Rising from the sea, towering over the surrounding countryside, Mont Saint Michel cuts a dramatic figure. Religious pilgrims, history buffs, and romantics have flocked to the island commune since it was built in the 8th century. Today, this UNESCO heritage site invites tourists from all over the world to wander its cobblestone streets and be transported back in time.
So whether you love Disney’s Tangled or just want to check this dreamy UNESCO heritage site off of your bucket list - you’ve found yourself at the gorgeous Mont St. Michel. Now, where do you start?
The castle’s world-renowned beauty attracts a slew of visitors each day so GET THERE EARLY! Beating the masses is the first step in making sure you get to bask in the true beauty of Mont Saint Michel.
The best way to arrive is by renting a car and driving. It's a doable road trip from major French cities like Normandy and Paris. Park in one of the many parking lots, then grab a free shuttle. You can also take public transportation, via train or bus, or join a tour group.
When you arrive, follow the Grand Rue through the city and grab a table at Mere Poulard, a restaurant whose souffle omelettes have attracted kings, actors, and statesmen since the 1870’s.
This tiny island is packed full of historical and natural wonders! Because there is so much to see at this beautiful castle, we highly recommend getting a tour guide! A well-educated friend ensures you are fully immersed in the rich history of the castle and can help you cut the winding lines of tourists, which are especially dense outside the abbey. If you require handicap accomodations or are just looking for a more leisurely experience, tour groups also offer small group van tours.
The other benefit to having a guide is that they help you stay safe when exploring the surrounding bay. The tides around the island are some of the most dramatic in Europe, and often the high tide arrives quickly and suddenly, to the peril of many clueless tourists. Walking around the muddy terrain offers gorgeous views, and having a guide with you to help you avoid the high tide will keep you safe and dry.
Whether you have a guide or not, be sure to check on the times of the tide to ensure you stay safe.
While visiting, be sure to spend time exploring the beautiful abbey. Climb steep stairs to the top for a fantastic view, marveling at the architecture that has stood for thousands of years. On your way up, pause for a moment at the tiny cemetery that offers a serene view of the water leading up to the island.
For lunch, we recommend packing a picnic, as many of the tiny restaurants nearby are expensive and touristy. Bringing your own sandwiches and water will keep you satisfied without having to shell out a ton of money.
Time your departure from the island with the setting sun to catch the gorgeous golden rays illuminating the island from a distance. If you're staying nearby, and don't have to worry about public transport schedules, consider sticking around. Parking is free after 7pm and most of the tourists will have cleared out for the day.
You might also consider bunking on the island for the night. Although the hotels of Mont St. Michel can be pricey, if you feel inclined spring for a one-night stay so you can enjoy the magic of being one of the few remaining visitors inside the castle's walls after dark.