“Le Mont Saint-Michel” is one of those destinations that you can easily access from Paris for the time of a day trip or a weekend and yet is still a total change of scenery and a great way to escape the city for a bit.
Also, Saint-Michel has some pretty unique features that you wouldn’t find in any other place in France. Which makes it an excellent place for anyone who likes taking pictures of scenery nature, birds or even shoot a lookbook! It’s also fascinating to see how’s the islet life was functioning.
Mont Saint-Michel in Winter
The Mont Saint-Michel and the bay that surround it are registered on the list the of UNESCO World Heritage Centre since 1979. To give you a brief history and idea of what to expect here is a little snippet of history from the UNESCO website.
❝Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stand the ‘Wonder of the West’, a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.❞
Pretty incredible, right? I think Mont-Saint Michel is one of the places that fascinated the most as a kid and still do nowadays because of the nature that surrounds it and how well-conceived the whole islet is.
Once you reach the site, you have to leave your car in one of the parking lots that will be directed to you.
As updated on July 2018 the prices of the parking are the following:
It is 6,50€ if you stay less than two hours if you visit more than two hours and a half it then passes to twenty-four hours forfeit from the time of your arrival for 12€. An evening offer also exists, for anyone arriving after 19h (7 pm) and exiting before 11h (11 am) the next morning it is 4,40€.
You have to leave your car behind before the islet. You cannot access anywhere after the bridge with your car due to environmental protection ongoing onto this natural site to avoid more unnecessary pollution closer to the site. To be honest, any vehicle there would ruin the landscape and the experience, besides, it’s not like you can drive, and you have plenty of other options to access the islet.
But you still have three choices to access the islet :
- A 45 min walk: You can enjoy a nice walk along the bay and enjoy the nature, birds and fresh air.
- Free Shuttle “Le Passeur”: if you don’t want to walk or it is too cold for a 45min walk like this happened to us, they are two motorised free shuttles that drop the visitors 350m away from the entrance in 12min. They are continually operating from 7h30 to 00h.
- Hippomobile” la Maringote”: The Hippomobile is a horse-drawn carriage which a more original way to reach the islet in 25min. Though they aren’t operating during the winter period, they will be running again in April. I couldn’t find the exact price, but they’re not free.
To be fair the scenery on your way to the islet of Mont Saint-Michel is incredible, so, if it has been a bit less cold (and we were less lazy lets no lie), I would have loved to walk the 45min to get to the islet. It must be nice in early spring when nature starts to bloom again.
What to do in Mont Saint Michel in Winter?
The answer is pretty simple, everything, pretty much everything on the islet has a story to tell.
This is one of the big pluses of this islet; it isn’t big at all. You can efficiently manage to see most of the island or everything you would like to see during a day trip.
Therefore you can efficiently manage to visit the whole lot of it. Wandering among the tiny alley to make your way onto the top to visit the abbey is a bit like stepping back in time if it wasn’t for the few shops and restaurants you can find at the bottom of the islet.
Walking along your alley leads you to the top of the islet, to the abbey which is dedicated to the archangel St-Michel -hence the name obviously-.
And if you’re a European citizen under 25 years old, the admission is free on presentation of an ID/Passport. One of the best things about visiting it in winter is that you don’t have actually to wait a crazy amount of time to get in. It’s WAY less crowded than in the summer. There are still some visitors obviously, but it still feels very “free” to move around without bumping into other visitors every 2m and taking the time you need to explore the abbey.
Also, the view over the bay is pretty astonishing, the tide was low during our visit, making some pretty pattern. It kind of feels like there’s nothing else onto the horizon and it’s just you and nature when you look over.
The best things to do onto the islet of Mont Saint-Michel in winter:
- Walking around the bay to enjoy the view of the islet and the surrounding nature. Perfect to get some pretty shots also.
- La Porte Du Roy and Porte du Boulevard which are both entrances of the fortified islet.
- Medieval fortifications of Mont Saint-Michel the old school way to protect the islet from potential invaders back in the days, you can walk along with them and enjoy the astonishing view over the bay.
- La Grande Rue the main street of the islet where you can find shops offering locals food such as biscuit or cider and souvenirs shops.
- The several towers. Such as the North Tower, the Gabriel Tower, the Arcade Tower and so on…
- Saint-Michel Abbey, which is the main attraction of the islet of course.
You can also find some museums, four in total in Mt Saint-Michel to discover more about the islet history and its tedious construction as a monument dedicated to the glory of God. (Musée de la Mer et de l’écologie, Musée Historique, Le Logis Tiphaine, Demeure de Bertrand Duguesclin (a knight from the islet) and l’Archéoscope) you can get a pass to visit them all to save some money for 18€.
A quick snapshot taken inside and outside of the abbey. The abbey is still working and offices for those who would like to assist.
As you can see above the street are very small so as soon as there are a few people, it seems crowded.
You can find a lot of souvenirs shops (pretty expensive though, yuck) and a few hotels, restaurants and Crêperies. Some of them are viewing directly on the bay which I think would be pretty sweet for a meal if you’re not on a tight budget.
One of the cons of visiting the place in winter is that you can’t enjoy walking along the bay barefoot with a guide. The water level can rise pretty quickly, and some areas are composed of quicksand, so it’s better to walk with a guide if you decide to brave the cold anyway!
Have you ever been to Mt St-Michel? If yes what did you thought about it? Let me know in the comments! ^-^