What to do in Saint Malo: The complete illustrated guide

What to do in Saint Malo and surroundings? A bastion of pirates for hundreds of years, the “Corsair City” has always done things its own way: In the 1590s, it even declared itself an independent republic.

Saint-Malo is still defended by its historic ramparts, while the islands adjoining the town continue to be fortified by 17th century bastions.

Walk the cobbled streets inside the ramparts and discover the sumptuous residences of the people who became wealthy thanks to the corsairs in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Saint-Malo also has a lot to tell about August 1944, when it was liberated from the Germans.

On hot summer days, the fine sand of Plage du Sillon will challenge you.

The ramparts of Saint-Malo

what to do in saint malo

The ramparts protect the whole of the old town of Saint-Malo and form a circuit of 1.75 kilometers.

They were built in the 1100s, updated to combat new military technology in the 1600s, and then expanded again until the mid-18th century.

On this walk, which is part of the 15 things to do in Saint Malo, make sure you have literature with you, because each door has a story to tell.

Climb the ramparts to discover panoramas of the sea, the island of Grand Bé, the National Fort, Dinard on the water and the magnificent granite houses of the rich shipowners of the city, and go down if you see a shop or a creperie you like in the shopping streets .

The Grande Porte, to the east, is flanked by two bastions and guards the narrow strip of land that connects the fortified town to what is now the suburbs of Saint-Malo

The old Saint-Malo

With gray granite as a material, the houses of Saint-Malo have a distinguished air that borders on severity, but is always beautiful.

The ” Intra Muros ” district is made up of cobbled streets with bars, restaurants, high-end boutiques and creperies.

The town’s sense of venerability is so strong that it seems almost impossible that most of Saint-Malo needed restoration after 1944. The choice is difficult, the most picturesque are in the old Saint-Malo, but the rue Jacques Cartier is magnificent.

Here, on the east side of the walled town, the houses are built into the defenses and the ground floor is a long string of cafes and restaurants .

The Furrow Beach

what to do in saint malo

One of these dynamic beaches in perpetual motion, the Plage du Sillon , is three kilometers of fine sand which begins just north of the fortified town.

On the edge is a large embankment, built at the beginning of the 20th century and stretching for more than a kilometer and a half.

This makes it easy to walk around at any time of the year, work up an appetite and see the kites at low tide.

On balmy summer days, families come for the fine sand and can swim in the shallow rock pools on the western edge of Fort National.

Then, on winter days, the sea crashes against the banks at high tide.

The Castle of Saint-Malo

In the northeast corner of the walls is the castle built by the Dukes of Brittany from the 1400s to secure their ownership of the town, now the town hall of Saint-Malo.

The castle stands above the town to recall the authority of the dukes, then of the king of France after unification in the 16th century.

The Grand Donjon offers the best views of Saint-Malo from the platform on its roof.

This building houses a museum on the history of the town and the surrounding “Malouin” region, which visits some of the intriguing personalities of this part of France, such as the writer Chateaubriand and the explorer Jacques Cartier .

The Grand Aquarium Saint-Malo

Saint Malo children's activities

A quick bus ride from the walled city will take you to the Saint-Malo Aquarium , a much-hyped outing that is updated almost every new season. This activity is an integral part of the 15 things to do in Saint-Malo.

For those vacationing with kids, it’s a rainy-day attraction that also fits right in with the city’s maritime history.

You can’t talk about the animals without mentioning the 360° shark tank , which was added in 2011 and contains 600,000 liters.

In another aquarium, the wreckage of a historic galleon is home to whitetip and blacktip sharks.

Elsewhere, the aquarium synthesizes environments from around the world. Thus, the mangrove is home to piranhas, four-eyed fish and turtles, and the tropical basin to corals and colorful species such as clownfish and surgeonfish.

Info and booking: https://www.aquarium-st-malo.com/

The district of Paramé

The Plage du Sillon district, to the north-east of the walled city, developed rapidly at the end of the 19th century, equipping it with numerous Belle Époque style villas.

These were built by wealthy vacationers, who let their imaginations run wild.

With an itinerary, you could take a short walking tour of this leafy neighborhood, stopping to see fabulous homes like Villa l’Argonne on Boulevard Chateaubriand, which has a stunning octagonal tower and alternating brickwork pattern. red and glazed.

Next, the Villa Remember, on boulevard Hébert, is of an exaggerated Flemish style, with a crow’s step gable and a stone finial.

The National Fort of Saint-Malo

what to do in saint malo

The genius Vauban drew up the plans for this advanced bastion on the rock of Îlette , at the western end of the Sillon beach.

It bears its witness star configuration and is the final piece of Saint-Malo’s defensive puzzle, designed to protect the city from the British Navy.

He did this work in 1693, when he helped repel an Anglo-Dutch attack.

Much later it became a makeshift prison for German forces in the final days of their occupation in 1944. The fortress is open in the summer for guided tours and is a perfect document of 17th century military design.

Explore Le Grand Bé

You also have to wait for low tide to access Grand Bé, another islet a few steps from the ramparts.

During World War II, small rocky islets like this became a useful base for German guns.

When the Americans liberated Saint-Malo, Grand Bé fell quickly, but it was weeks before the Alet peninsula , at the mouth of the Rance, surrendered.

Many come to Grand Bé to pay homage to romantic writer Chateaubriand , whose tomb faces the sea as he requested 20 years before his death.

The GR-34 from Saint-Malo

GR 34 saint-malo

The Sentier des Douaniers is exactly what it says it is: A coastal path designed in the 1700s to outsmart smugglers.

If you wish, you can leave from Saint-Malo and walk to Brest in Finistère!

But it takes 25 days to cover these 400 kilometers on foot, so it’s not really a day trip! You could instead spend a memorable day exploring the Emerald Coast, on either side of Saint-Malo.

You’ll encounter windswept beaches, granite cliffs, wildflower-strewn meadows, oyster and mussel beds, and plenty of WWII bunkers and pillboxes.

Briantais Park

On the heights of the Rance estuary is a sumptuous English park which once formed the park of the Château de la Briantais .

The estate belonged to wealthy shipowners who built a Baroque mansion there in 1666. The eerie but beautiful ruins of this building can still be seen in the park.

A newer castle, dating from the 19th century, is still thriving as a cultural center, with art exhibitions and concerts of jazz and classical music.

Visit it for meditative walks along sculpture-strewn avenues, and to see those exhilarating views. The park is undoubtedly one of the 15 things to do in Saint-Malo.

You can see Saint-Malo, Dinard and the whole of the Rance estuary.

Self-guided tour of a Malouinière

Many people made their fortunes from the corsairs of the 16th to 19th centuries, and in the vicinity of Saint-Malo are five sumptuous houses that the shipowners left behind.

They are all open to the public to varying degrees in summer and are known as ” Malouinières “, which derives from the name of the town.

One of the most accessible is the Puits Sauvage, which has belonged to the same family for more than 200 years.

On a self-guided tour, you’ll walk through the French Parterre and see stables, dovecotes, an oratory, a bakery and a gigantic 260 square meter glass roof that houses a marvelous cactus garden.

Visit the Jacques Cartier Museum

The only surviving house belonging to the man who discovered Canada, the Manoir de Limoëlou was Cartier ‘s summer residence in the years following his return from his trip.

The interior has been redecorated with period furniture and the various rooms now have the same function they would have served when Cartier lived there.

Those new to the subject can discover the navigation instruments used by Cartier during a guided tour.

Tours are in French only, but there is an English guide and the museum film also has an English option.

Info and booking: http://www.musee-jacques-cartier.fr/

The 39/45 Memorial

As we said, it took weeks to break the German resistance in Saint-Malo, and they dug into this anti-aircraft bunker in the Cité d’Alet, located in the courtyard of a 17th century fortress which had also been designed by Vauban.

Memorial 39/45 is an exhibition that recreates the war years in Saint-Malo, in the vast bunker of more than 500 square meters, on three levels and ten rooms.

You will be immersed in this dark chapter of the city’s past with the help of authentic documents, weapons, uniforms and the specially made historical film “The Battle of Saint-Malo “.

Go to discover Dinard

what to do in dinard

Opposite Saint-Malo, on the left bank of the Rance, Dinard has received the epithet “Nice du Nord” for its majestic atmosphere.

Along the way, you may be intrigued to know that the bridge that crosses the Rance estuary is also home to Europe’s first tidal power station, built in 1966 and still in operation.

Once you arrive in Dinard, you will be dazzled by the luxurious mansions, dating from the end of the 19th century, when the resort became “the” place to see during the summer season.

Many of its mansions are now listed and can be seen from the Promenade du Clair de Lune, which winds along the coast, offering a magnificent view of Saint-Malo on summer evenings.

The view of Saint Malo is also very appreciable, it allows you to take advantage of the grandeur of the intramural ramparts.

Breton cuisine

eat oyster saint malo

Seafood should be a priority on your culinary agenda in Saint-Malo.

Cancale , the oyster capital of Brittany, is a few minutes east of the city.

The fame of Cancale oysters dates back to Roman times, when they were consumed by the legions of Julius Caesar, while Louis XIV had them delivered every day expressly from this city.

And it may be obvious, but crepe is almost synonymous with Brittany.

Try the sweet crepe or the savory galette, made with buckwheat flour.

Another Breton specialty, cider is also very present in Saint-Malo; it is sweet and sour, with a slight sparkle and is the perfect partner for ham and cheese galettes.

Attend the highest tides in Europe in Saint Malo – Brittany

Saint Malo is known to be the city where you can witness the highest tides in Europe. The difference between high tide and low tide can reach 12 meters, which is why the city has developed in such a way as to take advantage of this natural phenomenon. You can admire the tidal waves from different places in the city, but the best place to see them is from the walls of Saint-Malo also called intra muros.

You can walk along the dike and admire the power of the waves, but also on foot above it, at the top of the dike. But be careful, the waves sometimes break and flood the dike. It is best to go there with a licensed guide, who will tell you all about the tides and the history.

Take advantage of a stay in Saint Malo to come and admire the high tides with your family and enjoy many other activities in and around the city.

Walk along the port of Saint Malo

The port of Saint Malo is a very pleasant place to take a stroll and there are many small shops and restaurants on the edge where you can taste fresh seafood. You can also admire the yachts of the rich and famous, which anchor in the port of Saint Malo.

Arriving at the port, you will be pleasantly surprised by the warm atmosphere of this place. In summer, you can sit on a terrace and enjoy a good meal with fresh products.

Historically, the port of Saint-Malo has always been a place at the center of entertainment and relaxation. On the quay there was a theater in 1776 with shows such as “Ubu Roi” by Alfred Jarry or “La Reine Morte” by Victor Hugo. Today it is mainly a place for tourists to enjoy a nice walk in the sun or a drink on one of the waterside terraces.

Take to the sea to discover the Emerald Coast in Brittany

The Emerald Coast has been repeatedly voted one of the most beautiful coastal paths in Europe. You can walk or drive along this road which passes through picturesque villages, secluded coves and sandy beaches . The sea is perfect for swimming, fishing and surfing. From the center of Saint-Malo, it takes an hour’s drive to cover the entire route, allowing you to enjoy this beautiful beach-strewn landscape at your own pace.

This region is full of coves and sandy beaches. From Saint-Malo, you can access the Quiberon peninsula by car or boat. You can visit Carnac, a city famous for its menhirs which are megalithic monuments dating back to prehistoric times.

An unmissable stop: Le Mont-Saint-Michel

If you are traveling with children, a stay at Mont-Saint-Michel will be very appropriate. This place is truly magical with its breathtaking views and fascinating history. The island belongs to the French heritage and the only way to get there is to get there on foot or by bike (which we recommend). You will find yourself surrounded by sandbanks and beautiful blue waters: a true paradise!

Mont Saint-Michel also offers many activities for all tastes, so you will never be bored. There are events linked to the history of this place, but also typical markets where you can taste Breton dishes or visit exhibitions.

We also recommend that you climb the old tower of the Abbey to admire the panorama, but take a walk in the alleys and explore the souvenir shops before leaving!

If you are traveling as a family, you can request an entry for children. On weekdays there are workshops for children who want to learn more about history and nature.

After your visit, spend some time on the beach to enjoy the view and the majestic beauty of Mont-Saint-Michel .

Stroll and sip a drink on Place Chateaubriand

There is no doubt that one of the most popular activities in Saint Malo is to have a drink in the old Place Chateaubriand. Located within the city walls, it’s the perfect place to meet, chat and watch local artists perform. There are so many street performers that you could spend hours looking at them!

Here is a list of bars not to be missed: click here.

Chateaubriand was a writer and politician who became heavily involved in the French Revolution. He is best known for his book “Atala”, which he wrote when he was just one year old. This book is famous all over the world.

If you are looking for a hotel near intra muro of Saint-Malo, we recommend the Mercure Saint-Malo. This 4-star hotel is located in the heart of the city and is perfect for a romantic getaway or a business trip. You will find everything you need to feel at home, from a heated swimming pool to a fitness center. If you are looking for an affordable option, we recommend the Ibis Saint-Malo Center Historique which is also located in the city center.

Go see Saint-Vincent Cathedral

Another of our recommendations is to visit Saint-Vincent Cathedral, which was built at the end of the 11th century and has been listed as a historical monument since 1846. Pride of French heritage.

You will discover inside the cathedral beautiful stained glass windows and the tombs of the bishops who lived there.

What to do in Saint-Malo? Visit the Residence of the Corsair

You can also take a look at the house of the corsair and discover the amazing story of Robert Surcouf who became very famous in his time thanks to his many victorious sea battles against British ships. Which earned him the title of “Terror”.

Many famous corsairs have lived in Saint Malo. It is also the city where Jacques Cartier was born. Along the port, you can admire various corsair houses built throughout history. The Corsair is a man who conducted military operations against other ships to seize their goods. The corsair’s residence is a fascinating place to visit and has been designated as one of the most beautiful houses in France.

Take a tour of the Maison du Québec

If you want to learn more about Quebec culture, we recommend that you take a tour of the Maison du Québec. This museum is dedicated to the history and culture of the Canadian province. You can discover its art, its music, its gastronomy and much more! The Maison du Québec was founded by Bishop Guy-Marie Rioux in 1984.

The alliance between Saint Malo and Quebec is old and strong. This building reminds us that it was from the port of the mouth of the Rance that the Saint-Malo explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew began their crossing in 1534 towards New France. The General Delegation of Quebec organizes many events there every year.

La Maison du Québec invites you to discover a contemporary, creative and historic Quebec. In the heart of the Malouins, Quebec and its culture remain very present.

Visit the Saint Malo micro-zoo

During your stay in Saint Malo, take the time to discover the micro-zoo which is very interesting to do. It’s the perfect place to take your kids as a family and have a fun day out. You can discover more than 130 different species of animals from all over the world. This zoo was founded in 1985.

The Micro-zoo is open from Monday to Sunday. Count 9 euros for adults and 6 euros for children.

Walk around the Môle des Noires Lighthouse

The Môle des Noires lighthouse is located within the city walls, it was built between 1837 and 1842 and is open to the public.

From its summit, you can admire a magnificent view of the city and the bay. To do absolutely!

Explore the Solidor Tower

The Tour du Solidor is a beautiful medieval tower located in the heart of Saint Malo. It was built at the end of the 14th century and is open to the public.

At the very top, you can admire a breathtaking view of intra muros and its beaches. The tower also houses a museum that tells the story of Saint Malo and its inhabitants.

Browse the Sculpted Rocks of Rothéneuf

A few kilometers from Saint-Malo is the small village of Rothéneuf. This is where the Carved Rocks are located, a natural wonder that is definitely worth seeing. These rocks have been sculpted over time by the action of waves and wind, and they provide a magnificent sight. Some rocks have been worked by man, such as the Roche de la Chapelle, or those that have been sculpted in the shape of animals or human figures. It’s a great activity to do with the family, especially since you can kill two birds with one stone by going to the beach afterwards.

Do the Aquatonic circuit of the hotel, the Thermes Marins

Saint-Malo also has a spa, the Thermes Marins is a hotel. It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy a moment of relaxation. The spa has a heated swimming pool, jacuzzi and hammam, as well as a range of massages. But the star of the show is undoubtedly the Aquatonic circuit. It is a space equipped with water jets that massage every centimeter of your body, giving you an unforgettable experience.

From 35 euros per person.


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