In the 1979, Mont-Saint-Michel became the first French UNESCO World Heritage site. This true pearl of Normandy is brimming with history… Discover our top 5 unmissable things to do in Mont-Saint-Michel!
1. Go up the Grande Rue
The Grande Rue is the road that climbs up to the abbey. The name of this unique rocky road does not come from its size as it is very narrow. This is the road where the region's traditional architecture region can be found, with its small, stone houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.
It’s also the most touristy place on the whole island so there are a number of souvenir shops to browse here… But the most famous attraction of all is the Mère Poulard Hotel.
2. Take a break to savour a Mère Poulard omelette
Annette Poulard established her hotel in Mont-Saint-Michel in 1888. Known for her soufflé omelette, she invented nearly 700 recipes. Her long and famous career earned her the title of “mère” [mother] in recognition of her great cooking skills.
Today, the Mère Poulard restaurant remains an institution of French cuisine and is renowned throughout the world. Royalty, celebrities and even politicians have stopped by the restaurant, like Georges Clémenceau or Léopold II, the king of Belgium – who was once spotted being turned away!
So you too can take the opportunity to taste its celebrated soufflé omelette –the restaurant's signature dish – or other dishes on the menu, which are all in honour of the famous Mère Poulard!
3. The abbey of the Mont-Saint-Michel
An important pilgrimage site from the 8th to the 18th centuries, the Mont-Saint-Michel represents one of the most remarkable examples of medieval architecture that is both religious and military. A real architectural wonder, the abbey is made up of around 20 rooms including the church-abbey, the monks’ living quarters called the Merveille and the refectory. The abbey of the Mont-Saint-Michel is perched on top of the Mont summit 80 metres above sea level.
In the church, admire the aisle of the great nave and choir, flooded with light. Inside the abbey, the Merveille is entered by passing through the cloister. The cloister, a real haven of peace and quiet, appears to be suspended between the earth and sky. Admire its barrel vaulting. The monks worked in the Scriptorium, copying and illuminating manuscripts. Certain rooms were reserved for the pilgrims (chaplaincy and guest rooms). The guest rooms retain their two enormous fireplaces, where you were able to roast salt-marsh lamb.
4. Live by the rhythm of the tides
Did you know that the Mont-Saint-Michel experiences the biggest tides in continental Europe? During this extraordinary phenomenon, the sea withdraws 15km from the coast and comes in again very quickly. The Mont-Saint-Michel becomes an island again... It’s an astounding sight for all the family.
The tides of the Mont-Saint-Michel flood the bay twice a day (with a difference of nearly 13 metres between high and low). This is explained by the rising and falling movement of the sea caused by the effect of the moon and sun’s gravitational pull. In addition, thanks to the magical geography of the place, the height of the waves are marked for longer.
Take your place on the footbridge. Since July 2014, it’s been possible to reach the village all year round, except on the rare occasions when the tides are too high. It’s the best vantage point!
5. Cross the bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel
Each day, the tides roll into the bay of the Mont-Saint-Michel. And to get the best panorama of the Mont, it’s important to know how to roll up your trousers! So, are you ready to play explorers with your family or friends in the centre of the bay? An experienced guide will tell you all about the Mont, the tides, the natural environment and the history of Tombelaine, the granite rock occupied by the English during the Hundred Years’ War in the hope that the stronghold of the Mont-Saint-Michel would fall. He will take you on a stroll through the quicksand (not for long, don’t worry! – just to see the effect). It is also possible to cross the bay on horseback and even on the marine train.
The Mont-Saint-Michel train
Take the train from Paris Montparnasse station, 3 Vaugirard, to Villedieu-les-Poêles station and continue by coach (with free Wifi, TV screen, toilets, magazines to read) to the Mont-Saint- Michel.
Daily return journeys available, Monday to Sunday.
Fares: €27 one way for adults, €17.5 one way for a child (4-12 years) old"