France’s biggest tourist attraction outside of Paris has been undergoing major changes over the past few years. Before 2012, the causeway linking the island with the mainland was rammed with parked cars, and the bay was in danger of silting up. To restore Mont-St-Michel to its island status, the authorities built a new approach and banished cars to a parking lot by a visitor center. Free shuttle buses take visitors to the island 2.5km (1.5 miles) away. Parking costs 12€ for 24 hr., but is free if you stay less than 30 min.
Otherwise it’s a 50-min. hike to the island across the shifting sands. Those with their own bike can pedal over. A ride across in a horse-drawn carriage costs 5.30€ per person. An additional Office de Tourisme is on the island itself, to the left of the gates (www.ot-montsaintmichel.com; tel. 02-33-60-14-30). Both tourist centers are open daily year-round.
Once you reach the island, you’ll have a steep climb up Grande Rue, lined with 15th- and 16th-century houses and souvenir shops, to reach its famous abbey (www.mont-saint-michel.monuments-nationaux.fr; tel. 02-33-89-80-00). Ramparts encircle the church and a three-tiered ensemble of 13th-century buildings called La Merveille (The Wonder) that rise up to the abbey’s pointed spire. This terraced complex is one of Europe’s most important Gothic monuments. On the second terrace of La Merveille is one of Mont-St-Michel’s largest and most beautiful spaces, a 13th-century hall known as the Salle des Chevaliers. Crowning the mount’s summit is the spellbinding Eglise Abbatiale church.
The abbey is open daily May to August 9am to 7pm, and September to April 9:30am to 6pm. Entrance includes an English-language group tour when available, but you can also explore on your own. Admission is 10€ adults, 8€ students and ages 18 to 25, and free for children 17 and under. Be aware that high tides can delay access to Mont-St-Michel.
Most visitors are content to wander around the medieval ramparts. Those seeking a little more sightseeing may head to the Musée de la Mer, Grande Rue (tel. 02-33-89-02-02), which showcases marine crafts throughout history and the ecology of the local tidal flats. Another museum worth visiting is the Logis Tiphaine, Grande Rue (tel. 02-33-89-02-02), a 15th-century home originally under the control of the Duguesclin family. Both museums are open daily from 9:30am to 5pm (closed Wed and Thurs in Feb), and cost 9€ for adults, free for children 18 and under. You can buy a pass for 18€ that covers the cost of three museums.
For a different perspective of Mont-St-Michel, join one of the guided walks from the mainland to the island, tracing the original pilgrim route. Chemins de la Baie (www.cheminsdelabaie.com; tel. 02-33-89-80-88) takes groups on various barefoot walks across the sands. A one-way crossing costs 7.30€ and lasts 1 hr., 45 mins.; a crossing that includes a return by bus costs 12.60€ and is a 4-hr. round trip.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.