Mont Saint-Michel and its bay is an iconic commune and tidal island that has been listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It is especially known for its historical abbey, which attracts some 3 million visitors every year.
Le Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular places to visit in France and it has played an important role throughout history. Here’s a complete guide for visitors with information about entrance fees, opening hours, history and facts about Mont Saint-Michel.
|Ticket Type||Adult||Young Adult (18 – 25)||Child (under 18)|
|Admission to the Abbaye du Mont Saint Michel||€10||€8||Free|
|Admission to the Abbaye du Mont Saint Michel (EU citizens or permanent residents of France)||Free||Free||Free|
Tickets for the Abbey can be purchased on the day from the entrance (expect queues) or online from the Abbey website. Alternatively, one can also purchase tickets from Get Your Guide where you’ll receive a mobile ticket allowing you to go directly to the building.
- 9:30am – 6pm (September – April) last admission at 5pm.
- 9am – 7pm (May-August) last admission at 6pm.
The Abbey is open year-round except on the following dates:
- December 25th
- January 1st
History & more information
Mont Saint Michel is a tidal island and mainland commune found in the northern region of Brittany that attracts over 2.5 million guests a year! The island and its spectacular 11th-century Benedictine abbey, which sits high atop the rocky island.
It has been a popular destination with pilgrims and tourists alike for centuries and since 1979 the area has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This rocky islet was originally named Mont-Tombe but became known as Mont Saint Michel in the 8th century when the bishop St. Aubert built an oratory on the land after having a vision in his dreams. The island quickly became a pilgrimage center and in 966 the abbey was constructed atop the island.
Throughout history, it has held a significant strategic position for rulers in the area. The current abbey has a Romanesque architecture who was designed by William of Volpiano in the 11th century. The structure of the church and its main facade was later reinforced on orders by Robert de Thorigny, in the 12th century.
While the Benedictine abbey is a big highlight of Mont Saint Michel, it isn’t the island’s only highlight as there are a string of museums and historical sites dotted around the commune for visitors to enjoy. These include the Parish Church of Saint-Pierre which is found on the walk up to the abbey and a Maritime Museum offering insight on the local ecology.
The island is also known for its strong tides which have caused Mont Saint Michel to be nicknamed ‘St. Michael in Peril of the Sea’. The tides vary greatly (around 14 meters) between the highest and lowest watermarks and have been known to take the lives of pilgrims centuries ago.
Today the tides are far more manageable and pedestrians don’t have to battle the causeway to cross over to the island. Those who wish to brave the mudflats surrounding the island should consider doing so with caution, or with a guide!
Points of Interest
The abbey found inside the city of Mont Saint Michel.
Useful information point for tourist information.
Found in the main street.
Maritime and Ecology Museum
Home to a collection of over 250 ancient boats.
French theatre show.
A small edifice from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Historic house and museum once owned by Knight Bertrand du Guesclin.
Museum of History
Ancient objects and historic exhibitions.
How to get to Mont Saint Michel
It’s not possible to drive all the way to Mont Saint Michel so visitors must arrive on the island by shuttle bus or on foot.
From the walkway, it’s a 35-minute walk across Place du Barrage and over the bridge to the Mount.
From the tourist center car park, there’s a free bus that will take you to Mont Saint Michel in just 12-minutes.
The closest train station is Pontorson. A direct shuttle bus will take you from the station to the island.
The simplest way to get to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris is to take a direct train to Rennes. From there, you can then take a direct shuttle coach bus to Mont Saint Michel.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is March to October when the weather is at its best. July and August are high seasons so crowds are at their heaviest, while low season runs November to February (when the weather is at its worst).
Facts about Mont Saint Michel
- Mont Saint Michel and its bay are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Mont Saint Michel has the largest tides in Europe! Due to a build-up of silt, and the geographic location of the island within the bay, the Mount only becomes a complete island on big tides that occur six or seven times a year. During Spring Tides, the difference between high and low tides is the greatest in all of Europe and can vary by up to 15 meters.
- Mont-Saint-Michel was a famous pilgrimage of faith during the Middle Ages and rose to prominence across all of Europe.
- The abbey was closed in 1791 and converted into a prison. It was eventually closed by Napoleon III in 1863 and the 650 inmates at the time were transferred to other facilities.
- It’s the second most visited place in France, after Paris.
- During the Hundred Years’ War, the English couldn’t conquer Mont Saint-Michel. Despite multiple attempts, the English failed to seize the island due to the abbey’s strong fortifications.
- According to legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, in a dream and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet.
- The structure of the island has great meaning and represents the feudal society that built it. On the top of the island sits the abbey and monastery (God) while below you have the great halls and houses at the bottom.
- Mont St Michel has a counterpart in Cornwall, England.
- Over 60 buildings within the commune are protected in France as historical monuments.
FAQ’s (Things to know before you go)
Are there any shops on the island?
Yes, there around 50 shops and plenty of restaurants. You’ll also find a number of hotels.
Can you spend the night on the island?
Yes, there are a number of small hotels dotted around the iland.
How long should you spend at Mont St Michel?
Depending on your interest level and tolerance of crowds, 3 – 5 hours is a good amount of time to explore the island and stop for a quick lunch. But of course, visitors who are interested in culture and history can easily spend more hours here.
How many steps are there to the top of Mont St Michel?
There are 350 steps in total to the church.
Can you visit Mont St Michel at high tide?
Yes, you can visit the island during high tide but not during spring tide when the island is surrounded by sea (the door is closed to the island for roughly 1.5 hours during spring tide).
Can I purchase my ticket to the Abbey online in advance?
Yes. Tickets can be purchased online from the Abbey website or from ticket touts such as Get Your Guide or Tiqets.
Are dogs allowed on the island?
Yes, but not on the shuttle buses or in the Abbey.
Can I bring my luggage?
There are luggage storage lockers at the tourist information center and it’s recommended guests leave and luggage bigger than a handbag/ day bag here.
Do you have more questions before visiting Mont Saint Michel? Leave a comment below!