Why Visit the Mont St. Michel?
Situated just 1 kilometer off the coast in Normandy, the small fortified town of Mont St. Michel looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. With the stunning abbey resting at the very summit of the fortified city, and the town sprawling out beneath it… it is actually quite impossible to get a bad photograph of this historic UNESCO world heritage site. The pictures just take themselves…
How to get there
Mont St. Michel is perhaps easiest, and cheapest… to access via car. Although lines to park near the city can be very long in the morning so it is best to plan for this accordingly.
While traveling in Paris, however, most will not have access to a vehicle. Rest assured that, while there is no direct rail access, getting to Mont St. Michel from Paris via public transportation is quite possible. You actually have several options in how you will do this.
Your first option is to take a bus directly to the point of mainland just adjacent to the island. From here… you will be able to walk on the causeway to the fortified city. Bus tickets are relatively inexpensive and, even if you purchase them at the last minute, can be bought for as little as around $50 dollars. Be warned though, the journey by bus is a long three and a half to four hours… It might benefit you to bring some snacks and beverages along for the ride.
Your second option for transportation is to take a train… We recommend taking the TGV from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes. Here you can find a bus run by Keolis Emeraude that will provide you with a 90 minute journey to the island. With both options, we recommend checking for any discounts you may be eligible for. People under 25 and over 60 are usually eligible for marked down prices.
About the Island
Mont St. Michel is a tidal island surrounded by mudflats and farmland. At low tide… it is technically possible to approach the island through the mudflats, although this is not advisable. Not only does the marshland surrounding the island often times contain quicksand, but the swiftly incoming tide can create hazardous conditions for anyone who does not know what they are doing. We highly recommend that, should you wish to explore the mudflats, you do so with an experienced tour guide (click here for walking tours). Otherwise… it is best to approach the island via the well maintained causeway that connects it to the mainland.
The city itself, currently the home of approximately 44 permanent residents, has long maintained strategic fortifications. Its highly defensible position made it difficult for armies to successful mount an assault against the castle. The incoming tide would either strand, drown, or block out invading attackers.
Ironically, the structure of the town closely mirrors the feudal society which built it. God sits at the top in the heavens, the abbey and monastery just beneath that, then the castle’s living quarters, then the town and shops, and outside of the fortress there were fields for peasants to work in.
Exploring the Abbey
Visitors to Mont St. Michel have the capability to ascend to the top of the mountain and take in the view from the Abbey. The panoramic views that this hike will afford you are nothing short of spectacular. It is for us, the best part of any trip to Mont St. Michel.
Entrance fees to the Abbey will vary depending on your age and nationality. The standard ticket price for adults over 26 is €9. If you are under the age of 18, an EU citizen between the ages of 18-25, or disabled… entrance will be free for you. For more details on admission prices and hours of operations… click here.
When visiting the abbey you will be able to explore over 20 different rooms and multiple outdoor gardens. You will find many great halls, and chapels that once housed the monks who resided here.
When visiting the abbey… comfortable shoes are an absolute necessity as you will find yourself climbing up and down old steps on more than one occasion.
The Town Below
The winding village below the castle is a treasure begging to be explored in its own right. Here, while the crowds of tourists can at times feel overwhelming, you will find several cute cafés, shops, museums and gardens. We recommend stopping and sitting down at a restaurant to rest and refuel after your hike to the summit. You will need it.
Keep in mind that entrance to the town itself is free of charge but prices at cafés can be a little high meaning that if you are looking to travel on a budget, you may want to consider packing your own lunch to take with you! If you are feeling like an splurging though, the restaurant La Mère Poulard is famous for its omelette recipe which has been satisfying wary pilgrims long before it ever did tourists.
If you are looking to stay in Mont St. Michel overnight be warned that while a few hotels do exist on the island, they are very expensive and usually book reservations well in advance. Plan accordingly! We recommend that you, instead, stay at the nearby pirate city of St. Malo.
The Surrounding Landscape
Don’t worry… immersion in the Norman landscape is inevitable and your first experience with it will be your journey from the bus-stop/parking lot to the town itself. While we definitely recommend enjoying a nice scenic walk over to the island, if you are pressed for time or have difficulty staying on your feet… you may also take a trolly or even a horse drawn carriage over to the city.
You may want to take your time though. The countryside surrounding the mont has just as much to offer travellers as the town itself. Not only do you get some of the best views of Mont St. Michel from afar but, from out here, you can explore the surrounding area by land, air or sea. Whether you want to go on a horse back ride through the mud flats, kayak through the bay, or view the surrounding landscape from a hot air balloon… there is something for everyone to enjoy!
Ready to Plan a Trip of Your Own?
Don’t worry! ParisByM is here to help you! We have designed several packages that will allow us to make your trip as convenient and worry free as possible!