We visited Le Mont St. Michel a couple of years ago on the recommendation of a few of my friends. After I saw the pictures of this beautiful World Heritage Site, it didn’t take much convincing.
Le Mont St. Michel is situated in Normandy, in the north-west of France, which doesn’t exactly attract the bulk of the tourists. However, as our plan was to visit the west of France it was pretty easy to fit a visit into our itinerary.
We arrived at Mont St. Michel on a bus from St. Malo in less than an hour.
About Le Mont St. Michel
Le Mont St. Michel is an island commune located approximately one kilometre off the country’s northwestern coast in Normandy. Although there is a road and walkway today, access to the island was restricted in the past during high tide when the tombolo would submerge underwater.
The island is most famously known for its iconic abbey, a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Since 1979 the whole island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With well over a million visitors a year, Le Mont St. Michel is one of the most popular cultural sites in France.
Whatever your mode of arrival at Mont St. Michel, there is (or at least was) only way to approach the island, and that is on a public bus (or foot). Once you arrive, all cars and buses must be parked almost a kilometre away from the island. From here, it’s easy to take a bus that actually has two stops. The first is the mid-way point, a viewing dock built on top of the canal, and the second is the island. The bus is free and has a fairly good frequency during the day.
Most of the hotels, restaurants and shops are situated around the parking lot.
Visiting The Mont Saint-Michel Abbey
Other than viewing the island from a distance, the abbey is probably the only other tourist attraction / thing to do in Le Mont St. Michel. Entrance is fee is nominal and it takes a couple of hours to visit the abbey.
You could probably cover all of Mont St. Michel in less than day, but what if you want to see it lit up? That was primarily the reason why we decided to spend a night there. After all, I wouldn’t have been able to get this picture if we had left during the day, right?!
To be honest, the abbey does look strikingly beautiful at night when it’s lit up! So, if you’ve decided to spend the night at Mont St. Michel, allow me to share a few tips about hotels in Mont St Michel.
You can stay on the island, but…
- If you’re spending the night at Mont St. Michel, you’d probably want a view of the abbey and to be able to witness it in all it’s glory. You can’t see how beautiful the abbey looks at night if you stay on the island.
- Hotels on the island are generally more expensive and limited. There are far more options off the island.
- But then again, there’s a certain charm associated with staying on the tiny island. We stayed at the Hotel Les Terrasses Poulard, and can vouch for it.
- There’s nothing open at night on the island. It’s a small village with a population of 44.
This is my personal opinion after having spent the night on the island. I stayed out quite late taking photos of the abbey and had to be mindful of the bus timings to the island. If I had taken a hotel near the parking lot area, I could have walked back to my room at any time. Also, most of the restaurants we realised were in fact near the parking lot.
We spend a considerable amount of time going back and forth from the island to the parking lot area. Fortunately, the bus that travels the route is free.