What to see in France
Tourist attractions Mont Saint-Michel
Standing at the mouth of the Couesnon River, approximately 1 kilometre off the coast of Normandy, is the spellbinding island of Mont Saint-Michel, a tiny rocky outcrop, surrounded almost entirely by sandbanks. A French commune, this fairytale sight is like something from a storybook, with the spire of Saint-Michel Abbey marking the tallest point on the island. One of Normandy’s most popular tourist attractions, the entire island, complete with ancient monastic buildings, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This medieval monastery is accessed from the mainland via a new bridge, built in 2014, although, on occasion, the bridge becomes unpassable during high-tide, something to take into account if you visit Mont Saint-Michel.
This holy island was an important site of pilgrimage for centuries, and even today, pilgrims follow in the footsteps of their ancient counterparts as they make the journey to Mont Saint-Michel from across Europe. There are even a number of remaining holy pilgrimage trails which connect several European cities to this sacred destination. Interestingly, during the French Revolution, Mont Saint-Michel was used as a prison, before being returned to its religious purpose in 1966. The island sits in a picturesque location, surrounded by the dramatic Normandy coastline and during the Middle Ages, it became a renowned centre of learning and manuscript illumination.
The Abbey of Saint-Michel was constructed by an Italian architect in the 11th century. Legend has it that the Archangel Michael appeared to a local bishop in a vision and instructed him to build a church upon this rocky island, transforming the obscure Mont Tombe, as it was then known, into a centre of Christianity. Medieval monastic buildings were added to the island to accommodate the increasing numbers of devotees over the centuries and, today, this tiny walled city is an unmissable sight to explore on a trip to Normandy.
Today, visiting Mont Saint-Michel is sure to transport you back in time as you walk in the footsteps of the monks, knights and holy men than once frequented this unique place. As well as the historic sights, you’ll also find a number of restaurants, cafes and even hotels on the island. Just imagine waking up to that view if you choose to enjoy an overnight stay on Mont Saint-Michel!
What to see in Mont Saint-Michel
Of course, a trip to Mont Saint-Michel is incomplete without contemplating the grandeur of the legendary Abbey of Saint-Michel, at the heart of the island. This spectacular example of medieval architecture is home to ornate cloisters, ancient chambers and a stunning abbey church, seemingly untouched by the passing of time.
Visiting the Abbey of Saint-Michel is a treat at any time of year, but during the summer evenings, a magical sound and light show takes place, including innovative projection art which showcases the fascinating history of this legendary landmark. This fantastic show means that summer is one of the best times to visit Mont Saint Michel. Once you have finished admiring the abbey, visitors can learn more about the island at the Historical Museum, which showcases the 1000 year story of Mont Saint-Michel.
A short stroll along narrow cobblestone streets, past fine eateries and charming architecture, will bring you to the Logis Tiphaine Museum, a historic house with period furniture which was once the home of a 14th-century knight and his famous astrologer wife, Tiphaine de Raguenel, another of the fascinating things to see in Mont Saint-Michel.