Mont Saint Michel the most visited destination in the Normandy with an estimated three million visitors and pilgrims each year. The island is situated 600 meters from the mainland with its own microclimate. Mont Saint Michel is 78 meters / 256 feet high. Extraordinary is the highest tidal range in Europe with roughly 15 meters. This makes a visit during spring tide a unique experience. Regarding the weather, it may be pleasant from May to October. What makes a visit outstanding? Continue reading to get detailed information.
Tides at Mont-Saint-Michel
If possible, visit Mont St. Michel during low tide. Spend a couple of hours on the island and the Abbey and wait for the incoming high tide. Ask at the information center close to the parking and opposite the shuttle bus stop when the first wave may come. After visiting the Abbey, instead of leaving it walk back to the west terrace especially if a spring tide is expected. You can also leave the Abbey at the entrance afterward. Alternatively, visit the Abbey half an hour before the first wave, the tidal bore is predicted. Bear in mind that you may queue for a ticket depending on the season and time of the day. This ensures that you are in time at the west terrace to get a good place for watching a spectacular show of the incoming tide.
Pretty busy on the West Terrace
The sea flows out 15 km during spring tides and comes back with an immense Tidal bore. You already hear the sea coming back from far away with 30 km/h / 18.64 mph. It’s an extraordinary experience to witness the power of the tides.
Most impressive is the first wave; the tidal bore
The spring tides occur 36 -48 hours after full and new moon; in total round about 20 times a year. Mont Saint Michel becomes an island with a water level of 12.85 m and higher. The strongest spring tides happen in March and September with a sea level above 14 m. To get the most out of your visit check the tides first. If the spring tide is in the night, you can watch it, but you can't get a good shot. If a spring tide is forecasted for the evening; the Abbey closes around 10 pm. Mont St. Michel is not accessible roughly for 1 ½ hour during the highest water level. We experienced this outstanding spring tide in September 2018. Tidal times for Mont Saint-Michel
Visitors are waiting for the spring tide.
Visitor Centre Opening Times
It’s open from 9 am to 7 pm from Easter until the end of September and the rest of the year from 10 am to 6 pm. Only closed on Christmas Day the 25.12. and New Year 1.1.
Abbey Opening Times
- Closed on 1st January, 1st May and 25th December
- 2nd May until 31st August from 9 am to 7 pm, last admission one hour before
- 1st September until 30th April 9.30 am to 6 pm, last admission one hour before
- Exceptions: During July and August also open from 7.30 pm until 11 pm except Sunday with a special programme and illumination. An additional or combined ticket is necessary for it. Roughly four evenings each year during spring tide in the evening open at least until 10 pm
Peak Season and Crowds
With three million visitors each year it’s almost always crowded but summer months are the worst. You even have to queue for the restrooms and for paying your parking ticket at the ticket machine. Most of the guided bus tours come here during the day and already leave the outstanding place in the afternoon. If you want to avoid the crowds; come here for the sunrise or in the afternoon. Experience the village in the evening when most of the shops are closed, and the narrow alleys are almost without any people.
The main street "Grand Rue" is less crowded during the evening.
Mont St. Michel has a coastal climate but due to the location, influenced by the tides it has its own microclimate mostly a bit cooler. Rain frequently occurs throughout the year but not much just around 750 mm per year. Less precipitation from June to September. Most sunshine hours from May to September. The summer is the most popular time of the year for a visit with pleasant temps and plenty of sunshine. Temps in summer are on average around 20°C but can climb up to 25°C as well. October and May are similar to an average daily temp of 16°C, and the lowest is 10°C. December to February expect one-digit temps. Anyhow, it’s pretty chilly during winter due to the high humidity. The water temp is below 20°C even in the summer.
Tidal Flat Tours
There are tidal flat tours offered at low tide. If you visit the area for more than one day, it'll be an outstanding experience. It's essential to book a guided tour due to quicksand, waterholes and the fast coming tide.
Where to Stay
The closest campground is “Camping du Mont Saint-Michel”. It’s just the location next to the walkway to Mont Saint Michel which makes it worth to stay here. The campsites are not big. The facilities are ok more or less. Anyhow, you can check in 24 hours at the hotel reception and the staff is friendly. If you plan to stay just for one night it’s fine but for a couple of days you better chose “Camping aux Pommiers - Mont Saint Michel”. The facilities are well maintained. Plenty of showers and dishwashing sinks are available. There are an indoor pool and cabins with private bathroom are offered as well. The campground is open from the end of March until the beginning of November.
You will love to stay on the island for one night. Enjoy the mystic atmosphere in the narrow alleys when day visitors left the island. Experience the sunrise in front of Mont Saint Michel. The best rated charming hotel for Mont Saint Michel is the "Auberge Saint Pierre". You get remembered to Hogwarts from Harry Potter.
Another cheaper option but not in such a magical location is the “Le Relais Saint Michel”. Ask for a room with a Mount St. Michel view. The hotel is situated just next to the walkway.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site Mont Saint Michel is situated in the Normandy at the border to Britannia. The bay is already part of Britannia. The monastery is accessible throughout the year and free of charge except for the Abbey. It’s 10 € per adult and worth to visit. Watching the incoming high tide from the west terrace is another highlight especially if a spring tide is forecasted. Nowadays it’s an easy walk to get to Mount Saint Michel. In the past, it was dangerous due to the high tidal range and the quicksand.
To stop the imminent drying up and to restore the typical character of an island the dam to Mont Saint Michel got replaced by a 43 million Euro bridge in 2014. Due to the former dam, the sand and slick couldn't get removed by the tides. The work began in 2009 and was completed in 2015. Nowadays you walk along a 760 m long bridge to the island. A reservoir was built at the river Couesnon to regulate the flow of the water. Always 6 hours after high tide water gets released to anticipate with strong power the removal of the sediments behind Mount St. Michel. The reason for such an immense work and investment is to get the island surrounded by the sea at high tide as it was in the past.
Approaching the Abbey
Mont Saint Michel was one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the Middle Ages. When you enter the village through the main entrance, you feel reminisced about this time except for the souvenir shops. You can walk up to the Abbey either along the main street the “Grand Rue” along the historic old buildings from the 15th and 16th century or you enter the island from the Fanils entrance more to the left. If you start at the main entrance, you pass by the famous La Mere Poulard, where the special omelet was created in the 19th century for the pilgrims and visitors. Another interesting house is the “La Sirene” which means mermaid built from wood in the 15th century. It’s a steep climb up over hundreds of steps to reach the Abbey. If you decide to walk along the main street be aware it might be packed with tourists.
The Cloister; commonly situated on the south side
We entered it from the Fanils entrance and walked back on the main street when most people already left Mont Saint Michel. Although the climb up is even steeper you may run into fewer people. Therefore, we discovered several empty alleys and felt more of the mystic atmosphere. It was already 6 pm when we reached the entrance of the Abbey. Due to the spring tide, the Abbey was opened until 10.30 pm. Usually, it’s already closed. It wasn’t crowded any longer, and we enjoyed the remarkable place with all the magic halls and rooms. Follow the signs to the different places inside. A preachment was held in the Abbey Church due to the special occasion. More information about the Abbey
The huge car park is divided into 13 sections. It is open 24/7. The price per day (24 hours) is 12 €. Only credit cards are excepted. Detailed prices for cars and camper-vans:
How to Get to Mont St. Michel
It’s 2.5 km/1.5 miles walk which takes half an hour to Mont Saint Michel. Free shuttle bus service is offered next to the Information Center running continuously throughout the day. Another option is a traditional horse-drawn carriage for 6 € per person which also starts next to the Information Center.
How Can I Get from Paris to Mont Saint Michel
You can get to Mont Saint Michel in roughly 3 1/2 hours by train and bus. From Paris Montparnasse to Rennes by TGV and continue traveling by bus. It's well organized. Check the availability at Trainline. Anyhow, don't come here in a rush as a day visitor. The busiest time is midday until the afternoon. Enjoy this unique place as well in the evening and morning when it's much quieter.
Where to Eat
Most of the restaurants offer steamed mussels and the traditional Mont-Saint-Michel omelet. The most famous restaurant is La Mere Poulard. Prices are higher than on the mainland. Table reservation is recommended. It's quite busy here. Due to the location food and beverages are quite expensive with an average quality. Just in case bring a bottle of water, a sandwich, and a snack.
The History of Mont Saint Michel
- Named after Archangel Michel who instructed the bishop of Avranches to put up a chapel. The first church was mentioned in October 709.
- Benedictines monks settled here on the rock in 966.
The first part of the monastery was built in the 11th century. The monks were supported by the Norman dukes. By the time a village was developed at the bottom of the monastery.
- It was extended in the 12th century.
- A fire destroyed the abbey and the village in the 13th century.
- It got reconstructed in a Gothic-style and the Merveille also called the “Jewel of the Abbeys architecture” was built.
- Afterward, the 100 years war and a 30 years siege were a challenging time to protect the abbey from occupation and destruction. The English couldn’t conquer Mont Saint Michel. It became a symbol of resistance.
- After the 15th century, Mont Saint Michel became an essential destination for pilgrims in the medieval time.
- During the French Revolution, it was the French Alcatraz until 1863.
- The island got connected with the mainland by dam construction in 1879.
- It took a long time before monks moved back to the abbey in 1966.
- Mont St. Michel and the Bay became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.