Day Trip to Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France

Day Trip to Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France

The iconic reaching tower of Mont Saint-Michel is the unforgettable trademark of Normandy, France. You can easily stop off at this historical landmark for a few hours or an entire day trip.

The Tides of Mont Saint-Michel 

The iconic French monastery sits on a small tidal island located less than a kilometer from the coastline. Pilgrims used to trek across a salty causeway to reach the island, accessible only at low tide. The traverse was risky, as the area is famous for rough tides and quicksands. Over the years, the island has been made more accessible and, in 2014, a permanent bridge was built for shuttling tourists. The fifty full time residents that currently live on Mont Saint-Michel no longer have to live around the tides.
Mont Saint-Michel

A Salty Delicacy

There are many sheep farms located around Mont Saint-Michel. Farmers allow their flock to feast on the salty marshland at low tide, having a tasty result on the meat! Salty mutton from sheep raised in the area, called Agneau de pré-salé, is a delicacy in France.

Getting to the Mont Saint-Michel

I only had a few hours to visit the Mont Saint-Michel, but it was actually plenty of time. I parked in the designated parking lot on the mainland and caught a free shuttle to the island. No cars are allowed on the island, and when I arrived, it was easy to see why. The streets are narrow and made for pedestrian access only. The winding alleyways, wrap around and lead up to the entrance of the abbey. Walking around Mont Saint-Michel is actually quite a workout, but it’s also mystifyingly beautiful!

Mont Saint-MichelWeaving Through the Walled City

As I entered the walled city, we were greeted by a series of narrow and charming alleyways. I strolled through these ancient streets (now unfortunately full of tourist trinket shops and restaurants), and climbed the winding walkway toward the top of the hill, where the abbey has sat for hundreds of years.

I stopped for photographs as we made the climb, admiring the ocean scenery and the secluded island location. The views are spectacular, but the best was yet to come: going inside the mysterious, ancient abbey!

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Inside the Abbey

The highlight of the Mont Saint-Michel is going inside the abbey itself. After you weave your way through town, you’ll enter the abbey gift store and pay the entrance fee. You can either hire a guide or walk the halls on your own.  I chose the later to save some cash. If you’re looking for a historical education, hiring a guide (or audio guide) is probably the way to go.
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Exploring the inside of the abbey is a spooky experience. The rooms are kept dark. The soft sound of my footsteps echoed off the arching ceilings and stained glass windows. The air was brisk, as a chilly breeze seemed to sneak in between the stones. 2.5 million people visit the abbey every year, but we still managed to have a few great halls and crypts all to ourselves.
The gigantic abbey was built from the 8th century to the 15th century, and some areas are more intact than others.  After the French Revolution, the abbey was converted into a prison and housed over 1,000 high profile prisoners. If only these walls could talk! 
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The monastery is a maze of chapels, terraces, enormous stone fireplaces pillared halls and an ominous crypt.

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At one point, I ventured into the abbey’s gardens and imagined monks walking around the greenery, speaking in whispers. I had a similar dream-like experience when I walked the gardens of Spain’s Alhambra.
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After a few hours of walking around the abbey and the island, it was time to take the shuttle back to the parking lot. They light up the abbey at sunset, so the view of the island was completely different and magical! I strongly suggest visiting in the late afternoon so you can take in the views during the day and night.

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Mont Saint Michel

15 Comments

  1. April 4, 2016 / 9:44 am

    Absolutely beautiful photographs, took my breath away.

  2. Lisa Justice
    April 4, 2016 / 4:19 pm

    This will definitely be on my “must visit” list when I go! Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it! I’ve already told my husband, who isn’t keen on going since the attacks, whether he goes or not I will be in Paris on our 20th anniversary. I am brushing up on my French and I have no problem boarding that plane and going alone! But I sure hope he changes his mind! LOL

    • April 4, 2016 / 10:04 pm

      It’s perfectly safe out there. Heck, you have more chances of being killed by a gunshot in the USA than by a terrorist attack in France 😉

  3. Darcy Kahler
    April 4, 2016 / 4:56 pm

    Love the pictures and information you two send to us. Beautiful! The cathedral pic was breathtaking.
    I’m only asking this because I have such a low income, but is living in a tiny house so inexpensive that you can do so much travelling or is it also the YouTube things you do? Or a combo of both? You can tell me to mind my own business, but it really does just amaze me. If there is some other form of income I’d like to know if it’s something attainable. Thanks!

  4. Lynn
    April 4, 2016 / 5:08 pm

    I love old stuff! Your pictures, as always are delightful and inspirational. I have been to Mont St Michel (on both sides….as they say opposite the English version, isn’t it?). The bridge is something very new, and very unexpected! I guess they want those tourist dollars for convenience, but it does sort of diminish the experience per se. Thanks for your posts! I love them. You’ve left your tiny house behind….still parked in ???

  5. Paola
    April 4, 2016 / 5:41 pm

    Hey, I love following your posts! It makes me jealous though! You are visiting so many nice places! Where did u leave your tiny house? Don’t you miss it? We could house sit for you! 🙂 and your dog?
    Enjoy!!!
    Paola

  6. Dayna Barnes
    April 4, 2016 / 5:42 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this part of your journey. This lovely ancient place has been added to my bucket list.

  7. April 4, 2016 / 7:24 pm

    Just looking at the photos, one could feel that mysteriousness. And BTW, the photos are just spectacular–really, you should publish them somewhere. A couple of the long shots and ceiling are, well, the English language doesn’t have enough words. So beautiful, WOW! I bet you could sell some to the gift shop. 🙂 Keep up your wonderful journey, you two–there are a lot of us who are reveling in the vicarious thrill. Thanks for sharing. –cathryn

  8. mbkircus
    April 5, 2016 / 1:48 pm

    This may just be the most stunning of your posts. Pictures were absolutely fabulous and the text was very interesting.

  9. May 2, 2016 / 11:01 am

    Can disabled like me who is at dol staying next mth get a bit near I know you can,t drive on the island but there are some great restaurants down there and I use motability scooter

  10. Dave
    May 3, 2016 / 3:48 am

    Just wondering, where was the day trip from, ifit was England what time did you have to leave!

    • May 3, 2016 / 10:43 am

      Our post describes what we did in a day at Mont Saint-Michel. You’d want to add whatever travel time you’d have from wherever you are. Just like if someone was looking at “what to do in 3 days in Paris,” it usually assumes you’re already close by. It was about an hour drive for us from where we where but you could come from further if you wanted.

  11. Karen
    May 4, 2016 / 2:10 am

    Wow… That’s pretty amazing.

  12. Jérôme (France)
    November 2, 2016 / 2:42 am

    Bonjour, tes photos du Mont Saint Michel sont magnifiques. On retrouve bien cette ambiance incroyable et la magie de ce lieu chargé d’histoire.

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