In this blog post, I’ll guide you through the must-know tips for visiting Mont Saint-Michel with kids, including how to get there, what to do, and why it’s such a magical place to visit.
During our Easter school holidays, we used the beautiful town of Saint Malo as a base to discover Brittany and embarked on a day trip to the iconic Mont Saint-Michel. This medieval monastery-topped island offers a unique and unforgettable experience for the whole family and is the most visited site in France outside of Paris.
Where is Mont Saint-Michel?
The answer to whether Mont Saint-Michel is considered to be part of Brittany or Normandy is a matter of debate. Historically, the island was part of the Duchy of Brittany, which was an independent territory until it was incorporated into France in the 16th century. However, after the French Revolution, Mont Saint-Michel was officially part of the department of Manche, which is in the region of Normandy.
Today, the island is still located in the department of Manche and is part of the Normandy region. However, it’s important to note that the cultural and historical ties to Brittany are still strong and the island is often considered to be a symbol of Breton identity.
Getting to Mont Saint-Michel
By car from Paris: the island is located about 360 km west of Paris, and the drive takes about four hours.
By train from Paris: there is a high speed TGV train from Paris Montparnasse to a town called Rennes from where you take a connecting train to Pontorson Mont St Michel, which is located 9km from the island. From Pontorson you can take a shuttle or a taxi which will take you to Mont Saint-Michel. The whole train journey with the connection will take approximately three and a half hours.
I recommend to avoid visiting Mont Saint-Michel as a day trip from Paris with young children due to the long travel time and the energy required to explore the island. Instead, consider staying overnight nearby or on Mont Saint-Michel itself, with Saint-Malo as an excellent base to discover Brittany, just less than an hour’s drive away.
Additionally, this is to ensure that you can arrive as early as possible in the morning as it gets jam-packed with tourists from late in the morning to mid afternoon.
You do not need to buy tickets to visit Mont Saint Michel. The island is free to access to the public. The only ticket you may consider buying in advance is one to enter the Mont Saint Michel Abbey to skip the non-ticket queues.
Parking and transportation
Upon arriving at Mont Saint-Michel, park in the designated area approximately 2.5 km from the island. From there, choose from two main options to reach the island:
1. Shuttle Bus
Hop aboard the free shuttle service called “Passeur,” which transports visitors from the parking area to the entrance of Mont Saint-Michel in about 10 minutes. The shuttle runs every day, with frequent departures. During the peak season, there are queues to board the shuttle but the shuttles pull up every few minutes so the waiting time is not too long. The earlier in the day you arrive, the faster you will board the shuttle service and be on your way to Mont Saint-Michel. If you are travelling with younger children this is the way to go.
For families with older kids or those seeking a more picturesque experience of getting to the island, the 2.5-kilometer walk along the pedestrian causeway offers stunning views of Mont Saint-Michel and its surroundings and takes about 45 minutes.
Essential tips for visiting Mont Saint-Michel with kids
1. Dress appropriately, with layers and a windbreaker, as the island can get windy.
2. Aim to visit early in the day, especially during peak season (July and August), to avoid crowds.
3. Check the tide timetable to plan your visit around low tide, allowing exploration of the surrounding bay.
4. Prioritise comfortable, supportive shoes for the whole family.
5. Use a baby carrier instead of a stroller to navigate the island’s steep streets and steps.
6. Bring snacks, as cafés and restaurants on the island can be crowded and offer varying quality.
Things to do in Mont Saint-Michel with kids
Visiting the Abbey was the highlight of our visit and it’s a must-see attraction.
You can borrow an audio guide or join a guided tour (included in the admission price) available in French or English at different times during the day. The guided tours generally last about 90 minutes, and no advance booking is required. Our English-speaking guide was a French historian who shared stories and fun facts about the construction of the Abbey, the people who lived on the island in the past and who call it their home now. Despite the seemingly long tour, the children stayed awake and enjoyed the engaging commentary as we walked around the Abbey.
Perched on top of the island, the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey is an architectural marvel whose long history is thought to date back to 708 AD, when Bishop Aubert of Avranches had a sanctuary built on Mont-Tombe in honour of the Archangel Michael. Since then, the mount has been a significant pilgrimage destination, attracting millions of visitors every year.
During the 10th century, the Benedictines settled in the abbey, and a village began to grow below its walls. By the 14th century, the village had extended to the foot of the rock. As you walk through the abbey, you’ll witness the incredible beauty of a mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles. And, as you learn about its rich history, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
Although the English made several attempts to conquer Mont St. Michel, they were ultimately unsuccessful. During the Hundred Years War, which lasted from 1337 to 1453, the English made several assaults on the Abbey, hoping to gain control of this strategic location. However, due to its fortifications and the bravery of its defenders, Mont Saint- Michel was able to resist all of the English attacks.
In fact, Mont Saint-Michel became a symbol of national identity for the French, as it represented their strength and resilience against their enemies. The mount’s strategic location, with its tides and quicksand, made it almost impregnable, and it remained a symbol of French resistance for centuries.
After visiting the Abbey, take a leisurely stroll through the narrow, winding streets of Mont Saint-Michel, where you’ll discover half-timbered houses, shops, and museums. The kids will love exploring the nooks and crannies of this ancient village, which feels like stepping back in time. Walking along the ramparts, which are a series of fortifications that surround the mount, offers a panoramic view of the surrounding bay.
Walking on the sandy bay surrounding Mont Saint-Michel during low tide is a unique and unforgettable experience that offers a rare opportunity to see the island from a different perspective. It’s important to note that it can also be dangerous due to the strong currents and quicksand. Exploring the area with a guide is mandatory during times of low tide.
So, embark on a family adventure to Mont Saint-Michel and have your own unforgettable experience with kids.