The impressive Mont Saint Michel abbey in France is a historic and architectural wonder that draws millions of visitors every year. Read on to find out the best time to visit Mont Saint Michel and everything you need to know before you arrive.
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About Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey perched on a rocky island off the coast of Normandy in northwest France. Constructed from the 11th to the 16th century, the abbey is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, who appears as a golden statue at the top of its spire. It is now surrounded by its own village of shops, hotels and restaurants.
According to legend, in the year 708 AD, Saint Aubert, the bishop of the nearby commune of Avranches, dreamed that Saint Michael the Archangel instructed him to build an abbey on the small rocky island. Medieval pilgrims nicknamed the abbey St. Michael in Peril of the Sea, because of the difficulties in crossing the quicksand surrounding it when the tides are low. Visitors today are still advised not to walk across the sands.
Every year, over three million visitors are drawn to Mont Saint Michel and it has become one of France’s most recognisable landmarks. Only Paris’s Eiffel Tower and the nearby Palace of Versailles receive more tourists.
Since 1979 the island has been a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its fairytale looks have inspired the makers of movies such as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Tangled and Snow White and the Huntsman.
Looking for the best places to stay near Mont Saint Michel? Check out this great selection here.
How to get to Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel can be reached in around four hours by train from Gare du Nord in Paris. The nearest train station is Gare Pontorson – Mont-Saint-Michel in the town of Pontorson, which is around 30 minutes from Mont Saint Michel. Hotels in Pontorson include the superb Hôtel Victor Hugo. Alternatively, you can book a one-day guided tour by coach from Paris to Mont Saint Michel.
By car from Paris to Mont Saint Michel takes around 4.5 hours. Next to the parking area is the tourist information centre, from where you can catch the free shuttle bus for visitors, called Le Passeur. There are a number of hotels and restaurants in this area for easy access to the island, including the top-rated Mercure Mont Saint Michel. Alternatively, you can walk from the parking area to the island via the bridge.
Browse and book your room in one of the best hotels in Pontorson, close to Mont Saint Michel.
The best time to visit Mont St Michel
Generally, between March and October is the best time to visit Mont Saint Michel. While the summer months of July and August will be warmest, it will also be the busiest because of the school holidays. Visiting in May, June or September will give you a good balance between mild weather and not too many crowds.
The best time of day to visit Mont Saint Michel is between 9am and 10am or 3pm to 4pm, otherwise you may face a long queue on the bridge to buy your ticket before you’ve even got inside. Because Mont Saint Michel is so popular, it can get very busy with queues stretching along the bridge.
We went on a Monday in May and we didn’t have to queue, but weekends are busier. If you are planning to come in May, avoid the Mont Saint Michel Bay marathon at the end of the month, which draws 5,000 runners from all over France and many spectators.
July and August are the best time to visit Mont Saint Michel if you want to see it at night. During these high season months you can buy tickets for special summer evening events when Mont Saint Michel is romantically lit and exceptionally open to visitors after hours.
Skip the queue and book your ticket to Mont Saint Michel in advance here.
Where to stay near Mont Saint Michel
You can actually stay on the island of Mont Saint Michel. While you’re cut off from the mainland, some people prefer it, as it means you can wander around this magical place after the tourists have left for the day.
There’s plenty to see if you stay on the island: as well as the abbey, there are around fifty shops and plenty of restaurants to visit. If you choose a hotel on the island, be prepared to bring your luggage on foot over the bridge or using the shuttle service from the car park, which is 2.5 km away on the mainland.
One of the best known hotels on the island is La Mère Poulard, which is famous for its restaurant’s omelettes. However, the best-rated hotel in the area is not actually on the island – it’s the Mercure Mont Saint Michel, located near the tourist information centre.
If you’re looking for more affordable accommodation away from the crowds, check out the hotels in the nearby town of Pontorson, including the superb Hôtel Victor Hugo, which is rated highly for its friendly staff and is set in a renovated historic building.
Alternatively, you could stay in the nearby town of Beauvoir, which is around 3 miles (5 km) from Mont Saint Michel. The Appart’Hôtel Fleurdumont here is popular thanks to its outdoor pool, tennis court and well-furnished apartments with balconies.
Check out the latest prices and deals for the best hotels on Mont Saint Michel.
Next up, discover what to wear in Paris in winter to stay chic while it’s cold.
I love that it is surrounded by quicksand. I did not know that. So cool.
Ha – yes, it has clearly been troubling visitors for centuries! Just don’t test it out if you go there, or you might need to be rescued 😉