How do you feel about dreamy, mystical islands off the coast of France with churches that date to the 9th century? Sounds intriguing, yes? Ok, so obviously a day trip to the medieval island of Mont St-Michel is only feasible if you are actually IN the country of France. But! File this one away for future reference because a visit to this otherworldly place is definitely worth the time and effort to get there.
At low tide, the island was traditionally accessible by foot which made it easy for pilgrims to reach the abbey at the top of the island. But when the tides rushed in, it also created an impenetrable fortress out of the Mont.
It was roughly a 3 hour journey from Paris out to Normandy, but it was also a fairly simple process — we booked our tickets the night before with no problem. Our train left from Gare Montparnasse and we got off at the town of Dol de Bretagne, where we then hopped on a bus for 30 minutes that deposited us at the Mont St Michel welcome center. Some other routes take you to Rennes, where you would then board a bus for a little over an hour. So pay attention to which times take you to which routes.
We didn’t feel the need to spend the night, and before we left, we were concerned that our time table might be a bit on the tight side, not leaving us a ton of margin. But as it would happen, with it being low season, we were able to see and do as much as we wanted and then ended up catching an earlier train back to Paris in time for dinner. So – you may want to stay overnight or you might not. Depends on what your goals are.
The star of the show is the beautiful abbey which is definitely worth touring. We got there in time for a noon mass that was achingly beautiful. And we wandered all throughout the buildings, taking our time and lingering where we wanted.
Oh, and I highly recommend picking up a sampling of butter cookies to taste test on your train ride back to Paris.
The cloister in the middle of the abbey was a beautiful example of romanesque architecture. And the views over the water are unparalleled.
IF YOU GO
Check out this fun Airbnb right on the island that we passed by. Charming!
Pay attention to the total travel times on the SNCF’s website (the French railway line). The cheapest fares took up to nearly 2 hours longer than the more expensive fares. If time is limited for you, that might change your plans slightly.
We were there in late November and it was practically deserted. They were doing construction on the main street through town so we weren’t able to walk on i
The shuttle (navette) that departs from the welcome center in the town just outside of MSM has a few stops, but it will take you almost the entire way to the end of the boardwalk at the base of the island. Shuttles depart every 12 minutes. Be sure to give yourself enough time to walk from the navette to your bus so you don’t miss your train.
A super interesting video on the “quicksand” surrounding MSM and how to get yourself out of it.
And don’t miss this video of drone footage surrounding MSM. Stunning.