Mont Saint Michel: how to visit it? Opatija, tides and timetables

The view towards the sea from the cathedral gardens

Where is Mont Saint Michel and what is it?

We're talking about Normandia, is in the extreme west of this French region. Shortly before the beginning of Brittany, an islet rises in the middle of the sea on which in 708 AD the bishop of Avranches, following 3 apparitions of the archangel St. Michael, ordered the construction of the abbey on what was then called Monte Tombs.

Initially it was a small church but over the centuries it was enlarged and raised more and more. Walking inside the abbey you notice how these passages gradually changed the appearance of Mont Saint Michel making it what it is today.

During history it also assumed military characteristics, it was a symbol of French independence since it was impossible to besiege due to the tides.

A detail on the French flag in Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel therefore had an important history by changing its destination several times, just think that it also became a state prison. These continuous upheavals of its functions continued until the second half of the 800th century when, thanks to the romantic intellectuals, Mont Saint Michel was considered a historical monument, therefore a place to be preserved.

Its nature as a place of worship reappeared only in 1969 when a small group of religious returned to live in the buildings of the abbey.

If you want to deepen the historical aspects:

Mont Saint Michel and the abbey in the middle of the sea

After these small and superficial historical notes, we come to the present day.

Mont Saint Michel is UNESCO heritage. It is one of the most visited destinations in all of France and for many it is the symbol of Normandy. After all, how to blame him, it is a special place that attracts thousands of visitors every day.

The main feature of Mont Saint Michel is that it almost completely becomes an island whenever there is high tide. Normandy, like the entire north coast of France, is very affected by the tides, I had also talked about it on the post for how to visit the cliffs of Etretat. And by very much I mean that in the Mont Saint Michel area the water is moving away for kilometers and kilometers, we are talking about 15 km from the coast. Every 6 hours there are either high or low tide peaks and in this area it is particularly evident.

A glimpse from Mont Saint Michel

During the full moon the phenomenon of the tides is even stronger and sometimes the abbey becomes a real island in the middle of the sea for a few hours.

How to access Mont Saint Michel? Where to park?

Until 2012 it was possible to arrive with your own private vehicle near the entrance of Mont Saint Michel, from that year on the situation has changed as it was necessary to make changes in order not to alter the spectacle of the tides.

In fact, the dam which in the past was built to allow access to the bridge, has been replaced by a suspension bridge on which pedestrians, public transport and horse carts pass.

* If you want more information on the works carried out in Mont Saint Michel I invite you to read this article very complete *

The only way to get to Mont Saint Michel is to leave the car in the appropriate external car parks and use the free shuttle (hours from 7.30 to 24.00) which starts from the same parking lots and leaves you just before the entrance.

The alternative is take a nice walk of about 3 km enjoying the view little by little.

What to do in Mont Saint Michel?

The islet must be turned strictly on foot, discovering every little corner, every little glimpse of the wet sandy bay, stopping for a drink in its splendid bars set between the stone walls or buying some souvenirs in the classic tourist shops.

La visit of Mont Saint Michel and its abbey it will keep you busy for about 3 to 4 hours.

I recommend that you enjoy each landscape calmly. From above you can see a wonderful view of the bay that turns towards the open sea or towards the internal coast. You will see all the people returning from excursions in the bay moving in single file following the local guide.

The view towards the mainland

It is fascinating to think that all that landscape will come after a few hours covered with meters and meters of salt water. Yet, it is, and the tide is coming in so fast that many consider it a galloping horse. That is why it is forbidden to venture on the expanse of wet sand independently, it is absolutely recommended to take part in organized tours.

I want to emphasize this aspect. One of the problems with Mont Saint Michel is that there is also quicksand around the islet. Only local guides who know the territory inside out can move safely. Be careful!

A detail of Mont Saint Michel

Among the activities to do around Mont Saint Michel are excursions on foot or on horseback. It could therefore be an excellent idea to combine a visit to the abbey with an experience in the bay.

Visit the abbey of Saint Michel

Another of the things not to be missed is that of visit the interior of the abbey of Mont Saint Michel. The entrance costs 10 euro. Through an obligatory path you can see almost the entire complex. You start from the top floor and walk through the interior of the abbey passing through its courtyards, the cloister, reaching the original nucleus or the Romanesque crypts. Visit absolutely worth the ticket price, after all, when will you ever return to Saint Michel !?

The opening hours and days of the abbey are:

  • From 2/01 to 30/04 from 9.30 to 18.00
  • From 2/05 to 31/08 from 9.00 to 19.00
  • From 1/09 to 31/12 from 9.30 to 18.00
  • It is closed on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.

Mont St. Michel tide times

I admit that for me understanding how the tides worked was not a simple thing. Or rather, it's very simple, but it took me a while to figure it out.

Where to find them?

First of all for the Mont Saint Michel tide times I refer you to Official site where you can download the complete calendar.

I try to give you a hand in reading, you will find a screen like this for each month:

How to read them?

Le dates colored deep red correspond to the events with greater force, it can also be seen from the higher coefficient. The scale of the tide strength reaches up to 120. The moment with the greatest strength was on March 20, 2015 when the coefficient was 119.

Taking Sunday 5 November 2017 for example… The table indicates that the coefficient was 106, the high tide peaks were at 7.31 in the morning and at 19.54 in the afternoon, while the low tide peaks were at 2.12 in the morning and at 14.35 in the afternoon. This means that:

  • From 7.31 am to 14.35 pm the water has been retreating towards the sea.
  • From 14.35 to 19.54 the water returned covering the bay.
  • From 19.54 to 2.12 it retreated again towards the sea.
  • From 2.12 to 7.31 he covered the bay.

In the case of November 5th, if you had wanted to see the water increase and reach the building, you would have had to arrive in the afternoon to wait for the arrival of high tide.

In practice the movement of the water is reversed every 6 hours and the "complete cycle" occurs approximately every 12 hours.

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