While there’s plenty in Paris to keep the adventurous traveler occupied, sometimes it’s fun to escape the city and see what surprises await in the surrounding countryside. This is especially true of the route from Paris to Mont-Saint Michel (St. Michel), as there are plenty of stops along the way worth seeing for those looking for a little extra adventure outside the City of Light.
While it’s possible (and easy!) to get to St. Michel via bus, coach, or guided tour from Paris—where’s the fun in that? Renting a car and making the 4-hour drive means that travelers can stop along the way and explore the Normandy countryside at their own pace; or make the entire trip in a single day. Either way, a road trip from Paris to St. Michel is an unforgettable experience and worth trying at least once.
*Note: The following is a multi-day itinerary with multiple stops along the way. It’s possible to drive straight through and end up in St. Michel in around 4 hours and spend the day and night before returning to Paris or to customize the trip and make some of the following steps on the return journey. Feel free to mix it up!
The Starting Line
The first stop on the itinerary is Versailles. A popular tourist destination that is definitely worth seeing, Versailles is less than an hour from Paris, so those who leave early enough can get there first thing and spend a couple of hours before getting back on the road.
Things To Do In Versailles
- Visit the Palace of Versailles, a spectacular 18th-century gilded wonder that houses the Hall of Mirrors
- Take a tour of Marie Antoinette’s Estate, or simply check out the lovely landscaped gardens
- Treat yourself to a croissant and cappuccino at Juliette, a lovely cafe located on the Rue Decis
- Stroll through the Gardens of Versailles for a great photo op
- Those with extra time on their hands can take a one-hour detour to Maintenon, where there is a lovely 17th-century castle with lovely gardens (and its own aqueduct!)
Up next is Giverny; a small village approximately 1 1/2 hours from Paris. This is a great late morning/early afternoon stop as it will give road warriors a chance to stretch their legs; grab an early lunch; and explore this charming area that is renowned as the home of many of France’s most famous Impressionist painters—including Claude Monet.
Things To Do In Giverny
- Visit the Fondation Monet, home of Claude Monet complete with gardens; the artist’s studio and sitting room; and a number of Japanese prints
- Complete your Monet half-day with a visit to the Museum of Impressionism, open March through November, and learn about the history of Impressionism
- Stop for lunch at Au Coin du Pain’tre before heading back on the road. Be sure to try the quiche!
Vive Le Rouen
Time to head north to Rouen, less than an hour from Giverny. This is a great side trip for those in no hurry to get to St. Michel in one day, as it is a little less than halfway there and can be your penultimate stop for resting for the night.
Things To Do In Rouen
- Check out the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen—worth a look, even if only from the outside
- See the Gros-Horloge, the famous astronomic clock located on the busy Rue du Gros-Horloge
- Stroll through the old part of Rouen, known as Vieux, and feel like a time traveler to 12th century France
Stop For The Night
Visitors can spend the night in Rouen, or continue the journey onto Le Havre before stopping for the night. Le Havre may seem like it's a bit off the beaten track, but it's well worth the stop to visit this port city at the mouth of the Seine.
Things To Do In Le Havre
- Visit the skyscraper-esque St. Joseph’s Church (Eglise St-Joseph), and marvel at the over 13,000 panels of colored glass inside its impressive interior
- Stroll through Les Jardins Suspendus
- Dine at Le Diplodocus, located on the Rue Maréchal Gallieni, and enjoy a light dinner made with the freshest ingredients. Be sure to try the Crème Brûlée
- Spend the night at the Hôtel Mercure Le Havre Centre Bassin du Commerce, a four-star hotel inspired by the port city’s industrial atmosphere. Located conveniently in the city center for those who want to rise early and get back on the road
Take A Southern Route
Meander your way toward St. Michel by making a stop in Honfleur. Less than 45 minutes from Le Havre, the drive to Honfleur is scenic and lovely. The village is quaint and charming, with cobblestone streets and plenty to see.
Things To Do In Honfleur
- To arrive in Honfleur from Le Havre, travelers will cross the Pont de Normandie, an almost 1.5-mile-long cable bridge that is impressive to behold
- Vieux Bassin is an old harbor in Honfleur that has amazing scenery. Stroll along the water and check out the beautiful homes, some dating as far back as the 16th century
- The Église Sainte Catherine is France’s largest wooden church; this 15th-century building is definitely worth a look
- Have lunch at Au P’tit Mareyeur before heading out—be sure to try the tasting menu!
The Final Destination: St. Michel
Those who have a set itinerary or limited time may want to head to St. Michel directly from Honfleur, as it is a little over 2 hours away. This is a good way to make up some lost time; especially if you plan to drive back to Paris. Just plan the return trip around what you may have missed on the way to St. Michel.
Things To Do In And Around St. Michel
- History buffs will enjoy exploring the Normandy area wither before or after arriving in ST. Michel. Omaha Beach, the Normandy American Cemetery, and the Longues-Sur-Mer German Bunkers are just some of the historically important places in this area
- Mont Saint Michel is an island, and the whole town resembles an enormous medieval fortress. Be sure to explore the inner walls during low tide
- Take in the views at the Terrasse de l’Ouest
- The Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre is a small chapel that is worth a stop. Visitors say it is also a quiet spot to get away from the crowds
The Breakdown: Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel
- Total Distance: 222 miles
- Drive Time: About 3 1/2 hours (with little or no traffic)
- Potential Stops/Attractions/Things To See: 38
A road trip to St. Michel from Paris is a wonderful way to explore the surrounding countryside and everything it has to offer. And the best part is that travelers can customize their journey to fit their budget and schedule quite easily; all while seeing some of the most lovely villages and historic sights in the Normandy area.