Visit time : 1 day.
The Mont-Saint-Michel stands on a rocky mount in the middle of stretches of sand and water that make up the immense bay. Not really on the continent, not really at sea, between the world of men and the wild vastness of the ocean. Between heaven and earth, its imposing figure seems to rise to the heavens. The lights, which change from morning to night, and the atmosphere, at times mystical in the sea mist, enhance these impressions, along with the breathtaking vision upon arrival at the site. For the full effect, travel to Mont Saint Michel on foot from the mainland, as did hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for centuries, and you will understand the magic that surrounds this place. Victor Hugo summed up the feeling in 1884 : "Mont-Saint-Michel is to France what the Great Pyramid is to Egypt."
The abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel was set up in the bay of the same name, between the regions of Brittany and Normandy, on a granite block measuring approximately 900 meters in circumference at the base and 80 meters in height, and peaking 2 kilometers from the mainland over the sandy fringe covered by high tides. It is said that formerly, this rocky needle dominated a forest that was engulfed by a tidal wave. The fact remains that this exceptional locale, lost between land and sea, controlled the establishment and the development of the abbey.
The abbey overlooks a small village at its base, forming an architectural complex of great originality, and built by successive additions throughout the Middle Ages. The oldest existing part, the small pre-Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-sous-terre dates back to the 10th century. The contribution from the Romanesque period is still visible in the nave of the abbey, whose transept rests on the top of the rock, and among a group of monastic buildings.
But it was the architects of the Gothic period who, while making the most of limited space, invented the high walls, the slender masses, the openwork volumes and the air pinnacles that make up the sharp silhouette of the rock. For the elegance of its design, the new body of monastic buildings, built from 1204 onward, earned the ensemble the nickname the “Merveille” (the Marvel): it includes the famous Guest and Knights’ Halls, the huge refectory nave and cloister. Among the many later additions, it is necessary to mention the flamboyant Gothic choir of the abbey church, begun in 1448, at the location of the Romanesque choir that had collapsed.
The Mont-Saint-Michel was included on the list of World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1979 under criteria (i), (iii) and (vi). It has also been classified as a World Heritage site under the "Pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela" since 1998. It is a must-see for pilgrims from the United Kingdom, and from Plymouth in particular.
Criteria for selection
Criterion (i): By the unprecedented alliance of the natural landscape and architecture, Mont-Saint-Michel is a unique aesthetic success.
Criterion (iii): Mont-Saint-Michel is an unrivaled ensemble, as much by the coexistence of the abbey and its fortified village on a narrow island as by the original layout of the buildings that give it its unforgettable silhouette.
Criterion (vi): Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the landmarks of medieval Christian civilization.
Source UNESCO / ICOMOS
The first traces of the history of Mont-Saint-Michel date back to 709 when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, erected a shrine in honor of the archangel Michael. The modest oratory quickly became an important place of pilgrimage and became a Carolingian abbey. In the 10th century, Benedictine monks settled there, and the village grew below. At this time, some vestiges of the pre-Romanesque church were still visible. Over the following centuries it would continually grow, evolving from a Romanesque style to a Gothic style. This is the case in the ensemble called the "Merveille" (the Marvel), built in the 13th century, and is composed of two buildings, three stories high, surmounted by the cloister and the refectory. This achievement is thanks to King Philip Augustus of France who made a large donation to the abbey to build this exceptional architectural ensemble.
In the 14th century, the abbey was further fortified by ramparts to face the constant English threat. During the Hundred Years War, Mont-Saint-Michel resisted three British assaults. It became an outstanding example of military architecture and a national symbol.
In the Middle Ages, the Mont-Saint-Michel was one of the largest spiritual centers in Europe and one of the most important places of pilgrimage, at the same level as Rome and Saint Jacques de Compostela. It is also thanks to the economic impact of pilgrimages that the monument developed.
During the Revolution, the religious community dissolved. Until 1863, the abbey served as a prison. From 1874 onward it was listed as a historical monument and major restoration began. And thus, the Mont-Saint-Michel became a tourist destination for romantic authors and painters of the late 19th century who traveled there for its charm and its unique colors. This success of tourism continued in the following century to become, in the second half of the 20th century, one of the most visited French sites. During the celebration of the monastic millennium in 1966, a new religious community settled in the former abbey. The Brothers and Sisters of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem have taken over since 2001.
Brittany or Normandy?
Administratively the Mont-Saint-Michel is located in Normandy. The boundary between these two regions is 4 kilometers west of Mont-Saint-Michel.
50170 Le Mont Saint-Michel
Website - tel : 02 33 60 14 30.
April, May, June and September, Monday to Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday : 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
March and October: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
July and August: 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
November through February: Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Tourist Office is located at the entrance of the Mont on the left after crossing the gate.
Tourist Information Center
Outside the Mont-Saint-Michel, located near the car and bus parking lot
Website - tel : 02 14 13 20 15.
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Visitors will find plenty of information about the monument and the bay as well as efforts for the recovery of the maritime environment of Mont-Saint-Michel.
Services: baby room.
Note: the museum price may seem excessive with regard to their content.
Package of 4 museums:
Full price / reduced price: €18 / €9. Free for those under 18 years old.
Price: €9. Free for those under 18 years old.
Tel: 02 33 89 01 85.
From February through June and September to November 11th: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ;
July and August: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
A multimedia exposition that tells the story of the construction of the abbey through a model of the monument. Features a sound and light show.
Open daily: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
This museum traces 1000 years of the history of Mont-Saint-Michel, from its monk-builders to a periscope from the 19th centuty. The collections are composed of ancient weapons, instruments of torture from the Middle Ages, paintings and sculptures. Reconstructions of cells and dungeons.
The Museum of Sea and Ecology
Open daily: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Museum of Sea and Ecology focuses on the environment of the Mont-Saint-Michel, its bay, its fauna and flora. Through an audio and video system, it presents the phenomenon of the tides, the problems of silting at the site and the work that is currently underway. The museum features many models of warships, commerce, fishing and boating.
The house of Tiphaine
Tel : 02 33 89 02 02
Open daily: 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The visit of this house (14th century) recounts the life of Bertrand Du Guesclin, knight and constable (army chief), who became famous during the Hundred Years War. He built this house for his wife and astrologer Tiphaine de Raguenel. The house allows visitors to discover the daily life of the couple (furniture, tapestries and paintings, Bertrand’s knight armor, and Tiphaine’s astrology cabinet).
The Bay Marathon (May)
13 Centuries Festival between sky and sea (July)
Performing Arts and Visual Arts combine under religious inspiration. The program includes concerts, workshops, street art, pilgrimage ...
Feast Day of Saint Michel (around September 29th)
Walk from the Saint Denis chapel in Montjoie Saint Martin to Mont-Saint-Michel.
Getting to Mont Saint-Michel
Highway A11 to Chartres-Le Mans-Laval, then exit toward Fougères in the direction of Mont-Saint-Michel
Highway A13 towards Rouen and Caen and Highway A84 towards Mont-Saint-Michel
Nearby classified sites:
Val de Loire (Angers): 190 km (118 mi), time: 3 hours
Chartres: 300 km (185 mi), duration 3 hours, 30 minutes
By train and bus
To avoid the crowds, prefer the way with a connection to Dol-de-Bretagne !
Gare TGV Paris Montparnasse to Rennes (2 hours). Direct connections by bus from Rennes to Mont-Saint-Michel or correspondence by regional train (TER) from Rennes to Pontorson, then by bus to Mont Saint-Michel.
Gare TGV Paris Montparnasse to Dol de Bretagne (2 hours, 40 minutes) and direct connections by bus from Dol de Bretagne to Mont-Saint-Michel.
Departure from the gare SNCF
By regional train (TER) from the SNCF railway station in Rennes to Pontorson, then by bus to Mont-Saint-Michel, or by direct connection by bus from Rennes to Mont-Saint-Michel. The bus departs from the bus station next to the SNCF train station.
SNCF train station information :
Tel : 3635 or voyages-sncf.com (national trains) or www.ter-sncf.com (regional trains)
General information for bus connections :
- Bus from Rennes or Dol de Bretagne toward Mont-Saint-Michel
- Keolis Emeraude: Tel : 02 99 26 16 00 or on the Website
Bus rates (one way):
From Dol de Bretagne to Mont-Saint-Michel: €8
From Rennes to Mont-Saint-Michel: €15
A new parking lot is located 2.5 kilometers from the Mont-Saint-Michel. The monument can be reached by foot or by shuttle. The starting point of the shuttle is located at the parking lot, and drop-off is point is 400 meters from the entrance to the Mont-Saint-Michel.
Information on the Website
Price for 24-hour parking: €11.70.
Access to Mont-Saint-Michel from the bus parking lot, near the Tourist Information Center:
On the way to the monument and back, plan for the travel time required to reach the Mont-Saint-Michel:
• By "Passeur" : free motorized shuttle, 25 minutes
• By "Maringote" : Horse-drawn shuttle, 35 minutes. Only during the high tourist season.
• By foot, 45 minutes
Access to hotels Mont-Saint-Michel intramural
If you have a reservation at a hotel within the walls of Mont-Saint-Michel, a special welcome awaits. At booking, your hotel will provide you with an access code. With this access code, you can park your car in the parking lot #3, reserved for hotel guests of the inner Mont-Saint-Michel : enter the code at the entrance gate and take the parking ticket.
For visitors with disabilities
Visit the Mont-Saint-Michel : From the parking lot to the monument, there are no steps. On the mount, it is
possible to cross the village by the large paved road, 200 meters long on a gradual slope.
At the parish church at the top of the street, begins the Great Degree (about 350 steps) leading to up the abbey. There is no elevator to the abbey.
Sleeping / Eating
These addresses are nearby or inside the classified area. The prices shown are for the off season, on the basis of 2 people. For restaurants : “Formule” corresponds to a lunch special with a starter and a main course, or a main course and a dessert. The “menus” usually consist of a starter, a main course and a dessert, for lunch or dinner.
At the Mont Saint Michel
Auberge Saint Pierre ***
Grande rue, 50170 Le Mont Saint Michel
Website - Tel: 02 33 60 14 03.
Price from €222.
La Sirène – french pancakes
50170 Le Mont Saint Michel
Tel : 02 33 60 08 60.
Around €10 pour salted pancake.
50170 Le Mont Saint Michel
Website - tel : 02 33 60 59 23.
"Menu" from €16.
La Mère Poulard - famous omelette
50170 Le Mont Saint Michel
Website - tel : 02 33 89 68 68.
"Menu" from €49.
In the surrounding area
Accommodation - Eating
Le Relais Saint Michel ****
Route du Mont Saint-Michel, 50170 Mont Saint Michel
Website - Tel: 02 33 89 32 00.
Price from €220.
Restaurant : "Menu" from €29