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16 things to do in the Mont Saint-Michel

16 things to do in the Mont Saint-Michel

City Guide France Mont Saint-Michel

If you’d like to visit Le Mont Abbey, you can buy your tickets here* and avoid the queues!

The Mont Saint-Michel is a small heavenly place located at the entrance of one of the most beautiful bays in the world. My family is intimately linked to this big rock and the history of the Mont Saint-Michel has always fascinated me, so I had the chance to go there dozens and dozens of times! I even did an internship at the tourist office during my studies.

Let me tell you its secrets and advise you on how to visit the Mont Saint-Michel at best.

So today, I’m going to help you to prepare your visit of the Mont Saint-Michel by talking about :

But first of all, I have to answer the question that everybody is asking…

Is the Mont Saint-Michel from Normandy or Brittany?

The Mont Saint-Michel is located between Normandy and Brittany. Being from Brittany, it pains me to say this, but yes, the Mont Saint-Michel is in Normandy. And there is a proverb that I like very much that explains in part why…

The Couesnon, in its madness, put the Mont in Normandy.

As you can see, this proverb was most certainly written by a Breton!

For the little explanation, the Couesnon is the river that borders the Mont Saint-Michel. When it is on the left of the Mont (as it is now), the Mont Saint-Michel is in Normandy, but when it is on the right, the Mont is in Brittany.

A story says that before, the Couesnon changed its position according to the tides, but since the reclamation of its mouth in the 19th century, the river has definitively put the Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.

mont saint michel in normandy
Photo : Nyokki

Unfortunately, there is no written record of this fact and it all remains political. But still, it will remain partly in Brittany forever… Besides, some people like to answer to this proverb by adding “And in his reason, he will give it back to the Bretons”.

16 things to do to visit the Mont Saint-Michel differently

Sure, you can just follow the crowd when you get there, but I can assure you that you will quickly get bored! Most tourists rush to the souvenir stores and sometimes forget about all the other attractions of the Mont. So let me refresh your memory.

Visit the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel

Whether you are a believer, a churchgoer, of another religion or an atheist, a visit to the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is a must. The beauty of the Mont lies in the abbey and it would be a shame not to go and see this architectural treasure.

abbey of mont st michel
Source: Felix Lipov – Shutterstock

The visit of the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is free for people under 26 years old, EU citizens, and costs 13€ for “adults” for a free visit. You can also follow a guided tour that lasts about 45 minutes. These guided tours take place at the beginning and end of the day and must be booked online in advance.

You can purchase your tickets for the abbey directly here* and if you buy them in advance, you should avoid the queue!

*This is an affiliate link, which means that I will receive a small commission if you use this link to buy your ticket to the abbey. This is totally free for you, but it’s a way to support the blog, so thanks!

My advice? Don't hesitate to add a few euros to take a conference tour. During 2 hours and accompanied by a guide, you will learn all the little secrets of the building. However, these visits only take place on weekends (or every day during school vacations).

Renting an audio guide is also possible if you want to know more, but not too much.

Walking through these rooms, each one more magnificent than the other, learning the history of this mythical place, is a real pleasure for me every time!

Note in your notebooks: the abbey is open from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm and it is free for all on the first Sunday of the month from November to March.

Walk up the main street and discover the small shops

Also called the Grande Rue, the main street crosses Mont Saint-Michel from the entrance of the city to the abbey gate. There are many souvenir stores, restaurants and snack bars.

The main street is marked by 3 big doors: the Porte de l’Avancée, the Porte du Boulevard and finally the Porte du Roy which is also a drawbridge.

It is sure that the main street is crowded with travellers, especially in the middle of summer, it is difficult to put one foot in front of the other. But it remains a must if you want to see the small shops.

Take the Venelle du Guet, the smallest street of the Mont

If you take the Grande Rue, keep your eyes open when you look on the left… You might see the smallest street of the Mont Saint-Michel, the “Venelle du Guet”, also called “Ruelle des cocus”.

A clue: the alley is located in front of the Hotel La Croix Blanche.

town of mont st michel in normandy

Picnic in the gardens

The Mont Saint-Michel is not very big, but there are still beautiful green spaces! However, they are not as easy to find as you might think!

Once you are in front of the entrance of the small cemetery, take the street that goes up on the left. At the end, take the alley that goes to the left (west). Continue straight ahead and you will come across the gardens at the foot of the abbey.

These gardens are located in full sun at noon, so it’s the perfect place to take a little lunch break!

Don’t waste your time visiting museums.

Trust me, there’s much better to see than museums. I had the opportunity to visit all 4 museums at Mont Saint-Michel, and it’s almost disrespectful to the visitors.

These are private museums, and it’s evident that their main objective isn’t cultural, which is a shame. These museums are outdated and not at all up to par with what we expect from them. You hardly learn anything there… If I had to choose just one, I’d probably go with the Logis Tiphaine, because it’s always nice to see a historical building, but the visit is so quick that you’ll be done in no time.

Feel free to leave a comment with your viewpoint if you’ve visited them!

Walk around the ramparts

The Mont Saint-Michel is surrounded by ramparts, built after the Hundred Years War. All along the walls, 7 towers mark nice stops from where you have a superb view on the bay.

Actually, you can’t really go around the ramparts, because they are only located at the front of the Mount. But it’s really a beautiful place. You can for example go up the main street and go down the ramparts.

Go and see the small Saint-Aubert Chapel

When you are in front of the Mont Saint-Michel, the small Chapel Saint-Aubert is completely on the left. It is located outside the city and is not visible when you arrive by the dike, so it is easy to miss.

st aubert chapel in mont st michel
Source : Depositphotos

It was built in the 12th century, in honor of Saint-Aubert, founder of the abbey of Le Mont. A legend tells that the chapel was built on a rock that was blocked higher up on the Mont. A child held by the hand of Saint-Aubert would have simply made it fall by pushing it with his foot when the abbey was built.

It is not always possible to enter the chapel, but you can observe it from outside from the bay.

Discover the small streets of the Wonder

It is not a surprise for anyone, the Mont Saint-Michel is a (widely) visited place. With its 3 millions of annual visitors, the crowd is often very dense. But be aware that 70% of these tourists stay in the main street of the Mont. Don’t be like them and wander in the hidden places of the Wonder! 

Whether you walk around the ramparts, which offer a superb view of the bay, or whether you stroll in the streets around, you’ll have more fun if you can put one foot in front of the other without difficulty.

My advice? When you enter the Mont, take the big staircase on the left after the post office. Once you arrive at the small cemetery, you are free to choose your path. If you go to the right, you will come across the main street. If you turn left, you will go to the abbey. Don't worry, the town is small, you won't get lost, you will find the place you were looking for at the bend in the road.

Do not eat the omelette Poulard!

I’m sure I’ll break some hearts and destroy some myths, but I have to be honest with you. I’ll just tell you why, and I’m sure you’ll understand my point of view.

Do you know what a Poulard omelette is? It’s an omelette beaten with a whisk, with the egg whites beaten until they are stiff, nothing more, nothing less! In the famous restaurant that bears the same name, this omelette costs more than 30 euros…

Between you and me, I think it’s a real rip-off. After having tried many restaurants in Mont Saint-Michel, I can assure you that you will find much better, and especially a better value for money, by going a little higher up in the streets.

My advice? Try the Duguesclin which, as a bonus, has a superb view on the bay.

Crossing the bay of the Mont Saint-Michel with a guide

I have praised the merits of the Mont Saint-Michel, but did you know that it is located in one of the most beautiful bays in the world? It would be a shame to leave without having explored it a little!

mont saint michel bay in normandy france

On the other hand, it is out of the question to do it by yourselves! Access to the bay is forbidden to tourists without a guide. And yet, every year, dozens are trapped and sometimes, fatal accidents happen…

I don’t want to scare you, but the Mont Saint-Michel bay can be dangerous. For example, there is a lot of quicksand! Getting stuck with your feet in the sand is one thing. But to be blocked when the tide rises, it is dangerous! I advise you to cross the bay with an experienced guide who will protect you against the natural elements.

My advice? Make the crossing to Tombelaine (with a guide), the island that is nicknamed the little brother of Mont Saint-Michel. You will learn a lot about their history and you will discover a new view of the Mont, from the back.

Going to the Mont Saint-Michel at the end of the day

No need to remind that the Mont Saint-Michel is visited by millions of visitors every year. Especially in the middle of summer, it is crowded during the day!

To avoid this crowd and to discover another aspect of the Mont Saint-Michel, choose the end of the day. Of course, most of the souvenir stores will be closed, but the twilight gives a mysterious air to the Mont which is really pleasant

You can also choose to visit the Mont Saint-Michel during winter. At this time of the year, even in the middle of the day, the Mont is empty and yet, the shops could also be closed: the Montois take their annual winter vacation!

Attend the abbey’s nocturnes

If you plan to visit Mont Saint-Michel in July or August, you should definitely plan to spend the evening there to attend the Nocturnes de l’abbaye.

Every summer, a sound and light show takes place every night in the abbey. It is an excellent way to (re)discover the abbey illuminated with a thousand lights!

In 2023, the show was to celebrate the millennium of the Mont. We do not know yet 2024 theme.

Visit the Mont dam

In 2009, the dam on the Couesnon was started. Its objective is to regulate the waters to give the river enough strength to evacuate the sediments towards the open sea. Its construction is part of the “operation to re-establish the maritime character of Mont Saint-Michel”, the same operation that led to the construction of the new footbridge a decade ago!

And it is possible to visit this dam and also to attend the water releases! There are 2 per day in general and it can be a nice show to discover the Mount differently.

Do not hesitate to consult the schedules to plan your day accordingly.

Come at high tide

As we all know, since the construction of the new dike, Mont Saint-Michel has become an island again during high tides. In reality, this is not quite true, as it only happens during the highest coefficients.

The bay of Mont Saint-Michel is home to Europe’s highest tides, with a tidal range (the difference between high and low tide) of over 15 metres! During the highest tides, the sea retreats more than 15 kilometers backwards!

And it’s precisely during the highest tides that the most beautiful sights are to be seen. For a start, you can enjoy the tidal bore, the first wave of the tide which, according to legend, moves at the speed of a galloping horse. But above all, you can actually see the water completely surround Mont Saint-Michel.

The highest tides occur every 2 to 3 weeks, so check the coefficients to plan your visit to Mont Saint-Michel accordingly.

My advice? Make sure you arrive at least 2 hours before high tide, so you can see the rising tide and hope to catch a glimpse of the tidal bore.
mont saint michel bay

Use an app to enhance your visit to Mont Saint-Michel

I’ll be the first to say that it feels good to let go of your phone and enjoy “real life”, especially in a place like the Mont Saint-Michel.

But whether you’re trying to captivate bored children or add a touch of originality to your visit to Mont Saint-Michel, mobile apps can be very useful.

There are several apps that allow you to discover the Mont. I particularly like

Take a step back to admire the Mont

The best view of Mont Saint-Michel is undoubtedly from the road that leads to it.

But sometimes, I like to take a little more distance to get a wider view.

In Normandy, I love going to the Jardin des Plantes in Avranches, which not only offers a very pleasant environment, but also a magical view of the Mont and its bay.

In Brittany, I like to cross the polders and stop on the side of the road to admire this Wonder that I love so much, without the crowds nearby.

My advice? If you choose to go into the polders, use a GPS - it's a real labyrinth!

Go to Mont Saint-Michel late in the day or early in the morning

It goes without saying that millions of people visit Mont Saint-Michel every year. Particularly at the height of summer, it’s crowded during the day!

To avoid the crowds and discover a different side of Mont Saint-Michel, it’s best to visit at the beginning or end of the day. Of course, most of the souvenir stores will be closed. But dawn and dusk give the Mont a mysterious atmosphere that’s really enjoyable.

Prioritize weekday or off-season visits

Although I suspect it’s not possible all the time, it’s always better to plan a visit to Mont Saint-Michel out of season. It’s less crowded and parking is cheaper.

If you choose to visit Mont Saint-Michel in winter, you should be aware that at this time of year, even in the middle of the day, the Mont is empty. However, shops may also be closed: the Montois take their annual winter vacation!

If you have no choice but to go during the vacations, you’d better make it a weekday. According to the tourist office, there are fewer people on Tuesdays and Thursdays, two days far away from weekends.

Frequently asked questions about Mont Saint-Michel

Over the years, I’ve received many comments and questions about Mont Saint-Michel. So here are a few answers, to help you plan your visi.

How long does it take to visit Mont Saint-Michel?

This is a difficult question to answer, as it depends on what you want to do there. It’s perfectly possible to spend the whole day there!

I’d advise you to allow at least 2 hours to visit the abbey and another 2 hours to wander around the Mont (the ramparts, the little streets, the gardens…).

Afterwards, if you have the chance, take the time to eat on site, either in one of the snack bars or restaurants, or (even better in my opinion), by picnicking overlooking the bay. Finally, you can round off your stroll by spending some time shopping in the boutiques on the main street.

How do I get to Mont Saint-Michel?

Since the opening of the new dike in 2015, access to the foot of Mont Saint-Michel is only possible on foot, by bike or by shuttle bus.

By car

You can reach Mont Saint-Michel by car. But you’ll need to leave your vehicle in the parking lots located a few kilometers from the Wonder.

Unfortunately, the price of parking has skyrocketed. Even though, since 2023, rates have varied according to the season, the cost is still very high.

For each season, there is a fixed base rate if you stay less than 3 hours: 8€ in low season, 14€ in mid-season, and 17€ in high season. However, an additional fee is added depending on the duration of your stay on the Mont. It’s free if you stay less than 30 minutes (but impossible to adhere to if you go on the Mont).

Rates increase based on the time spent on site. For example, it’s €25 in peak season if you stay for 8 hours. The full details of the 2024 rates are available here.

Parking is free from 6.30pm to 1am (except in July and August, it’s 15€), but outside this period it’s excessively expensive…

abbey of mont saint michel
Photo : Ralf E. Staerk

By bus

One of the most economical ways to get to Mont Saint-Michel is by bus.

If you take the bus from Pontorson (10 minutes from the Mont), you can park your car free of charge in the town. Just pay the bus fare (€3.10) and the bus will drop you off at the foot of the Mont. Not bad, eh?

You can find the bus schedules until March 29, 2024 here.

From Saint-Malo or Rennes, several departures take place every day, depending on the seasons. You can purchase your ticket directly online here. The average fare is 15€ from Saint-Malo and 25€ from Rennes.

On foot

If the car option really is easier for you, which I can understand, you can still mix and match your means of transport.

Once you’ve parked your car, you have a number of options for getting to Mont. You can take the shuttle bus, choose the more original option of taking a roulotte or go on foot. Personally, I like the last option.

Sure, it takes longer, but at least you’ve got time to enjoy the Mont and see it come closer and closer. And if you’re into photography, this is where you’ll get the best views!

The walk takes about 2 kilometers, from the parking lots, through the Caserne (the shopping area at the end of the dike) and onto the dike itself.

By train

Although Mont Saint-Michel had a train station a few decades ago, it no longer does! The nearest station is in Pontorson, around ten kilometers from the Mont.

During the summer, a special train called “Le train du Mont Saint-Michel” links Pontorson directly from Paris Montparnasse. Alternatively, take a train to Villedieu-les-Poêles in Normandy or Rennes in Brittany, then catch a bus to finish the journey to the Mont Saint-Michel.

By bike

There are several cycling trails leading to Mont Saint-Michel. These include the Véloscénie, which links Paris to the Mont, the Véloroute Vélo West Normandy, which takes you from the D-Day landing beaches to the Merveille, and the Vélomaritime EuroVélo, which runs all the way from the English Channel to northern France.

Bicycles are permitted on the seawall leading to Mont Saint-Michel, as well as on the esplanade in front of the entrance. However, it’s forbidden to park your 2-wheeler there!

There are several bike parks: directly next to the car park (P9) or near the dam. The latter is limited to 70 spaces, so it’s best to get there early!

Can I visit the Mont Saint-Michel with my dog?

Mont Saint-Michel is a city like any other, so yes, dogs are allowed!

Please note, however, that only assistance dogs or small dogs that can fit in a bag are allowed on the shuttle buses. Also note that you can’t visit the abbey with your dog, even if it’s in a bag.

If you wish, you can also leave your dog in the kennels near the parking lots. But beware: if you return after closing time, your dog will be taken to the pound!

If you’re planning a visit to Mont Saint-Michel, perhaps these tips will help you organize your trip. I’ve tried to speak to you sincerely, avoiding the famous “Don’t go on August 15! No matter when you decide to visit Mont Saint-Michel, you’re bound to be charmed by the place. But don’t go on August 15!

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Sarah - Carnets Vanille

Hello! I’m Sarah, a Malouin at heart, living in Montreal for a few years. Carnets Vanille is an opportunity for me to combine my two passions, writing and travel, by sharing with you about the two corners of the world that excite me, Quebec and Brittany. I share my discoveries, provide tips to help you plan your visits, and also offer recommendations on the best restaurants and accommodations.

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