How unreal does Le Mont Saint-Michel look? Like it’s from a storybook or a Game of Thrones scene or a dream. But it’s real and you can really visit it!
Located along the coast of France, Le Mont Saint-Michel has a fascinating history as an island church turned prison turned national monument over the years.
A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site makes for a perfect day trip from Paris, Bayeux, or anywhere else in Normandy.
First I’ll talk about the logistics of getting there, the best time to visit, and accomodation, and then get into the fun part of what to see and what to eat while there.
How to Get to Mont Saint-Michel
It’s easy to drive to Mont Saint-Michel, where there is plenty designated parking. This map of the greater Normandy area highlights the main highways you’ll use to get there from several directions. From the parking area it’s a 30 minute walk to the island, or you can take a free shuttle or pay for a horse-drawn carriage ride. I recommend the 30 minute walk, as it gives you beautiful views of countryside and abbey.
Check out this map of designated Mont Saint-Michel parking areas and how to get to the island from there.
Bus from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel
- Several bus companies such as Ouibus and Flixbus run routes from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel. You can use GoEuro to search which one has the best prices for your dates. Depending on the bus company your travel time can be about 5 to 6 hours.
- The bus will take you directly to one of the designated parking areas outside Mont Saint-Michel, and you can follow the same directions above for either walking, using a shuttle, or horse-drawn carriage ride to get to the island.
Depending on the time and day of your travel, either bus or train transport could be cheaper from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel.
Train from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel
- There are two options for trains from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel. The first is a train from Paris to Rennes, then change to another train to get to from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel (train stop Pontorson). It takes approximately 2 hours to get from Paris to Rennes, and then another 1 hour and 10 minutes to get from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel.
- Check out what train station changes you’ll need to make and see the schedule for the shuttle bus from the Pontorson train station to Mont Saint-Michel here.
- You can also choose to take the train to Rennes and from there take a bus to Mont Saint-Michel.
- More info on how to get from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel are further below.
- The second option is to use the train from Paris to Villedieu-les-Poêles, and then finish the journey by bus. This option takes approximately 3 hours.
Bus from Bayeux to Mont Saint-Michel
- Hotel Churchill offers a daily shuttle service from Bayeux to Mont Saint-Michel. The bus departs at 8:30am, takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to arrive at Mont Saint-Michel, and then you have 3 hours to explore the island before the bus departs for Bayeux at 1:00pm.
- As of May 2018 the bus service costs 65€ per person.
Train from Bayeux to Mont Saint-Michel
- You can take a direct train from Bayeux to the Pontorson train station nearest Mont Saint-Michel. Costs vary greatly depending on the time and date, and the travel time is approximately 1 hour 45 minutes.
- For information on the shuttle bus from Pontorson train station to Mont-Saint Michel click here. The shuttle costs 2.80€ one way.
Bus from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel
- Bus rides from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes and cost 15€ each way. You can see the most updated bus schedule here.
Train from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel
- Trains run from Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel 4 times a day and take approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes. As of May 2018, prices are 15€ for a one-way ticket.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Mont Saint-Michel
Taking a few things into consideration (average temperatures, average rainfall, and tourist season), the best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is in spring/early summer or late summer/early fall.
Let me explain.
Being located on the bay means that it is windy at Mont Saint-Michel. So don’t just think about the temperature when visiting, but also the wind chill. Visiting in warmer months should make it a bit more comfortable.
The rainiest month is November, so you probably want to avoid that, as well as the middle of summer when tourist season is in full gear. Over 3 million people visit Mont Saint-Michel each year, which equals over 8,000 visitors per day in a space that takes up less than half a square mile! If possible, it’s much better to enjoy the site when there are just a few less people around.
All this being said, I have to imagine that Mont Saint-Michel is absolutely gorgeous at Christmas time, and it’s worth a visit even in the worst rainstorm. At the end of the day the best time to visit is when you can get there.
Accomodation at Mont Saint-Michel
There are a few hotels located right on the island that, while expensive, give you the added bonus of being able to wander the island at night and in the early morning once the tourists leave. How cool!?
They are a bit on the pricier side, so you could stay in the more affordable Pontorson (which has a shuttle to take you to the island for just 2.80€) or other nearby mainland city. In my opinion one day is sufficient to tour Mont Saint-Michel, so staying the night isn’t necessary unless you’re traveling from far away.
If you’re looking for a bigger city to stay in, or possibly have plans to visit D-Day beaches during your time in Normandy, then Bayeaux is a good option.
It’s easy to get to Mont Saint-Michel from there (as detailed in the above section) and there are plenty of other things to do such as visit WWII sites or even check out the Bayeux Tapestry at the Bayeux Museum. I wish I had time for this one!
What to Do At Mont Saint-Michel
Wander the Streets
As you enter Mont Saint-Michel, you immediately become enchanted by the stone storefronts with colorful signs and shutters, the meandering alleyways, and the hidden corners at every turn. It actually reminds me of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books!
The island is its own little world and you can definitely spend some time wandering around the shopping areas and gardens, and also getting beautiful views of the bay from different areas. It’s also free to walk about the island.
Tour the Abbey
Without a doubt the main attraction at Mont Saint-Michel is touring the abbey. It’s a MUST!
It all started in the 10th century when a church was established on the island to the Archangel Michael, and over time it grew to include an abbey and a cloister. As it developed it became a pilgrimage sight for many, and was fortified as a military position during the Hundred Years War. It was eventually turned into a prison during the French Revolution, but now it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular tourist destination.
Read more on the abbey’s history.
I read in the abbey that Mont Saint-Michel was never conquered by Britain during all of the military struggles, and has been a strong source of national pride for the French. It truly is a beautiful and unique place.
Circle the Island
Depending on when you visit the tides may be high or low (see the tide schedule here). Mont Saint-Michel can look like more of an island at high tide or more of a big rock in the sand during low tide.
If you visit when the tide is low enough you can circle the whole island, giving you an even greater appreciation for the stature of the abbey on the rock, some different views of the bay and mainland, and also a chance to explore some other structures outside the fortification. Make sure you bring hardy, waterproof shoes for this one!
Where to Eat At Mont Saint-Michel
I’m going to drop an unfortunate but real truth bomb on you right now.
The restaurants at Mont Saint-Michel are not great and they’re expensive.
And honestly, why woudn’t they be? It’s the classic issue of restaurants having a touristy location where they serve new people every day, so they don’t necessarily have to have the best standards or prices to keep locals coming back again and again. I mean, everyone who visits Mont Saint-Michel has to eat, so it doesn’t matter if the food is underwhelming and overpriced.
It almost seems sacrilegious for such a famed landmark in France to have bad food, but take a look at Trip Advisor restaurant reviews for the island and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
My recommendation would be to bring a picnic lunch with you and enjoy it at one of the many vantage points scattered around the island.
That’s what we saw many people (probably French people who know better!) do and I’m certain it was tastier and cheaper than anything you could get at one of the restaurants.
Now that you know when to visit, where to stay, how to get there, what to eat, and what to do, you should be set to visit one of France’s most famous landmarks: Le Mont Saint-Michel.
Pin this post for later ↓
Note: An earlier version of this post was published in August of 2016.