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Visit Mont Saint Michel in France
Majestic Mont Saint Michel
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mont Saint Michel consists of a 264 foot high granite mass with an abbey perched atop. It sits about 1 kilometer off France's Normandy coast surrounded by water at high tide and mud flats at low tide.
Legend says in the year 708, Michael the archangel appeared to the Bishop of Avranches, Sainte Aubert, telling him to create monument to Saint Michael and church on the site. Over the years, the abbey and surrounding villages have been constructed into the beautiful site that modern tourists flock to today. Over 3.5 million visitors, pilgrims and tourists venture to Mount St. Michel every year.
In this lens, I share some of my tips for visiting Mount Saint Michel as well as some of the history associated with this famous destination. We had so much fun exploring the narrow shopping street on the way to the top where we purchased lots of destination favors. My biggest tip is to be sure to see the Mont in the evening when it lights up the night sky. It is stunning!
Mont St. Michel Stuff on Amazon
Display a Mont Saint Michel in your home with one of the many prints and framed posters available at Amazon.com
Mont Saint Michel Photos
Mont Saint Michel is best known for its steepled church and benedictine abbey that are perched atop the granite formation that dwarfs the surrounding Normandy landscape. The above panoramas show various views of the island as we approached it from the D-day beaches in the north of Normandy. You'll get glimpses across the grassy fields of Mont Saint MIchel as you are driving along, but the best views are as you approach the abbey on the 1 mile causeway leading out to the rock. There aren't many places to pull off to take pictures. However, it seems that traffic is usually at a standstill so you have plenty of time to jump out of the car or line up the perfect shot out the car/bus window. Great views of the Mont and the stout fortification walls can be obtained from the parking areas.
My Tips - Be sure to pay attention to the signage as you approach the parking lots. Some areas flood during high tide so they warn you to move your car by such and such time.
Mont Saint Michel Videos from YouTube
Mont Saint Michel - The Climb
The climb to the abbey requires you to navigate the narrow village passageways that are lined with shops, museums, and houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The main street or Grand Rue is literally packed with tourists. During my last visit in early May, you can see in the photos that the streets were jam-packed so one can only imagine how crazy it is during the summer. You can even have your wedding reception at the Abbey. Imagining the logistics for that makes my head spin.
NOTE - For those of you with limited mobility or wheelchairs, I don't recommend even trying to go into the village, much less try to navigate to the top. The narrow passageways are not only packed with tourists, but they are constructed with large cobblestone rocks that will likely make your teeth fall out as you bump along or worse, wreck the wheels of your scooter or wheelchair. I made it as far as La Mere Poulard before I gave up and went back to the parking lot. My husband went back to Mont St. Michel in late afternoon to catch one of the two guided tours given in English.
I highly recommend the guided tour to get the most out of your visit. The abbey is open from 9 AM to 7PM on most days during the summer months. For more information, visit the official website.
The photos above show the church steeple, the long pulley cart system that enables them to haul supplies up to the abbey, the narrow village streets, and views of the mud flats from one of the many vantage points along the climb to the abbey.
Mont St. Michel - The Abbey & Church
After Saint Michael, the angel appeared to the Bishop of Avranches, it is said that the bishop expressed doubt so the archangel used his finger to pierce a hole in his skull. Henceforth, the mount became a pilgrimage to St. Michael for the faithful. By the end of the 11th century, the number of pilgrims along with their donations had increased to the point where the 60 monks could build a fairly good-sized Roman-style abbey on the top of the rock. Between 1023 and 1084, the Roman abbey was built at the very summit of the rock.
In the 16th to 18th centuries, war and a decrease in the popularity of the Benedictine monk life-style meant that the abbey fell into disrepair with only a dozen or so monks remaining by 1790. In 1793, the revolutionaries turned the abbey into a prison until an imperial decree in 1863 closed the prison. Fortunately in 1872, the restoration of the abbey was undertaken and has been ongoing ever since.
After climbing the 900 steps to the abbey entrance, you'll finally get to cash in on all that hard work. In the interior courtyard, Cloisters, you can see the lush flower garden, greenery and arches the encircle the courtyard. From there, you can wander the maze of hallways, vaulted rooms and staircases inside the abbey. And during your ascent or descent, don't forget to stop by the steepled St. Pierre church to see the carved side chapel and the statue of St. Michael slaying the dragon.
My Tips - To truly appreciate the history and finer points of the abbey and church, I highly recommend that you take one of the guided tours that depart every 30 to 45 minutes in French. If you speak English, they offer two to four tours in English depending on the season. Just check in the tourism information office that is near the entrance to the Mount.
Mont St. Michel Poll
Have You Visited Mont St. Michel in Normandy?
La Mere Poulard
Located right near the entrance gate to Mont St. Michel, the La Mere Poulard restaurant is known for their souffle-like omelets which rise so tall because of the air introduced during the preparation which is more like a show. Chefs beat the eggs while tapping the whisks in a rhythmic sound against the side of the bowls - it is quite a unique sight. Be sure to make your reservations to sample one of these unique omelets well ahead of your arrival, especially in summer months.
Photo shows someone whipped up the omelet 'batter'.
Rick Steves at Mont St. Michel in Normandy France
Other Informative Websites
- Sacred Destinations
Illustrated guide to Mont Saint Michel
- French National Monuments Website
Site with history and visitor information.
- Official Mont St Michel Website
Get directions, touring tips and other information here.
- Destination Favors
Planning a wedding at Mont Saint Michel? Then you'll need destination themed favors like luggage tags, mini suitcases and more!