Once the feared base of pirates (corsairs), heavily fortified against Norman (or English) attack, today's Saint-Malo is one of the top tourist draws in Brittany. The star of the show is the atmospheric walled city (intramuros), largely destroyed in the Second World War but painstakingly reconstructed. The modern towns of Parame and Saint-Servan lie outside the walls. It is also the birth place of renowned French explorer Jacques Cartier who is famous for exploring Quebec.
Ryanair serves Dinard-Pleurtuit-St-Malo Airport, 13 km away. There is no public transportation to/from the airport. The standard taxi fare to the train station in Saint-Malo costs €22, and a ride to the walled city costs €25.
Alternatively, one could take a taxi to Dinard (€13), then change to Illenoo bus 16 (€2.10). For those trying to avoid the taxi ride, you can walk 2.8 km to Pleurtuit and take a bus to Saint-Malo, connecting through Dinard (€2.10 to €4.20, depending on the connections made).
Saint-Malo's train station is located over a kilometer south of the intramuros area, but it's an easy 20-min walk straight down Avenue Louis Martin. There are a few direct TGV services daily from Paris (Gare de Montparnasse), which take about three hours. Most travellers, however, will end up connecting in Rennes, from where there are hourly commuter services (50 min, €12) to Saint-Malo.
From the UK you can arrive from Poole on Condor Ferries. Leaving from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries. From Jersey & Guernsey you can take Condor Ferries which offers direct routes from both islands.
With Condor Ferries, from Poole it takes from 6 to 13 hours depending on the time & date of travell. The trip includes a transfer at Jersey (Island just north of Saint Malo) to get to St Malo. Ferries run everyday, sometimes twice a day. Price ranges from £40-59 depending on the day of travel, one way.
With Brittany Ferries, from Portsmouth leaving at 8:15pm, everyday except Tuesday. It takes approximately 11 hours. Price range from £25-30 (economy+£5 for a seat or £62+ for minimum two berth cabin. Prices can get up to £59 economy on peak weekends), depending on the day of travel, one way.
Coming from or going to Rennes, Illenoo buses serve Dinard and Titeniac, from where connections run. Costing €4.70 to €6.80 depending on the exact route taken, this is a slower but cheaper option than the train.
There are several large carparks surrounding the old walled city (intramuros) which are well sign-posted and not too expensive. Only residents can park inside the walls so leave your car outside and explore on foot.
Saint-Malo has a good bus system, with the main terminals located at the train station and just outside the walls (St Vincent). Get a booklet with maps and times from any bus driver. A one and a half hour ticket costs €1.15. Unfortunately there are no bus services late in the evening.
The walled city is easily covered on foot, but you can also opt for a dinky "Tourist Train" that offers a 40 minute tour with commentary in several languages. Departs from near the tourist office just outside Porte Saint-Vincent from April to October (€7 for adults, €5 for children).
- Ramparts (Remparts). It is possible to walk right around the old city on top of the walls, apart from a small gap near Porte Saint-Vincent and the town hall (which looks like a castle). The ramparts walk is reached by stairs in numerous places around the old city, and there are also a few ramps. Once on the walls, the path is easy to walk as it is wide and well surfaced. A complete circuit is about 2km and the views in all directions are very impressive.
- The walled city (La Ville Intra-Muros). There are many shops, restaurants and hotels in the old city.
- The Cathedral of Saint-Vincent, in the centre of the walled city.
- The Chateau
- The walled city view from the "Memorial 39-45"
- World's first tidal power station, . The tidal power plant reportedly attracts 200,000 visitors per year. A canal lock in the west end of the dam permits the passage of 16,000 vessels between the English Channel and the Rance. The display centre is looking a bit tired and there isn't much to see from the barrage wall. Getting there is a bit tricky, bus routes C1 and C2 get you to within a kilometer walk. edit
- Watch the impressive tide.
- Walk (or jog) along the beach.
- Walk around the walls of the walled city (free).
- Visit the Fort National, built in 1689, which is on a small island just north of the old walled city. It is open from June to September and certain other weekends (€5 adults, €3 children), but only at low tide as you must walk across the beach to reach it. Check the website here for opening times which vary each day with the tides.
- Visit the Festival des Folklores du Monde (World Folklores), which takes place at the beginning of July. There are dance and music performances from around the world. You can also dance when Celtic Breton bands play music in the main square of Parame district.
- Look at the many hundreds of sailing boats of all sizes and ages in the harbour/s.
La cale aux trésors 2 passage de la grande hermine, intra-muros. website  French delicatessen shop.Wineshop.
Shops in the city center usually close by 19 hrs, but most of them now (as of 2010) stay open every Sunday, including high street cloth stores, which before 2010 were not allowed to open on Sunday and now are allowed-
Saint-Malo is a great place to sample Breton specialties.
- Breton Pancakes: not just the world-famous sweet crêpes, but also savoury galettes.
- Kouing Aman: this is a delicious Breton cake made with butter and sugar. Try to sample them piping hot, especially the ones with apple added in.
- Mussels (moules): fished in the place and available in any restaurants.
- Oysters (huitres): the best are from Cancale, a village near to Saint-Malo. In France, they are eaten raw.
The Intramuros area has what is quite possibly France's highest concentration of creperies and seafood restaurants. Most cater solely to tourists and are effectively identical.
- Le Corps de Garde, the best view in the walled city as you are actually on the wall. This resto has galettes and crepes.
- Cafe de Saint-Malo, just inside Grande Porte. The restaurant here is unspectacular, but what makes this the best deal in Intramuros is the window selling fresh seafood to go. For €5, you can get a dozen large oysters, pre-shelled, on ice and with a quartered lemon.
- Petit Crêpier, Rue Ste Barbe, tel. +33-299409319, . True to the name, this restaurant is small and has crepes, but their daily selection of seafood galettes is a cut above the pack. €10.
- Coté brasserie, 8, rue des Cordiers (intra-muros), tel. 2-99568340. New proprietary. . seafoods and chips. Well separated smoking and non-smoking areas. €20-40.
- Captain-Ice, Rue Jacques Cartier, Intra-Muros. This may well be the best ice cream place in town. Try Amour de Glace (Love of Ice cream) for something really yummy. Prices are slightly high, but you get big quantities and very high quality!
- In St Malo you can eat at any time of day. In smaller towns nearby, tip: look out for the lunchtime menu ouvrière (workers' menu}; often there is little or no choice of dishes, but what you get is genuine French home cooking (love those fries!) for half the price, if that, of what you'll pay in a tourist centre like St Malo or Mont St Michel. (French lunchtime is sacred. Every French person observes it religiously.)
- Crêperie le Tournesol, 4 rue des marins (Saint-Malo), ☎ 2-99403623, . Brunch in St-Malo means only one thing: a galette washed down with a cup of local cider €3.50 – no it's never too early. Try the Crêperie Le Tournesol (16) at 4 Rue des Marins (00 33 2 99 40 36 23), with its terrace spilling out on to cobbled streets, from 11.30am Sunday. Its speciality galettes start at €7.50 and come with a huge variety of fillings, from smoked Breton sausage and egg to goats' cheese and Camembert. If you still have room, finish with something sweet – a crêpe with hot chocolate sauce is €4.50. edit
Brittany is not a renowned region for its wine. Otherwise, there are other specialities:
- Breton beer
There are two micro breweries in Saint Malo. Bosco and les brassins de saint malo. There are also several regional beers such as Coreff which can be found at La Belle Epoque bar and Britt beer which can be found at many supermarkets. Chat Malo is a Breton beer but is not brewed in Saint Malo.
- Cider: There are two types of ciders in Saint Malo. Demi-sec and Brut. You are probably used to Brut. Demi-sec is sweeter and with a lower % of alcohol.
- Calvados: apple brandy
- Chouchen: mead (it's a blend with alcohol and honey; it is very sweet)
- Muscadet: dry white wine, perfect with local seafood; true, it doesn't come from Brittany, but is from the nearest vineyard area, Pays de la Loire
- Bars: Most bars are found in the old city of intramuros. If you want to venture into the less beautiful but also less touristic areas of Saint Malo here are some good bars. By the train station Bosco and the cafe de la gare are both a good bet. In Saint Servan the Café Cancalais is popular and in Parame a good wine bar is le jus d'octobre
There are many accommodation options in Saint-Malo, including over 20 hotels within the walls, but they can fill up very fast in season — book ahead.
- Matthews Holidays, ☎ 0044 1483 285213, . Mobile Home holidays to 4* & 5* beachside campsites throughout France. edit
- Camping Chateau des Ormes, situated 20 miles from St Malo is an all action campsite. Activities here include fishing, golf, horse riding, treetop adventure course, swimming pools and more.
- Le Centre Patrick Varangot, 37 avenue du R.P. Umbricht (near the beach, 30-40 minutes by foot from the walled city), tel. 02 99 40 29 80, E-mail : [email protected], .
- Best Western Hotel Alexandra, 138 Boulevard Hebert, ☎ +33-2-99561112 (fax: +33-2-99563003), . checkin: 1300; checkout: 1100. Wifi available (separate charge). Parking available for a fee. €98. edit
- San Pedro, 1 rue Sainte Anne, ☎ +33-2-99408857, . Comfortable small nautical-themed hotel within the walled city. Rooms have shower, WC, TV, and Wifi. Daily changing themed breakfast available (€7.50 extra). Internet bookings unreliable, so call to confirm. €55/67 without/with sea view. edit
- Hôtel des Abers, 10, rue de la Corne de Cerf 35400 Saint-Malo, ☎ 02 99 40 85 60 ([email protected]). Located in the old town of Saint-Malo, Patricia and Philippe welcome you to their small family establishment in one of their 14 rooms and offer you personalized advice for your visit to Saint-Malo. Don't miss their delicious breakfast buffet where you will find a wide variety of fresh and local produce. edit
- Visit nearby Mont Saint Michel - a monastery and town built on a tiny outcrop of rock in the sand, which is cut off from the mainland at high tide. It is one of France's major tourist destinations, and as such gets very busy in high season. Check the times of the tides before you visit!
- Cross the Rance Tidal Dam (Barrage de la Rance) and see Dinard; especially in October when the town hosts its annual English Film Festival (lots of US films, too). Casino, sandy beaches, high cliffs studded with quaint, Victorian-era houses, many with conical tower tops; covered market.
- Venture west beyond Dinard to the Côte d'Emeraude (Emerald Coast) to find even more luscious sandy beaches and little-known towns such as St-Lunaire and St-Cast (first French town to liberate itself from Nazis by own efforts, 1944) and the lonely, craggy, atmospheric Cap Fréhel, where in spring you can see gannets, the superb large seabird that never otherwise comes within sight of shore.
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