Saint-Malo City Guide

Tourists interested in the history of France flock yearly to the country's Brittany region, where many megalithic monuments, as well as intact manors and châteaux of historical interest, can be found. The region is also home to many fortified towns, the most popular of which is Saint-Malo, a walled port city located on the English Channel. Now that it is inseparably attached to the mainland by a causeway, it has become one of the most visited tourist sites in the region, drawing scores of visitors who not only want to take in the sights but also loll in its golden sand beaches located along the island’s coast. Aleth, which would eventually become the present-day Saint Malo, was founded in 1150. The town got its present name from a Gallic monk named Maclow, who eventually became the Bishop of Aleth in sixth century. Saint Malo was an important port in the 17th and 18th centuries, but became most notorious as the home of the corsairs, a group of French privateers whose piratical activities were implicitly sanctioned by the French government. The corsairs not only forced English ships passing through the Channel to pay tribute, they also brought wealth to the island from further afield. Jacques Cartier, a native of Saint Malo, is also credited as being the discoverer of Canada. While Saint Malo’s many historical sites are its major tourist draw, visitors looking for nightlife will find their choices limited. Gamblers can head for the cruise ship Le Casino Barrière, located at 2 chaussée du Sillon, where dinner is also served; don’t forget to bring your passport, since you’ll be asked for it at the gate. An evening of dancing can be had at Le 109 at 3 rue des Cordiers; it’s open Tuesdays to Sundays from 8pm to 3am, but charges a 10 euro cover charge after midnight, which includes a first drink. The town’s biggest disco, however, is Le Klub, located at L’Etanchet outside the village of Pleurtuit. It is only open on Thursdays to Saturdays, and on the eve of national holidays; cover charge is 11 euros, which also includes the first drink. Popular bars include Pub Saint Patrick, located at 24 rue Sainte-Barbe, which serves fifty different varieties of Irish whisky, and L’Aviso, at 12 rue du Point du Jour, which has beers from all over the world. Saint Malo also reportedly has the highest concentration of seafood restaurants in Europe, and the resort town is famous for its oysters which are caught at the nearby village of Cancale. One of the most recommended restaurants is A La Duchesse Anne, which is located at 5 Place Guy La Chambre; diners can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Old City ramparts while enjoying seafood dishes and traditional French cuisine. Souvenir hunters can visit Le Comptoir des Cotonniers, 6 rue Broussais, where you can find handicrafts such as hand-painted stoneware, Breton lace and food items such as sugarcoated galettes and almond-flavored pastries, and Aux Délices Malouins, 12 rue St.-Vincent, which also features chocolates and pastries in the regional style. For a taste of local culture, visit the Halles au Blé and the place de la Poinssonerie on Tuesdays or Fridays from 8am to one in the afternoon to experience a genuine Breton market where country produce, such as cheeses and fish, and household items are hawked. Although Saint Malo has a temperate, warm climate, the best times to visit are between May and September, when temperatures average just 23° and rainfall is at its lowest. But you might want to avoid going in July and August, when temperatures can reach above 30°. And, of course, avoid visiting during any of France’s school holidays, when the resorts may be crowded with families enjoying their vacation time. Getting around the city will not be a problem, as Saint Malo has an efficient bus service that will get you from your hotel to the walled Old City, and taxis are readily available. You can also rent cars and bicycles at the resort. Ferry service runs from Saint Malo to the resort town of Dinard along the Brittany coast. The town is also a terminal for ferries to Weymouth, Portsmouth and Poole in England via the English Channel.