If I were to make a list of the top-10 places to visit in France, Mont Saint Michel would definitely be on it. Mont Saint-Michel is one of those places that you have to see with your own eyes in order to truly appreciate how unique and magnificent it is
Since we live close to France, we have visited Mont Saint-Michel several times over the years. The last time we went there just a few years ago with our children.
I have to admit that we were somewhat disappointed as the place has changed so much in the last few years. It’s become a major tourist attraction and the whole experience feels less authentic and more commercialized than it used to. That being said, it’s still a place that is absolutely worth visiting!
When is the best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel
Summer is of course the most popular season to visit Mont Saint-Michel. But it’s also extremely busy and the place is packed. You can visit Mont Saint-Michel in any season, just be prepared for the wind, the rain, and the cold, no matter when you go.
Normandy and Brittany are known for the unpredictable weather and lots of rain. We have been to the area a few times, usually in the summer months, and every time we visited it was raining and it was windy. Now that I think of it, I think we had the best weather in May…
Summer months are extremely popular with tourists and it gets so busy that it can be really overwhelming, especially for children. If you want to avoid the crowds, I recommend visiting Mont Saint-Michel twice: once early in the morning and once in the evening, after most of the day tourists have left the place.
Why not just skip the day visit altogether and only go in the evening? Because you will not be able to visit the monastery, the churches, and the museums as they are usually only open during the day. I’m not sure about the museums as we haven’t visited any of them recently, but the visit to the monastery is absolutely a must and you don’t want to miss it!
How to get to Mont Saint-Michel
You can get to Mt St Michel by car or with an organized day tour from Paris.
The island of Mont Saint-Michel is not accessible by car as it used to be. Only people staying at one of the hotels around La Caserne Ardevon street can drive down the road a bit further, but only up to the hotel parking. Nobody is allowed to drive the road to the island anymore.
If you are not staying at one of the hotels nearby, you have to use designated parking. From there, you can either walk (~2,5km one way) or take a free shuttle bus to the island. Parking is quite expensive during the day, but it includes a free shuttle. Also, parking is free in the evening from 7 pm. The shuttles run every couple of minutes depending on how busy it is and they operate at least till midnight in summer.
If you are staying on the island itself, you still have to leave your car at the parking and use the shuttle.
What to see and do in Mont Saint Michel in 1 day
One full day is in principle enough for a visit to Mont St-Michel. I’d suggest the following. Head to the mountain first thing in the morning, go all the way to the top and visit the abbey.
After the visit to the monastery you can choose to visit the Parish Church and/ or one of the museums on the mountain or check out the gift shops on the main street – Grande Rue.
When the main street gets too packed with tourists, you should leave it and discover the quieter parts of the mountain. Stroll the narrow streets and admire the charming old buildings.
Don’t miss the ramparts of Mont St-Michel! They are located at the Southern side of the mountain and can be accessed at a couple different locations. The ramparts are usually not as crowded as the main street and you have some really nice views over the surrounding bay.
You can have lunch at one of the many restaurants on the mountain, but don’t expect good food or low prices. The restaurants fill up very quickly and there are lots of advance group reservations, so you have to get there in time, the moment they open for lunch (usually just before noon). Otherwise you may need to wait a long time, especially in summer.
You can try the famous omelette at the fancy La Mère Poulard restaurant and you can tell your friends that you ate the most expensive eggs ever. This traditional dish costs some 40-50 Euro and we never tried it. I can think of many better was to spend 250 Euro than getting an omelet lunch for our family… But please let me know if you did and if it was worth it. I’m really curious!
Alternatively, you can get a cheaper version of the Mère Poulard omelet at their brasserie a bit further down the street. Something tells me that it’s the same recipe at half the price, but it’s still more than 20 EUR for some eggs, so we skipped that one as well.
After lunch, you can take a walk on the bay surrounding the abbey. It’s advisable to do this with an organized tour as the guides know the area and the tide schedules. Otherwise, make sure you are well informed about the tide schedule and the safe route. Take this very seriously as the bay around Mont Saint Michel can flood very quickly!
There are plenty of restaurants that are open for dinner on the mountain, but if you are looking for better food and cheaper prices you are probably better off going for dinner in Pontorson village, 10 km inland. We had dinner in Pontorson twice and really enjoyed the more authentic local cuisine.
TIP: If you are staying in the area for at least one night, make sure to come back and visit Mont Saint Michel in the evening for a truly authentic experience!
We went to Mont St Michel just before sunset and stayed for an hour or two. And we were so glad we did! Not just for the beautiful sunset pictures, but for the whole atmosphere!
The mountain was practically empty in the evening. Only a few other people were walking around. It felt so different than during the day!
The streets and the buildings were beautifully lit. We found some secret alleys and staircases we hadn’t noticed at day time. And we even saw a group of bats flying around. The kids loved it!
Mont Saint-Michel with Kids
Mont Saint-Michel can easily be visited with kids of any age. However, you will enjoy the whole experience more if your kids are at least 3-4 years old and can walk by themselves. You will not be able to explore the abbey, the ramparts, and the rest of the mountain with a stroller as there are stairs everywhere.
Children of any age will absolutely be impressed by Mont Saint-Michel. Our kids loved exploring the abbey, running on the ramparts, climbing the stairs, discovering the narrow streets and alleys, chasing seagulls on the roof of the monastery, and spotting bats at night.
They also couldn’t get enough of all the medieval knight attire in the gift shops. And Normandy crêpes and galettes in the local restaurants were a big success too.
Where to stay at Mont Saint-Michel
You have several accommodation options on the island. However, the hotels there are really pricey and honestly, I don’t see any advantages of staying on the mountain itself.
I would recommend staying at one of the hotels at the end of the road just before the peninsula. Check out Hotel Mercure, Hotel Gabriel, or Le Relais du Roy. They are all close by and the free shuttle bus stops nearby. The ride to the Mont Saint Michel only takes 2-3 minutes, or you can walk or take a bike to the island.
Oh, and book early to avoid disappointment! Mont St Michel is a popular place and accommodation nearby books-up fast.
So, this is our short guide to visiting Mont St Michel in France.
If you are visiting this part of Europe, you may want to check our other articles for France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Check it out!
- Luxembourg and surroundings:
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Monday 9th of April 2018
Thanks for you commentary and beautiful photos. I hope you can help me determine whether I should purchase advance tickets online? I was going to, but I am a little confused because I don't know if the kids need a ticket (even though their entrance is free). I don't want to buy 2 tickets only to find out that the kids can't enter because they don't have one. We will be there in July, so you can see my concern in advance purchase. I remember from 20 years ago how busy the place can get! I love your suggestion of visiting in the evening hours. While we plan to go early in the morning and leave by 11, perhaps we will swing back around in the late afternoon too.
Monday 9th of April 2018
Hi Andrea, I really don't remember to be honest. I would think that if kids are free, they don't need a ticket. I don't think anyone would make a big deal of it, but as I said, I really don't remember how it works. The queue for the tickets wasn't that long when we visited, we just got them there. Even though the place itself was crowded, buying a ticket wasn't an issue :) Sorry I can't be of much help. Enjoy your trip!
Friday 2nd of September 2016
How much time do you need to see all there is to see at Mont St Michel? I mean, can you do it in just a few hours or do you need to stay for a night or even two?
Friday 2nd of September 2016
Hi Yolande. While you can probably see the abbey and the mountain in 3-4 hours, I think you should count a full day for Mont Saint-Michel. Depending on your trip itinerary, I'd spend at least one night nearby. We stayed two nights and while it wasn't necessary, we liked the fact that we could take the time to explore it in the evening when there were hardly any tourists. Hope this helps
Monday 18th of April 2016
Beautiful pictures :) love your blog Anni & Toby
Monday 18th of April 2016
Hi Anni & Toby. Thanks a lot. Greatly appreciate your comment!