Founded as a city of corsairs, strong in its ancient pirate tradition, Saint Malo has preserved over the centuries a marked spirit of independence and belligerent autonomy, which can be seen in the imposing fortifications jutting out over the ocean, giving it a proud and majestic air.
Saint Malo holds a concentration of history, culture, gastronomy, sea views and windswept beaches: with its forts, lighthouses and ramparts, it tells stories of pirates and vessels, anecdotes of ship-owners, privateers and wandering sailors.
The town exudes a truly incredible charm and seems to transport its visitors back in time: it bewitches with its picturesque corners, made particularly charming by the defensive constructions, the walls that defend the town and the houses made from the special Chausey granite, called les malouinières.
In the 17th century, Saint Malo was an independent town. It was during this period that the motto was born: Neither French nor Breton, I am Malouin . This strategic location attracted many ship-owners, privateers and sailors. In times of war, privateers had the task of pursuing and seizing enemy merchant ships, thanks to a special royal pass.
For many years, this practice represented an unquestionable source of wealth, which made the town grow and prosper: no less than 1,000 ships were captured, whose riches and precious goods went directly into the hands of privateers and ship-owners.
Les Remparts de Saint-Malo form a ring of almost two kilometres, which can be covered entirely on foot. The tour of the ramparts is a truly unique experience: you can admire enchanting landscapes over the bay, with views as far as Dinard in the distance, accompanied by the smell of salt spray and the wind in your hair.
From the top of the walkways, there are wonderful views of the interior of the fortified citadel, narrow alleys and grey stone houses. You can climb to the top of the ramparts from different points in the city: to do the whole tour you need to calculate about 1.5 hours. We advise you to return several times: depending on whether the tide is high or low, the panorama changes completely and you can admire totally different landscapes.
The heart of Saint Malo has a unique charm: narrow, cobbled alleys, picturesque houses with slate roofs, colourful shops and lots of bistros, which make the atmosphere in the centre lively and sparkling.
We advise you to lose yourself among the houses, to discover the most charming corners such as the Bastion de la Hollande, where there are cannons and the statue of Jacques Cartier . He was a great French explorer, born in Saint-Malo in 1491, who reached as far as the coast of Canada.
Also not to be missed are some of the wooden buildings that have miraculously survived, such as the courtyard of Chateaubriand’s birthplace, the arcade of the recolletes in Rue des Vieux Remparts and the wood-panelled houses in Rue du Pelicot, the most beautiful street in the old town.
Inside the fortified citadel is the wonderful corsair’s house, the Hôtel Magon, la Demeure de Corsaire. Classified as a historical monument, this building is original 18th century, spared during the bombing of World War II.
With sixty rooms, thirty of which have indoor fireplaces, this residence was built from 1723 to 1725 by François-Auguste Magon de la Lande: a ship-owner and privateer under Louis XIV, then director of the East India Company, François-Auguste Magon de la Lande was one of the most powerful ship-owners in Saint-Malo.
This building is one of the few corsair’s palaces that have remained intact: on a guided tour, you can discover the hidden staircases, its skylights, monumental chimneys and the terrace from which the illustrious ship-owner could follow the comings and goings of his ships in the port.
Built by the Dukes of Brittany, it now houses the Musée du Château, which tells the story of the city and its seafaring tradition. Don’t miss the ascent to the tower to admire the beautiful scenery: it is only recommended for those who do not suffer from vertigo, due to the very steep, narrow and winding stairs.
Situated on Place Jean de Chatillon, the founder of this building, the Saint-Vincent Cathedral is a gem in Gothic style, built between the 12th century and the 18th century.
Partially destroyed during World War II, then rebuilt, it now houses the burial place of Jacques Cartier and the remains of Duguay-Trouin, brought back in the late 20th century.
One of the unmissable experiences during a visit to Saint Malo is to reach the Fort National on foot, taking advantage of the low tide. We advise you to watch the tide times carefully so that you don’t find yourself in difficulty when returning to dry land.
Built at the end of the 17th century under the orders of Vauban, its main role was to defend the port of Saint-Malo. Now privately owned by a Breton family, the fort is accessible by guided tours lasting 30-40 minutes. From here, there is a magnificent view of the fortified citadel.
To reach the Môle des Noires lighthouse, you have to walk along a path in the middle of the sea on the Môle des Noires dam: built to close the harbour, today the dam has become a pedestrian path from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Saint-Malo.
The two small islands of Petit Bé and Grand Bé are easily accessible on foot at low tide.
The island of Petit-Bé, the furthest away, houses a fort designed by the architect Vauban to protect Saint-Malo in the 17th century. While the island of Grand-Bé, in addition to supporting a defensive fort, became the burial place of the writer François-René de Chateaubriand.
Always check the tide times carefully when crossing the Passage des Bés. The sea rises quite quickly and you may find yourself in difficulty when you return.
To the south of the walled city and behind the port, the Solidor Tower rises majestically. This imposing 14th century medieval keep was used to control the maritime entrances to the Rance river. It was the only crossing point between the inland villages and the coast.
Until the beginning of 2020, the Solidor Tower housed a museum on the history of the Cape Horniers but the collections, after its restoration, will be transferred to the future Saint-Malo Maritime History Museum.
Saint-Malo is surrounded by water and holds enchanting beaches, battered by the winds and lashed by the often stormy sea. The largest and most impressive beach is certainly Grande Plage du Sillon10: it runs along almost the entire north-west side of the town and when the sea recedes it becomes immense. This is where tourists gather in the early hours of the morning, all armed with cameras to immortalise the breaking waves. In fact, in this spot, at certain times of the year, the tidal phenomenon is particularly intense, with differences of up to 15 metres between high and low tide. Very high waves break on the breakwaters, creating incredible scenery and guaranteed showers.
Also worth admiring is the small Plage du Mole11, nestled beneath the majestic Bastion de la Hollande. A little further on is la Piscine de Bon Secours12 an enchanting beach with a large seawater pool and diving board. From here you have access to the Bé islands.
Another unmissable walk in the city is to the Rochebonne Dam. Originally, the Corsair town was only connected to the mainland by a sandbank called Sillon. Saint Malo was therefore an island at high tide and a peninsula at low tide. On this strip of sand, covered by ever-higher dunes, a succession of windmills rose as one moved towards Rochebonne.
It was not until 1509 that the first causeway was built and a dam created to protect the surrounding land. Today, it is nothing more than a 3 km long pedestrian promenade bordered by magnificent 19th-century villas.
Sea lovers will not miss the Grand Aquarium Saint Malo. The aquarium houses more than 11,000 marine animals of 600 different species, spread over an area of 4,000 m2. From jellyfish to sharks, from corals to crabs, including an entertaining touch tank where you can touch some local species such as turbot, skate or spiny dogfish.
In addition, the museum offers two unique attractions: the Nautibus submarine will take you into the depths of the abyss aboard a ship and through the porthole, reveal the secrets of the seabed. In the gigantic tank, fish swim among the algae, while the alleyways of a legendary underwater city emerge. Turbulence zones, mysterious wrecks and local inhabitants add to the excitement of this spectacular journey.
In contrast, the Abyssal Descender is a descent simulator that invites you to discover the flora and fauna of the deep. For a few minutes, you leave the surface to sink into the immensity of the ocean. During the journey to the deep sea, you will encounter lantern fish, flash fish, amusing jellyfish and many underwater surprises.
The town of Saint Malo is actually the result of the merger of three neighbouring towns: Paramé, Saint-Servan and Saint-Malo. This has meant that many pretty and picturesque outlying districts have been annexed to the municipality.
Les Malouinières are charming country houses that were once the holiday homes for the owners of Saint-Malo. Most of these residences were built between 1650 and 1730 in a 15-kilometre radius around Saint-Malo. Privateers, having made their fortunes in the races to conquer the South Seas and with royal permits, decided to affirm their success, to elevate themselves in social status to the role of shipowners and to build large luxurious residences near the port: a way to escape the congested world of the city, while remaining close enough to be able to look after their ships and goods.
Most are located in Clos-Poulet, inland from Saint-Malo. They are mostly private residences, but some are open to visitors for much of the year. Elegant and austere on the outside but luxurious and comfortable on the inside, of the nearly 300 houses scattered around, there are only a hundred or so left. The most important is certainly the Chipaudière, built in 1710 for François-Auguste Magon de La Lande, a famous ship-owner from Saint-Malo.
In the far north-east of the city, the beach in the Rothéneuf district holds mysterious rocks carved in Breton granite. They are the works of Father Adophe Julien Fouéré, created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
No religious figures but local celebrities such as Jacques Cartier. Having become deaf, for fourteen years the monk sculpted more than three hundred statues on a series of granite rocks overlooking the sea.
Also in the Rothéneuf district is this museum dedicated to the French explorer Jacques Cartier, who discovered Canada.
The explorer’s former manor house, acquired and modernised by Canadian patrons, now presents the life of Jacques Cartier and his arrival in Canada, a great discovery for France and its history.
Located not far from Rothéneuf is Pointe de la Varde, a natural promontory offering a breathtaking panorama of the bay and the town of Saint-Malo. There are numerous paths to follow, to also admire various historical remains from World War II, such as German forts and bunkers.
For birdwatchers, the cliffs are home to many species of seabirds: brown and silver gulls, large cormorants, crested cormorants, magpies and northern fulmars.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Saint-Malo is a popular destination: thanks to its location on the sea, its ramparts and its pirate past, it welcomes and attracts tourists from all over the world.
As far as accommodation is concerned, one is spoilt for choice: the city offers a wide variety of hotels and B&Bs for all kinds of needs.
The heart of the corsair city is definitely the most fascinating part of Saint Malo: it contains the main attractions and will take you back in time. Its ramparts are particularly impressive at night, when they are cleverly illuminated.
Of course, the accommodation inside the fortified citadel is the most expensive: even the restaurants inside boast decidedly high prices. It is the ideal place for those who want to experience the city at night and move around strictly on foot.
Awarded the title of France’s most beautiful beach, the area around Sillon is definitely the ideal place for those seeking peace and quiet. A paradise for runners, swimmers and kitesurfers, it is the meeting point for those who love the crisp sea air and wide open spaces.
Those who want to save money and prefer a quiet and reserved environment will find the right place in the Aleth peninsula. Not far from the Corsican city, this quiet neighbourhood boasts more affordable prices, small restaurants frequented by locals and a pleasant marina framed by the Solidor Tower.
To the north-east of the town is the small seaside resort of Rothéneuf: once a fishing village, this neighbourhood has retained its authentic charm.
Rothéneuf is an oasis of peace, and the beach is the quietest in Saint-Malo. It is perfect for those looking for a relaxing stay, full of walks with exceptional views of the town Intra Muros and Sillon beach.
What's the weather at Saint Malo? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Saint Malo for the next few days.
The port city of Saint Malo is one of Brittany's main towns, just a few kilometres from the border with Normandy.
Saint Malo is located about 400 km from Paris. It takes four hours by car to reach the French capital, following first the A10 motorway, then the A11 and finally the E50. Those coming from Dinard, will use the D168, those coming from up, on the other hand, will take the D137.
Train enthusiasts can reach Saint Malo from Paris Montparnasse station, using a TGV high-speed train. The Saint-Malo station is about 2 kilometres from the centre: a short walk along the walls will take you to the heart of the city.