From the moment you approach the bay of Le Mont Saint-Michel and get a glimpse across the fields full of sheep you are struck with awe.
Le Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most visited sights in France and is a Unesco Heritage site. It is visited by over 3 million people every year and as of 2009 the island had a population of just 44 people.
Monks first settled on the rock in 966 at the request of the Duke of Normandy. By the 14th century it was turned in to the gothic Abbey you see today. In the 19th century it was used as a prison and was classed a Unesco site in 1979.
What was once many years ago a rock that stood out from the sea, is now a complete community with houses a church, shops, restaurants and even an Abbey.
To visit Le Mont it can take as long as a day or even a few hours depending on what you want to cover. We have visited the Le Mont Saint-Michel many times and each time we find something new to explore.
Le Mont Saint-Michel has its own tourist office where you can find out all the information about your visit. There are large displays showing how Le Mont has restored its maritime history in the aid of a new causeway.
Arriving at Le Mont Saint Michel
When I first visited this beautiful site 15 years ago the area outside was very different. Parking was either side of the causeway and you had to watch the clock so you did not get stuck out there because of the tide. There have been many changes since then and now they have it just right. The view of Le Mont Saint-Michel is not disturbed by cars or camper vans and the bay is easily accessible.
When you arrive by car or camper van you will be directed to your designated parking area. Make a note of the number lot you are in as the carpark is huge. You will be given a ticket on entrance to pay on your return.
The Rock is approximately a 15 minute bus ride away from the carpark along the sweeping stilted new causeway.
You can choose to walk on one of three different routes or hop on a bus or a horse drawn cart. If you want to get a good view walking up to the mont it may be a good idea to walk, this will take about 45 minutes..
When it is time to return to your car purchase your parking ticket from one of the many machines. The buses are very easy and arrive as soon as one takes off, there may be a small queue but very organised.
When you reach the entrance of Le Mont Saint-Michel you may be amazed at just how quaint it is. The winding street with bussling crowds, shops and restaurants make Le Mont come alive. What looks like a spectacular piece of architecture from the outside becomes even more on the inside.
You have a few choices in winding your way to the top. You can take a walk around the battlements or stroll the Main Street to the Abbey at the top. Take your time to explore the side alleys with small openings and the many gift shops.
Four museums for only €9 euros!
There are a few museums at Le Mont, they are not big by any means but you will get to explore parts you otherwise wouldn’t see.
One is the Maritime museum with miniature boats, The Archeoscope is a light show showing the building of Le Mont St-Michel. Then we have the historic house of knight Bertrand Du Guesclin and the History museum. Inside the museums is furniture and the thousands of years of history showcasing the history including when it was used as a prison. Most of the explanation is in french but for only £9 an adult and free for children you can visit all 4 museums at once.
What I loved about this most was the fact that each one takes you out on a different path. A small garden, ally or side road with lots of different views, perfect for photographs.
The abbey itself is beautiful with stunning architecture and gardens. The cloister is a magnificent gothic structure and the gardens well kept and it has the most magical feel. The Abbey deserves its own special post.
There is even a church, Église Saint Pierre with stunning stained glass windows to gaze at. So calm and beautiful away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded streets.
Food and Shopping
When you have finished you can wind your way back down the mont and stop by for a crepe or maybe some moules mariniere in one of the many restaurants. They often have terraces out the back over looking the bay to enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine.
You could pop in to Le Mere Poulard for one of her famous omelettes cooked in hammered copper bowl. This restaurant dates back to 1879 when many pilgrims and people on foot flocked to her restaurant.
- It is advisable to either get there early or go slightly later in the day around 2-3pm.
- You can even visit after 7pm when the car park is free.
- When paying for your parking, pop over to the ticket machine by the tourism office. There will be less queues there than where you get off of at the bus stop.
- Car parking machines take cash or card.
- Prices for snacks such as ice-cream vary it may be cheaper the further you go up the mont.
- Walk around the battlements for a different view of bay.
- Maybe break your day into two visits as your car park ticket is valid 24 hours.
- Most restaurants will have tables free but if you want a particular one its advisable to book.
- There are many take away snack bars along the street for crepes, pizza and ice creams.
- There are lots of steps, cobbles and narrow walkways. So wear good walking shoes and maybe if you have a baby or small child avoid a pushchair and opt for a baby carrier.
- Le Mont Saint-Michel is dog friendly but they are not allowed on the buses. They do allow them in the museums and they maybe allowed in some restaurants ( ask first )
Enjoy your stay at Le Mont Saint Michel here is nothing else quite like it.