Places to see in Bretagne: Mont Saint-Michel and Cancale

As promised I am back with a recap of my travels after taking a short break to enjoy time with my family. Since my mom and aunt were only visiting for a few days, we chose to stay in Bretagne for our trips, which wasn't a bad choice at all. After travelling south-way to visit Bordeaux (and completely falling in love with the city) it was nice to get to know the side of France I have been living in for two months. That is why today I will introduce you to two places to see in Bretagne (though, one of them is technically in the Normandy). Sunday morning we filled my small Nissan Micra with gas and off on the road we went.

First stop: Mont Saint Michel

... which is actually just on the other side of the border: in the Normandy. But since everyone who comes to Bretagne is told to go there and it is only a 1.5 h drive from Rennes, I find it to be one of the places to see in Bretagne.  Places to see in Bretagne: Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is a tiny commune with 44 residents living on the same-named island not far from the north-eastern coast of France. Since it lays only 600 meters from the land it is accessible during low tide. It is also super windy and cold during the winter season, so we chose to take the free tourist bus going there from the visitors parking spot and also passed on the walk across the mudflats, in favor of our shoes. 

I doubt that we missed out though, since the city/commune itself was an awesome experience. We thoroughly enjoyed the medieval flair of the small, serpentine alleys with restaurants and tourist shops along the way. And the people were, as I experienced throughout Bretagne so far, really friendly. One man stopped and shared his French fries with the birds, when he noticed that I tried to take pictures of them. The further we went the better became the view. Lucky us must have picked the right day to visit the island: the entrance into the abbey was free, though it is usually 9€ per adult.

Inside the museum there is a stone slab picturing the legend of Mont Saint Michel: According to it in 708 the archangel Michael appeared to bishop Aubert of Avranches and placed the order to built a church on the island. When the bishop did not follow the order, even though he was asked three times in a row, Michael pressed his finger on Aubert’s skull and burned a hole into it – subsequently Aubert built the first sanctuary on the island. Until 933 Mont Saint-Michel was part of the Bretagne before the Normans annexed it and built a first church. More buildings were added to it in the following centuries, that is why you can enjoy a mix of various architectural styles when you visit the abbey today from pre-roman architecture to neo-gothic elements. Initially a monastery, the place was used as a prison during the French revolution, nicknamed “the bastille of the sea”. The Benedictine monks did not come back to the Island until the late 20th century. 

Nowadays the place is used as a monastery again, but I guess the monks are staying in buildings which are not open for tourism, since we did not see any. After climbing up to the top of the abbey and walking back to the car, we were not only frozen to the bone, but also super hungry. So we followed the next recommendation and were back on the road to Bretagne. 

Second stop: Cancale

Cancale, or the city of oysters, is a small town in Bretagne, separated in two parts – the main city (la Ville Haute) and the harbor (la Houle). We took the small road alongside the sea to go directly towards the harbor, were we took a few pictures of the stormy sea, before looking for a restaurant which is open in the afternoon – a rare thing in France, as I noticed. Most restaurants are open during lunch hours, closed in the afternoon, and do not open again until 7 pm. Since we arrived in Cancale around 4 pm, we considered ourselves quite lucky to still manage to get some food, before the last place closed down for its afternoon break. 

We enjoyed fresh Cancale oysters for starters and delicious grilled and steamed fish for our main course. Since we could not get enough of the amazing seafood the town offers, my aunt bought some crawfish from a fisher at the harbor and we devoured it with baguette and wine for a late dinner – what better way to end a day like this?

If you are ever coming to northern France, I definitely recommend visiting these two places and if you are already on the route, you should probably also go to Saint Malo. Due to the horrible weather we chose to skip it this time, but I heard that the city itself is worth a visit and the Saint Malo bay has one of the biggest tide-difference in Europe.

Any places you can recommend to eat some amazing seafood? Do you enjoy getting to know the history and legends behind places you visit?

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4 Comments on Places to see in Bretagne: Mont Saint-Michel and Cancale

  1. That castle looks incredible! As does the fish ;) Northern France is definitely creeping up my places to visit list!

  2. It looks fantastic, glad that you are having a great time. We went to Normandy on a school trip years ago and I remember it being very cultural.

  3. I went to Mont Saint-Michel when I was younger on a school trip, this brings back a lot of memories!

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