Visiting Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy

  • Date Published: August 12, 2022
  • Last Edited: November 7, 2022
  • Topic(s): Blog, Walkway

A Majestic Islet of Human Ingenuity

If you’re going to travel to France, Mont Saint-Michel is a must-see experience. From a distance, you feel as if you’re being drawn straight into a fairy tale. On the islet off the coast of Normandy and in between Brittany, sits the castle church of Mont Saint-Michel, an architectural marvel. 

Mont has a diverse gothic architecture as the project began in the 8th century leading on to the 19th. For centuries, millions of tourists a year flock to this national treasure, as a pilgrimage, to be awed by this magnificent wonder. 

The abbey, located at the bottom, holds dozens of stores chock full of goodies. The narrow street resembles Harry Potter’s, Diagon Alley. At the top of the island sits the church with a beautiful vista of the countryside and ocean.

If you have an adventurous spirit, visiting Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is a one-of-a-kind destination you need to mark on your bucket list.

Mont Saint-Michel with high tide at 12:30 PM

“Wonder of the West”

History of Mont Saint-Michel

In 708, Bishop Aubert of Avranches received a vision in a dream from Saint Michael to build a church on the remote rocky island. The high and low tides occur twice a day, allowing people to walk from the shore banks. 

Construction workers would travel twice a day to an island close by and retrieve rocks to build the church. The workers would carve out their names on the rocks to be compensated.  As the water was infected with bacteria, alcohol was the safer option to stay hydrated. Monks would spend their days drinking wine and brandy while praying and gardening.

During the 100-year war, the rapid high tides prevented soldiers from raiding the small island. England conquered all of France except Mont Saint-Michel. Noticing Mont’s defensive capabilities, the king of France ordered the island to become a prison for the clergy and high-profile political figures. 

In 1874, Mont Saint-Michel has declared a national historic treasure for its natural and cultural significance.

Pictures of the outside of Mont Saint-Michel.

Arriving to Mont Saint-Michel

It’s a full-day trip to Mont Saint-Michel if you’re traveling from Paris. I was at the departure location by 8:30 AM and returned to Paris at 9:00 PM. There is a 2-hour drive with a 20-minute pitstop before continuing the next 2 hours. 

There is a designated parking spot minutes away from Mont Saint-Michel. People can walk or ride the free shuttle buses that arrive every ten or fifteen minutes. Be patient, especially in the heat. During Europe’s strongest heatwave, I visited Mont.

The trek to the church requires you to walk up over 300 steps to get to the top. Afterward, there is still more walking through the church and living quarters.

Pictures of the church and living quarters.

Close to the end, you’ll come across a gift shop. Sardines, rose wine, beers, stuffed dragons, and even The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet are there. I decided to buy magnets for the fridge, sardines, and some medieval rose wine.

The Abbey at Mont Saint-Michel

Once you’re done touring the church, enjoy the nice and easy walk down to the abbey. The abbey contains dozens of boutiques, restaurants, and shops to buy souvenirs, candy, and gelato!

The Abbey holds a lot of charm. There’s plenty to do but so little time!

I sat at a restaurant called La Vieille Auberge and enjoyed a gigantic bowl of delicious seafood filled with king crab, oysters, shrimp, and prawns.

Le Tresor des Pirates is a small candy store that sells American candy in France. I bought Sour Power strips, gummy dolphins, gum, and a jawbreaker. It was pretty expensive.

Gelato is always a good idea, especially in that heat!

Closing Thoughts

Whether from up close or from afar, Mont Saint-Michel is a marvel to admire. The beautiful aesthetic of gothic architecture surrounded by the rising and lowering of the tides is a unique natural and cultural experience to behold.

It was quite the exercise touring the island and learning about its historical background. Be prepared with a bottle of water and give yourself a few moments to catch your breath when you reach the top. 

My high point was finally being able to sit down and enjoy delicious cheeses and seafood from Normandy! You will find me smiling happily overlooking the horizon, and drinking beer.

Very few things impress me and when I say I loved visiting Mont Saint-Michel it’s because I mean it. I had a wonderful day and it will forever stay in my memory. I will take another trip to visit Mont-Saint-Michel in the future.

Mont-Saint-Michel with low tide at 4:00 PM

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