Mont-Saint-Michel Surrounded by a Spectacle of Nature

Mont-Saint-Michel Surrounded by a Spectacle of Nature

France
France

When Is the Best Time

Mont Saint Michel the most visited destination in 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 with fresh green grass in the marshland
Already from the distance truly impressive. 

The unique Mont Saint Michel is 78 meters / 256 feet high. You can find new updates and pictures from September 2021 in my guide. 

View to Mont Saint Michel from the sea
Mont Saint Michel at low tide.

The best time to visit Mont Saint Michel with pleasant weather is from May to October. Exceptional is the highest tidal range here of entire Europe with roughly 15 meters. This makes a visit during spring tide a unique experience; only then the island is surrounded by the sea and not accessible. 

Spring Tide Dates for 2021

The sea surrounds mont Saint Michel with a water level of 14 meters and higher. If you want to watch this outstanding experience in 2021, plan ahead and notice the exact days. 

Month Date Date
March 1 2
March 29 30
April 28 29
October 7 8
November 5 6


Mont Saint Michel tides link for an exceptional visit.

COVID19 Update July 2021

Tourists queuing to access Mont Saint Michel
The visitor flow is regulated due to COVID 19.

Mont Saint Michel is open for visitors. Please, follow the three COVID19 rules:

  1. Social Distancing - Face Masks - Sanitize Your Hands
  2. A limited number of visitors only on a fixed circular route through the Abbey. Opening Hours for the Abbey are unchanged and are mentioned in my article.
  3. Book your ticket online to secure an entrance on the day of your visit. Ticket Booking
     

Tides at Mont-Saint-Michel

View from the Abbey to the village and lagoon at low tide
The village and lagoon

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 centre close to the parking and opposite the shuttle bus stop when the first wave may appear.

Two visitors on a platform
What incredible scenery.

After visiting the Abbey, instead of leaving it go back to the west terrace, especially if a spring tide is expected.

Incoming tide view from the top of Mont Saint Michel

Alternatively, visit the Abbey half an hour before the first wave, the tidal bore is predicted. Bear in mind that you may line up for a ticket depending on the season and time of the day. This ensures that you are on time at the west terrace to get a good place for watching the spectacular show of the incoming tide. To be on the safe side book your ticket online for the Abbey.

Crowds on the west-terrace at Mont-Saint-Michel watching the spring tide
Everybody is waiting on the West Terrace for the incoming tide

You can visit Mont Saint Michel during high tide, but not when a spring tide occurs; mentioned days above. The door is closed for roughly 1.5 h during this occasion when the sea surrounds the entire island. 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.

The first wave at spring tide watched from Mont-Saint-Michel
Most impressive is the first wave; the tidal bore.

It’s an extraordinary experience to witness the power of the tides. The spring tides occur 36 -48 hours after the full and new moon, in a 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 or early October with a sea-level above 14 m.

Visitors are waiting for the spring tide on the bridge in front of Mont Saint Michel
Visitors are waiting for the spring tide.

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 1.5 hours during the highest water level. We experienced this outstanding spring tide in September 2018. Tide Times Mont Saint Michel

Visitor Centre Opening Times

Visitor Centre Mont Saint Michel
They give you the exact tide times and everything else you'd like to know.

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.

A model of the Mount showing the different vegetation zones
Make a stop at the vistor center to get information about this unique monastery.

The staff is very kind and attentive providing you with all the needed information.

Abbey Opening Times

The Abbey in Mont Saint Michel
The Abbey is a mystic place.
  • 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 program 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

 

Lots of tourists on the Boardwalk to Mont Saint Michel.
It's pretty busy during the day.

With three million visitors each year, it’s almost always busy, but the summer months are the worst. You even have to line up for the restrooms and for paying your parking ticket at the ticket machine.

Narrow alleys are empty at Mont Saint Michel during the evening
The main street, "Grand Rue" is quiet at the evening.

Most of the guided bus tours come here during the day and already leave the outstanding place in the afternoon. My tip to avoid the crowds, come here for the sunrise or in the afternoon.

The main street "Grand Rue" busy during the day.
The Grand Rue busy during the day. - The Hotel Vieille Auberge is excellent located.

Experience the village in the evening when most shops are closed, and the narrow alleys are almost without any people.

Weather

Mont Saint Michel from the distance with boardwalk
Sunset at Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel experiences a coastal climate. Due to the location, influenced by the tides, it has its own microclimate, mostly a bit cooler than at the coast. Rain frequently occurs throughout the year but not much, just around 750 mm per year. Most sunshine hours from May to September. The seawater temp is below 20°C, even in the summer.

Spring (March-May)

Mont Saint Michel on a partly cloudy day in spring
A partly cloudy day in spring.

March is cold temps are slightly above 10°C during the day. April improves a little and rainfall decreases. May starts to become pleasant with temperatures around 16°C. Though nights are still chilly usually below 10°C. In March and April, crowds are still bearable. May is already a popular time for Normandy. 

Summer (June-mid-September)

Mon Saint Michel at sunset
Sunset and the incoming tide at Mont Saint Michel.

The summer is the most popular time of the year for a visit with pleasant temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Temps in summer are on average around 20°C and climb up to 25°C at times. It is the driest season of the year with occasional showers. 

Autumn (mid-Sep-November) 

Mont Saint Michel with a dramatic sky shortly before a thunderstorm

October is still a pleasant month for Mont Saint Michel and the Normandy with temps ranging from 16°C during the day to 11°C at night and early morning. Precipitation is increasing in autumn roughly from mid-October onwards. It is the beginning of the wetter season which lasts at least until January. 

Winter (December-February) 

Mont St Michel with dark cloudy sky upcoming rain

December to February expect one-digit temps ranging from 9-3°C. It’s pretty chilly during winter due to the high humidity and the wind from the sea. Nevertheless, it’s the low season except for Christmas. It doesn’t rain daily sunny blue skies occur but fewer. The wintertime is the wettest season of the year although already decreasing rainfall from February onwards.
 

 

 

Tidal Flat Tours and Must-Do Tours from Paris

Tidal Flat Tour at Mont Saint Michel, Normandy

There are tidal flat tours offered at low tide (It seems they're not being offered in the winter months due to the cold sea. However, the day trip tours from Paris are awesome, and it's less busy in the wintertime).

Group on a tidal flat tour.
Unfortunately, these tours can't be booked in advance any longer.

If you visit the area for more than one day, it'll be an outstanding experience. In general, it's essential to book a guided tidal flat tour due to quicksand, waterholes, and the fast coming tide.

Where to Stay

A narrow alley on Mont Saint Michel
Experience the island without the day-trippers.

Camping
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 staying 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 a private bathroom offered as well. The campground is open from the end of March until the beginning of November.

Hotels

Auberge Saint Pierre - where you get the "Hogwarts" feeling
This is my top tip for staying on Mont Saint Michel.

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'll feel like in Hogwarts from Harry Potter.

Hotel Le Relais Saint Michel close to Le Mont

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.

 

 

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

Normandy, Pontorson, Avranches
France
France

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Mont Saint Michel is situated in 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.

Mont Saint Michel
The view from the cemetery to Mont Saint Michel.

The entrance fee is 11 € per adult in September 2021 and worth visiting. 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.

New bridge leading to Mont Saint Michel

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.

Mont Saint Michel during low tide - Tidal Flat Tour

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 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

The ticket counter at Mont Saint Michel
The ticket counter is quiet in the early morning or buy your ticket online. Abbey Ticket 11€

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.

Abbey doors

If you start at the main entrance, you pass by the famous La Mere Poulard, where the special omelette was created in the 19th century for pilgrims and visitors.

Abbey

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.

Mont Saint Michel; the cloister in the evening
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.

The Cloister
The magical cloister.

It was already 6 pm when we reached the entrance of the Abbey. Because of 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.

Sunlight to one of the abbey windows
Spend at least half a day here better also one night and soak in the beauty.

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 

Parking Fees 2021

Parking in the early morning
Early morning at 8 am still lots of parking places available. 

The huge car park is divided into 13 sections. It is open 24/7. The price per day (24 hours) is 14.90 €. Only credit cards are excepted—detailed prices for cars and camper-vans. All parking fees are added in the picture below.

Parking and Shuttle Map

Bus Shuttle and Parking Map for Mont Saint Michel
The closest parking P2 is wheelchair accessible.

Everything is well marked, maps, and information boards are provided. 

How to Get to Mont St. Michel

The parking and shuttle area half an hour walk away
The parking and shuttle area - visitor centre in the back

It’s a 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, starting next to the Information Center.

How Can I Get from Paris to Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel during low tide

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 travelling 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.

Mont Saint Michel view from the seabed at low tide.

More convenient, book a guided tour. There is one tour where the TGV (high-speed train), a minibus, is included. You save lots of time that you can spend on the bay tour during low tide and the Abbey. It's a long day packed with all attractions of Mont Saint Michel. For the tour click on the picture above or follow the Link: Full-Day Bay Tour From Paris.

Where to Eat

La Mere Poulard the famous restaurant at Mont Saint Michel

Most of the restaurants offer steamed mussels and the traditional Mont-Saint-Michel omelette. 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 average quality. Just in case, bring a bottle of water, a sandwich, and a snack.

The History of Mont Saint Michel 

Mont Saint Michel in the 11th and 12th century

  • 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 Norman dukes supported the monks. 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. 
  • Afterwards, the 100 years war and a 30 years siege were challenging times 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 medieval times.
  • 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.

My wonderful friends from Calgary provided pictures of the Tidal Flat Tour. I took all the other pictures. I have the copyright for all those photos. If you like to use one of them get in contact with me.
The pictures from September 2021 and the Covid updates are provided by my wonderful brother René.

Comments

Derek Delmar

We visited Mont Saint Michel in August 2019. As BT2T warned on this website, visiting here during the summer season is CRAZY!

Lineups were insane. It was very hot (which wasn't a bad thing, but you need to be armed with sun hats, sunscreen and WATER!) Don't expect to buy these things there because the lineups are crazy everywhere. Ensure that you leave plenty of time in your plans to deal with line ups to get to the car park, then for the free shuttle bus, then to get into the walled city and Abbey. Otherwise, leave early in the morning to get there before the crowds or plan your visit at off-peak times.

But was the visit worthwhile? DEFINITELY.

We booked two tours through BT2T's links to (1) the Abbey Self-Guided Tour and (2) the Guided Hiking Tour in the Bay. They were so very worthwhile!

Your Abbey tour ticket allows you to skip the lineups and gets you in immediately (but first you will need to walk up the jam-packed winding alleys to the Abbey entrance where you pass through security). Once inside, there is plenty of space to move about and enjoy the amazing Abbey, Chapels and views. It's great!

But the best - and most unique - part of our visit was the 3-hour Guided Tour of the Bay!!
Believe them when they say you need 3 hours. Come prepared to walk through mud, clay and water. It's best to walk barefoot, but neoprene surfing booties or tight-fitting water shoes might also work. You will get muddy and need to change footwear when you're done.

The guides are exceptional and very knowledgeable.
The views of the Mount from the bay are captivating.
The insights into the tidal effects and impact on the bay and surrounds are very educational and insightful.
Be sure to carry water and a snack with you (and remember to use the toilet before your tour starts!) If you have any physical limitations with walking, then this tour might not be for you because it does require some determination and stamina as you navigate slippery clay fields, "sinking" sand, and flowing water. But this is all part of this unforgettable experience. If you do nothing else during your visit to Mont Saint Michel, then be sure to do this tour.

Tours only happen when the tide is on its way out / during low tide, so bear this in mind when planning your visit.

You like to read more; follow my bio: http://www.iamcalgary.ca/i-am-calgarys-summer-of-2019-a-million-memorie…

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Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I love adventurous trips and my husband…