5 Helpful Tips for Visiting Mont Saint Michel

5 Helpful Tips for Visiting

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I’ve only had the opportunity to visit Mont Saint Michel once, but I’ve returned to it many a time in my mind. Long after other places I’ve traveled have faded into misty memory, Mont Saint Michel has vividly remained. 

Located in northern France between Normandy and Brittany, this ancient, Benedictine abbey was constructed between the 11th – 16th centuries and remains one of the most visited tourist spots in all of France–more than 2.5 million people visit the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE site each year.

For all of the tourism to Mont Saint Michel, however, it can still be fairly complicated trying to figure out how to visit the abbey. There are, of course, tour companies that shuttle you there so you don’t have to worry too much about the details, but if you want more freedom with your time, then I suggest renting a car and visiting the site on your own schedule. 

You do have to pay to park your vehicle, but there are free daily tram services that shuttle you back and forth from the car park to the abbey between the hours of 7:30 am -midnight. 

1. HOW TO GET TO MONT SAINT MICHEL

Accessing Mont Saint Michel Parking Area By Car

The parking area can be accessed via the following roads:

  • A11 towards Le Mans/Laval, exit at Fougeres then head towards Mont Saint Michel.
  • A13 towards Caen, then A84 towards Mont Saint Michel

Visitors arriving by car can park their vehicle in the large parking area. As soon as you arrive, you will be directed to the parking section dedicated to private cars. 

Accessing Mont Saint Michel by Train

The closest train station is Pontorson. It can be accessed via the following train lines:

  • TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes or Dol de Bretagne, then a coach from Rennes or Dol de Bretagne to Mont Saint Michel.
  • Trains from Paris Saint-Lazare to Caen, then a TER train from Caen to Pontorson, then the shuttle bus from Pontorson to Mont Saint-Michel.
  • Trains from Paris Montparnasse to Granville, get off in Folligny and get another train to Pontorson, then the shuttle bus from Pontorson to Mont Saint Michel. 

For more information on traveling to Mont Saint Michel, visit:  bienvenueaumontsaintmichel.com

Mont Saint Michel Abbey France

In our case, we chose to take an early train from Paris to Rouen, rented a car from the Avis agency at the Rouen train station, and (after a brief tour of Rouen Cathedral) drove onward to our hotel in Ducey–Le Moulin de Ducey–which is only a 20-minute drive to Mont Saint Michel. 

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2. WHERE TO STAY

You can, of course, stay in a hotel on Mont Saint Michel or in the village adjacent to the site, but you do have to reserve fairly far in advance due to the tourism popularity. I actually enjoyed staying a little further afield from Mont in the quiet, peaceful hamlet of Ducey. 

While not overly fancy, Le Moulin de Ducey Hotel is small but quaint–3 floors with 28 rooms–but situated in a pretty spot overlooking the river. The staff was very friendly in my experience, and, for the one night I spent there, I have nothing but positive reviews. 

Moulin Ducey France Hotel
Image Courtesy BestWestern.FR

3. TOURING MONT SAINT MICHEL

Mont Saint-Michel

The last opportunity to tour the abbey is one hour before closing which is at 7:00 pm May 2 – August 31st and 6:00 pm the rest of the time. 

*NOTE: You have to climb A LOT of stairs to reach the ticket office located at the top. We literally ran up the seemingly endless stone steps to reach the ticket office in time. We kept turning corners, expecting to be there, only to see more steps winding out of sight. We kept passing people who had paused to rest along the way. So thankful we made it in time. 

Individual Tour Cost for Americans over the age of 25: 10 euros. 

We walked all over and through Mont Saint Michel zigzagging back and forth through the cool stone rooms, slowly making our way back down, weaving in and out of the terraced rose gardens and graves to the bottom. 

Mont Saint-Michel Interior
Mont Saint-Michel Tower
Mont Saint-Michel Abbey Garden
Mont Saint-Michel Exterior

4. WHERE TO EAT IN MONT SAINT MICHEL

Mont Saint-Michel Dining

If you need a refreshment after the walking tour of Mont Saint Michel, then stop into the hotel La Croix Blanche for some light and quick refreshment. 

La Terrasse Poulard also offers some delicious entrees for dinner with a beautiful view of the waters surrounding the abbey. 

We ordered the fish and chips, salads, an omelet, and topped it all off with a salty caramel crepe for dessert.  

If you want to try a local beverage, then sample one of the many varieties of cider that are native to the Normandy region of France. 

5. STAY FOR THE SUNSET

Mont Saint-Michel Sunset

If you’re not staying on the island, you do have to leave the abbey walls before the structure once again becomes cut off by the rising tides. 

While the sunsets are long in coming, I cannot stress enough just how beautiful it gets with every passing hour. We paused to gaze back at Mont Saint Michel, taking pictures well into the night. 

It wasn’t until midnight that the sun slowly started to sink below the horizon, and I felt myself engraving the moments of the day into my memories. 

Mont Saint-Michel Night
Northern France Sea Sunset
Mont Saint-Michel Evening Sunset

SIDE TRIP: THE SEASIDE VILLAGE OF HONFLEUR

Honfleur Northern France
Honfleur Northern France Harbor

If you have the time, then either on your way to Mont Saint Michel or on your way out, take the tiny road to picture-perfect Honfleur. It remains one of the most lovely, “postcard villages” I have ever seen. 

Though it was a cold, gray day in May when I visited, I was charmed by the colorful cafes lining the marina. Honfleur is a joy to explore, and I recommend buying a bag of freshly roasted, caramelized nuts from one of the street vendors along the harbor–irresistible fragrance and a taste to match.  

Honfleur France Dining

FINAL THOUGHTS

Mont Saint Michel is never far from me no matter how much time passes since my time spent there.  

Many nights, when I’m waiting for sleep, I re-read my journal entries from my time spent there, and without realizing it, I find myself back in the calm of Mont Saint Michel, surrounded by the ever-restless tides and the faint scent of roses clinging to the ancient stone. 

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