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It’s a fact: the Mont Saint Michel is a big rock with an abbey on top. It doesn’t sound that appealing when I put it like that, does it? But what a place! The Abbey on top of that rock with the sea surrounding, well, it works. It is one of the most spectacular vistas you will ever see.
The Mont Saint Michel and its bay made it on the World Heritage List in 1979, making it one of the earliest sites ever listed. It is the "Wonder of the West" and when you see it, you will ask yourself how they managed to build this so long ago (between the 11th and 16th centuries) without the benefit of modern technology. The Mont Saint Michel is also often listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World because there's nothing else like it anywhere else.
Is the Mont Saint Michel Too Touristy?
The Mont Saint Michel only had a population of 33 inhabitants in 2015 and yet it attracts over 3 million visitors each year. There are so many at times and in such a small area that it feels unbearable. But like all “touristy” places, there are things you can do to maximize your chances of seeing it in peace, and that’s exactly what Phil Roberson explains to us on today’s episode.
Strategies for a Great Visit to the Mont Saint Michel
You'll probably want to go in the Spring of Summer because the weather will be warmer. But be warned, it rains a lot in Normandy, even in the middle of the summer!
Stay Overnight If You Can
No matter how busy a day it is, you can "have the place to yourself" between 6 PM and 11 AM. That requires an overnight stay. You don't have to stay right on the Mont (Phil didn't have such a great experience doing that as he explains in the episode). The hotel we like is Hotel Mercure Mont Saint Michel because the shuttle bus drops you off right next to it and if you come by car you can park it right at the hotel.
Explore the Bay While the Hoards of Tourists Are on the Mont
The masses of visitors arrive by bus, usually around 11 AM and most of them leave by 6 PM. Those are the hours when you want to be exploring the bay, away from the cobblestone streets. You get amazing views on the Mont Saint Michel while walking around the bay. But do it safely, check on the tides schedule!
Visit the Abbey First Thing in the Morning
Plan to visit the Abbey right as it opens in the morning (either at 9 or 9:30 AM, check the time here, it changes seasonally)
Are the Restaurants Any Good on the Mont?
Not really. Most are affiliated with Mère Poulard, a brand that used to be nice and now has been taken over by a pure profit motive.
But you've got to eat. So, either you bring your own picnic (that's the French way!) or you put up with inflated prices and mediocre everything.
Local specialties are the Omelet, the Crêpes and the Creamy Mussels. Normandy is a cider producing region, which I happen to like.
Learn More: Normandy and Brittany