Fee to visit Mont-Saint-Michel rejected for other ways to ease crowds

‘People forget that it’s a commune; it’s a village. We can’t just introduce limits and stop citizens from coming and going,’ says the director

“Just like Venice, we’re a real place…We are not an amusement park or a museum,” said director Thomas Velter

The director of Mont-Saint-Michel historical site has ruled out charging foot tourists a fee to visit the popular Normandy attraction and instead proposed other ways to ease overcrowding.

“Just like Venice, we’re a real place,” said Thomas Velter to BFMTV. “We are not an amusement park or a museum. So when people say that we should impose quotas or a fee, it’s as though they forget that it’s a commune; it’s a village.

“We can’t just introduce limits and stop citizens from coming and going. You already have to pay to park. So adding another tax, another fee, it’s not what we want. That’s not the right direction for a public establishment…to choose to put in place.”

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The site attracts three million visitors per year, and always sees a spike on fine days. More than 15,000 people visited on April 29 alone, said Mr Velter, “the equivalent of some days in July”. Around a third of visitors - one million people - visit in July and August alone.

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Mont-Saint-Michel is hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s Ascension Day (May 9), when more than 10,500 tickets to the abbey were sold in a single day. The mount is also set to be in an ever greater spotlight than usual this summer, with the passing of the Olympic Flame on May 31.

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 Yet, rather than impose strict quotas to the mount or charge high fees, Mr Velter has shared other ways that the site is seeking to reduce crowds. These include:

  • Parking costs up to 30% lower at non-peak times

  • Free parking in some car parks from 18:00, during 10 months of the year

  • Timing cultural events to attract visitors throughout the year, rather than only on peak dates

  • Running cultural events for longer hours (e.g. closing at midnight) to stagger arrivals and departures

  • Advising tourists to come before 10:00 or after 15:00 (as the hours of 10:00 to 16:00 are always “the most complicated”, said Mr Velter)

His aim is to “spread visitors out more evenly”, the director said. He also said that his team was working on ways to enable tourists to “reserve parking spaces in the morning”, to avoid the busiest times of the day and stagger arrivals. 

That would be “a new and innovative idea for Mont-Saint-Michel", he said.