Listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, Mont-Saint-Michel is yet another place to discover once on French soil. It is the second most visited place in France and receives more than 2 million visitors every year. I’ve been there recently, and I can say it’s fantastic!
I recommend it, if you have time, or at least one day off. For it is possible to do a roundabout a day. I’ll explain later, but first I would like to share some exciting information about the mount and the region.
A little bit about Mont-Saint-Michel and its region
The mount is situated on a small island in the Normandy region. An area that once belonged to the Vikings and has been the scene of several battles of World War II.
Its administrative capital of Normandy is Rouen, another essential city for history. It was in this city that icon Joan of Arc was condemned and burned in a public square. Other exciting cities in the region include Giverny, Étretat, and Deauville.
In addition to historical facts, the region is famous for its typical cuisine. Once in Normandy, be sure to taste: Camembert cheese, cider, and crepes. These are the classics.
As for Mont-Saint-Michel, I can say that it is a village fortified at the time of the Hundred Years War and initially inhabited by monks. Over time, the place was being occupied by other residents.
However, today, only 29 people are residing on the hill, being nuns, abbey staff, and some merchants. Most people who trade in the hill live outside the village.
The main point of the visit is the abbey on top of the hill, classified as a world heritage site since 1979. And did you know that it was not always like this ?! At first, it was more straightforward. The first church was built in 709 by Bishop Aubert de Avranches. It was a sanctuary named after Archangel Michael.
Many years later, in the eleventh century, a Roman church was founded on a set of crypts.
In the thirteenth century, after conquering Normandy, the king of France Philippe Auguste made a generous donation that enabled the construction of the entire Gothic part of the famous Merveille: two three-story buildings with a cloister and refectory.
However, the colorful Gothic choir only came later, in the Middle Ages, when the old choir collapsed.
In addition to all the changes in the abbey’s architecture, there was also a change in the function. In addition to a monastery, the place was used as a prison from the 15th century until the French Revolution. And that’s how, from event to event, the abbey and Mont-Saint-Michel have been transformed into what we know today.
How to get to Mont-Saint-Michel
There are several ways to get to Mont-Saint-Michel. Car or motorbike, bus, train and even by bike if you have the disposal (not my case hehe). However, regardless of choice, the endpoint will be before the bridge leading to the hill. There are free navettes and wagons to cross the bridge, for those who want something more picturesque. It is also possible to walk (about 30-40 minutes of quiet walking).
In my case, I went to Mont-Saint-Michel on a guided tour with Paris City Vision, a company that I like to recommend for tours in Paris and the region. It was a very cool experience.
The bus leaves early in the center of Paris – close to the Jardin des Tuileries, with a guide telling the history of the hill and the Normandy region. Ah, an important detail, there are tour options in other languages.
Arriving there, at lunchtime, so before starting the tour, we had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Mount – I found it surprising! Lunch included starter, plate, and dessert, accompanied by a typical drink of the region, apple cider.
Afterward, we made the crossing and went exploring the famous abbey, including the sanctuary. Then a little while to admire the view from above and roam the village alleys. We returned to Paris at the end of the night, around 21h. The whole place has a unique and unexplainable energy, just visiting to feel and know 😉
This tour I did had lunch included, but there are other options on the Paris City Vision website, such as unguided transportation and no lunch, for example.
Tips for your visit of Mont-Saint-Michel
♦ If you want to see the high tide, the Mont-Saint-Michel official website offers year-round tides.
♦ If you have time, my tip is to sleep one night on the hill to walk the streets in the mornings. Since most people go round and prioritize the abbey, the mornings are usually quieter and more enjoyable to walk around. For hosting, you will find several options on Booking.com.
♦ Depending on the season, it can have a lot of people on the hill, and it can be a little challenging to find a free table restaurant. Some allow you to book in advance over the internet. A great place to book is La Fourchette (or The Fork), also available as an app.
♦ For more details of the guided tour I made, I invite you to visit the Paris City Vision website. They offer services to Paris and several others from France. 😉
⇒ Read also:
Things to do in Reims: Weekend getaway guide!
Discover Giverny and Monet’s Gardens | Ideal guide for a day
Things to do in Chartres, a beautiful historic city near Paris
Come With Me visited Mont-Saint-Michel at the invitation of Paris City Vision. However, post content reflects only the opinion of the author.