Saint-Malo

Travel guide - Saint-Malo

It’s time to head for Brittany for a breath of sea air! Saint-Malo, once a city of privateers, follows the rhythm of the tides. The pearl of the Emerald Coast, this city that was entirely destroyed by bombs during World War II then rebuilt one stone at a time both fascinates and charms its visitors. Walking around the city ramparts, running along the Plage du Sillon, listening to the stories of legendary pirates and heroic sailors: Saint-Malo, more than any other city, transports you to new horizons.

The Ramparts of Saint-Malo, a ring of granite around the old town

Once you have set foot on the cobblestones of Saint-Malo, you won’t be able to resist coming back! To get your bearings, start by distinguishing the inner city of Saint-Malo from the rest of the city. Indeed, the entire city centre is surround by the ramparts that are one of the city’s main claims to fame. Less than two kilometres separate the Porte Saint-Thomas from the Porte Saint-Vincent, and yet the wall-walk is an unforgettable experience. Exposed to wind, storms and extreme tides, this is a unique place from which you can admire the sea in all its states. Proof of their sturdiness: the granite ramparts, partly built in the 12th century and later consolidated and finished in the 17th century, survived the World War II bombings that destroyed 80% of the city.
This is what is most impressive about Saint-Malo: its reconstruction. It was rebuilt exactly the way it had been before in less than 30 years, a moving testimony to the residents’ love for their city.

The Fort National and the Fort du Petit Bé: watching over Saint-Malo

Still from the ramparts, you can continue to play the sentry as you admire the Fort National. Accessible only at low tide from the Plage de l’Eventail, the fort was built in 1689 by Louis XIV’s famous architect Vauban in order to protect the city, which until then had been very vulnerable to attacks due to its location facing the sea. As if to pay homage to the ingenious architect’s strategy, the city has never been taken by siege. The nearby Fort du Petit Bé, which was not disarmed until the second half of the 19th century, was also part of the city’s system of defence.

Discovering the city’s heroes

Thanks to the city’s solid ramparts, travellers will feel nearly invulnerable when wandering through the narrow streets of the city centre. Comfortably settled into one of the city’s many restaurants, you can enjoy famous regional specialities such as crepes or kouign-amann (traditional Breton cake) before heading off to learn about the city’s heroes. Let’s begin with François-René de Châteaubriand, the romantic 19th century author, who was granted his wish of being buried on the Ile de Grand Bé in a testament to his love for his hometown. Jacques Cartier, the famous navigator who discovered Canada, was also born here. Learn more about his travels and exploration by visiting the manor of Limoëlou, which has been converted into a museum. To finish your visit, listen to the tales recounted by a guide or a proud local of Saint-Malo’s maritime tradition, the gripping stories of Surcouf and Duguay-Trouin, privateers whom the king granted permission to attack enemy boats.
Every four years Saint-Malo, resolutely oriented towards the sea, marks the beginning of the Route du Rhum, the emblematic nautical race to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe. Completely surrounded by water, Saint-Malo is also worth observing from the sea. Leaving behind the last port before facing the rough waves of the ocean, sailors keep their eyes on the pointed bell tower until it disappears into the fog.

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