Guide of ST MALO

Saint-Malo is a city in Brittany, on the north coast of France. This walled city has a long history of wealthy merchants, pirates and maritime trade. During the Second World War the Allies heavily bombed the city, but today it is a popular tourist hub, with a ferry connections Portsmouth, Jersey, Guernsey and Poole in England. The population is usually just under 50,000, but during the busy summer months this can reach up to 200,000, and the inhabitants of Saint-Malo are known as Malouins in French. 

A brief history of Saint-Malo

The Gauls founded Saint-Malo in the 1st century BC, and then, under the Romans, the town was known as Reginca or Aletum. During the decline of the Roman Empire, the region's peasants rebelled against Roman rule, and then in the 5th and 6th centuries, the town became home to many Celtic Britons who were fleeing instability across the Channel.

The city has always had a tradition of asserting its autonomy when dealing with the national and local authorities, and between 1590 and 1593, Saint-Malo declared itself as an independent republic! The town was a vital port during the 17th and 18th centuries as it was a base for both merchant ships and government-sanctioned privateers, who were mostly pirates! They lived with a constant threat of the English and in 1758; there was a famous raid on Saint-Malo that intended on capturing the town. However, the British did not attempt to destroy Saint-Malo itself but instead destroyed 30 privateers before departing. 

During The War, in late August and early September of 1944, American bombing and British naval gunfire almost destroyed the historic part of the city, and the Americans took more than ten thousand prisoners during the two-week fight. Following the devastation, Saint-Malo was rebuilt between1948 to 1960, and today the city is a beautiful, mast-filled port town. 

Things to do in Saint-Malo

The weather can be turbulent, but fascinating in St Malo, as the sea brings in some great storms! The unusually large tidal range transforms the landscape daily, revealing broad beaches featuring granite outcrops and land bridges that are usually under the sea at high tide. The changeable weather requires visitors to be well prepared in terms of clothing as well as open to different activities. The main attraction is the Château de St-Malo which was built by the dukes of Brittany around the 15th and 16th centuries. Today it houses the Musée d'Histoire de St-Malo, which exhibits the life and history of the city and the lookout tower has magnificent views of the old town. It's worth taking a stroll along the ramparts,1.8km long and accessed from several points, including all the main city gates which were designed at the end of the 17th century by the military architect Vauban. At low tide, visitors can cross the beach to Île du Grand Bé, a rocky islet and burial place of the great 18th-century writer Chateaubriand and another 100m beyond here, is the 17th-century Fort du Petit Bé. However be aware that when the tide rushes in, the causeway remains impassable for about six hours; so check tide times to avoid getting trapped on the island!

Beaches around Saint-Malo

Bon Secours beach is within easy reach and features a sea pool complete with a diving tower, and there's also a handy bar on the terrace. This beach is the point of departure to reach the Île du Grand. Plage du Mihinic is another popular place to swim; it is a public beach with fine sand and a backdrop of traditional houses behind a stone seawall. Grande Plage du Sillon is a long, sandy city beach that offers swimming, sunbathing, and views of the Fort National.

Related destination guides