History & Culture

A visit to the remote island of Mont Saint-Michel

Take a trip to one of Europe’s most beautiful fairytale castles. The history of Mont Saint-Michel makes it a popular French landmark.

The inspiration behind the castle in Tangled and Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings films, it’s easy to see why Mont Saint-Michel is such a popular spot for tourists. Known as the ‘Wonder of the West’, the island commune, set in the middle of vast sandbanks between Normandy and Brittany, makes for a majestic sight on the horizon.

Where is Mont Saint-Michel?

Less than a mile from the French coastline, Mont Saint-Michel is a small island commune in Normandy. Originally inhabited by an Irish hermit and his following, it officially became part of Normandy in the 10th century. The region is full of hidden gems, and Mont Saint-Michel is definitely amongst its most popular spots. Despite this, the area has plenty of space to stay safe and socially distance while you explore.

Man, woman, and boy walking along a footpath towards Mont Saint-Michel beneath a blue sky surrounded by golden sands

Driving to Mont Saint-Michel from Calais

From Calais, Mont Saint-Michel is only a four-and-a-half-hour drive away. However, you certainly don’t have to wait until you reach your destination to start your holiday.

During the drive from Calais to Normandy, take in some of the most stunning beaches, many of which were the sites of the WWII Normandy beach landings. Although a sombre topic, each beach tells a story, which combined with their unique beauty makes them well worth a visit.

When is the best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel?

Although France is a popular spot throughout the year, springtime in Normandy is particularly special. Not only can you visit Mont Saint-Michel when the scent of summer is in the air, but there are many ways you can expand your trip in Normandy, with unique celebrations featuring music, black pudding, and tulips amongst others.

Things to do in Mont Saint-Michel

As one of Normandy’s most popular spots, there’s plenty to do to ensure you get the full Mont Saint-Michel experience.

Visit Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey

The Mont Saint-Michel Abbey is situated in the centre of the town, perched on the very top of the hill. All the other buildings surround its incredible structure, making it a significant landmark. The great halls, houses, shops, and fishermen and farmer’s homes have been built in gradual layers towards the bottom of the island, giving it a spectacular staggered effect.

The building of the Abbey was supported by French Dukes and Kings from 966, after Aubert, a local bishop, claimed that the Angel Gabriel wanted a church built out on an island. The church was so highly regarded that, despite the dangers of crossing the tide, there were huge pilgrimages.

Despite being briefly turned into a prison in 1794, the Abbey is still as a place of prayer, with monks and nuns of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem having resided on Mont Saint-Michel since 2001.

Yellow and grey stone building with one open window. Behind the building is a green tree and the Abbey on the hill beneath a blue sky with white clouds

Baie du Mont Saint-Michel

The Bay of Mont Saint-Michel is famed throughout the world for its fast-changing tidal variations, as well as outstanding beauty. Because of the tide, it is advisable to only walk across it with an experienced guide. They can keep you safe and tell you more about the stunning landscape and points of interest too.

Fortifications du Mont Saint-Michel

Designed to protect the Abbey and surrounding land during the Hundred Years War, the Fortifications du Mont Saint-Michel is a sight to behold. Included on the World Heritage list, the wall consists of four curtain walls, complete with semi-circular towers and a bastioned tower, a great place for an early morning walk due to the spectacular views.

Steps and fortifications on the left hand side of the picture with a green tree to the right and yellow sands with the sunset in the back ground

Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre

A listed historical monument, Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre dates from the 16th Century. The church, which underwent restoration work from 2005-2010 was originally dedicated to the apostles, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. With artwork from the 19th century being a prominent attraction, this historic site is well worth a visit.

Eat at La Mère Poulard

The world-renowned omelette restaurant, La Mère Poulard, was founded in the 1800s by Anne Poulard. The restaurant is famous for its omelette soufflés, which are made in copper bowls over an open fire and are several inches thick. It is definitely worth booking in advance if you would like to eat here.

Red sign mounted on a grey wall with white lettering with a cartoon drawing of a woman holding a frying pan in a white apron

Barrage sur le Couesnon

A remarkable feat of engineering and design, Barrage sur le Couesnon is the footpath which takes you to Mont Saint-Michel. However high the tide is, since it’s construction in 2015 it has always been possible to access the area by foot and the bridge boasts some of the best views in the area.

Wander along La Grande Rue

One of six grand cru (French for great growth) vineyards, La Grande Rue takes its name from the path that runs alongside the vineyard and up to the plateau. Not only is the walk particularly picturesque, but for fans of Pinot Noir, the grapes are in ample supply.

Rows of green plants in a vineyard beneath a blue sky

Watch the tides change

An exceptional phenomenon, the changing tides transform the landscape around Mont Saint-Michel in a matter of hours. Casting a spell over the town, the contrast between high and low tide can make you feel like you’re in a completely different place.

Tips for your visit to Mont Saint-Michel

With so much on offer, ensuring that you’re well prepared for what Mont Saint-Michel has in store for you means you’ll get the most out of your trip.

Read up on the tides

As dangerous as they are spectacular, understanding the tides is vital before you go. While high tide turns the mountain into an island and low tide means you can participate on guided walks across the sands, there is a difference of about 15 metres between the two, so watch your step.

If you are planning on exploring, ensure you walk with a guide, as occasionally the tides can change extremely quickly, and the wet sand in places can act like quicksand and become dangerous.

Make sure you’re prepared to walk and climb stairs

The pathway to the top of Mont Saint-Michel is naturally steep and narrow. This combined with the cobbled streets and numerous staircases around the town means that investing in a comfortable pair of shoes is a must.

Consider staying overnight in the area

Spending at least one night in somewhere like Rennes or Saint Malo will give you the chance to maximise your experience in Mont Saint-Michel. Day trips are not always enough to appreciate its beauty. Splitting your time over two days will also give you the chance to explore more of France’s beautiful coastline.

Buy souvenirs from the island

For unique souvenirs which won’t spend a decade gathering dust, La Mère Poulard is also renowned for their buttery cookies which are sold across the island. They make a delicious way to remember your trip, plus you’ll have to go back for more!

Start your visit to Mont Saint-Michel with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Step into a real-world fairytale with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. With a 35-minute journey from Folkestone to Calais, you’ll be at the start of your next adventure before you know it.

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