This tidal island, crowned by an impressive abbey, is the 3rd most important tourist attraction in France next to the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles. Yet only around 30 people live there. It’s not possible to present you a walk on this 7 ha island, but it’s fascinating enough to merit a post here.
The origins of the abbey date back to around 700, when saint Aubert started a religious community after he saw archangel St Michael in a vision. At the top of the church, a statue of Michael towers at 150m altitude.
Fairly quickly, the place became a pilgrimage site and, the island going up 92m above sea level and only measuring 7ha, the majority of the island is covered by the abbey and its grounds.
In 1979, Mont Saint-Michel and the surrounding bay have been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
What you must try
Being in Normandy, one of the northern coasts of France, sea temperature is not as inviting for swimming as the Mediterranean, but conditions are ideal for sea food like scallops, whelk and oysters. Ah well, just take a whole sea fruit platter while you’re at it!
If you’re not that into sea food, don’t hesitate to try the “pré-salé” (pre-salted) lamb, that got its name because they mainly graze on the wetlands surrounding the bay of Mont Saint-Michel.
A french dinner is not finished without a bit of cheese! Camembert AOC is probably the most famous of local cheeses, but you can also try Neufchâtel (one of the oldest Normandy cheeses), Pont l’Eveque or Livarot AOC.
To end your meal, try a local apple pie or “trou normand” with apple brandy Calvados or Pommeau, Calvados mixed with fermented apple juice.
What you must see
There’s not really a walk to propose at Mont Saint-Michel… Almost impossible to get lost in the small streets: there’s only 1 entrance at the bottom and all roads lead up to the Abby!
There are a lot of tourist shops and restaurants right at the entry, the streets get more quiet as you get further up.
Archéoscope offers a multimedia spectacle that tells the history and legends from the origins of Mont Saint-Michel to the present day.
In Logis Tiphaine, the house of Knight Bertrand Du Guesclin (1320-1380) and his wife Tiphaine de Raguenel, an astrologer, you step into history with period furniture, tapestries and curiosities.
Visit the Abbey to learn about the history – did you know it has been a prison in the aftermath of the French Revolution? Around 1840, up to 700 prisoners were living in the abbey, in the mean time nicknamed Bastille of the Sea.
What you must visit
Get a guided walking tour through the bay to learn more about the tidal island and get a whole other experience!
How to get around
Mont Saint-Michel is so steep, it’s only really accessible for pedestrians.
A free shuttle bus, that runs non-stop between 7.30am and 12.00am, takes you from the parking Tourist Information Center to the steep island (350m from the city walls), or you can walk the 2,5 km.