Updated on 2 December 2022
Reading time: 4 minutes
Some places in Normandy aren’t just spell-bindingly beautiful, but possess the power to transport us into a fantastical reality. The Mont-Saint-Michel is one of these magical places, not only due to its spiritual significance and extraordinary architecture. It is also home to some of the strongest and highest tides in Europe! As this extreme tidal phenomenon occurs on specific days, we timed our family trip right to witness this astonishing spectacle of nature first hand and create unforgettable memories together.
Discovering the iconic Mont-Saint-Michel had been at the top of our travel bucket list for a while. Itching to tick it off and embark on a family adventure, we finally penciled some dates down around the high tides in Normandy (with a tidal coefficient close to 100) and booked our accommodation on the Mont-Saint-Michel itself. As recommended, we travelled off-season to avoid the crowds and enjoy the quaint and intimate atmosphere of the village.
High tides & tidal bore: nature in its grandest setting
Off we went on this exciting family trip! On the first day, the tidal coefficient was 104, perfect to observe the rising tide flushing into the bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel. Set in a magnificent landscape, this natural tidal phenomenon takes place twice a day, sometimes creating a wave – called a tidal bore – with the leading edge of the incoming tide.
Our first encounter with the Mont-Saint-Michel left us completely awestruck. We walked through the drawbridge surrounded by ancient defense walls, crossed the main paved street “Grande Rue”, then wandered into a maze of little alleys and narrow staircases. We finally reached our hotel to drop off the luggage and headed straight back out to make the most of this magical place!
On arrival, our first objective was to walk to the top of the abbey. Indeed, the western terrace of the abbey is a favorite spot to watch the tidal spectacle as it provides unparalleled panoramic views of the bay. In the distance, we spotted a single wave advancing towards the Mont: it’s the tidal bore, a natural wave progressing a lot faster than the normal tide. We could hear it roar from afar! Its speed increased, the currents mingled together creating turbulence and whirlpools all around. The rising tide reached the base of the island and within a few minutes, the Mont-Saint-Michel was completely surrounded by water. So impressive!
As the sun started to set over the horizon, the golden light adorned the majestic abbey. All the beauty around us surely made for a great photo opportunity! We strolled back down to the village and enjoyed a walk around the fortifications.
As the night fell, we discovered a whole new side to the Mont Saint-Michel: the tranquil, enchanting ambience of a medieval village by night. Sleeping on the island made us feel like the few privileged locals who inhabit the Mont (only 30 people live here), giving us the freedom to explore at our own pace and the chance to marvel at the ever-changing landscapes dramatically altered by the massive tidal shifts. With this in mind, we planned to wake up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise from the ramparts.
The closest you can get to the golden archangel
In this oasis of quiet contemplation, centuries of history lie beneath our feet and before our eyes. The Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey is the jewel in the crown, with the statue of the Archangel Michael on top of its spire. To uncover 1300 years of history, we joined the thematic tour “Heavens of the Archangel” organised by the abbey. We followed our passionate (and ultra- knowledgeable!) guide, François, to explore the abbey, including the crypts, the choir terraces and even the rooftop, the “lace” staircase at 110 meters above sea level. We got so close to the archangel! The views over the bay and the village were absolutely breathtaking.
This fascinating visit and a last stroll around the rampart allowed us to delve deeply into the history and heritage of this mighty place. One thing we can say: the Mont-Saint-Michel has left us longing to return for more island adventures. Perhaps the crossing of the bay on foot next time?
Please note that two distinct bookings are required for this experience of the high tides: one for your overnight accommodation and one with the abbey to join the guided tour “Heavens of the Archangel”.
High tides calendar 2022-2023
Sunday, October 9, 2022: 97 & 100
Monday, October 10, 2022: 102 & 103
Tuesday, October 11, 2022: 102 & 101
Wednesday, October 26, 2022: 99 & 100
Thursday, October 27, 2022: 100 & 99
Thursday, November 24, 2022: 97 & 99
Friday, November 25, 2022: 100 & 99
Saturday, November 26, 2022: 98 & 95
Saturday, December 24, 2022: 98 & 100
Sunday, December 25, 2022: 100 & 99
Sunday, January 22, 2023: 99 & 102
Monday, January 23, 2023: 105 & 106
Tuesday, January 24, 2023: 106 & 104
Wednesday, January 25, 2023: 101 & 97
Monday, February 20, 2023: 101 & 106
Tuesday, February 21, 2023: 109 & 111
Wednesday, February 22, 2023: 111 & 110
Thursday, February 23, 2023: 107 & 103
Tuesday, March 21, 2023: 102 & 106
Wednesday, March 22, 2023: 109 & 111
Thursday, March 23, 2023: 110 & 109
Friday, March 24, 2023: 106 & 101
Wednesday April 19, 2023: 97 & 100
Thursday April 20, 2023: 102 & 103
Friday, April 21, 2023: 102 & 101
Wednesday, July 5, 2023: 96 & 96
Wednesday, August 2, 2023: 97 & 101
Thursday, August 3, 2023: 104 & 106
Friday, August 4, 2023: 106 & 104
Saturday August 5, 2023: 102 & 98
Thursday, August 31, 2023: 103 & 108
Friday, September 1, 2023: 111 & 112
Saturday, September 2, 2023: 112 & 110
Sunday, September 3, 2023: 107 & 102
Friday, September 29, 2023: 106 & 110
Saturday, September 30, 2023: 112 & 113
Sunday, October 1, 2023: 112 & 109
Monday, October 2, 2023: 105 & 100
GUIDED tour “Heavens of the Archangel”
Reservation for the guided tour “Heavens of the Archangel” (only on weekends)
2h visit with a professional guide – 18 people max
Adult rate: 18 €.
Children (7 – 17 years old)
Reduced: 6 €.
Free (- 7 years old)
WHERE TO SLEEP ON THE MONT-SAINT-Michel?
There are 7 hotels and 1 B&B on the island itself:
Hôtel Auberge Saint-Pierre
Hôtel Le Mouton Blanc
Hôtel La Mère Poulard
Hôtel Les Terrasses Poulard
Hôtel La Croix Blanche
Hôtel La Vieille Auberge
Visit the official website to plan your stay
(Tip: tick “intra-muros” on the left column)
Good to know
The Mont-Saint-Michel gets very crowded during the summer months. Therefore, the best time to schedule your visit is between October and March. The light in autumn and winter is most striking at sunset and sunrise.
All of the above information is subject to change.