Visitors to the attractive maritime city of Saint-Malo in Brittany will find plenty to see and do
Lying on the Emerald Coast of northern Brittany, Saint-Malo has a rich maritime heritage. In the 17th and 18th centuries the port was used by merchant ships and by privateers who sought to protect the coastline from the threat of English invasion. Nowadays, visitors can admire the impressive fortifications, relax on the broad, sandy beaches and venture out to granite outcrop islands.
Begin with a stroll along the well-preserved, two-kilometre-long ramparts, which date from the 12th century and surround the citadel – the old walled city known as the ville intra-muros. On one side you look down on the labyrinthine streets, while on the other there are sweeping views of the coast.
An unmissable attraction near the end of a clockwise walk is the Château de Saint-Malo. Built in the Middle Ages by the Dukes of Brittany, the castle now houses the Musée d’Histoire de la Ville, which traces the development of the city through nautical displays, model boats and marine artefacts.
For further picturesque views, head a few hundred metres offshore to the fort National, built by the military engineer Vauban in 1689 to protect the port. the remains lie on a rocky outcrop that is accessible only when the tide is out. Other places to visit at low water are the tidal islet of Île du grand Bé – burial site of the Saint-Malo-born 18th-century writer Chateaubriand – and Vauban’s fort du Petit Bé.
Back in the citadel, the narrow streets are lined with tall granite buildings, many of which were restored after being
bombed in World War II. In the Cathédrale Saint-Vincent, look out for a mosaic plaque on the spot where another of Saint-Malo’s famous sons, Jacques Cartier, was blessed before sailing off in 1535 to found the first french colony in Canada.
The old town’s social scene centres around Place Chateaubriand and rue Jacques Cartier, where you’ll find a great selection of bars, seafood restaurants and hotels.
Water sports enthusiasts should head to the Plage de Bon Secours, where leisure activities include sand-yachting and wind-surfing. for a more sedate encounter with the sea, Compagnie Corsaire organises boat trips around the bay and along the Emerald Coast, departing from the corner of this beach.
A firm family favourite is the grand Aquarium, situated about four kilometres south of the city centre. Attractions include exhibitions on local marine life, a simulated underwater descent in the ‘Nautibus’ submarine and a touch pool where children can stroke all sorts of fish, including stingrays and turbot.
For more information on what to see and details of hotels and restaurants, visit www.saint-malo-tourisme.co.uk
With up to 85 departures a day, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is the fastest, most frequent way to the continent by car, which means that Saint-Malo is closer than you think. Book early and get the best fares. Visit www.eurotunnel.com or call 0870 850 8133 to book your crossing.