One of the most recognisable, and most photographed, places in France, Mont Saint Michel is off the Normandy coast in northern France and a fairy-tale destination. There are no direct trains to Mont Saint Michel island. However, visitors can take the train to Pontorson and then a direct shuttle bus to the site from there, which takes no more than 15 minutes. From Paris there are two options: a regional train direct to Pontorson (around 4h00mins) or a high-speed TGV service to Rennes (2h10mins) followed by an onward journey to Pontorson (49 minutes). This remote ‘Wonder of the West’, is therefore actually very accessible by train!
Unsurprisingly a UNESCO Heritage Site, the Benedictine abbey dedicated to archangel Michael has been wowing pilgrims and visitors for centuries. Travelling by train to Mont Saint Michel involves being swept through the picturesque Normandy landscape and enjoying the beautiful setting of the religious monument. Once across the causeway, the immense craggy rock that merges into fortified walls and ramparts, culminating in a series of elegant spires, gives way to the village that sprang up around the abbey. Built between the 10th and 16th centuries, its warren-like cobbled streets transport visitors straight back to the Middle Ages, despite housing a collection of shops and restaurants. The main street, Grande Rue, leads directly from the main gate, Porte de l'Avancée, to the abbey, with the Porte Echauguette entrance to the left offering a quieter route. The abbey, once a renowned centre for learning, has 20 rooms and holds services up to three times a day, every day of the week!
Though much restoration was done to return it to its former glory after being used as a prison during the French Revolution, some original items remain to document this period of the abbey’s incredible history. On the northern side, additions to the site are aptly known as ‘The Marvel’ due to their mind-boggling vertiginous architecture. Meanwhile, the ramparts offer some of the best views of the sweeping mudflats that surround the mount. If all that wonderful sightseeing works up an appetite, specialty omelets are the traditional dish served in the restaurants of Mont Saint Michel, as well as saltmarsh lamb dishes, with plenty of crêperies on offer too.