Discover UNESCO: Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay
Situated on a small rocky island just off the coast between Normandy and Brittany Mont Saint-Michel is an impossible to miss landmark when driving along the Atlantic coast of France. The Gothic style abbey with its tall rising spire, situated on the already 92 meter high peak of a natural granite island is not only considered the Wonder of the Western World, but this unusual UNESCO site is also visible for miles along the flat landscape of the coastal area. Once only accessible during low tide, the current removal of the artificial dam in combination with the construction of a stilted bridge ensures that Mont Saint-Michel will soon appear in its former glory again, as an actual island surrounded by the sea…
- This UNESCO site consists of an island commune, about one kilometer off the coast by Avranches in Normandy, France.
- The big abbey was built between the 11th and the 16th century, the UNESCO inscription happened in 1979.
- Included are the exterior fortifications, the village in-between, the central abbey and the bay with its salt march meadows.
- The abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is open from 9am to 7pm between May and August and from 9.30am to 6pm between September and April.
- The entrance fee to the abbey is 9 euros and for all four museums 18 euros. Parking cost 6,20 euros for two hours, or 12,30 euros for the day.
The Architecture of Mont Saint-Michel
The Tourist Wonder of the Western World
Why this is a UNESCO Site
Built in a unique natural location, Mont Saint-Michel is considered a technical and artistic wonder since it had to fully adapt to the site specific challenges. It is also one of the first places dedicated to Archangel Michael and represents graphically the feudal society of its time, from the elevated abbey down to the defense walls and fishermen’s houses.
Thoughts and Observations
As stunning as the sight of Mont Saint Michel was from a distance, as sobering was the experience of an actual visit, especially during high season. With more than 3 million visitors per year, this tiny little island was simply flooded with people, slowly making their way up to the abbey in a continuous stream. Being left with no other choice, we visited the small village in the same speed as everyone else since we were part of the same human mass that was pushed through the narrow alleyways and along a seemingly endless line of expensive souvenir shops.
“Avoid Mont Saint-Michel or go really, really early” was the recommendation of fellow travellers and while we tried to be there first-thing in the morning, the lot of other people apparently had the same idea. The high price tag for the abbey in combination with a one hour line, added to our frustration, as did the fact that the so-called village consisted of 4 museums, 5 hotels, 8 restaurants and some 25 tourist shops. While a visit during low season could potentially be quite enjoyable, during the summertime finding a quiet side alley on this tiny island seemed to be in fact the real wonder of the western world…
What to do at Mont Saint-Michel
Tips and Recommendations
- Tip: Since visiting the abbey means waiting in line for about an hour, you will need to pay for the full day parking ticket. This means a visit to this UNESCO site will cost at least 30 euros for two people, or 66 euros if you include the museums. So make the best out of this situation, bring a picnic and spend the whole day on the island as everyone else does as well.
- Budget Tip: Visiting the island and village of Mont Saint-Michel is for free and as long as you return to your car within two hours the whole visit costs a total of 6,20 euros. Just make sure to factor in enough time for the shuttle buses. Or simply enjoy the views of the island from the distance, save the money and ditch the crowds altogether.
- Go right now!
- Definitely go soon
- Go if you are around
- Stop by if you are bored
- Consider missing it
While the architecture is great and the location of Mont Saint-Michel is nothing but stunning, a visit to this so-called Wonder of the Western World cannot be fully recommended due to the masses of people and the high entry prices.
Mont Saint-Michel is only a short drive away from Avranches and can best be reached by car. Make sure to drive as close to the coast as possible to enjoy the beautiful views from the distance.
Have you been to Mont Saint-Michel? Would you visit despite the crowds and prices?
This post is part of Travel Photo Mondays and Sunday Traveler above.