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Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel

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Why you will love it?

If you are looking for one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences, this is it. A remarkable Abbey and bustling Middle Ages town balanced atop a small mount out to sea. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

Mont Saint Michel
Line 4/6/13 - Montparnasse

Wednesday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am
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Monday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am Tuesday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am Wednesday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am Thursday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am Friday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am Saturday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am Sunday : 0:00 am - 0:00 am

Our Insiders' Article


Le Mont Saint Michel (or Saint Michel’s Mount) is the kind of attraction you would see featured on a series entitled “bizarre churches of the world.” For Le Mont Saint Michel, it is not so much the church itself that is bizarre, but its location: engulfing the top of a small mount that can quickly change from being inland to island thanks to a rapidly flowing tide. Should you have some time to take a trip outside of Paris, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see.


Getting to Le Mont Saint Michel from Paris can be admittedly a little tricky. But with over 3 million visitors a year to the site, trust us, you can do it!

BY CAR is a 3 ½ to 4-hour drive from Paris. We recommend making the drive from Paris to Le Mont Saint Michel via Deauville (a famous sea-side city) or Caen.  

BY TRAIN there are two good options (note that there are no direct train services between Paris and Le Mont St Michel).

OPTION 1 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Rennes and then the Keolis Emeraude bus which takes passengers directly to Le Mont Saint Michel (click here for more details - no reservation necessary except for groups of 10+ people). Often the Rennes connection is unavailable on off-season Sundays. In this case, take the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Dol-de-Bretagne where the same Keolis Emeraude buses to Le Mont Saint Michel also operate from.

OPTION 2 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Saint-Lazare) to Caen, then a TER regional train to Pontorson, and then the Pontorson–Le Mont shuttle to Le Mont Saint Michel. The shuttle takes about 10 minutes and its timetable is coordinated with when the trains arrive at Pontorson railway station. 


Le Mont Saint Michel’s raison d’être is truly l’Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel (the Mont Saint Michel Abbey): a large Benedictine abbey built in a combination of Carolingian, Roman and Gothic styles. Saint Aubert, the bishop of a town nearby, constructed the first church on the mount in 708 on the order of Archangel Michael. As legend has it, Saint Aubert originally ignored the angel’s orders until the Archangel burned a hole in his skull! In 966, a community of Benedictine monks was established on the mount and a pre-Romanesque style church would be completed before the year 1000.

Parisianist Fun Fact: The skull is still visible in the Church of Saint Gervais d’Avranches, 11km (7 miles) from the Mont Saint Michel


 The 11th century would see the construction of the Romanesque-style church designed by William de Volpiano. It was this Italian architect who decided to position the church’s transept crossing at the apex of the mount: the closest to God as possible. Great idea in theory, although the mount did not provide enough level ground for the foundation. To compensate, four immense crypts were built whose roofs would serve as the large level foundation necessary to build the church and abbey on top of.

Parisianist Fun Fact: In 1421 the crypt that supported the church’s apse collapsed, taking the apse with it. Today the crypts are outfitted with enormous columns (nearly 5 meters in circumference) to ensure that they will never (fingers crossed) collapse again. 


A gift from the King of France, Philipe Auguste, in the 13th century would enable the construction of one of the most impressive elements seen today at Le Mont Saint Michel: the Gothic style "Merveille." These two three-storey buildings, with the famous cloister and refectory on the rooftop, were the living quarters for resident monks. Finally, as a result of the Hundred Years’ War, military constructions were added to the Abbey in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Parisianist Fun Fact: These military constructions allow the Abbey to withstand a siege lasting more than thirty years. 


Over the centuries, Le Mont Saint Michel grew in popularity and prestige as a pilgrimage center. For nearly a thousand years, men, women and children travelled to Le Mont Saint Michel by roads known as the “paths to paradise,” hoping to receive confirmation of eternal life ever after. The mount’s popularity dissipated though in the wake of French Revolution and the church was eventually transformed into a prison, housing a variety of high-profile political prisoners. It was not until 1836 that influential figures (including French author Victor Hugo) would campaign to close the prison and restore Le Mont Saint-Michel to the marvel we know today. In 1979, Le Mont Saint-Michel and its bay became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Le Mont Saint Michel inspired a sister mount: St Michael's Mount in Cornwall, England. 


Le Mont Saint Michel Abbey is immense but it is easily manageable to see all the highlights in around 2 hours. Some of the highlights include the Cloister, Rectory, Salle des Hôtes, Abbots Garden, Cryptes de Gros Piliers, Grande Roue, and Exposed Rock of Mont Tombe. The Cloister is a tourist favourite. Surrounded by two rows of arches, the cloister has a beautiful garden in the center that was formerly used as a food-garden by resident monks. The cloister serves as a key access point, with each side providing access to a different wing of the church. All except the north side which gives visitors a beautiful view of the church’s gardens and the ocean below.


The Grand Roue (big wheel) is also an element that always fascinates. The wheel was installed around 1820 during the time when Le Mont Saint Michel served as a prison. Its purpose was to hoist provisions to those being held prisoner in the Abbey. Finally, the Cryptes de Gros Piliers (Crypts of Big Pillars) gives you a firsthand look at the massive pillars that now keep the crypts from collapsing and meeting the same fate as one did in 1421.


Visiting Le Mont Saint Michel is like being transported back in time to a bustling village from the Middle Ages. Even the walls surrounding the village still date, for the most part, from the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).

Parisianist Tip: Poking your head out of the openings in these walls is a favourite photo op! Winding up the main street towards the Abbey are countless souvenir shops and little restaurants. We recommend a stop off in the Musée Historique, a small (slightly tacky) museum but well worth it to get a glimpse of the dungeons and jails lived in by Le Mont Saint Michel's prisoners. 


The Eglise Saint Pierre, a small church just off the main street, is also worth a look inside to see its narrow stained-glass windows and golden chandeliers. Stop for a famous puff-omelette at La Mère Poulard (if you are ok with paying high prices for an omelette) or else enjoy mussels and french fries with a view on one of the terrace restaurants on the south-east side of the island.


There is a reason why the Bay of Le Mont Saint Michel is also included as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering 500 km2, this bay boasts the largest tides in Europe, with the distance between high and low tide being up to 15km during spring. Today, Le Mont Saint Michel is only officially surrounded by water to become an island fifty-three days a year during the great equinox tides. A major development work (already underway) including a new dam on the Couesnon, dredging work, a road barrier and a car park will enable Le Mont Saint Michel to become an island again by 2015! If mud and salt meadows don’t scare you, join a professional tour which takes you for a walk in the bay at low-tide. The view of Le Mont Saint Michel from here is spectacular.

Parisianist Warning: Please only engage in this activity with a professional guide, as the quicksand and rapid incoming tide are very dangerous.

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