Photo by Paolo Trabattoni  –  Link

Mont Saint-Michel

France

Located on a tiny island about one kilometre off the coast of Lower Normandy, this French UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the more unusual places to visit if you're doing a France road trip. The island appears to have risen straight from the sea, casting a dramatic reflection on the water at high tide, or dominating the flat, shimmering mud plain at low tide. Either way, views of the Le Mont-Saint-Michel are impressive, and will make you feel as if you've been transported back to the Middle Ages.

This is even more true once you're on the island, with its narrow stone alleys and famous Mont Saint-Michel Abbey dramatically perched on the top of the hill, whisking you away to times gone by.

What to see and do

The main thing to see on the island is the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, which crowns the top of the island. Construction of the abbey started as early as 708, and it represents one of the largest centres of Medieval Christian pilgrimage in the world. The Abbey was built over nine centuries, so you'll be able to spot a range of different architectural styles as you wander through the building. Take a leisurely stroll around and admire the beautiful courtyards, halls, and spectacular views, or take a self-guided tour to have some historical context added to your visit (for an additional €3).

After a busy few hours exploring the Abbey, you'll definitely want to try the island's delicacy - a fluffy souffle-like omelette traditionally served at La Mere Poulard, located at the entrance to the island. Just follow the sound of eggs being beaten against traditional copper bowls and flame grills crackling to find this iconic restaurant.

Getting there

There are three ways to access the island:

On foot: in order to promote the value of the island's maritime heritage, walking to the island is widely encouraged. There are specially made footpaths which lead to the bridge that takes you across the water.

The Passeur shuttle bus: a free shuttle bus is available for those that would rather not walk. The bus runs from the tourist information centre to its end stop, about 350 metres away from the Mont. The bus runs non-stop from 7am until 12am and takes about 12 minutes.

The Maringote horse-drawn carriages: to arrive in style, take a horse drawn carriage to experience the journey as the pilgrims would have done in the past. They depart from the shuttle hub and take about 25 minutes.

Things to note

  • If you're feeling adventurous, it is possible to walk across the mudflats to the island when the tide is out. However, the tides are some of the fastest-changing in the whole of Europe, so it's essential to check the tide tables and only attempt the crossing with a qualified guide.
  • There are several steep staircases, uneven walkways, and sheer drops on the Island, so a visit may not be suitable for those with mobility issues. Also, remember to keep a close eye on children!
  • The Mont can get very busy, especially in the summer, but it stays open late into the evening so consider visiting later to avoid the crowds.
  • The Mont is accessed via a bridge connected to the mainland; however, around six times a year there is an especially high tide which cuts the island off completely from the Normandy coast. Time your trip to either witness one of these magical moments with the Mount in complete isolation, or to be able to cross the bridge and explore the island.

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