Explore Exceptional Saint-Malo, Brittany

The small town of Saint-Malo, in north-western France, may not be as famous as Paris, the Côte d’Azur or Provence, but a remarkable past, exquisite architecture and hospitable charm make it a first-class destination. Throughout the summer season, hotels in Saint-Malo lure throngs of tourists eager to unravel the wonders of Brittany.

The origins of Saint-Malo trace back to the early 6th century and a small monastic settlement. It was later, in the Middle Ages, that fortification walls were built around the town proper. Saint-Malo’s advantageous position on the English Channel and estuary of the Rance river gave rise to the city’s infamous status as a haven for corsairs; private ship owners contracted by the Crown to seize enemy vessels for a share of the on-board bounty. This colourful “swasbuckler” saga of Saint-Malo’s history endured for hundreds of years, from the mid-12th century to the mid-19th century. Copious cultural remnants flourish for visitors to enjoy today.

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Aside from corsairs, the settlement was the birthplace of Chateaubriand, the eminent Romantic writer, and of Jacques Cartier, famous explorer of Quebec and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Other icons with links to Saint-Malo include the writers Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert and the painters Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Paul Gauguin.

Sunset in Saint Malo
Saint-Malo’s venerable heart, the inner medieval sanctum known as “La Ville Intra Muros”, is one of the most impressive points of interest in Britanny. A walk on the stone walls is a must-do, with inherent views of beautiful architecture and the coast. Happily, a long and faithful restoration job resurrected much of the old city after ruinous World War II damage.

Entre mur et mer     Saint Malo
In terms of specific landmarks in Saint-Malo, the Cathedral of Saint-Vincent is a gem. The town also features a superb ensemble of museums full of pertinent artifacts and fine art. Other attractions to consider include the Petit Bé and Grand Bé tidal islands and the supreme Great Aquarium Saint-Malo. The proximate town of Saint-Servan has a wonderful medieval fort and tower (Tour de Solidor) to explore as well. Nearby Mont Saint-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and nonpareil national treasure of France.

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The cuisine of Saint-Malo (and indeed, Brittany) is extraordinary and makes brilliant use of local ingredients from the sea. This is oyster country, so prepare to shuck and slurp to your heart’s content. For some of the best bivalve mollusks in the world, head to the town of Cancale – pulse point of Bélon oysters – a mere 15.5 km from Saint-Malo.

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