One of the most important sites in all of Medival Christian history is that of the Mont-Saint-Michel, which stands between Normandy and Brittany, France. The first question many will ask is how can this be possible when there's a wide expanse of bay between the two cities? And the answer is this: Mont-Saint-Michel was built on a minuscule island that's only accessible at low tide.
With that being said, its architecture is unparalleled compared to others around Europe. The castle-like abbey once held the significance of a pilgrimage which many would take to reached its Gothic-style walls during the Middle Ages. While it might not welcome as many on pilgrimages in today's day and age, it does attract many people from all over wanting to witness the isolated island for themselves. Less of an island and more a piece of land, Mont-Saint-Michel is also home to a small town where less than 50 people call it their home. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting millions from around the world to experience its history and architectural mastery. This grand abbey stands high above the land and the bay itself, standing as a symbol of the past and also one of hope and faith for some. The only thing visitors need to worry about is timing their visit right - the tide can often be unpredictable and it's not unusual for travelers to be temporarily stranded.
Know The Tides Before You Go
Since Mont-Saint-Michel is located in a channel, the tides are constantly changing. With the ebb and flow of the tide comes the increased risk of being stuck on the island with no way back to the mainland, at least temporarily. Both tides offer unique viewpoints to observe Mont-Saint-Michel, with high tide allowing travelers to observe the abbey from neighboring shorelines, giving the view of a lifetime of both the reflection of the island in serene waters as well as an ethereal landscape.
During low tide, when travelers can make it to the island, they'll also have the chance to explore the shores of the island itself. However, this does come with a risk, and visitors should always be aware of when the tide begins making its way back in. There are some parts of the island that are more unpredictable than others, so it's always a better idea to walk the shores with a guide as opposed to alone.
Bring Comfortable Shoes
It's easy enough to see from a distance that walking up to the upper levels of the Abbey is no easy feat. The stairways definitely call for comfortable walking shoes (if not several breaks in between) and good shoes are a must for exploring the rest of the island, as well. Stairs aren't the only trail visitors will need to follow, though - the walk up to the abbey is along a cobblestone road, it's also considerably steep. It's not necessary to be in top physical condition in order to reach the Abbey, but comfortable shoes and taking breaks when needed are a good place to start.
Lunch Might Be Better Planned Ahead
There are several great options for lunch at Mont-Saint-Michel but during peak season, it might be dicey trying to get in without a reservation. The most popular dishes here include crepes and omelets which is no surprise for France, and both are delicious. However, there might be a bit of a wait for those who don't book a table in advance, as the best restaurant to experience this is La Mère Poulard. Food on the island is also pricier than elsewhere in the surrounding area, so it's best to explore all the options before deciding on a local restaurant.
Explore Everything The Island Has To Offer, Not Just The Abbey
The Abbey at the top of the 'mountain' might be the most wonderous and stunning part of the island, but there's plenty to see all around. For starters, the best views, according to Culture Trip, can be found at Porte Échauguette, which is not far from the main entrance to the Abbey. These provide views over the bay that aren't quite the same anywhere else on the island, so they're worth the stop.
The best thing to do at Mont-Saint-Michel is to simply just walk around! It's free to get there so no money needs to be spent in order to appreciate the surrounding landscape. The Abbey does require an entrance fee of ten euros, but it's worth it for the history and experience. the Church of Saint-Pierre and the Maritime Museum are also worth visiting and will give visitors a full-circle appreciation for Mont-Saint-Michel.