It is serene and calm, even if there’s someone else in the chapel with you. The views are best at high tide, but it can be unsafe if the winds are as high as the tide. Low tide is probably the best option for people concerned about safety, or children and the elderly so pick whichever time and tide suits you best.
La Grande Rue
This is a one street town but it is a street full of tiny little shops and adorable cafés. Mont-Saint-Michel’s main street is more like something from a fairy tale than a French town. It can be extremely busy with tourists, but stunningly beautiful in the evening or when it’s quiet, so try and visit on the off-season. Also, the street is steep as well as busy, so wear good shoes. (And reminder to not bring your stroller for your kids).
My last tip is one that anyone can relate on – FOOD! I tasted a lot of delicious food during our visit to Mont Saint-Michel. My biggest suggestion is to try a little of everything on the menu. The food is a little more expensive on the island but the quality is absolutely amazing!
Between the shops, cafes, museums, you won’t be bored while you are visiting this fairy tale location of Northern France. I hope that you have found some great tips and tidbits from this blog post! Stay tuned for more!