City of pirates, Saint-Malo is a coastal gem protected by defensive walls. The shops are generally open on Sundays and there are plenty of walks and places to see. Enjoy a weekend of relaxation, discovery and sea air!
Saint-Malo overflows with history: follow in the footsteps of sailors, past and present, as you explore its walls, the castle and the old town and the shoreline which is part of the Emerald Coast. Tour the city of pirates in 10 essential stages.
1. Admire the view from the castle dungeon
Delve into the Saint Malo Museum of History, which is located in the castle, then head to the imposing dungeon watchtower. You’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the city, the bay of Saint-Malo and the National Fort. This vantage point offers a breathtaking view of the Emerald Coast, from Cap Fréhel in the west to la Pointe de la Varde in the East.
2. Tour the ramparts, circumnavigating the defensive walls, then immerse yourself in pirate history
Tourists and locals alike love this walk – walking the walls is a classic activity that allows you to delve into the rich history of this pirate city. It takes about 40 minutes to stroll the 1,754 metres around the walls, taking in beautiful views of the beaches, forts and islands on one side and the narrow streets of the old city and the 'intramuros' on the other. Pick up a Little Pirate’s Ship’s Log (Carnet de Bord du P’tit Corsaire) from the tourist office to keep the children busy and interest them in a bit of local history.
3. Relax in the peaceful Marine Spa
The design of the Thermes Marins Spa alone is enough to see off stress! Overlooking Sillon beach, located between 19th century seaside villas, the Thermes Marins has been created inside a Belle Époque building. It’s worth treating yourself to a moment of well-being in such an incredible setting. Pick from spa treatments with sea water or marine algae or enjoy aquatonic exercises in a saltwater pool heated between 31° and 34°C. To enjoy endless panoramic views of the sea, sit down to a gourmet à la carte lunch at Le Cap Horn and sample Cancale oysters, scallops, wild turbot and more.
4. Succumb to gourmet temptations in the old town
The old town of Saint-Malo is a food lover’s paradise! Our favourite? Les Chiquettes (traditional lollipops) in salted butter caramel from Maison Guella (8 rue Porcon de la Barbinais), a renowned biscuit confectioner. Maybe you would also like...? Delicious ice cream in incredible flavours from Sanchez, such as the addictive balsamic strawberry (rue de la Vieille Boucherie).
5. Head for the island of Grand Bé to visit Chateaubriand’s last resting place
On the eve of his 60th birthday, Chateaubriand wrote to the mayor of Saint-Malo to ask permission to be buried on the island of Grand Bé. This romantic writer from Saint-Malo now rests in an anonymous grave overlooking the sea. The little island off Bon Secours beach becomes a peninsula at low tide. Take the paved path exposed when the tide is out and explore the Fort National and the neighbouring Fort du Petit-Bé. But be careful: you need to keep your eye on the tide to avoid being imprisoned when the sea rises!
6. Sailing on an old sailing ship out into the bay of Saint-Malo
All aboard! Relive a pirate adventure in the bay of Saint-Malo, with daytime sea adventures available between April to September. Take the helm or tan yourself in the bow of a three-masted ship, or a replica of the boat helmed by Surcouf, the famous pirate from Saint-Malo. Discover the bay of Saint-Malo, the islands of Chausey, Jersey and Guernsey or the Bréhat archipelago. If you don’t have sea legs, it might be better to visit L’Etoile du Roy, a replica of a 1745 Saint-Malo pirate frigate docked near the castle.
7. Discover maritime creations
There’s no mistaking the fact that the bags made from re-purposed sails sold at Vent de Voyage (3 rue Saint-Thomas, intramuros) are 100% locally produced. The creative workshop is just upstairs from the shop on the ground floor. You can also explore the sea in another area of the city – La Droguerie de Marine brings you stories of sailors, fishermen and other sea dogs. This bookshop in the Saint-Servan district is located in a charming old port warehouse and the books stand alongside maritime-themed decorative objects.
8. Feast in the old town restaurants
The intramuros area of Saint-Malo has plenty of restaurants. But far from being a string of “tourist traps”, the old town holds some tasty surprises for food lovers. To take a break from traditional pancakes, head to the Comptoir Breizh Café (6 rue Orme), which offers a traditional galette tapas with an Asian twist. For a romantic dinner, try le Bistrot Autour du Beurre (7 rue Orme). As the name suggests, this restaurant serving inventive locally produced cuisine has a thing for butter. It’s all about the legendary Bordier butter, invented in Saint-Malo and now found on Michelin-starred tables all over the world!
9. Enjoy the view from the City of Alet
Fancy a breath of fresh, briny air away from the bustle of the old town and castle area? Then stroll the City of Alet, in the district of Saint-Servan, 20 minutes west of the intramuros. This historic site is home to Gallo-Roman remains and provides panoramic views of the pirate city and the bay, as well as the Rance dam and the tidal factory. Take this opportunity to lunch at La Cale, a seafood restaurant designed like a fisherman’s hut, ideally located overlooking the sea and the majestic Tour Solidor.
10. Enjoy the friendly bars of Saint-Malo
Generations of sailors have frequented the bars of Saint-Malo and their spirits still hover over the cobbled streets of the old city. Visit the Bar de l’Univers, to discuss the art of sailing and navigation with experienced skippers. Some will have even taken part in the famous Route du Rhum. The bar's non-minimalist decor features a doll collection, while access to the bathroom is via an elevator that see-saws past the bar: enjoy the eccentricity of the “Café on the bottom corner at the end of the city facing le port-La Java”, otherwise known as Saint-Malo’s oldest bar.