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When one thinks of places to visit outside of Paris, many think about how to go to Mont St Michel. With its towering abbey overlooking the bay, you can spot it from miles away.
In person, it truly is breathtaking, and it makes for a great stop on either a Normandy road trip or even a day trip or overnight trip while visiting Paris.
This place sees about 2.5 million visitors a year and for good reason! So if you’re dreaming of visiting Mont St Michel in France, then I’ve got you covered.
How to Go to Mont St Michel
This ultimate guide to Mont St Michel will cover how to get there, how long to visit Mont St Michel, things to do, where to stay, and more!
So keep on reading to learn all about how to plan the perfect trip to Mont Saint Michel.
What is Mont St Michel?
Okay, aside from it being one of the most beautiful monuments to see in France, Mont-Saint-Michel is a tidal island and commune in France.
A tidal island is a piece of land that is only really an island when the tide comes in. So sometimes it is an island, and sometimes it is walkable on foot from the mainland.
This much-loved pilgrimage site dates back to prehistoric times when it was first formed but was known as Mont Tombe before being called Mont St Michel.
As you may have guessed, it is named for the archangel Saint Michael, who, according to legend, appeared to Aubert of Avranches in the year 708 and told him to build a small chapel here.
The small chapel was expanded upon and the full abbey was completed around 1523. But even since its small beginnings, it was a pilgrimage site.
It has seen so much from the Hundred Years’ War to even WWII. It was a Benedictine Abbey, and the island housed monks until around 1791, when it became a prison until 1863. The monks returned in 1966 before now housing the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem.
It has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can visit here to see the abbey at the top, as well as wander through the steep village below that houses museums, shops, restaurants, and even some hotels.
Thankfully, though, you no longer need to trek across the marshy land between the mainland and the island to get here. There is a bridge that connects the two. However, rarely, a supertide can even cover the bridge!
Where is Mont Saint Michel Island in France?
Mont Saint Michel is located in the northwestern part of France. And, though it once belonged to the region of Brittany and is just next to it, it is actually a part of Normandy.
It is about 4 hours from Paris via car, about 1 hour from Saint-Malo in Brittany, and about 1.5 hours from Caen in Normandy. It is about 1 km from the mainland to the island.
Best Time to Visit Mont Saint Michel
Interested in visiting this castle-like island in France? Well, you can actually come any time of year!
However, there are better times than others. We visited back in September, and it was definitely a little bit crowded in the village. But if you stayed off the main road and took the steps up toward the abbey, the crowds thinned out a bit.
The weather is best between April through October, with the summertime having the best chance of sunshine and drier skies.
If you want to avoid crowds as much as possible, it is a good idea to visit during the week as opposed to weekends, first thing in the morning or in the evening, and don’t come during holidays or the height of summertime of June-July. And if you want the fewest crowds, opt for a winter visit to Mont St Michel.
Notice that higher tides bring in many people too so they can all witness this place become an island. Check the tide schedule here for more information.
So when is the best time to visit Mont Saint Michel? Outside the main tourist season in France of July and August. Most notably, aim for April-May or September-October.
It is a popular tourist attraction bringing in millions of people a year, so it is highly unlikely that you’ll ever be able to go without some crowds, but this is a good time to go!
How to Visit Mont St Michel? Details on How to Get to Mont St Michel
So you know the what, when, and where when it comes to how to go to Mont Saint Michel, but let’s talk about how to visit Mont St Michel.
There are actually quite a few ways to get to Mont Saint Michel depending on where you’re coming from and how long you plan to stay. I’ll outline these ways below.
How to Visit Mont St Michel From Paris
There are 3 ways to visit Mont Saint Michel from Paris. There is the option to take a tour (which is likely the easiest option), to self-drive from Paris, or to take public transportation.
1. Tours From Paris to Mont St Michel
While this is 4 hours from Paris, you can actually come here on a day tour from the capital city. Just note that this is a long day: we’re talking about 14 hours.
You’d depart early at around 7:15 am from Paris and return back to the city around 9 pm. However, you can choose which type of tour you’d like to go on, including:
- Guided Tour With Transportation and Abbey Ticket
- Audio Guided Tour With Transportation and Abbey Ticket
- Just Transportation to Mont Saint Michel and an Entrance Ticket to the Abbey
These all include transportation from Paris on an air-conditioned bus. I highly recommend going with a guide to get the best experience and really learn about the legends and history of the island.
2. Self-Drive to Mont St Michel From Paris
I mentioned above that it is about a 4-hour drive from Paris, meaning you’ll want to get up fairly early to get here. There are two main driving routes from Paris to Mont St Michel.
The first is by getting on the A13 from the northwest of Paris toward Caen and then A84 toward Avranches Rennes. The second is by taking the A11 from the southwest of Paris toward Le Mans, the A81 towards Fourgeres, and then to D31 and A84 toward Caen.
To keep it simple, just use Google Maps. I like to download offline maps to use while road tripping around France as you could lose service in the countryside.
Once you arrive, there is a huge parking area to park your car about a mile or so from the island. Pricing varies depending on how long you choose to stay there and the time of year. Check out parking prices here.
From the parking lot, you can either choose to walk to Mont St Michel or take the shuttle bus.
The shuttle bus departs from the information booth and runs from 7:30 am until midnight. It is a 12-minute ride from there to the stop in front of Mont St Michel. It is also free.
The walk takes about 40-50 minutes depending on how far you’ve parked away. There are a few footpaths you can take that lead you to the island.
If you can, I prefer walking the way, as you’ll get the best views and photos along the path toward the island versus in front of it.
3. How to Get to Mont St Michel From Paris Using Public Transportation
You can actually take the train from Paris to a stop near Mont St Michel and then take a shuttle bus.
Between early June and late September, you can take the train from Paris Montparnasse to Pontorson and then the shuttle bus to Mont St Michel. This takes just under 4 hours to make the journey and costs about €29 for adults each way.
This route does 1 round-trip per day.
Outside of this, from the end of September through early June, you can take the train from Paris to Villedieu Les Poêles and then the bus.
Tour From Bayeux
If you’re visiting Bayeux, whether to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry or the DDay Beaches, you can also add a day trip from Bayeux to Mont St Michel.
There are tours that you can book that begin in Bayeux at 8:30 am and last 8 hours. So if you want to see more of Normandy and want to take a tour of Mont St Michel, you can do that from Bayeux too.
The tour includes transportation to/from Bayeux, a guide, and a visit to the abbey.
Self-Drive From Elsewhere
And if you’re coming from elsewhere, you’d probably need to look up directions and download offline Google Maps to get there.
We drove from Bayeux in the morning, visited Mont St Michel that afternoon, and then ended up in the countryside of Normandy during our road trip.
Mont St Michel Opening Times
Did you know the island and village itself are open 24/7, aside from select times when it is high tide throughout the year?
So you can certainly watch the sunset and visit the village for dinner even after the abbey is closed! Or you can go and catch the sunrise!
However, the Abbey at Mont St Michel does have opening and closing hours. The abbey is open year-round, except January 1, May 1, and December 25.
Here are the Abbey of Mont St Michel Visiting Hours:
- May 2-August 31: 9 am-7 pm
- September 1-April 30: 9:30 am-6 pm
Note: The last entry slot is available to book 2 hours before closing. The last entrance is allowed an hour before close, and the last audioguide is given out an hour and a half before close.
Abbey of Mont St Michel Entrance Fee:
The price to visit the Abbey at Mont St Michel is €13 for individuals. They do have discounted tickets at €11.50 for some of their partnerships like Brittany Ferries, Credit Agricole members, etc.
And it is free of charge for children under 18 with families and school groups, EU citizens and non-European residents on French territory from 18-25 years old, disabled persons and their companions, job seekers, and those with an education pass.
It is free for everyone to visit on the first Sunday of January, February, March, November, and December as well as during European Heritage Days.
An audioguide is €3 in addition to admission.
How Much Time to Visit Mont St Michel?
This will definitely take up at least 3-7 hours! Between all the things to see and do on the island, and getting there and back from the parking lot, shuttle, train station, etc., it definitely takes some time.
I mean for a full-day trip from Paris, it is an astounding 14-hour day! From Bayeux, it is closer to 8 hours.
Personally, when I visited, I spent around 4 hours exploring the abbey, wandering through the village, grabbing a bite to eat, and ducking into a few tourist shops for a souvenir.
I know part of that includes at least an hour to get to the island as we took the footpath and I stopped to take a ton of photos!
Overall, I believe we got to the parking lot around 12 pm and left closer to 4 pm.
I’d budget at least a half day to explore Mont St Michel.
How to Go to Mont St Michel: Things to Do While Visiting Mont Saint Michel
Okay, there is far more to do here than just take photos of the island from afar. So let’s talk about what you can do to fill up your day at this French bucket list place.
1. Tour the Abbey of Mont St Michel
This is a must if you’re coming all the way here! I would highly recommend booking tickets in advance, though, as the line to buy tickets is long.
We purchased tickets ahead of time and were able to skip the long queue and see the abbey sooner.
Audioguides are an additional €3. I highly recommend getting an audioguide to learn more!
Learn about the history of the abbey, how it was built, what each room on the tour was used for, and more during a visit to the abbey!
Then, you must take in the views of the surrounding area from the abbey and spot the statue of Saint Michael at the top of the mount.
2. Cross the Bay on Foot
Yes, there are many who brave the walk across the bay itself. It was walkable when we went, and we actually saw quite a few groups walking in it.
However, it is highly recommended to go with a guide. You can find guides here. They’ll know all about how to best cross the bay and what times of day to do it.
I did have to stick my feet in the bay and stand in it, because why not? And I must say it was extremely…muddy. My shoes were absolutely disgusting.
So if you’ve got wellies and want to do it, then sure? But beware of things like quicksand and getting stuck!
3. Visit Mont St Michel’s Museums
There are quite a few museums you can visit on Mont St Michel island. Museums on the island are open daily from 10 am-5 pm. Tickets cost €9 for a single museum and €18 to visit all 4 museums. Admission is free for children under 12.
You can visit the Maritime Museum to learn more about the tidal phenomenon here, or the Archeoscope, which displays the long history of Mont Saint-Michel from how it was formed until today via multimedia.
There is also the Logis Tiphaine museum which is a 14th-century home. This place shares what it was like to live here as a Medieval knight on the island. Lastly is the Historical Museum of Mont St Michel which shares all 1,300 years of the village’s history as well as the abbey.
4. Shop For Souvenirs
There are plenty of cute little tourist shops on the island to purchase keepsakes, holiday ornaments, and other souvenirs of your time on Mont Saint-Michel.
5. Have a Meal
There are also many restaurants where you can either grab a quick bite to eat or sit down with a glass of cider and have a meal.
These restaurants are jam-packed around lunchtime, so you could come for dinnertime if you’re visiting on your own later in the day.
6. Wander Through the Streets and Ramparts
Stroll through the historic village and along the ramparts to take in the views of the abbey, bay, and surrounding area.
Enjoy walking on the steep cobblestone streets and envisioning yourself here during the Medieval times.
7. Enjoy the Night Show During the Summer
Starting in early July through August there is a light show at the abbey you can enjoy every evening except on Sundays. It begins at 7:30 pm until midnight with the last admission at 11 pm.
The light show tour lasts an hour, and prices start at around €16.
8. Attend Mass
Yes, you can attend mass at Mont Saint-Michel. Mass occurs from Tuesday-Saturday starting at 12:15 pm and on Sunday at 11:30 am. You’ll want to arrive 15 minutes beforehand on the Square of the Cross of Jerusalem.
There is also a parish church of St. Peter in the village which also has mass on Sunday at 11 am and throughout the week on certain days.
Bear in mind that this is in French, so knowing French is helpful for attending mass.
9. Admire the Tide
The Bay of Mont Saint-Michel has one of the biggest tidal ranges in the world! During spring tides, the water can go back 15 km from shore. And it can rush back quite quickly.
There are also certain times of year when the tides are bigger, check here to see when those dates are.
Staying at Mont St Michel & Where to Stay Nearby
Now that you know what there is to do at Mont St Michel, let’s talk about where to stay. While many of you will likely take a day trip from Bayeux or Paris, some may want to either stay the night before and get an early start to their visit or stay later and spend the night nearby.
Either way, here are some places to stay in and around Mont St Michel.
Hotel Du Guesclin: While this is a pretty basic hotel, if you’re determined to stay on the island itself, this is where you’ll want to stay. The views of the bay are pretty nice, especially as this is one of the only hotels on the island. And it does have a brasserie and restaurant to enjoy during your stay.
La Jacotière: For a lovely little bed and breakfast at the foot of Mont Saint-Michel, look no further. This place has great views of the tidal island and offers free parking. Plus, it is about a 40-minute walk to the abbey.
Le Vent des Greves B&B: This is another charming bed and breakfast near Mont St Michel. The rooms have great views.
Other than these smaller hotels and B&Bs, you could also opt to stay in nearby Saint-Malo and visit Mont Saint-Michel. Check out Saint-Malo hotels here.
Other Tips For Your Guide On How to Go to Mont St Michel
Before you plan to leave for Mont Saint-Michel, here are a few key things to note.
- Learn a little French. While it isn’t necessary to be fluent, knowing a little helps. Even just knowing how to say hello, goodbye, yes, no, and thank you is helpful. Check out the essential French phrases to know here!
- Always start with Bonjour or Bonsoir. Yes, always say, “Bonjour” or “Bonsoir,” when you enter a place. It is considered rude not to. I usually switch to Bonsoir in the evenings around sunset or 5 pm.
- Searching for travel insurance? I love World Nomads!
- For rental cars, check out Auto Europe.
There you have it- the ultimate guide to visiting Mont St Michel in France! Would you like to visit Mont Saint-Michel?
Want more Normandy ideas? Check out these posts!
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- France Bucket List
- 10 Days in France: 10 Ways to Spend 10 Days in France
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- Most Beautiful Cities in France