The medieval island village of Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits right off France’s Atlantic coast at the mouth of the Couesnon River. Crowned by a Gothic abbey that sits atop the rocky isle, Mont Saint-Michel rises dramatically from the tidal flats of the bay, creating one of the country’s most recognizable images. It’s a must-see for history buffs and those interested in religious sites, and visits are often combined with tours through the region of Normandy.
Visiting Mont Saint-Michel on a day trip from Paris is a popular option for travelers who are short on time and would rather not drive themselves. The village’s Benedictine abbey (Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel), named after the archangel Michael, is the main attraction in the area, and its entrance fee is included in some tours. Some visitors with more time to explore spend a few days in the Normandy town of Caen or Bayeux for easier access to the island and a chance to see other northern France attractions such as the D-Day landing beaches of World War II and the coastal village of Honfleur.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The parking lot is located on the mainland, 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the island; a shuttle runs from the lot to a drop-off point 440 yards (400 meters) from the entrance to Mont Saint-Michel.
- The village is full of narrow walkways and steps, so wear comfortable shoes and prepare for crowds.
- There are no stairs from the parking lot to the entrance or along the paved main street of the village (although it does climb quickly), but 350 steps lead from the top of the main street to the abbey. There is no elevator.
- Wi-Fi is available at the tourist office in the village.
How to Get There
Mont Saint-Michel is located about 220 miles (354 kilometers) west of Paris, roughly four hours away by road. Driving or taking a bus tour is the quickest way to reach the island, but train and public bus options are also available through Caen, Rennes, and Pontorson.
When to Get There
Mont Saint-Michel’s tourist office is open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, while the abbey is closed January 1, May 1, and December 25. As a small island, it’s a popular destination with limited space, so arrive early to avoid some crowds, which are the biggest in summer.
Exploring the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey
After paying your entrance fee to the abbey, grab a visitor’s guide for a self-guided tour of the Gothic landmark’s cloister and rooms. Alternatively, guided 75-minute tours in French and English are available year-round; they are included in admission with no reservation required. To hear commentary without a live guide, purchase a 1-hour audio guide for a small fee.