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 is 78 meters / 256 feet high. 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.

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 centre 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 afterwards. 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 in time at the west terrace to get a good place for watching the spectacular show of the incoming tide. You can visit Mont Saint Michel during high tide only, 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.

Crowds on the west-terrace at Mont-Saint-Michel watching the spring 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.

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

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. 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

Visitors are waiting for the spring tide on the bridge in front of 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 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

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

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 shops are closed, and the narrow alleys are almost without any people.

Weather

Mont St Michel with dark cloudy sky upcoming rain

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 and Must-Do Tours from Paris

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). 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.

Tidal Flat Tour at Mont Saint Michel, Normandy

Where to Stay

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

Hotels
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.

Auberge Saint Pierre at Mont Saint Michel island

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.

Hotel Le Relais Saint Michel close to Le Mont

Alternatively check more options here: Hotels Le Mont Saint Michel - via booking.com

 

 

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 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.

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. 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. 

Mont Saint Michel during low tide - Tidal Flat Tour

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 omelette 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.

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. 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 

Parking

Parking fees for cars and camper-vans on the huge car park at Mont Saint Michel

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

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. 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 which you can spend on the bay tour during low tide, and the Abbey as well. 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 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 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.

My wonderful friends from Calgary provided pictures of the Tidal Flat Tour.

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…