If you find yourself in the north west of France, Mont Saint Michel is definitely one destination you should think about, whether you are a pilgrim or just a tourist. You cannot help yourself from noticing this legendary fortress even from a large distance and remain mesmerized by its immensity and castle looking shape.
Where is Mont Saint Michel !?
Situated at the limit from Normandy and Brittany ,at about 360 Km from Paris and at 60 km from Saint Malo , in the golf of St. Malo , Mont Saint Michel is called “ Wonder of the Occident” and is a part of the list of Unesco Heritage Sites .
The surrounding area seamed very quiet, with some sheep and cows grazing now and then and some hotels, but don’t get yourself fooled by appearances, everybody is inside the fortress. Going towards the Mont Saint Michel we saw a place the called Reptilarium (Alligator Bay), where you can stop your car and rest or eat something, while the children can admire crocodiles, lizards and snakes.
Things to know when you visit Mont Saint Michel
This area in the golf of Saint Malo is known for the largest and the most spectacular tides in Continental Europe (during low tides, the sea retreats to fifteen, even eighteen kilometers) ,so if you are there at specific times of the year you can observe this phenomena.
If you go there by car, you have to pay 6 € per day to leave your car in the large parking area situated at the bottom of Mont Saint Michel (cars, parked properly, are not in danger of being swallowed by the returning flow of water ).However if you get there in the evening you will not pay for the parking at all.
Mont Saint Michel castle in France
As you find yourself in front of the fortress you begin to see exactly what Mont Saint Michel really is. At the bottom you can observe a rocky foundation, on top of which you see small and medium buildings, walls, protecting narrow streets and stairs, guiding the steps towards the abbey, which is situated at the top. From place to place you can see some green spots of vegetation and trees .The entrance in Mont Saint Michel is free of charge, but prepare some money for the abbey and for the museums located at the on top of the stairs.
The streets inside are full with shops offering souvenirs, postal cards, Celtic jewelry, clothes, regional food and beverage products, medieval guns. There are also some hotels and restaurants inside Mont Saint Michel, but don’t expect cheap bills for the services.
Street View Mont Saint Michel France
The area can get very crowded ( I’ll let the numbers talk – 3 million visitors per year), especially on a rainy day , when everybody is going to be standing in your way, with their umbrellas open. So be calm and enjoy the ride, because the monastery and the museums inside the fortress are not going anyway. As you go up , in some part of the walls you get a clear view across the bay ,admire the incredible architecture of the fortress and imagine how it would be like living inside Mont Saint Michel (there are actually 40 people living here, probably they must know some shortcuts to get around and avoid the crowds).
On the list of things to see (besides the view of the see from the walls of the fortress) are the 4 museums also located within these walls, designed to tell the story of this place, explaining things about the construction, tides phenomena and showing ancient collections of guns, sculptures and paintings .The Price for 1 museum is 9 , or the 4 museum packet for 18€.
The famous Abbey in Mont Saint Michel
According to legends, the building of a church in this place was instructed by Archangel Michael (its golden statue can now be seen at the top of the structure, as a testimony of this legend),but even if you’re not a religious person, the Benedictine Abbey in Mont Saint MicheI is a place worth to see. On your visit there you can see the abbey church, the cloister , the cafeteria, the monks’ ambulatory and the gardens .The price is 9 € per person.
View of the Abbey in Mont Saint Michel
Things to do when you visit this place
Have with you comfortable shoes and a jacket or a cloak for rainy weather. In the summer temperatures out there are higher (but still we are in the north of France and the average temperature in July is 20°C(68°F), but it’s also more crowded.
If you are on a low budget, eat before entering the fortress, because climbing the stairs inside Mont Saint Michel, can be quite a workout for some of us and the meals out there are kind of expensive.
If you aren’t in the mood for standing in line and paying “to see the toilets” of this place, go to the toilet before entering.
If you go there with the children ,you will probably leave broke.
It’s best to visit the place in the evening ,when all the shops are closed and you can really concentrate on this beautiful details of this medieval village ,fortress and abbey plus the view of Mont Saint Michel in the night with all the lights sparkling is extraordinary.
Evening on the Streets of Mont Saint Michel
Inform yourself about the time of the tides in these parts.
French style eating and drinking at Mont Saint Michel
Places to eat in Mont Saint Michel-La Mere Poulard
If you decide to eat on this small island, make a reservation for the restaurant and try the omelette (a sort of scrambled eggs made in the oven) ,the local cheese products, seafood, poultry or the lamb made Mont Saint Michel. As in any Normandy part, here you can order the famous apple cider(it is quite good) and an apple based brandy called Calvados . I heard a great place to eat is: La Mere Poulard.
Enjoy your visit there!
Other things in Normandy that might interest you:
- A walk along the beaches in Normandy
- Visit to Monet's House and Gardens
- Spring weather in France
- Mont Saint Michel – a Normandy Attraction