A real gem on the Emerald Coast, Saint Malo has a rich maritime history once renowned for buccaneering. Are you ready for an adventure? Then step aboard, me hearties!
This is one of those places where time seems to have stood still. A major maritime centre in the 17th and 18th centuries, Saint Malo is full of treasures surrounded by an impenetrable fortress. In addition to its exceptional architecture, this rocky peninsula is best known for its walled town with imposing granite ramparts.
Start your visit at Saint Vincent Gate where you can climb the walls and walk along the top. More than a mile long, this route is a great place to take in the sea air and enjoy the magnificent views of the bay. From the Bidouane Tower to the Bastion of Holland, passing by the Notre-Dame Tower, you can enjoy one viewpoint after another, each more beautiful than the last. You will be able to make out the Small Bay and the Large Bay, a wild island which houses the tomb of the writer Chateaubriand and, if the weather is fine, you will even see the famous Fréhel Cape. As you walk around the ramparts and the town’s streets, you will pass by a number of bronze statues of famous locals from history, such as the explorer Jacques Cartier who discovered Canada in the 16th century and the naval officer Duguay-Trouin.
To the north of the town, a few hundred metres from Éventail beach, is the National Fort, a remarkable structure which was built by the great architect Vauban at the end of the 17th century to protect the town’s prosperous port. This astounding place perched on an islet will delight anyone interested in military architecture, but be aware that it can only be reached at low tide! Next, drop in to the impressive Château de Saint-Malo for a visit to the Musée d’histoire et traditions maritimes du Pays malouin [Museum of the history and maritime traditions of St Malo], which tells the story of the town and the great names that made it what it is.
If history isn’t your cup of tea and you would rather spend your holidays getting a boost of adrenalin, why not try some of the many sporting activities on offer here, such as sand yachting, diving and windsurfing. Saint Malo is also the starting point for the famous Route du Rhum sailing boat race to Guadeloupe which takes place every four years and gives visitors the chance to witness some incredible vessels taking to the water.
So where do kids fit into all this? Your little treasures will love the extremely fun Grand Aquarium and the Les P’tits Pirates leisure park with its inflatables and trampolines for budding buccaneers!
You can get to Saint Malo by ferry, air, road or rail. Ferry crossings are available from several ports on the south coast of England, including Portsmouth and Plymouth. Trains from Paris take about three hours, involving a change of train in Rennes. Dinard Airport, less than 10 miles from Saint Malo, has flights arriving from several UK airports including London Stansted.
Saint Malo is a fascinating maritime town brimming with natural treasures and a unique history.