On our road trip in Europe, driving from Paris to Portugal, we took a little diversion and headed north towards Normandy to visit Mont St Michel. This gorgeous tidal island with its charming medieval walled city and Abbey had been on our bucket list for a very long time. Here are some of our favourite Mont Saint Michel photos from that trip.
Mont St Michel History
Mont St Michel history dates back as far as the 6th century. The small tidal island was once known as Mont Tombe, but according to legend, a Saint Aubert, a bishop from the nearby town of Avranches had a vision that the Archangel Michael told him to build a church on the island. However, Saint Aubert ignored the vision, so the Archangel Michael persuaded him to build the church by burning a hole in his skull with his finger. Well, that worked, and a small chapel was consecrated to Saint Michel in October 709.
In 966, a group of Benedictine monks arrived and began to build a Romanesque style church. The legend of Mont St Michel and the presence of the monks turned the island into a pilgrimage site. Mont St Michel became so famous as a religious site, it even appeared on the Bayeux Tapestry.
Over the centuries, the abbey grew, and during the Hundred Years War in the 14th century, walls and defences were built to protect from the sieges by the English.
During the French Revolution, the abbey closed and up until 1864, it was used as a prison.
Then in 1979, having been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Mont St Michel is one of the most visited sites in France.
The Grande Rue, Mont St Michel
As you enter Mont St Michel through the Porte de l’Avanceé (the main gate), the Grand Rue aka Main Street will be to your right, and the tourist information centre will be just to your left. The Grand Rue is lovely to walk along. It’s lined with 15th and 16th-century buildings that now house shops, restaurants, and hotels. It does get very crowded so try to get there early morning or very late afternoon to avoid the crowds. Or meander through the back alleys off the Main Street.
The Grand Rue climbs steeply through the town to the Abbey.
Entering the Mont Saint Michel Abbey
It’s a steep climb to the top to see the Abbey, but it’s worth it for the views. The west terrace has incredible views across the bay. It’s interesting to explore the Romanesque, with a touch of Gothic, abbey, the church, and the cloisters. You can join a guided tour of the Abbey or use an audio guide, but we always prefer just to wander and explore at leisure.
Opening Hours and Entrance Fees for visiting Mont St Michel
It’s free to explore the old town on Mont St Michel, and that is open all the time.
Entrance Fees to Mont St Michel Abbey or Abbaye du Mont Saint Michel are:
€11 per adult
€8 for 18-25-year-olds (free if you are EU citizen)
Free for children under 18.
Tickets can be bought in advance, especially useful during high season.
Mont St Michel Abbey or Abbaye du Mont Saint Michel is Open:
Open daily except Christmas Day, New Years Day and 1st May.
Open 09:30 – 18:00 September to April
Open 09:00 – 19:00 May to August.
Last admission, one hour before closing.
Top Tips for Visiting Mont St Michel
Do wear comfortable shoes, you will be climbing a lot of steep hills and steps.
Arrive early or stay late to avoid the coach loads of tourists.
Consider staying at least one night, you’ll be glad you did.
Walk along the ramparts for magnificent sea views.
Take loads of photos of Mont Saint Michel.
Where to stay in Mont St Michel
Many people opt to stay on Mont St Michel but be warned, you can no longer drive across, so you’ll be carrying your luggage, and there are lots of steep hills but what a fantastic place to stay.
We opted to stay at Les Portes de Mont St Michel because not only is it a little cheaper, easier to park but from our room, we had a fantastic view so we could make phots of Mont St Michel from the balcony. You don’t get that view if you stay on the island. From Les Portes, it’s only a 20-minute scenic walk to Mont St Michel, or you can take one of the regular shuttle buses.
How to get to Mont St Michel
By car – Private cars are not allowed to drive along the causeway to Mont St Michel. If arriving by car, follow the P signs for parking and Navettes (shuttle buses) which will take you to Mont St Michel. The shuttle bus transfer takes around 8-10 minutes, or you can walk there in under half an hour.
If you follow the signs for Mont St Michel, you will end up at a barrier, that only authorised vehicles can drive through. If you are staying at Mont St Michel or Les Portes de Mont St Michel, your hotel will give you instructions on how to pass through the barrier and where to park.
By train – The nearest train station is ten kilometres away in Pontorson. Regular shuttle buses operate from the train station to Mont St Michel.
By tour – Or take a guided tour from Paris. This one gets great reviews.
Next stop: Cancale for some delicious oysters
For More Posts On France, Check These Out
- Cruising the Canal du Midi
- A Feast of Oysters in Cancale, France
- Things to do in Lyon
- A Day Trip to Giverney from Paris
- Explore Paris Like A Local With Paris Greeters
- Visiting The Paris Catacombs
- Pere La Chaise Cemetery
- A Secret Food Tour In Paris
- A Visit to Bayonne
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Wow. Great collection. I was there in February and it was very cold and the pictures very dull. Your pictures especially the one at sunrise is simply stunning. Wish I can go back in the summer. But yeah, this place is an absolute fairytale if ever there was one!
We were there in February too. Guess we got lucky with the weather that day 🙂
Wonderufl post with equally stunning photos. You sure paint a pretty picture although I have been rather put off by the hoards of tourists which apparently just spoils it all. But by the looks of your photos it looks idyllic! Love the story of how the abbey came to be despite it being a little gruesome:)
I don’t think we would want to visit in summer, yes I’ve heard can get rather crowded. We went there in February, no crowds and we got lucky with the weather!
What an amazing place to explore! Your photos are just stunning. I would love to visit in the summer and explore the entire area.
It gets very busy in the summer so avoid weekends and go early before the tour buses arrive 🙂
Mont St. Michel looks like something out of a storybook! Your sunrise photo is absolutely dreamy. I’m surprised it is so touristy, I’ve never even seen photos of this place before your introduction.
It is lovely but I’d imagine it would get really touristy in the summer. I bet you see pictures of Mont St Michel everywhere now lol!
It was treat to see the Mont Saint Michel Photos. The place looks so charming and the historical description makes it even more special. We have been enjoying the places which have fabulous architecture and this destination looks inviting. The fact it is World Heritage Site does add to its significance. Would love to walk on Grand Rue and absorb the place.
It’s a really lovely place. Try and spend a night there!
I’ve never heard of Mont St Michel but this place looks like from the fairy tale. Mont St Michel is so beautiful and charming, and I love its architecture. It’s great that there’s no entrance fee to visit this place. Your photos are really beautiful as well.
Thank you. It does look like it’s from a fairytale, doesn’t it?
Wonderful post with very stunning photos. I especially love the light in the photo of the Chapel at Mont St Michel – beautiful. I loved your little snippet of history at the start. It’s always good to understand a place before you explore, makes the whole experience much more rewarding.
Thank you ☺️
You have taken beautiful photos of Saint Michel that they tempt me to book for this place. The whole place is truly photogenic especially the sunrise from the top of Mont Saint Michel. I also loved the interiors of the chapel with colorfully tiled floorings.
Such a magical place! Is this the castle inspire in the movie Disney movie “Tangled” ? It looks familiar 😀 I heard this is one of the not so touristic place, coz its quite a distance in the city.
Beautiful photos! We just hopped over to the Brittany coast from London recently, but avoided Mont Saint-Michel because of the said tourists. Event Saint-Malo was too touristy for my liking! Best to return in the late autumn or early spring like you did. Cheers! 🙂
Wow ! Really beautiful photos ! And really impressed how you managed to capture all of them with no crowd at all ! I was there a month back, and can totally understand how impossible it is to completely avoid the crowd !