The dreamy island area of Mont Saint Michel is a must-see for families visiting Normandy. In fact, this local treasure actually began with a dream: Saint Hubert, Bishop of Avranches, saw the Archangel Michael appear to him in his sleep one night in the year 706, inviting him to build a temple in his name.
In 966, a community of Benedictine monks founded and built the first church here. At this time the monastery began to receive its first pilgrims. The site grew and was fortified during and after the Hundred Years’ War and the French Revolution. Today, families can stroll through the town and admire the old monastery, its walls, Gothic architecture and Regular architecture.
Tips for visiting Mont Saint-Michel with children
Leave plenty of time
Allow a full day to access and explore the monastery and its surroundings. Many visitors choose to make the trip from a larger city nearby, such as Bayeux. It’s essential to leave plenty of time for this day trip as cars are not allowed directly onto the island – you can reach the municipality via Mont Saint-Michel’s free bus, ‘Le Passeur’, which runs every 15 minutes between 7:30am and midnight. Although low tides do not usually interfere with shuttle service, there are occasional days in any given year when high tide prevents access for about an hour.
From June to September, it is possible to take a day trip to Mont Saint Michel by train Paris And then the bus goes inside. However, we do not recommend this option for families as the trip alone takes approximately four hours.
advice: Bayeux is also an ideal home base for those incorporating D-Day beaches into their itinerary.
Hire a guide
It is useful to have a guide to Mont Saint-Michel to understand the unique history, architecture and environmental aspects of this famous UNESCO World Heritage site. Besides helping families navigate the crowded trails through the area and find less traveled paths to escape the crowds, a guide can also tailor the visit to your specific areas of interest. If you choose to explore on your own, the audio guide located at the monastery is worth it.
Consider your interests
At low tide, families with older children and teenagers can wade in the quicksand surrounding the island, or even cross the entire bay to learn about the pilgrimage made by the faithful to Mount Saint-Michel over the centuries. (A guide is strictly required in this case.) With the help of a guide, you can also arrange a lunch on the seaside or combine a visit to the monastery and the municipality with a stop in a local town such as Villedieu-les-Poêles, famous for its copperware.
Understanding the terrain
Mont Saint-Michel has become a bit of a touristy area, so we suggest arriving on the island by 9am to enjoy the views and not have to wait too long for the bus to arrive. The monastery and its walls are a prominent attraction and require climbing several stairs. For this reason, this hike is not ideal for families with very young children or strollers. Be sure to pack water and snacks, and plan to dress for the variable weather, which can change quickly.
advice: Be sure to stop for panoramic photos after you get off the shuttle bus and before you fully arrive on the island – ideally at the beginning of your trip while everyone is still fresh!
Where to stay when visiting Mount Saint-Michel
Although there are hotel options in Mont Saint Michel right on the island, we prefer to stay in one of the Normandy towns that puts you close to other tourist attractions in the area. Our family travel consultants can help you book accommodations that suit your plans and the ages of your children, often with exclusive amenities and perks, and we can arrange private guides and tours, too. Connect with us for more information.