28 November 2019 by Jessica Boston
Magical Mont Saint Michel – a unique and beautiful place that absolutely must be on your travel bucket list!
It’s not difficult to see why over 2.5 million tourists flock to visit Mont Saint Michel every year. People come from far and wide to experience this unique historic site set near the border between Brittany and Normandy, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you really should plan a trip!
More than just a monastery
Mont Saint Michel is a tidal island that’s home to a whole village of winding streets that host museums, hotels, shops and restaurants. The buildings date from between the 11th and 16th Centuries and were built around the steep and rocky shape of this natural phenomena; a rocky outcrop that is cut off from the mainland at high tides. The gothic architecture, dramatic seascape backdrop and atmospheric religious sites here combine to create a truly magical effect, it’s a must-see destination whatever your age or interests.
Perhaps surprisingly it’s free to enter the island of Mont Saint Michel. The approach itself is a visual treat with the fairytale look of the place offering a myriad of different views depending on the weather. Ethereal misty mornings, Disney pink sunsets, moody stormy skies, glorious sunshine and even the lights twinkling after dark all look extremely special. It’s well worth taking the time to see the site at a few different times of the day on your visit to appreciate the range of beautiful vistas. Arrive in style with a horse-drawn carriage ride, cycle, walk or take a shuttle bus up from the car parks – the choice is yours.
Impressive architecture and stunning views
Once inside the walls of this UNESCO protected site you are free to explore the narrow, sometimes steep streets, passageways and stairs. It’s a wonderful adventure as every turn brings something new from quaint shops to stunning sea views. Towards the top of the mount you’ll find the Benedictine Abbey – you can only imagine the challenges of building such an impressive piece of architecture in such a difficult location! There is an entrance fee to go inside the abbey and you can take a guided tour or simply explore the 20 different chambers independently. Throughout the year there are various sound and light shows which are a great way to enhance your experience of this holy and historic monument.
If you are going to France and travelling via ferry you’ll be able to add a detour to see Mont Saint Michel into your holiday plans so easily! It’s just an hour or so to drive to the port at St Malo or an hour and a half to the port at Caen. Plan an extra night in a B&B or hotel to start or finish your break and take the opportunity to see this amazing place – you won’t regret it!
Top tips to make the most of Mont Saint Michel:
1. Visit in the evening, it’s less busy and a beautiful sunset makes a stunning backdrop for the island.
2. The restaurants on Mont Saint Michel are crowded and expensive, take a picnic or eat before you go in to avoid extra costs, or go all out and book a table at La Mere Poulard who claim to serve the best (and possibly the most pricey) omelettes in the world!
3. Note the tide times and find a place with a good view to relax and watch as the bay fills or empties – when tides are high Mont Saint Michel becomes an island completely cut off by the sea!
4. Take a guided coastal walk, with a guide to ensure you don’t get caught out by the tide you can explore the grazing land and sand flats approaching the island to discover more about the fascinating history and nature here.
5. Experience The Abbey, it’s been an important place of pilgrimage since the 10th Century now dramatically crowned with the breathtaking 19th century statue of St Michael. It’s particularly beautiful after dark with careful lighting making it even more atmospheric.