Mont Saint Michel celebrates 1000th birthday

Mont Saint-Michel the beloved medieval abbey located on a rocky island in Normandy, France is celebrating its 1000th birthday! Its 1000 years history dates back to the 8th century and is intertwined with religious, military, and architectural significance.

According to legend, the archangel Michael appeared to the Bishop of Avranches and instructed him to build a church on the rocky island. The first chapel, known as the “Sanctuary of Saint Michel au Péril de la Mer” (Sanctuary of St. Michael at the Peril of the Sea), was constructed on the site.

Mont-Saint-Michel at high tide

The construction of the abbey began in the 10th century and continued into the 11th century. Over time, the abbey complex grew and included several monastic buildings, such as the abbey church, cloisters, chapels, and refectories.

During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, Mont Saint-Michel was a strategic stronghold. It successfully resisted English attacks, thanks to its fortifications and advantageous location. The abbey was further fortified with the addition of defensive walls and towers.

Mont Saint-Michel, with its unique architecture and picturesque location, became a popular tourist destination and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. In recent years, efforts have been made to preserve the site’s environment and restore the maritime character by removing the causeway and restoring the natural tidal circulation.

How to get to Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel can be reached by train from Paris to Rennes and then followed by a bus ride from Rennes to the site. Total travel time is around 4 to 5 hours. You can find information on the official website of the Mont Saint-Michel shuttle.

If you are coming by car, the visitor car parks have been moved further inland to preserve the Mont-Saint-Michel’s exceptional landscape. The car parks are around 1.5 miles from the mount. Once you have parked, head for the Place des Navettes, where specially devised shuttle buses called passeurs will take you to the mount. The shuttle bus stop is 800m (half a mile) from the car parks and the passeurs stop 450m away from the mount itself. The passeurs operate every day at regular intervals between 7:30am and midnight.

Alternatively, you can book a special horse-drawn carriage (maringote) or walk all the way from the car parks to the mount, taking in the magnificence of the Mont-Saint-Michel as you approach.

Note that Mont Saint-Michel is located in a bay and is subject to tidal conditions. When planning your visit, make sure to check the tide schedule, as the island is more picturesque during high tide.

© Caroline Revol-Maurel — The route to reach the Mont-Saint-Michel

Whatever route you take to reach the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, the monumental outline of this legendary landmark can be seen from all around.

The gigantic nave of the abbey marks the beginning of a fascinating and entertaining tour and you will be astonished by this building that looks just like a castle that fell out of a fairy tale story.

From the tall windows of the magnificent cloisters you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful views, a dizzying panorama over the bay. Discover the scriptorium, the guest room, the refectory, the echoes of grand spaces and the chimneys so huge that Father Christmas would have to drop a lot of presents in to fill them!

The must see attractions

  • Historical or the museum of the sea and ecology.
  • Discover the Tiphaine dwelling, the historic home of the knight Bertrand du Guesclin (constable of the armies of the King of France);
  • Admire the parish church, the pilgrim’s house and its religious library.
  • Cross the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay with a guide.

From the ramparts, there are spectacular views over the bay stretching out of sight and way into the horizon. You can walk up and down the cobbled streets of the village on the Mount, follow the ramparts or take in the many shops. Also take your time to eat at a brasserie or restaurant terrace while making the most of the fabulous views of the bay.

© Severine FRERES — cobbled streets of Mont-Saint-Michel

In the winding alleys of Mont-Saint-Michel, don’t forget to try the delicious Lemon shortbread, Breton pucks (like a cookie) and salted butter caramel patties from Mère Poulard.

© © Caroline Revol-Maurel — Tasty little pastries

Hotels in Mont Saint Michel

There are a few hotels located directly on the island of Mont Saint-Michel, offering a unique experience of staying within the historical site. These hotels range from luxury establishments to more budget-friendly options.

In addition to hotels, there are also guesthouses and bed and breakfast accommodations available both on the island and in the nearby area. These provide a more intimate and cozy setting, often with personalized service and a homely atmosphere.

You can also check out Edd Hostel, frequented by travelers visiting Europe who are willing to discover the authentic West of France. Located just behind the railway station of Dol de Bretagne, Edd hostel is well located with daily bus to Mont-Saint-Michel (30mins), train to Saint-Malo (16mins) & Dinan (20mins).