Rising up from the midst of vast mud flats and some of Europe’s most powerful tidal waves is the rocky island of Mont Saint-Michel, located off France’s northwestern coast in Normandy. The tidal island is significant for its construction of medieval structures built as if stacked upon one another and crowned with the star attraction, the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel.
The awe-inspiring abbey was built by devoted monks in 708 AD after the Bishop of Avranches was allegedly visited by the Archangel Michael. Since then, Mont Saint Michel has served as an important pilgrimage point, strategic fortress and prison over the centuries.
The island is connected to the mainland by a causeway, which can be reached by buses from Rennes and Pontorson. During low tide, a muddy sandbar appears to provide access by foot, but tourists are strongly advised not walk across it because of the dangers presented by the powerful tides.
A visit to Mont Saint-Michel offers views of medieval walls, fortifications, a small village of less than 100 residents and narrow, winding streets lined with beautiful chapels, gardens, museums, shops and hotels. At the base of the old abbey is a wide selection of cafes and restaurants.