Night and Day on Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel at Night

Its familiar silhouette beckoned us in pictures and postcards for as long as we can remember. In some ways this walled city that appears to have sprouted from a rocky outcropping off the Normandy Coast is as much a symbol of France as is the Eiffel tower. And yet, somehow, we had never seen it with our own eyes before. On our latest trip back to France we were determined to change that.


We arrived in the late afternoon just as most of the day trippers were heading home. We had heard correctly that the tiny stronghold is overrun by throngs of tourists during the day. About three million people visit Mont Saint Michel every year; a number far larger than its tiny stone streets and roughly fifty shops were designed to accommodate.

Set atop a rocky tidal island, the Mount’s small size and geographic isolation prevents much additional tourist expansion. That means hotels here are limited and that is both a blessing and a curse. Lodging is hard to come by, books up early, and is the most expensive we encountered anywhere in France. We paid about the same price for a small room on the Mount as we did to rent a studio apartment in the heart of Paris just a short walk to the Louvre.

But that price bought us far more than simple lodging. Once the last tour bus left for the day, we had this medieval wonder almost completely to ourselves.

Mont Saint Michel Streets at Night

The entire place reminded me of something out of the Divine Comedy. I don’t know if Dante ever visited Mont Saint Michel, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he structured his purgatory as a satirical rebuke to the ancient Christian hierarchy around which the island was structured.

Dante’s Purgatorio and Mont St. Michel

The base of the island is where lowly fishermen and farmers once toiled. Above them in both station and physical location was the merchant class who lived and worked in the middle rings of Mont Saint Michel. Above all, perched at the island’s pinnacle, loomed the Christian Church in the form of an omnipresent and impressive abbey.  

Mont Saint Michel Chapel Interior

The fishermen are now gone from the area, but the merchants still ply their trade on the Mount’s middle streets and the 11th century Abbey has now become a huge tourist draw. And it is striking.

Mont Saint Michel Cloister

Mont Saint Michel Cloister

As are the old ramparts and ancient architecture. After a late night wandering the mostly deserted and darkly lit streets, we got up early to stroll the same paths again in the morning light.

Mont Saint Michel Ramparts

We enjoyed the solitude for a couple of hours before seeing an unmistakable sign it was time for us to leave. The first tour bus of the morning had arrived.

The first tour bus of the monring arrives

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8 Comments on “Night and Day on Mont Saint Michel”

  1. Wondering Celt October 6, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    We found it quite dirty too, did you? Admittedly it was after a long day of tourist buses! We visited late but were not able to stay……..that’s the way to see Sienna too if you are thinking of going there. We had a lovely few days making it our base to trips elsewhere then enjoyed the town at night for romantic strolls and wine fuelled evenings!! (without busloads of tourists…bliss)


    • Brian October 6, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      We didn’t find it dirty at all. In fact, you can see the ground clearly in several of the above photos and there isn’t a piece of trash anywhere.


  2. digger666 October 6, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Reblogged this on digger666.


  3. paigeelizabethl October 6, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Man, this made me miss this place even more! I’ll have to plan a return trip. Late afternoon/evening sounds like the way to go.


  4. sweetsound October 6, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    Oh I *love* your streets at night photo! I think it gives the location the most allure of all of them.


  5. secretlykindoffunny October 16, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    A part of me already belongs to France. Now I have yet another reason to go back. Thanks for sharing!



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