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.
The unique Mont Saint Michel is 78 meters / 256 feet high. You can find new updates and pictures from September 2021 in my guide.
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.
Mont Saint Michel tides link for an exceptional visit.
COVID19 Update July 2021
Mont Saint Michel is open for visitors. Please, follow the three COVID19 rules:
- Social Distancing - Face Masks - Sanitize Your Hands
- 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.
- Book your ticket online to secure an entrance on the day of your visit. Ticket Booking
Tides at Mont-Saint-Michel
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.
After visiting the Abbey, instead of leaving it go back to the west terrace, especially if a spring tide is expected.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The staff is very kind and attentive providing you with all the needed information.
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
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.
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.
Experience the village in the evening when most shops are closed, and the narrow alleys are almost without any people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
Location and Tips
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.
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.
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.
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 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. 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.
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
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
Everything is well marked, maps, and information boards are provided.
How to Get to Mont St. Michel
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.
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 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.
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.
- 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.