Monte Saint Michel
What to see and how to get to Mont Saint Michel - This historic monument is one of the most unique visits from Paris.
Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is one of the most visited places on the Normandy coast. This incredible construction, built on top of a rocky island, is one of the most impressive landscapes in France. Not in vain has it been declared a historical site and a World Heritage Site.
It is one of the excursions from Paris that you can do during your trip and that will not disappoint you at all. We tell you more!
The legend of Mont Saint Michel
It is not surprising that a place as enigmatic as Mont Saint Michel in France has an origin full of legends that give meaning to its beauty.
They say that in the year 708, the archangel Saint Michael he appeared in a dream to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches , and asked him to build a sanctuary on what was formerly known as Mont Tombe, a place that was already considered sacred, in which there were some hermitages and chapels.
Although the archangel’s request was clear, the bishop ignored him on two occasions. On the third time, San Miguel hit him on the head and left a hole that made him take the apparition seriously. This is how Aubert ordered the construction of the church that today is the abbey that crowns Mount Saint Michel and that receives thousands of pilgrims a year.
Another part of the legend of Mont Saint Michel tells that in the year 709 a tsunami destroyed the forest that surrounded the mount and since then it has been turned into a rocky island, with a spectacle of tides that rise and fall at certain times of the day.
What is known for sure is that the place had to be fortified due to the conflicts of the Hundred Years War , and that ended up giving it a unique touch of beauty, among so much history.
How was it built?
As Mont Saint Michel was considered a place of worship since the late Middle Ages, it has been expanded over the centuries.
First, hermitages and chapels, then a small enclosure and thus, little by little, that great rock began to be excavated in stages until it reached the main work: the abbey, which is well known as “La Maravilla” for the architectural achievements of medieval builders on such an irregular topography.
It was in the year 1897 when Mount Saint Michel was crowned with a spire that rises 170 meters above sea level and supports a statue of the Archangel Saint Michael that measures 3.5 meters and weighs 820 kilos. The last restoration of this sculpture was done in 2016.
What to see on Mont Saint Michel
From afar, Mont Saint Michel looks like a postcard from a fairy tale. Within its walls is the abbey -the main building- and under it, rises a small town with some narrow streets, in which a little less than a hundred people live ; most of them are monks, nuns and priests.
On the Grande Rue, the main street, you will find bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels. Yes, it is possible find hotels on Mont Saint Michel!
Although it is best to take a guided excursion to Mont Saint Michel, here are some of its most essential places:
Mont Saint Michel Abbey
It is the only place where you have to pay an entrance fee (€11) and it is well worth it. With the arrival of the Benedictine monks in the year 966, the place became a place of pilgrimage and the abbey, its main protagonist.
The church, which rises 80 meters high, is built on a rock and has a great diversity of highly complex architectural forms. The terrace and the open cloister attract attention, and although it may appear to be a place without major decorations, its Gothic style is impressive and how it has withstood the passing of the centuries.
Inside the abbey you can see the representation of the moment when the Archangel Saint Michael appeared to the Bishop of Avranches and commissioned its construction. From here you have spectacular views of the bay.
It is the dam on the Couesnon river and it draws attention for its hydraulic function, necessary to keep the sediments away from the construction. It was built in 2005 and is conceived as a work of art. It can be seen before entering the walls of Mont Saint Michel.
Although the abbey gets all the attention, this small medieval-era church is surrounded by a cemetery and inside is a 13th-century baptismal font and a silver statue of the Archangel Michael.
How to get to Mont Saint Michel from Paris
The easiest and most comfortable option to visit Mont Saint Michel is to take the excursion from Paris with transportation included. You will go with a guide in Spanish, you will be able to enter the abbey and learn about the details surrounding its construction. So you won’t miss anything.
Take into account that the closest airport to Mont Saint Michel is Rennes and from there you have to take a train to get to Portoson station, therefore it is not the cheapest or most feasible way, but it is possible!
We tell you how to go from Paris to Mont Saint Michel in other ways:
You can take the train from the Paris Montparnasse station to Rennes. The journey lasts 2 hours. Then, you have to take a train to the Pontorson station, the closest to Mont Saint Michel. From there take a bus to La Caserne.
Once there you can take a free bus or walk along the designated pedestrian path while you enjoy the views.
You can get there by car from Paris, taking the A13 motorway towards Caen and then the A84 towards the sanctuary. The journey takes almost 4 hours. You have to park in La Caserne -it has space for 4,000 cars- and from there continue on foot or on the free buses. Tides at Mont Saint Michel.
Twice a day, Mont Saint Michel is cut off by the rising tide on the Normandy coast. A show that captivates everyone and you must arrive at least two hours before, to experience it to the full.
The best places to appreciate the phenomenon of the tides are from the walls, the west terrace and the cloister of the abbey. It is also possible to see it from the bridge that connects to the island. The sea level reaches about 14 meters deep and it is when the Mont Saint Michel acquires its most enigmatic touch.
It is not allowed to cross the bay on foot at low tide , unless it is done with an authorized guide. There are pedestrian paths arranged and in complete safety for a 50-minute walk to Mont Saint Michel.
The tide schedule can be consulted here.
Practical information, prices and schedules
The guided excursion from Paris lasts 14 hours, you will have a guide in Spanish (optional), round-trip transportation and includes the entrance to the abbey. It is the best way to enjoy the trip!
The price of parking in La Caserne depends on the type of car you have. It can range from €5 to €15 depending on the season.
Access to the place, its walls and town is free. You only have to pay for the entrance to the abbey and the general cost is €11. You can do the tour with an audio guide and it costs an additional €3.
The car park in La Caserne is open 24 hours a day, but the free buses leave every 10 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The abbey is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during Spring and Summer and from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during Autumn and Winter.
Curiosities about Mont Saint Michel
- In 1789 the last monks who lived on the mountain were expelled by a decree that had just broken out in the French Revolution, which declared church property as national property.
- Since then, the abbey has been turned into a prison and although this left it in a state of disrepair, it also prevented its destruction.
- After being recovered, it was declared a French historical monument in 1874.
- It was a fundamental enclave for medieval culture and was also known as “The City of the Book”, due to the large number of manuscripts that are still preserved.
- Pilgrims and historical figures as important as Joan of Arc, who arrived at Mont Saint Michel during the Hundred Years War, were received there.
Without a doubt, it is one of the most visited attractions in France, beyond the Eiffel Tower. While you are looking for what to see in Paris, take advantage of a getaway to the Palace of Versailles or sign up for other excursions from Paris so that you can enjoy it to the fullest.
Excursions from Paris
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Palace of Versailles
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