It was a grey, stormy day when we pulled up the car and parked in the Mont Saint Michel car park. The first few raindrops of the day were spluttering on us, and I was silently cursing myself for leaving my warm winter coat back home in Paris.
It might have been August, the best month of the year for weather in Normandy, but that didn’t mean that it was warm! Now, of course, when I actually saw the UNESCO world heritage site for the first time, all thoughts of being cold flew straight out of my head as fast as the wind was blowing. After all, it’s not every day you’re standing in front of one of the most beautiful islands in the world! Here are some tips for visiting Mont Saint Michel:
Tips for visiting Mont Saint Michel:
Purchase your Mont Saint Michel tickets in advance
If you want to save precious time during your visit to the ancient Abbey, then I recommend purchasing your Mont-Saint Michel tickets well-ahead of your visit. This way, you’ll make the most of your time at the Mount, without having to waste precious exploration time by waiting in extra queues!
Bring warm clothes (I’m talking coat and scarf as a minimum!)
As I learned, much to my dismay, just because you’re visiting the Mount in August doesn’t mean that the weather will be good! Bring warm clothes with you as the tidal nature of the island, as well as its precarious position along the coastline, means that Mont Saint Michel is often cold, even when all other areas in the region seem relatively mild and warm.
Visit Mont Saint Michel during the offseason
As one of the most visited monuments in France, it should come as no surprise that the place is always packed! However, the majority of tourists visit in peak season: July and August. If you want to somewhat avoid the crowds, then avoiding the island during these months is advisable.
Furthermore, local hotel prices, both on the island and on nearby mainland France fluctuate wildly depending on the season. Visiting Mont Saint Michel in the shoulder seasons, or even during the off-season will save a lot of money in terms of accommodation, and perhaps time as there is a lot less traffic around the area!
Visit the Mount early in the morning (or late at night!)
Not only will you get the best lighting if you visit closer to one of the day’s golden hours, but you’ll avoid much of the crowds which flock to the island during the day. Visit early in the morning if you wish to see the interior of the abbey, and visit later in the day if you’re not so bothered about seeing the abbey’s decor but still wish to miss many of the tourists. A late night jaunt to the castle will also ensure the best of both worlds, enabling you to see the castle both in the day, and the iconic way it is lit up by night.
Leave yourself adequate time to see everything!
If you are visiting Mont Saint Michel as part of a day trip from Paris, then make sure that you leave early in the morning, giving yourself plenty of time to see everything that the island and its surrounding bay has to offer.
Not only is it possible to visit the abbey, but there are also many streets to explore, the bay to see, a few small (yet touristic) museums and an old part of town, complete with timber-framed houses. Oh, and whilst there make sure not to miss the cider that the region is famous for!
Bring your camera along!
If you love photography (and maybe even if you don’t), I highly recommend bringing your camera. Of all the practical tips for visiting Mont Saint Michel I’ve mentioned, this may seem frivolous in comparison. However, it’s not everyday that you’re able to visit a UNESCO world-famous one-of-a-kind tidal island, especially one that has been inhabited for over 1000 years.