Noted as a must-see destination by US News, Planetware, Lonely Planet, and many others, Mont-Saint-Michel truly lives up to the hype. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
At high tide, Mont-Saint-Michel becomes an island. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to consult the tide tables or risk getting stranded. There is an elevated causeway and shuttle to take you to and from the island.
Another Charming Mediaeval Town
The the buildings are hundreds of years old, the streets are cobbled (and crowded), and there are many, many stairs to get to the abbey. The guidebooks strongly suggested going early in the morning and on a weekday. We went on a Tuesday when they first started running the shuttles and it was still somewhat crowded. By the time we were leaving the abbey, it was wall-to-wall people on the steps and streets.
The Crowning Jewel – The Abbey
The village and the ramparts are fantastic, but the real attraction is the Benedictine Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, often referred to as “The Wonder of the West.” According to legend (and our guide) the archangel Michael, repeatedly appeared to Bishop Aubert of Avranches in dreams, telling him to build a church on top of the island in A.D. 708. After the third dream and a thump on the head, the Bishop got to work.
Here is another location where it is strongly advised to get your tickets in advance. Even if you want to take the free, self-guided tour you should get your tickets in advance. We chose the Conference Tour, a two-hour guided tour that took us into many areas off-limits to the general public. Well worth the €18.00 each. Be sure you book the tour time for your preferred language.
Any complex of this size and grandeur would be impressive, but when you consider the extra effort required to get the stones to the island and up the hillside it’s even more so.
The year 2023 Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey is celebrating it’s Millennial anniversary.
What to Know Before You Go
If you want to tour the abbey, even self-guided, get your tickets in advance. I recommend the guided tour, you get to see more of the abbey and hear many interesting stories that you would miss on the self-guided tour.
It gets very crowded in the summer, on school holidays, and on weekends. Go mid-week and go early in the morning.
There are a LOT of stairs. Whether you take the route up the village streets or along the ramparts there are hundreds of stairs to climb. Inside the abbey, if you take the guided tour, there are more steps down into the crypts and throughout the complex.
Bring your own food and drink. Once on the island, you are basically a captive audience and the restaurants are hideously expensive. We were warned before we visited and were very happy with our sandwiches from the boulangerie in Port-en-Bessin.
Be prepared to shell out for parking. We paid more than €20 to park, but at least that included the shuttle to the island.