With an estimated 3 million pilgrims and visitors every year, the village of Mont Saint-Michel enjoys the reputation of being the most visited destination in the Normandy area. This island is located about 600 m from the French mainland and 78 m feet high. It even has its own microclimate. Without a doubt, a visit in the springtime for vacation is an experience no one would love to miss.
For those who are on the quest to see some of the most iconic European sites, this village should be considered. Featuring popular Gothic abbey, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with lots of charming spots for tourists.
Here Are Some Things You Should Do In Mont Saint-Michel:
Stop By The Tourist Office
While many tourists often overlook visiting a village or town’s tourist office when they visit, there is much to lose, especially in information and details, and that could help them. They can even save a fortune from the tips the tourist office will give.
The tourist office in Mont Saint-Michel is located on the major street of the island, where visitors will be advised on how best to see the village, the area around it, and how to enjoy it. Safety tips shall be served as well, so you do not get into any trouble.
Enjoy The Island
It is a fortified village as you will see when you visit. A steep road takes visitors to the Abbey complex just on top of a rock. The street, Grand-Rue, is lined with shops selling souvenirs and restaurants.
You can take a brief walking tour and some shopping afterward. For those who love climbing, they can indulge themselves in some old village challenging climb. Then you can dine and wine as you like in one of the bubbling restaurants along the street.
Visit Abbey Du Mont Saint-Michel
Also referred to as the La Merveille (the marvel), this abbey is truly a marvel of medieval design and architecture. This pilgrimage site has been dubbed “Pyramid if the Seas” and “the heavenly Jerusalem” since the Middle Ages.
Towering at the height of 155 m above the sea, the Abbey du Mont Saint-Michel is a fascinating construction masterpiece. Factoring in the difficulties of gathering building materials over the Bay of Saint-Michel, it is even more astonishing that the abbey was built and with such beauty. Many workers died trying to cross the bay’s shores during unexpected riptides. Nevertheless, the abbey in the 1000s and 1200s was built in an elegant Gothic style.
To reach the abbey, pilgrims and visitors must start at the old gates, walk the village and walk 200 m up. You will find 350 steps up the Grande Staircase to reach the abbey’s entrance. At the basest floor are the lush gardens and wide hall known as the Aumonerie, which was a lodge for pilgrims in the 1200s.
The Knights’ Halls (Salle des Chevaliers) is on the middle floor, where knights were welcomed, and the Crypt of Large Pillars (Crypte des Gros Piliers). The abbey’s highlight is on the second floor, where you will find the Cloisters, the Abbey church, and Refectory.
Typifying the peaceful monastic architecture, the cloisters have 220 granite columns in double alternating rows. The impressive Abbey Church (Eglise Saint-Michel) has an imposing Romanesque nave and a 1400s Gothic choir elaborated with decorative details.
The abbey astounds visitors with phenomenal beauty and exalting the spiritual atmosphere. Leading up to a terrace with breathtaking views overlooking the sea, the staircase (Escalier de Dentelle) is a piece of beauty on its own.
Take A Walk Around The Ramparts
The village leads tourists on a spiritual trip into time to the Middle Ages. All of Mont Saint-Michel is pedestrian-friendly, and most of the buildings are stone-made from the 1200s and 1500s. Like many medieval places, the village is surrounded by ramparts (ancient walls) that fortify against invasions.
Visitors can take a walk along the ramparts pathways to take in the wonderful views offered. To reach the walls, a 1.8 km walk takes visitors through a causeway from the mainland to the rock’s base. Please be advised that high tides can reach here anytime.
Then visitors can proceed through the Porte du Roi where the external walls are. The massive stone ramparts enclose the island’s edge and have battlements that were deployed to resist invaders. From different spots along the Chemin des Ramparts, there are cracking views of the Bay of Saint-Michel.
Get Some Souvenirs At Grand Rue
Mont Saint-Michel’s only street that courses parallel to the walls, this cobblestone pathway leads tourists through the island. Visitors enter the village at the old Burgher’s Guardroom, then enter the Boulevard Gate, then the King’s Gate to reach the Grand Rue.
This fantastic street is lined by closely tight stone houses from the 1400s and 1500s, which souvenir shops, bars, snacks, hotels, restaurants, and cafes now occupy. Visitors will walk past the 1400s parish church built in honor of Saint-Pierre.
Other places worth visiting along the Grand Rue are the history museum and the Archéoscope (an entertaining multimedia show that narrates the history of the island’s abbey). The Logis Tiphaine is another, built for his wife in 1365 by the Knight Bertrand du Guesclin. It is a public museum today that features medieval artifacts and great designs of furniture.
See The Mont Saint-Michel Pilgrimages
At July’s end is a pilgrimage across the Bay of Saint-Michel. But the event is dependent on the tides. Visitors interested in taking the pilgrimage can reach the tourist office for information before planning a visit.
The Autumn Pilgrimage is another significant pilgrimage that holds on Saint Michael’s Day (September 29th) at the end of September. It celebrates the angel Michael and many other religious events. A solemn mass is held in the Abbey Church on the closest Sunday to Saint Michael’s Day. On that day, there is an evening mass at the Parish Church and vespers. On Saint Michael’s Day, the Parish Church and Abbey Church both observe morning mass and prayers.
Grab A Bite At La Mère Poulard
This hotel is an iconic institution on the island. Annette and Victor Poulard are celebrated as its founders in 1888. Just 20-years of age at that time, Annette was known to be a good chef and was dubbed La Mère Poulard (Mom Poulard).
The place housed pilgrims and visitors who stopped by to taste La Mère Poulard’s popular cooking. Now, the Auberge Mère Poulard features the hotel, a simple café, and a restaurant. The café and restaurant serve La Mère Poulard’s specialties like the omelet.
On the Grand Rue, La Mère Poulard was also widely known as ‘biscuits’ (cookies made with the finest butter in the area), which is still produced at the La Mère boutique.
Attend A Concert On The Island
Though small, Mont Saint-Michel is an interesting place to be as locals definitely know how to have a great time. The island’s abbey hosts a music festival every year between June and September. The festival is made of mostly classical concerts in beautiful venues in the abbey like the Knight’s Hall, the Chapelle Notre-Dame-sous-Terre, and the Eglise Saint-Michel. Check the abbey’s website for more details.
How To Get To Mont Saint-Michel
For visitors arriving by car, they can park in the parking lot that is situated on the mainland two-and-a-half km from the island. Then a shuttle bus drops tourists off 400 m from the village’s entrance.
For those who might plan to reach Mont Saint-Michel on foot, they must ask about the tides first. For safety’s sake, it is important to follow the tides’ schedule, as it is so dangerous to take on the bay when the water is rising. Visitors must bear in mind that it is compulsory to cross two hours before the tides, during spring tide days and that walking barefooted across the bay is the best way.
Tips For Visiting Mont Saint Michel
Visit The Island During Offseason
Like many tourist destinations, the most ideal time to tour Mont Saint-Michel is during the offseason. July and August are the busiest times of the year; therefore, avoid planning your vacation during summertime if you can.
Many tourists take to the streets in their dove every year, but you can avoid the rush by traveling outside the summer period. During off-peak seasons, accommodation tends to be cheaper.
Arrive Early In The Morning Or Evening
The perfect time to visit the island is early in the morning just before most tourists come to the village. Sometime around 9 am, the streets are still less busy, making it a brilliant time to meander around without mazing through other visitors.
Visiting in the evening is equally good when most of the visitors start to go home. From 7:30 am to 12 am every day, shuttles run, making it easy to access the site early or staying late in the evening. Visiting in the afternoon, one would definitely get delayed in long queues to park. Remember that parking is not free; however, the shuttle bus that takes visitors from the parking side to the village is free.
Things To Do In Mont Saint Michel – Summary
The island of Mont Saint-Michel is among the places in France you should visit when you can. Serial tourists know it is a beautiful little commune where they can have a rewarding time during vacation. It offers some of the best views of Normandy landscapes that you would not see anywhere else. And even though it is a small island, its appeal is incredible.