Visiting Mont Saint Michel

Planning a trip to France and considering locations other than Paris? Mont Saint Michel is a UNESCO world heritage site in Normandy that is the perfect destination. It can be done as a day trip from Paris but it is much better to visit the Mont overnight. You can stay on the Mont or to save money, stay in a village nearby.Full guide to visiting the UNESCO world heritage site of Mont Saint Michel in Normanday France. You can visit this location as a day trip from France but it is much better to visit and stay in the area to fully experience the town.

Visiting Mont Saint Michel was one of the things that drew me to the Normandy region and I built an itinerary for this trip around visiting it. Besides seeing countless photos of it, I wanted to visit because I had been told by friends that this was their favourite thing they saw when they visited France. That’s a pretty good recommendation for a country full of beautiful architecture and towns. Mont Saint Michel did not disappoint. In fact, it actually ended up exceeding my expectations.

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Visiting Mont St Michel from Paris

You can visit Mont Saint Michel as a day trip from Paris, but it will be a very long day. If it’s an absolute must-see for you and the only way it fits in your itinerary is to do a day trip, then I would still do it. The best way to see Mont St Michel from Paris is by joining a tour. If your itinerary allows it, overnight near Mont Saint Michel for the best experience.

Paris to Mont St Michel by Car

Driving to Mont Saint Michel from Paris takes about 4 hours, one way. With 8 hours of driving for the day, this would be my least recommended way to visit as a day trip from Paris. That’s without taking into account driving out of Paris and the time it takes to pick up a rental car and drop it off. If you do decide to drive, it may be worth the extra fee to add a second driver to the rental.

Visiting Mont St. Michel by Train and Bus from Paris

From Paris, one of the best ways by train to Mont St Michel is to take a train to Dol de Bretagne and then a bus from there directly to Mont Saint Michel. This ends up taking about 2 h 45 mins one way.

The other main option from Paris is to take the train to Rennes and from there a shuttle bus to Mont St Michel. This takes a total of 3h 15 min.

Both the Rennes and Dol de Bretagne train options of reaching Mont Saint Michel use the TGV trains with a shuttle bus timed to these train arrivals and departures. You can find more information on shuttle bus schedules and costs here, and the train schedules and costs here.

In addition to the amount of time the train and buses take, make sure to account for getting to the Montparnasse train station in Paris.

Lit up streets of Mont Saint Michel. There are tiny alleys everywhere on the Mont.
Alleyway on Mont Saint Michel

Paris to Mont St Michel Tour

Because of the amount of driving and transit it takes to get to Mont Saint Michel, a tour is a really great option. In my opinion, it’s probably the most efficient way to visit Mont St Michel if you are doing it as a day trip from Paris. It does end up being about 10 hours on the bus with most tours giving you 4 hours at Mont Saint Michel. You can get a lot done with 4 hours at Mont Saint Michel and this should be enough time to see everything including the Abbey. One tour option for Mont Saint Michel from Paris is this one, that leaves from near the Louvre.

How to Visit Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel is best visited by staying overnight nearby. I visited as part of a Normandy and the Loire Valley itinerary. Staying overnight also allows you to see Mont Saint Michel at night and as the tides change, which was such a special experience. If you visit it only as a day trip, you’re going to be visiting it with crowds. You may also want to purchase your entry ticket to see inside the abbey in advance, you can purchase it here.

I arrived from visiting the Loire Valley to Pontorson late in the afternoon. Pontorson is just a short drive from Mont Saint Michel and after a lot of research, I decided this would be a great place to stay.

For me, there were a lot of advantages of staying in Pontorson instead of in the hotel area near Mont Saint Michel. A big one is that the hotel area near Mont Saint Michel has private paid parking that is gated and annoying to leave from. I decided it would end up being cheaper to stay at a place with free parking and only pay for the parking I needed when I visited Mont Saint Michel.

Another huge advantage was that by staying in Pontorson, I saved tons of money on accommodation. Hotels near Mont Saint Michel are quite expensive and a lot had poor reviews for the price point they were at.

I ended up being quite happy with where I stayed and don’t feel like I missed out on any experiences by being just a bit further from Mont Saint Michel.

Where to Stay to Visit Mont Saint Michel

Chambre d’ Hôte– I stayed at this B&B in Pontorson and loved how convenient it was to visit both Mont Saint Michel and to access other locations like Dinan and Saint-Malo. The owner was friendly and the place was so quiet and peaceful. It was a great place to stay and affordable.

Au p’tit Mont– I had considered staying at this bed and breakfast before deciding to stay closer to the highway so I could more easily visit Dinan. This is the perfect place if you are looking to stay in the countryside. It’s only a 5-minute drive to Mont Saint Michel and has fantastic reviews.

For other accommodation options near Mont Saint-Michel, click here.

Consider the Timing of the Tides

When planning your trip to Mont Saint Michel, I highly recommend checking out the tide schedule. I was able to plan it so I could see the high tide in the evening and the low tide the next afternoon. If you are lucky, you will be visiting when they have a very high tide and for a brief time, Mont Saint Michel is turned into an island and cut off from access.

Visiting Mont Saint Michel During the Day

I visited Mont Saint Michel both at night and during the day, and they were totally different experiences. During the afternoon, it is much more crowded as it is full of people visiting as a day trip. You can’t find space to yourself to get away from it and the fairly narrow roads on the Mont are quite crowded to walk.

When I visited during the day, it was also low-tide so you were able to walk on the mudflats around the city. It is recommended to join a guided tour of the flats if you want to walk around at low tide. This is because they want to avoid tourists getting in any dangerous situations, like not realizing the tide is coming in.

Visiting the Abbey on the Mont is definitely something you should consider doing on your visit. There are fantastic views from it as well as interesting architecture within the Abbey. The Abbey is the whole reason that Mont Saint Michel is popular. This gothic-style abbey was completed in 1523 and is an important cultural monument in France and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Even though the abbey has been there since the 1500s, Mont Saint Michel has been a religious site for much longer. In 710 it was renamed from Mont Tombe to Mont Saint Michel au péril de la Mer (Mont Saint Michel at the peril of the sea) when an oratory was built there. If like me, you are wondering what the heck an oratory is and why it isn’t a church, oratories are much smaller and often for private worship.

Even though Mont Saint Michel was a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics, after the French Revolution the interest in pilgrimages to the site had dropped off so the abbey was converted into a prison. It operated as a prison from 1791-1863. Many of the initial inmates were priests that opposed the government. When it was converted back into a religious site, it once again became a popular place to visit.

The abbey of Mont Saint Michel in the evening.
Outside of the Mont Saint Michel Abbey during the evening

One of the first restaurants you will see when you enter Mont Saint Michel is La Mere Poulard. Mere Poulard is famous for its (very expensive!) omelettes. They are supposed to be absolutely phenomenal but the price point is a little high. From the street at least, you can watch the chefs preparing the omelettes in copper pans over the open fire.

If you want something more affordable from Mere Poulard, you can purchase shortbread cookies right across from the restaurant. They are pretty expensive but delicious shortbread, and the colourful tins make for great souvenirs.

If you are visiting Dinan at any point on your trip, there is a Mere Poulard store there that has a wide variety of flavours and the cheapest options for Mere Poulard cookies.

Visiting Mont Saint Michel at Night

If you can, I highly recommend visiting Mont Saint Michel in the evening. There are way less people as many of them have left after spending the day there so it is very easy to find an empty street. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset and to see the lights of the Mont. When I visited in the evening, the tide was at its highest so it was splashing over the walkway part and it was impossible to walk to the Mont without your feet getting wet.

View of Mont Saint Michel at night with high tide. The tide can become so high that it is an island.

On my visit to Mont Saint Michel in the evening, the village actually has a very calm feeling. It’s totally different than the day time. Crowds and tour groups make it more difficult to take things in and go slowly through the streets of the town.

Sunset from Mont Saint Michel.
Peaceful and empty paths on Mont Saint Michel at sunset.

Mont Saint Michel, France

Mont Saint Michel is a fantastic part of France to visit. It doesn’t take long to visit the town but it is worth sticking around to see it at different tides and times of day. For anyone looking for the perfect area to add on to a Paris trip, Mont Saint Michel and the surrounding Normandy and Brittany area are it. In addition to great architecture, the Mont Saint Michel area is set right on the ocean and surrounded by beautiful countryside. After exploring Mont Saint Michel, consider a trip to nearby Bayeux to explore the D-Day Beaches.

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Wondering about whether you should visit Mont Saint Michel as a day trip from Paris? This full guide to Mont Saint Michel tells you everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip there and how you can include it in your France itinerary.

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    1. Luckily Mont Saint Michel is beautiful at all tides but it definitely can affect your plans if you want to be able to walk around below it or when you can access it if it is a super high tide!

  1. The town looks wonderful too. Your photos are stunning, especially the ones at night. Do people cycle in this area like in the Loire Valley.?

    1. Thanks Karen! It is a beautiful town. I did see some people cycling but not too many. A lot of the smaller roads look so peaceful for biking here.

  2. Hi! Mount Saint Michel looks incredible,, especially at night. AND the Mere Poulard omelettes UGH. They sound amazing…too bad they are out of our thrifty budget haha. Great post

    1. Thanks Wunmi! It is so beautiful at night! I was really curious about what could make an omelette so expensive but I just could not justify the price in my mind, definitely not for budget travellers! Oh well, I had delicious omelettes other places in France for a fraction of that price and they were still delicious.

  3. I’ve known that I wanted to visit Mont Saint Michel from all of the gorgeous photos. However, I had no idea about the logistics of the trip. I’m easily intimidated by things like transportation and looking for lodging. Thanks so much for this guide, I’m bookmarking it for when we can travel again!

  4. I visited mont Saint Michel and loved it! My only regret was as you mentioned, not checking the tide schedule & also not spending the night there! I would love to see it at night without all the tourists. It looks gorgeous from your pics.

    1. It’s such a beautiful place! It was so nice in the evening to be able to experience Mont Saint Michel without the crowds. It’s so expensive to stay right on the island but staying nearby gets the same benefits for much cheaper.

  5. Thanks for that amazing travel blog about mont st michel. I will be visiting it in September 2024. I will be coming from Paris. I don’t have a car. Is there a bus going to Dinan to get a hotel? I plan to stay in a hotel which is not expensive. Not sure if there is a hostel around. Is bus available from the small town to mont st michel?

    1. Hi Jose, glad the post about Mont Saint Michel was helpful for you! I spent a bit of time in Dinan, it’s a really lovely town. If I understand correctly you will be staying overnight in Mont Saint Michel or nearby? From Pontorson, the small town near Mont Saint Michel, there is a shuttle bus and affordable accommodation.

      Unfortunately this area is best visited with a car. Other small towns in the area that may be more convenient by bus to Pontorson are St Malo (which is an amazing small town), Dol de Bretagne, and Fougeres. From Mont Saint Michel I think it would be quite time consuming and difficult to get to Dinan. I think your best bet would be a train between Dinan and Dol de Bretagne and then a bus connecting Dol de Bretagne to Pontorson (and another bus to Mont Saint Michel).

      Here’s a link with the public transit options:

      Hope this answered your question! Happy Travels, Brianna

  6. at what time doea mont st michel close? we are going for 4 hours maximum. is it enough to visit and see it all?

    1. The Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey closes at 5pm but you can still explore the island after that. Four hours is enough time to visit Mont Saint Michel and see everything.

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