Le Mont St. Michel is a special island commune located off the coast of Normandy, France. The image of Le Mont St. Michel with its dramatic spires and abbey, majestically rising from the bare beach is quite famous – after all, Le Mont St. Michel sees nearly 3 million people each year and is one the most recognizable landmarks in France.
Built in the 8th century AD by Bishop Aubert of Avranches as a devotional chapel, following his vision of the Archangel Michael, the island has held strategic fortifications and has withstood many sieges and attacks. Located just over three hours from Paris, visiting this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect way to spend your day!
Quick Jumplinks to Navigate the Guide
- What Makes Mont St. Michel Special
- Mont St. Michel Tickets
- Visiting Mont St. Michel From Paris
- What to see in Mont the Mont St. Michel
- Choosing Between Self Visits & Guided Tours
- Paris to Mont St. Michel Tour
- Getting from Paris to Mont St. Michel
- Tips for Your Visit to Mont Saint Michel from Paris
- Other Day Trips from Paris
What Makes Mont St. Michel Special
It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes Mont St. Michel special – is it the location, set in the bare sand with the receding tide with its marvelous spires brushing the sky? Is it the Bay of Mont St. Michel, across which pilgrims used to make the arduous journey to visit the chapel by foot during low tide? Or is it the abbey, its interior adorned with arches and cloisters, once a renowned centre of learning that attracted the greatest minds from all over Europe? Maybe it's all of that and more that makes this religious and military masterpiece one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places in the world.
Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an experience that can’t be compared with any other. Walking along the footbridge connecting the island to the mainland, and looking out to the glimmering water is an experience you will cherish forever. Depending on the time of day you visit, you'll either be welcomed by a low tide and exposed sands or a high tide with the abbey jutting dramatically out of the sea. There’s lots to explore and experience here - you can walk along the cobblestone lanes and discover an abbey, museums, restaurants and a charming village. More than 60 buildings on the island are protected in France as monuments historiques.
A Brief History of Mont St. Michel
The treasury of history and enigma that is Mont St. Michel has a special place in the hearts of the French, not only for its architectural and symbolic significance but also for the cultural and historic importance of the Abbey. The Abbey of Mont St. Michel was even used as a prison at one point of time by Louis XI, and housed high-profile political prisoners. It is the story weaved through the structures of this island that make it a must-visit.
Mont St. Michel Tickets
Mont St. Michel Abbey Tickets
• Entrance to Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel
• Priority Skip the Line Access
Visiting Mont St. Michel From Paris
Distance From Paris: 360 km (224 miles)
Time Taken: 4 hours 10 minutes
Getting to Mont St. Michel
Most day trips to Paris begin with a pick up in Paris at the break of dawn. However, many travellers prefer to visit Mont St. Michel on their own, enjoying the spectacular countryside views that stretches for miles on both sides of the roads leading to Mont St. Michel. Once you arrive at the edge of the mainland, you can either take a free shuttle or walk across the 900 m long causeway (Pont Passerelle) that connects the mainland to the island.
For those arriving by car, there is a dedicated car park on the mainland, 1.5 miles away from the island to preserve the maritime beauty of the place. Once you have parked, you will have to walk to the Place des Navettes and board the free shuttle that will take you to the island. Place des Navettes is 800m from the car park and the shuttles stop 450m away from the island itself, so there is a fair bit of walking involved too. The shuttles operate evey day from 7:30 AM to midnight.
Exploring Mont St. Michel
Entrance to the island is free, however, you will require a ticket in order to visit the iconic Abbey at the crown of the rocky island. The island is the permanent home to around 50 people (including monks) but there are numerous hotels and restaurants in the commune that serve the 3 million tourists visiting the island every year. Most people prefer to explore the island during the day and return to the mainland. However, despite being an expensive affair (budget stays at €200), the experience of exploring the island and the surrounding areas at night and early morning away from the crowd is a magical experience in itself.
Walking the Streets of Mont St. Michel
From afar, as you walk the causeway and approach the island, the emphatic views of the abbey will leave you wanting to reach the top. However, the moment you enter the walls of the commune and find yourself surrounded by medieval houses lining narrow cobble-stoned streets that wind their up the rocky island, you will immediately be transported to the magical worlds of ancient fairy tales. In fact, the streets of Mont St. Michel resemble Diagon Alley from Harry Potter more than any other place in the world. The main road up the entrance to the abbey is the Grand Rue.
Taking the Grand Degré Steps
The Grand Degré is the name of the iconic set of stairs that lead up to the abbey from the Grand Rue. Like many who take the pilgrimage, climbing up the stairs to the abbey and the surrounding walls will provide you with stunning views of the monastery's grand architecture as well as beautiful panormaic views of the surrounding bay and countryside.
Mont St. Michel Abbey
The history of the abbey is as varied as the tides that roll in and out every day. The Gothic abbey was built bit by bit. For example, the Romanesque style church within it was built around 1060, whilst Charles VI is believed to have been responsible for its fortification between the 13th and 14th centuries. Towards the end of the Ancien Régime, the Abbey was used as a prison, as by the French Revolution, most monks had moved out of the Abbey.
The prison closed by 1863, but it wasn’t until 1922 that the monks moved back in. Today, the Benedictine monks have been replaced by some from the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem. During the Medieval period, the Abbey was one of the main centres for Christian pilgrims. With over 1.5 million visitors a year, the Mont Saint Michel Abbey is one of the most popular cultural sites in France for tourists.
Mont Saint Michel Abbey Reviews
We went here as part of a day trip from Paris. It was alot of driving but totally worth it and was one of my France highlights. The Abby itself is spectacular and the views are wonderful, Very easy access as there is a long road connecting the Mont to the mainland. We were bussed there and we walked back taking in the views.
In pictures it's nice... but being there is amazing. take your time to climb it all and to see all the rooms and spaces of the abbey.
Read what others have to say about Mont Saint Michel Abbey (Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel) on TripAdvisor.
Choosing Between Self Visits & Guided Tours
While exploring Mont St. Michel by yourself may be liberating and fun, there are significant advantages to booking a guided tour.
Cost: Going on a tour by yourself is cheaper - For example, the self-guided tour is €115, while a guided tour with lunch costs €169.
Company of a guide: While the guided tour includes a friendly guide, a self-guided tour obviously will not. If you plan on learning more about the history and the intricacies of the Abbey and the island, it may be best to pick a guide who can ensure that you get the best learning experience.
Hassle-free: While opting for a self-guided tour may seem cheaper, a guide will help you to plan your trip in a way that is most convenient for you. Also, since some tours include lunch, you will be saved the trouble of having to find a place to eat.
No missing out on anything: The main disadvantage to not having a guide is that you may be at risk of missing out on exciting aspects of the Abbey. A guide will know what parts of the Abbey just cannot be missed, and will ensure that you pick up on all of its subtleties.
Safety: Safety is a priority for both variants of tours. However, picking a guide may ensure extra safety as the guide, a professional, can ensure that you adhere to all safety rules and regulations, and can advice against anything that may seem unsafe.
Paris to Mont St. Michel Tour
Mont St. Michel's Abbey Full Day Trip from Paris
• Roam around the beautiful French countryside before reaching the foot of Mont St. Michel.
• Don’t miss the famous Abbey with its intricate gothic architecture and its fascinating history as a center of learning, prosperity, and eventually, a jail!
• Sample authentic French cuisine like Agneau pre sale, the special lamb available in this region.
• Be sure to attend any special events going on in the area – classical concerts are quite commonly held here!
Your journey will begin at Paris at 7:15 AM, from where you will be transported to the foot of Mont St. Michel by 11:45 AM. Board a shuttle to the historic city. Visit the incredible Gothic style Abbey at the heart of Mont St. Michel - your guide will tell you the tale of the abbey and describe its rich history. Your tour also includes lunch at a modern and elegant restaurant. After a delicious sampling of local French food, end your tour with a beautiful view of the bay, and maybe a quick visit to a few local shops and events!
Getting from Paris to Mont St. Michel
There are multiple ways to get to Mont St. Michel from Paris.
Train From Paris to Mont St Michel
TGV or Train A Grand Vitesse – Take a TGV from Paris’ Gare Montparnasse to Rennes, from where Keolis buses travel to Mont St. Michel up to four times a day. The entire journey should take you around 3 hours and twenty minutes. You can also change trains at Rennes for the Pontorson-Mont St-Michel train station. From there, a €2 shuttle runs to the Mont.
If you wish to ride directly from Paris to Mont, there are many different tour companies you can book with such as Paris City Vision, Viator, and Link Paris. These tours start at 129.00€ per person.
Best Time to Visit Mont St Michel
The best time to visit Mont St Michel is in November, early December, late January, February and March, in order to avoid long weekends and the summer holidays. Visit early in the morning or late afternoon (post 3PM) to avoid crowds.
Tips for Your Visit to Mont Saint Michel from Paris
- If you’d like to stay on Mont St. Michel overnight, be sure to remember that hotels on the island can often be quite expensive. However, the advantage to doing this is walking around the island at night and early morning before the crowd comes in.
- Similarly, if you’re looking to save money on food, carry a picnic lunch!
- Instead of taking the shuttle from the outpost of Mont St. Michel, walk! The journey should take you around 30 minutes, is on flat ground, and is quite a beautiful walk.
- Free luggage lockers are available at the tourist information center at the parking lots on the mainland.
Other Day Trips from Paris
Paris to Normandy
On June 6th 1944, The Allies stormed Normandy on the fateful day known as D-Day. Thanks to the incredible sacrifices of the allied forces, the Germans lost control of Utah and Omaha Beach, allowing for allied occupation. On this tour, you will be able to view first hand an original B-26 plane at the Utah Beach museum located in an old German bunker; a 17th century barn in Normandy amongst the apple orchards; amazing views at the Pointe du Hoc; and even an American cemetery where soldiers are buried. Start your tour in central Paris and travel through the French countryside in a comfortable air-conditioned coach as you learn from your friendly guide about the intricacies and tales of World War II.
• WWII: Normandy U.S. D-Day Beaches Full Day Trip from Paris
Paris to Versailles
Versailles is one of France’s largest palaces, and has an immense cultural and historic significance. Experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site at its finest via a luxury coach from Paris, with special skip-the-line access to both the Palace and its beautiful gardens. Not only was Versailles once home to Kings of France Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI as well as Queen Marie Antoinette, but it was also plays host to the Hall of Mirrors with its 17 windows and 350 mirrors. Explore all this with a friendly guide and handy headsets via this tour!
• Skip the Line: Versailles Palace & Gardens Tour from Paris