Updated on 26 June 2020
Reading time: 4 minutes
You may not believe in fairy tales but a getaway to Normandy’s Mont-Saint-Michel comes pretty close. Exploring some of the most beautiful medieval buildings in France makes for a perfect weekend break!
Discover the Mont-Saint-Michel
Built in the year 700, the Mont-Saint-Michel has stood for centuries in the middle of a bay in the English Channel, and has welcomed Catholic pilgrims since the Middle Ages. Today, this magical tidal island is one of France’s most visited sites, attracting more than three million people every year to visit its abbey and to wander through its beautiful medieval town. The Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay have been a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
To access the Mont-Saint-Michel, an outdoor toll parking is provided on the bay. Once parked, you’ll have to walk along the Couesnon river to reach the pier to take a free shuttle bus which will bring you right at the entrance of the islet. You can also choose to walk the 2.5km along the bridge, a footpath that is perfectly safe and that allows you to immerse in the natural beauty of the bay. As you approach, the silhouette of the Mont-Saint-Michel rises majestically in the distance, floating like a mirage on the horizon with its gilded statue of the Archangel Michael standing atop the church spire.
What is there to see on the Mont-Saint-Michel?
Step back in time to the Middle Ages: narrow cobbled streets, brightly-coloured half-timbered houses, hidden passageways and winding steps make up the small village that surrounds the abbey on the island. Make your way through the bustling streets and gift shops within the old historic walls or take a stroll around the ramparts for stunning views of the sea swirling around the Couesnon estuary. Beware, it’s a steep climb up to the 1,300-year old abbey so be prepared and wear comfortable walking shoes!
journey back in time to the Middle Ages
The island has fewer than twelve full-time inhabitants, mainly monks and nuns living a humble spiritual life in the Abbey. Besides souvenir shops and heritage buildings, you’ll be spoilt for choice for restaurants serving local specialties. Treat your taste buds to a legendary omelette or biscuits from La Mère Poulard , or try the delicious Mont-Saint-Michel salt-marsh lamb, from the salt-marshes around the Bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel.
Abbey of the Mont-Saint-Michel
When you reach the top of the Mont, you’ll find yourself facing the Abbey of the Mont-Saint-Michel‘s imposing entrance. The panorama on the bay from the entrance of the Abbey is breathtaking! Standing at 78m, this Benedictine abbey is a combination of Roman and Gothic architecture with vast rooms, an ancient refectory, a church and cloisters over three floors which still accommodates a monk and nun community perpetuating prayers and the original vocation of the abbey. The sheer magnificence of this jewel of architecture inspires awe and spiritual serenity.
If you wish to follow in the footsteps of pilgrims and soak up the magical atmosphere, you can attend the daily prayers or the Sunday mass where monks and nuns gather in a choir.
The abbey is a jewel of architecture
Top tips for visitors to the Mont-Saint-Michel
- Visit the Mont-Saint-Michel at your own pace by coming early in the morning or staying longer in the evening to avoid the crowds. Thousands of visitors flock to the mount in summer and on bank holiday weekends, so it can get really busy. If you’re spending the weekend, be sure to stay for the sunset, either from the top of the mount or from the bridge for a view of the mount, for a magical sunset you’ll never forget.
- On the way to the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, we visited the small church of Saint-Pierre, which is well worth the detour. In the small cemetery next to the church is buried the famous chef of the mount, the Mère Poulard herself.
- Go horse-riding or hiking across the Bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel accompanied by professional guides as the bay can be hazardous due to rising tides and quick sand. Learn about the bay’s unique ecosystem and biodiversity while taking in the surreal landscape. You’ll feel like you’ve escaped to another world!
A microlight flight above the Mont-Saint-Michel
Thrill-seekers will love soaring over the beautiful scenery and landscapes of the bay in a microlight! The ULM flies up to 500m, allowing adrenaline lovers to contemplate the marvel from above. The experience of a lifetime!