Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular sights in France, attracting close to 3 million visitors each year – it is one of the most unique, picturesque destinations in the World. Surrounded by endless fields of green (or orange, or white depending on the season), it delights and amazes its visitors, once they see it merging with the sky, and the encircling bay.
There are numerous tour operators offering their services to visit this incredible attraction, but they all have quite a steep price attached to them. Well, here are the best news – Mont Saint-Michel can be easily reached from Paris, on a small budget, without having to spend an exorbitant fee on a group tour. But before we dive into the details – let’s begin with the most obvious question: what exactly is Mont Saint-Michel, and why is it such a hot bucket-list item?
About Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel is a tiny island on which a gorgeous Abbey was built in 708, in the 8th century. Its origin dates back to the time Aubert, Bishop of Avranches had several visions of Archangel Michael, appearing in front of him in his dreams, telling him to build a church on top of this très petite, uninhibited island.
Since the time it was built, it quickly became one of the holiest places on Earth, acquiring it an unofficial nickname – ‘heavenly Jerusalem on Earth’, attracting thousands of dedicated pilgrims, visiting it from all over the World, year after year. And as the symbol of this island – a golden statue of Archangel Michael was placed at the top of the abbey’s spear.
In the late 18th century, during the time of French Revolution, the crypts of the abbey were used as a… state prison, since religion was no longer supported. Today the abbey is a museum, though it still is a great place of significance to religious people. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, since 1979.
How to Get to Mont Saint-Michel From Paris?
There are several options that one can choose from:
By train – there are two main options here:
- You can take a high-speed train departing from Paris (Montparnasse station) and arriving to Rennes 2 hours later, from where you can take a 1-hour bus to Mont Saint-Michel.
- Or, a regional train leaving Paris and arriving to Pontorson (the closest train stop to Mont Saint-Michel), from where you can also take a local bus, though it’s only a 15-minute ride.
Both trains will take you to Mont Saint-Michel in about 3 hours. This is the quickest way to get to Mont Saint-Michel, though one should book one’s tickets as early as possible, the closer one waits to the departure date – the more expensive the tickets will be. We recommend checking this site, which finds and compares all train and bus options: https://www.goeuro.com.
By bus – this is the cheapest option to get to Mont Saint-Michel, though it takes a bit longer – by 1.30-2 hours. It is also recommended to buy the tickets as soon as possible to get the best quote. There are several bus operators that run this route, here are some of them:
By car – this option is obvious, though the car rental is a more expensive way to get to Mont Saint-Michel, it also gives the greater amount of flexibility.
With a group tour – this is the most expensive option, with prices ranging from 150-250 Euros.
Arriving to Mont Saint-Michel
If you are taking a bus, you will be deposited on a vast parking lot, where there is an information center, as well as free, clean bathrooms. It is recommended to stop by the center to learn a bit more about the island. There are several small-scale prototypes of Mont Saint-Michel, explaining its history, as well as some brochures that you can grab.
This is also the place where you can park, if you decide to drive in. The island is quite remote, therefore it’s not really convenient to park elsewhere. The parking fees are as follows: (Prices are valid as of 2017).
- 11,70 Euros for 24 hours.
- 6,30 Euros for up to 2 hours.
- For any visit less than 30 minutes – free.
From this parking lot, you can either walk to Mont Saint-Michel (for around 30-45 minutes), take a free shuttle bus, or even a… horse-drawn buggy, “La Maringote”, if you decide to arrive there in style. The buggy’s fee is 5.30 Euros for a one-way ride.
If you arrive to Mont Saint-Michele by train – your local bus will deposit you not far from the island, from where you can walk.
Top Sights in Mont Saint-Michel
- Unarguably, the number one sight is the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey (May-August: 9am-7pm, last admission at 6pm; September-April: 9:30am-6pm, last admission at 5pm), and not only from its grand, outside view. There is an option to go inside the abbey, where you can explore the abbey’s church, chapels, cloisters, crypts, a private inner garden, and many other sights.
Though, this option is not free (10 Euros for a regular ticket), it is highly recommended. You’ve already made it this far, after all – why not explore the island’s top attraction in detail? Please note – there are audio guides (for a small extra fee), and free brochures, explaining the history of each sight within the abbey. So make sure to grab either one, or both.
- Then there’s a charming little museum named Musée Tiphaine, or Museum of Tiphaine (open 10:30am-5:30pm), a 14th century residence that a knight, and a leader of the King of France’s army, Bertrand Duguesclin, had built in 1365, for his wife Tiphaine. This historic three-story house, which you can enter on the island’s lower side, via grand rue, is where a number of the couple’s original Medieval furnishings and other personal items, are located.
Once you go up through every floor, you will arrive at a top garden, which you will exit on the left side. And, well, here are some good news – there are actually two attractions in the same area, for a price of one (9 Euros for a regular ticket)!
- Right next to the Museum Tiphaine’s exit, there’s another entrance to the second attraction – Museum of History, a place with the actual dungeons, where a number of political prisoners were once held.
There are also several rooms with nice collections, ranging from coins, paintings, statues to weapons, representing several centuries worth of history of the island. And, there’s another beautiful garden, from where one can view some stunning views of the bay, including the road that leads to Mont Saint-Michel.
- Finally, there’s the Couesnon Dam, located just a bit off from the main route to the island, offering some incredible, panoramic views of Mont Saint-Michel from the distance. Completed in 2009, this genius construction is what keeps this area safe from any possible floods.
Food in Mont Saint-Michel
There are numerous restaurants, cafes, bars, pizzerias, and even take-out sandwich stores located around the main route of the island. The prices are very decent, though of course it depends on the venue.
On the lower-end – there are take-out sandwiches and slices of pizza, for 4-8 Euros. On the medium-end – there are numerous cafes that offer a “pre-fix” menu, where for a one single price (ranging from 10-20 Euros), one can enjoy an entire meal that will consist of several (pre-selected) dishes. And finally, on the high-end – there are few restaurants with white-cloth tables, offering expensive wine and food, for the splurging guests.
Staying Overnight in Mont Saint-Michel
Majority of the people that visit the island, do it in one day. It is a long drive to and from Paris, though this gorgeous, top, attraction, is definitely worth it. Since the island is really tiny, 3-5 hours are enough to explore it in full.
But, if you would like to stay overnight, and maybe, see the island during a sunset or a sunrise hour – there are a number of hotels, with prices ranging from 50-200 Euros per night, though it also depends on the season. As to the cheapest option… try camping! There is a dedicated camping ground, not far from the parking lot, where you can spend a night for a maximum of 20 (low season) or 24 (high season) Euros for 1-2 people.
Best Times to Visit Mont Saint-Michel
The best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is… any season, really. In Winter time, it is covered with pure white snow, in Fall – with beautiful, yellow-red-orange colors, in Spring – it is green, and in Summer… well, it’s a given. The official high season runs from late May to mid-September – that is the time when the highest number of tourists flocks here in droves.
The only thing that you should keep in mind though – is that since the island is located right on the coast, there are frequent strong and chilly winds, so you should prepare to dress very warm. Even if you come here during Summer – don’t forget to bring a sweater, or two, just in case.