Updated on 12 July 2023
Reading time: 6 minutes
Haven’t we all dreamt of travelling to Normandy’s iconic Mont-Saint-Michel one day? Well, this medieval masterpiece is the second most visited monument in France after the Eiffel Tower in Paris! Yet, if you dare to venture off the beaten path, it is possible to experience the Mont-Saint-Michel in a different light and immerse yourself in its splendor, far from the bustling crowds. “How?” you may ask. What’s the best time to visit? Can you spend a night there? Well, dear traveler, we have a few insider tips to share with you to inspire your journey to this Unesco World Heritage site!
Prepare to be pleasantly surprised if it has been some time since your last visit to the Mont-Saint-Michel. In recent years, a remarkable change has occurred: the parking lot at the foot of the Mount has been replaced by a bridge that seamlessly integrates with the picturesque surroundings. When the tidal coefficients surpass 110, the Mont-Saint-Michel reclaims its identity as an island, unveiling a truly magnificent spectacle.
What is the best time of the year to visit the Mont-Saint-Michel? off-season of course !
Here’s the top tip to avoid crowds at the Mont-Saint-Michel: visit on weekdays rather than weekends, outside of holiday periods and long weekends, in autumn or winter. Do keep in mind that high tides tend to draw in a lot of visitors, when the tidal coefficient is above 110.
Mondays and Tuesdays are particularly busy, so if you prefer a more serene experience, consider visiting on other weekdays. If you want to steer clear of the tourist rush, it’s obviously best to skip the peak season of July and August. The tourist office also advises that the busiest times are included between 11 am and 3 pm. So, plan your itinerary wisely to savour quiet moments at this magnificent site.
Embrace the tranquility of the Mont-Saint-Michel after the crowds have left
Visiting the Mont-Saint-Michel in the evening, whether for a delightful dinner or a leisurely stroll along the ramparts, will allow you to truly experience the magic of the place without the hustle and bustle of tourists. Furthermore, parking in the designated visitor parking areas on the mainland is free from 6:30 pm onwards (during low and mid seasons). For more information on parking at the Mont-Saint-Michel, please refer to the tourist office’s website.
Bypass the main street
Grande Rue, the village’s main street is narrow, bustling with shops, and often crowded with visitors from around the world. This can become slightly overwhelming and can detract from the medieval charm and quaint atmosphere. Our suggestion? Tour the ramparts or enter through the Fanils gate (located on the left when facing the Mont) to uncover smaller paths and staircases. Please visit the tourist office’s web site for additional access information, specifically for visitors with limited mobility.
Stay overnight on the Mont-Saint-Michel
Spending a night in one of hotels within the walls of the Mont-Saint-Michel offers a truly immersive experience. Step back in time and fully embrace the magical ambiance at dusk and dawn. After indulging in a delightful meal on the Mount, wander through the charming cobblestone streets in the night, savouring the opportunity to gaze at the changing tides from the ramparts. As twilight descends, the mysterious atmosphere of this medieval gem dating back to 708 becomes even more evocative.
In spring, rise early and walk to the Mont-Saint-Michel
On sunny days, it’s not just the sun that makes a comeback, but also an array of tourists! Arrive early in the morning (around 8 am) to avoid the crowds. Instead of opting for the shuttle bus, enjoy a delightful 20-minute walk across the bridge, relish the pure bliss of feeling the ocean mist and take your time to admire the majestic Mont-Saint-Michel in the morning light. The cobblestone streets exude a serene ambiance, while the ramparts offer a peaceful vantage point with 360° panoramic views. During these magical moments, the mesmerizing allure of this unique site renowned for its remarkable tides, unveils its breathtaking splendor.
On busy days, get your ticket to the Abbey and enjoy unforgettable views
If you happen to visit the Mont-Saint-Michel during the summer and still wish to avoid the crowds as much as possible, here’s a secret ! Make your way straight to the top of the Abbey and treat yourself to a fascinating self-guided or guided tour of this ancient sanctuary. The entrance ticket grants you access to the west terrace, where an absolutely exceptional panoramic view of the entire bay awaits. If you choose the tour called “In the Sky of the Archangel” (limited to 18 participants and available only on weekends), your guide will take you up the terrace of the choir and the lace staircase. Behold the magnificent sight as you stand upon the rooftops of the Mont-Saint-Michel, only a few steps away from the iconic statue of Archangel Saint Michael, brandishing his mighty sword and defeating the evil dragon.
Join a family tour, attend a concert or a sound and light show in the abbey.
Managed by the National Monuments Centre (Le Centre des Monuments Nationaux), the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel organizes a range of events all year-round: classical music concerts, engaging family activities, summer sound and light shows, and more. If you visit the abbey in the evening, parking is free of charge from 6:30 pm onwards (during low and mid seasons). Evening entertainment offers the opportunity to experience the abbey in a different light, as you wander through its ancient halls, savouring the rare sense of having the Mont-Saint-Michel all to yourself. Stay up-to-date with the latest news and events by visiting the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey’s Facebook page.
CROSSING THE BAY OF THE MONT-SAINT-MICHEL ON FOOT
Following in the footsteps of pilgrims, crossing the bay on foot is an exhilarating adventure that allows visitors to fully appreciate the natural surroundings of the Mont Saint-Michel Bay. Depending on the tides, visitors can cross the bay at sunrise, sunset, or during the day, guided by experienced experts, and witness the renowned quick sands of the area at low tide, also known as tidal flats or mudflats. Each step on this walk unveils the breathtaking beauty of the bay!
Reach the Mont-Saint-Michel by bikE
For cycling enthusiasts, there are three fantastic routes that will take you to the Mont Saint-Michel: La Véloscénie, La VéloWestNormandy, and Vélomaritime® EuroVélo4. Whether you decide to ride the entire route or just a section of it, you’ll have the opportunity to take in the beauty of the surroundings while keeping your eyes on the magnificent Mount. Here’s a useful tip: at the entrance of the Mont-Saint-Michel, on the left (Fanils entrance), 70 bicycle racks are available for your convenience.
The train to Mont-Saint-Michel
In summertime, you can board a train to Mont-Saint-Michel from Paris Saint-Lazare train station. Ticket are available at a very affordable flat rate.