If I were to make a list of the top-10 places to visit in France, Mont Saint Michel would, without a doubt, 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 its magnificence.
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 months ago with our children. I have to admit that we were somewhat disappointed as the place has changed so much in the last years. It’s become a major tourist attraction and the whole experience feels less authentic and more commercialised 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. I think 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 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 all together 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
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 (up to the hotel parking), but nobody is allowed to drive the road to the island any more.
If you are not staying at one of the hotels nearby, you have to use a designated parking and either walk (~2,5km one way) or take a free shuttle bus to the island. Parking costs 12 EUR per day, but is free in the evening from 7pm. 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 organised tour as they 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.
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 the 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 and 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 children
Mont Saint-Michel can easily be visited with kids of any age, but 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 couldn’t get enough of all the medieval knight attire in the gift shops and Normandy crêpes and galettes in the local restaurants.
Where to stay at Mont Saint-Michel
You have several accommodation options on the island, but 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 (like Hotel Mercure, Hotel Gabriel, Le Relais du Roy or others close by). Free shuttle bus stops nearby and 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!
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