Perched on a rocky island between Normandy and Brittany, Mont St Michel is a must visit for anyone planning a trip to Western France. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, this Benedictine abbey was dedicated to the archangel St Michael. A masterpiece of architecture, blending the Gothic and medieval styles beautifully, it boasts of magnificent views over the entire bay. The testimony to the popularity of Mont St Michel is the fact that it attracts almost 3 million visitors a year, thereby making it the third most popular tourist destination in France.
If we turn the pages of history, myths and legends reveal that the Archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. During the French Revolution, Mont St Michel was closed and converted into a prison. It was finally listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
Mont St Michel continues to be a major pilgrimage destination for Christians. Another significant aspect about Mont Saint-Michel is the fact that it remains illuminated from the night fall to midnight all year long, further enhancing its beauty. Rightly nicknamed “The Wonder of the Western World”, the Mont-Saint-Michel is surrounded by a magnificent bay with the same name, which has the highest tides in Europe.
As far as the best time to visit Mont St Michel is concerned, tourists are forewarned that there is only one road leading into and out of the site, resulting in a traffic jam at most times. So it is recommended that you start early so that precious time doesn’t get wasted in jams.
As far as accessing Mont St Michel is concerned, the first step for all tourists is to form their base at Paris. Paris is well connected via flights to all major international cities. Once in Paris, there are a couple of options from which tourists can choose to reach Mont St Michel. The cheapest and easiest way of visiting Mont Saint Michel is by car. From Paris the total driving time is approximately 4 hours. Though the car parking charges are high, there is ample parking space. There are no direct train services between Paris and Mont St Michel. However, it is a good idea to take a train till Pontorson after which the last leg of the journey can be completed by bus. Attempting to reach Mont St Michel by any other route can prove to be dangerous. Thus, the best way to discover the bay safely is to take one of the many guided tours on offer.
The timings of Mont St Michel varies at different months in the year. In July and August, which is also the peak season, it is open from 9:00 am till 7:00 pm every day. In March and October, Mont St Michel remains open from 9:30 am till 12:30 am and from 2:00 pm till 6:00 pm every day. In November, December, January, February, the timings are from 10.00am till 12.30am and from 02.00pm till 05.00pm every day. The timings are highly varying and can tend to get confusing. That is why visitors are advised to plan their visit to Mont St Michel cautiously.
So enjoy this picturesque abbey by planning a vacation to Mont St Michel soon.