Mont Saint Michel, France
According to ZIPCODESEXPLORER, Mont-Saint-Michel occupies a special place among not only French, but also world sights. The Louvre has many worthy competitors in different countries, the beaches of Nice, the quarters of Montmartre and even the Eiffel Toweryou can find analogues – but Mont Saint-Michel is absolutely unique. There is simply no rival in the world to a lonely mountain in the middle of a perfectly flat plain; a mountain crowned with a severe monastery and surrounded by impregnable walls; mountain, whose slopes sheltered a whole medieval city with tiny winding streets; mountain, which the highest tides in Europe twice a day turn into an impregnable island, and the surrounding plain into a raging ocean. The path to it is not easy, but from year to year millions of people flock here to feel at least for a few hours a part of a true miracle.
UNESCO has included Mont Saint-Michel in the World Heritage List, guidebooks proudly call it the “eighth wonder of the world”, and the French themselves call their favorite attraction simply the Mountain.
How to get to Mont Saint-Michel
The easiest and most economical way to get to Mont Saint-Michel is to take a direct bus from Paris. On Saturdays and Sundays, Flixbus buses start from the Defense quarter in the early morning and return to the capital in the late evening. The journey takes about 5 hours, passengers are delivered directly to the walls of Mont Saint-Michel. A round-trip ticket will cost less than 50 EUR, you can book it at the office. carrier website.
On weekdays, getting to the Mountain is a little more difficult: first you need to take the TGV high-speed train at the Montparnasse train station, get to Rennes, and then transfer to the Keolys local network bus. A combined train-bus ticket can be bought at the office. website of the SNCF company, which is in charge of all French railways. Travel time is comparable to the bus option, and you will have to pay at least 50 EUR for a one-way ticket.
The third way to get to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris can be safely classified as exotic: at the Rennes railway station, you need to transfer to a local train to the town of Pontorson, and then use the minibus to Mont Saint-Michel (travel time is about 20 minutes, ticket price 2.50 EUR). For those who travel to Mont Saint-Michel from Normandy, this method is quite acceptable: several trains run daily from Rouen to Pontorson.
Mont Saint-Michel can also be reached by car – the road from Paris along the A13 toll motorway takes about 4 hours and costs 15 EUR. The path through Alençon on the free N10 highway is shorter in mileage, but longer in time and very tiring for the driver – the road runs through many towns with narrow intersections, pedestrian crossings and frequent speed limits up to 50 km / h.
A bit of history
In Gallo-Roman times, on the site of the current Gulf of Saint-Michel, a dense forest rustled, and the future Mount was a low hill. The first Christian hermits chose it as a place of solitude and prayer. Local residents brought food to the ascetics, and in due time they buried their remains. The previously unnamed hill began to be called the Grave Hill. By the 7th century, the ocean swallowed up the land, and the Mountain took on its modern shape, and in 709 the first monastery was founded on the top. Over the centuries, it has grown, changed owners several times, survived many wars and sieges, was once burned to the ground and rebuilt stone by stone – until it was closed during the French Revolution. The monks were expelled, their cells turned into cells for political prisoners. The darkest period of Mont Saint-Michel lasted almost 100 years, and only at the end of the 19th century the prison was closed, and Mont Saint-Michel received the status of a national museum.
Mont Saint-Michel Hotels
Local hotels are clearly divided into two groups: hotels from the first are located inside the city fortifications (intra muros), from the second – in the town of La Caserne in the immediate vicinity of Mont Saint-Michel. The rooms in the hotels are cramped, not the most pleasant smells come from the bottom of the restaurants, you will have to get to the accommodation first by minibus, and then walk up the Grande Rue clogged with tourists. But – the proximity to all the sights, the opportunity to watch the tide from the “own” windows are worth it.
Hotels in La Caserne are designed in our time, there is a higher level of comfort at affordable prices – if you book early, a 2* hotel room will cost you only 55 EUR. Among the advantages of staying overnight in La Caserne are convenient parking at hotels, a breathtaking view of Mont Saint-Michel at night, as well as a vibrant and varied nightlife.
The transport system of Mont Saint-Michel is somewhat exotic, but very convenient and quite consistent with the special atmosphere of this place. 3 km from the monastery, next to the round-the-clock paid parking (half an hour is free, a ticket for a day will cost owners of cars 11.50 EUR) there is a stop of unusual electric buses. They were designed specifically for Mont Saint-Michel, and they do not have the usual “front” and “rear” – the driver’s cabs are located on both sides. They overcome the path to the mountain in 12 minutes, along the way making stops at hotels and restaurants in the town of La Сaserne on the shore of the bay. Buses run from 7:30 to midnight with an interval of several minutes, travel is free.
For lovers of antiquity, there is an alternative: crews pulled by a pair of Norman heavy trucks reach the mountain in 25 minutes. Capacity – up to 24 passengers, a one-way ticket costs 5 EUR.
Communication and Wi-Fi
There are no problems with mobile communications in Mont Saint-Michel – 3G and 4G networks are available anywhere on the island. The situation with Wi-Fi is less rosy, you can only find a free access point by chance. In this sense, it is easier for hotel guests and restaurant customers than for tourists who have stopped by for a few hours – free Wi-Fi has long become the standard in such establishments. The password to the hotel chain is usually written either on the wall of the room or on a special laminated card – it is placed on the table before guests check in. Finding the password for restaurant chains is not always easy – it is not customary to post it openly. Sometimes it is printed at the bottom of the menu, but in most cases you will have to ask the waiter for help.
What to bring
The choice of souvenirs in Mont-Saint-Michel is huge: shops along the main street fight for each client, offering the widest range of goods for every taste and budget – from magnets for a couple of euros to a full set of knightly armor for the price of an average car.
In addition to the usual tourist set, it is customary to take away from the Mountain elegant plates with the image of the abbey, small copies of the statue of the Archangel Michael that adorns the monastery spire, funny stone figurines of musicians and jugglers made in medieval technology, models of sailboats, Norman porcelain figurines, as well as souvenirs. replicas of edged weapons.
In the abbey itself, after the end of the tour, you can buy a considerable number of booklets, gift books and guides (including Russian-language ones) at quite reasonable prices.
Of the culinary products, crunchy butter cookies “from Mother Poulard”, Queen-Aman pies from neighboring Brittany, as well as local salty caramel are especially popular – they are packaged and sold by the piece.
Cuisine and restaurants of Mont-Saint-Michel
People go to Mont Saint-Michel not for gastronomic pleasures, fine expensive restaurants here would simply go bankrupt. The local cuisine is simple, tasty and inexpensive – exactly what a weary traveler needs.
All bars, cafes, eateries and pancake shops are located exclusively on Grande Rue – it is useless to look for food elsewhere on the island. These establishments are used to quickly serving the tourist flow, and you can count on a short, dense snack at a price of 12 to 25 EUR. Snacks and sandwiches to take away will cost 3-4 EUR per piece.
There are few restaurants in Mont-Saint-Michel, they exist only at hotels and sometimes live in the rhythm of the guests – they serve them for a long time, but it is there that you can taste the Mountain’s specialty at an affordable cost – lamb fillet grown in local water meadows (it is believed that ocean salt naturally soaks the meat and gives it a unique taste). Dinner in such a restaurant will cost 80-120 EUR and take several hours, but while waiting for food, you can watch the ebb and flow – all restaurants here have panoramic terraces overlooking the bay.
Entertainment and attractions
Mont Saint-Michel is an attraction in itself. The majestic city-fortress on a lonely mountain, surrounded alternately by the ocean, then by a wet sandy plain, invariably makes a strong impression on travelers.
By the way, it was the monastery of Mont Saint-Michel that became the prototype of the fortress of Minas Tirith in the film The Lord of the Rings.
Access to Mont Saint-Michel itself is free, and any tourist can enter the city through the Royal Gate, inspecting a cannon from the Hundred Years War along the way, marvel at the two-meter width of the local Grande Rue and pick up souvenirs there. If your complexion allows, you can take a chance and climb to the upper tier along crooked alleys – in some places you will have to squeeze sideways. At the top, passing the gates of the abbey and passing along the walls, you can thoughtfully pick up an “observation post” and meet the tide with a camera in your hands. On the way back, it is worth looking into the tiny city church and completing the tour with a walk along the fortress walls of the lower tier, returning to the King’s Gate. If you have the strength and time, you can walk along the granite blocks along the island to the small chapel of Saint-Aubert – it used to be a place of prayer vigils.
For the entrance to the abbey (off. site in English), an adult tourist will have to pay 10 EUR, children are allowed free of charge.
The “House of the Constable”, “Archeoscope”, the Historical and Maritime Museums are somewhat lost against the background of other attractions, but they are also interesting in their own way. A combined ticket to visit all 4 will cost 18 EUR, additional information can be obtained at the office. website (in English).
5 things to do in Mont Saint-Michel
- Walk under the echoing vaults of the abbey and go down to its heart – the Notre-Dame-Sous-Terre chapel.
- Meet the tide by standing at the stone parapet of the upper fortifications.
- At low tide, go out onto the wet sand of the bay and view the Mountain from all sides.
- Buy souvenirs in the shops on Grande Rue.
- Taste the famous omelette “from mother Pulyar”
The climate in northern France is mild. In general, you can focus on the weather forecast for Normandy, but it is worth considering some features of the bay: the ocean has leveled the surface for kilometers around the Mountain, so the west wind walks around Mont Saint-Michel as it wants – this is especially felt on the upper observation decks. The tides constantly wet the surrounding sand, so in winter there is a high risk of fogs, and in summer the high humidity, combined with the scorching sun, makes many tourists faint.
The ocean not only affects the microclimate of the Mountain – often the life of a tourist depends on it. The tide comes suddenly and drives water at the speed of a running person, so before a walk, be sure to study the tide schedule at the office. website (in English).