The best things to do in Saint-Malo make this coastal town one of the most popular holiday destinations in Brittany. They help to create its historical importance and its charismatic aura, both of which gave it the nickname "The City of Corsairs." Birthplace of legendary sailors and privateers such as Jacques Cartier, the man who discovered Canada, and Robert Surcouf, Saint-Malo is a city boasting a strong and independent character. 

Walk around the ramparts that surround the Old Town, visit an ancient fort, snack on crêpes and galettes, or discover manmade wonders. Saint-Malo offers what seems to be an endless choice of things to see and do in its unique historical setting and atmosphere.

What are the best things to do in Saint-Malo?

  • 1

    Chateaubriand Square

    A lively square atmospheric of Old Saint-Malo

    Chateaubriand Square
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    Chateaubriand Square is a perfect place to start your stay in Saint-Malo. This paved square, right next to the entrance of the Old Town through Saint-Thomas Gate, teems with the welcoming outdoor terraces of bars, restaurants, and hotels, including Hôtel de l’Univers, Café des Voyageurs, and Brasserie Le Chateaubriand.

    A few stalls sell souvenirs and paintings on the other side of the square, just in front of the Saint-Malo Castle, which hosts the History Museum of the city and the country of Malo. This lively spot is also ideal for taking in some of the city’s incredible architecture.

    Location: Place Chateaubriand, 35400 Saint-Malo, France

    Map

    photo by Pline (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

  • 2

    Saint-Malo Old Town

    A reconstructed historical district

    Saint-Malo Old Town
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    Dating back to the 6th century, Saint-Malo Old Town was almost entirely rebuilt after WWII. Today, its cobblestoned narrow streets and splendid houses made of gray granite give you a very pleasant journey back in time. There’s a romantic and charming atmosphere that makes it perfect for wandering. 

    From the 13th-century Saint-Vincent Cathedral to the 18th-century corsair mansions, the Old Town is filled with historical sites to visit, but also lined with arts and crafts boutiques and quaint bars and restaurants. Pick up a guide map at the Tourist Office on Esplanade Saint-Vincent and go explore Saint-Malo Intra Muros.

    Location: 35400 Saint-Malo, France

    Map
  • 3

    Saint-Malo Ramparts

    Incredible views of the Old Town and its surroundings

    Saint-Malo Ramparts
    • Couples
    • History
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    A leisurely walk on the Saint-Malo ramparts gives you the opportunity to see Saint-Malo and its surroundings from a different angle. Just south of the castle, Saint-Vincent Gate is the place to start a tour of the ramparts. These ancient walls provide a little insight into the city’s rich history.

    Along the 2 km walkway that overlooks the city, you’ll see the houses and statues of famous Saint-Malo shipowners and privateers, 3 of the beautiful beaches of Saint-Malo, the Môle, Bon-Secours, and l'Éventail, Petit and Grand Bé islands, and many more interesting sights. It takes about an hour to walk, and it’s a great way of finding where to spend the rest of your day in Saint Malo.

    Location: 35400 Saint-Malo, France

    Map
  • 4

    Bon-Secours Beach

    Wholesome seaside fun

    Bon-Secours Beach
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    Just west of the Old Town and reachable through Saint-Pierre Gate, Bon-Secours Beach offers a great range of fun and traditional seaside activities. The simplest of these is just choosing a spot of golden sand and laying back to enjoy the warm summer sun. Just don’t forget the sunscreen and a picnic.

    The beach has a seawater swimming pool which allows you to swim even at low tide. There’s also a 3- and 5-meter diving board for those feeling a little adventurous. A friendly sailing club rents out sea kayaks, Hobie Cats, and sailing dinghies. From Bon-Secours you can reach Petit and Grand Bé islands on foot, at low tide.

    Location: 4 Rue de la Crosse, 35400 Saint-Malo, France

    Phone: +33 (0)8 25 13 52 00

    Map

    photo by Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

  • 5

    The Sculptured Rocks

    Awe-inspiring oceanside granite sculptures

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    For a truly remarkable sight during your time in Saint Malo, carefully make your way 5 km out of town to the cliffside of Rothéneuf. Here you’ll find over 300 sculptures hand-carved from the granite cliffs in the late 1800s, all done by one hermit monk over 13 years.

    The path is tricky so leave the strollers behind and wear good walking shoes. We promise it’s worth the effort. Thanks to intricate sea monsters, smiling figures, and stern-faced pirates, you’ll be transported into another world completely off the tourist track. While you’re here, why not visit the artist’s old house, the Ermitage de Rothéneuf, to learn more about this talented monk?

    Location: 4 Chem. des Rochers Sculptés, 35400 Saint-Malo, France

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm

    Phone: +33 (0)6 68 98 23 95

    Map
  • 6

    Paramé

    The pleasant seaside resort of Saint-Malo

    Paramé
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    Located about 3 km northeast of the Old Town, the seaside resort of Paramé is famous for its long, picturesque sandy beaches Plage du Sillon and de la Hoguette, for its indulgent sea spa, Les Thermes Marins de Saint-Malo, and for its stunning 19th-century hotel and villas. You’ll see these decorative buildings on the beachfront, as well as on Boulevard Hébert and Boulevard Chateaubriand, helping to make Paramé a pleasant place for a late-afternoon stroll.

    You’ll also find a few seaside restaurants, such as Les Chaumette and Les Terrasses des Thermes, for a taste of Saint Malo’s dining scene. Don’t forget to stop by the farmers’ market for tasty fresh produce and homemade wares.

    Location: Paramé, 35400 Saint-Malo, France

    Map

    photo by TCY (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

  • 7

    Fort National

    An awe-inspiring 17th-century stronghold

    Fort National
    • History
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    Built at the end of the 17th century by Vauban, one of the most celebrated French military engineers, Fort National is an impressive stronghold that sits on the tiny Rock Islet, 300 meters north of Saint-Malo Old Town. As you stand on the bastion and gaze at this ancient monument, you’ll feel a real sense of adventure. 

    Only open for visitors from June to September, Fort National is worth the trip not only for its history, but also for the beautiful views it offers of the coast and of Saint-Malo Old Town. Ask for the guide booklet, which is available in English, at the entrance as it relates the whole history of the fort.

    Location: 60 Chaussée du Sillon, 35400 Saint-Malo, France

    Open: Daily in June–September from 10 am to 5 pm but does depend on the tide

    Phone: +33 (0)6 72 46 66 26

    Map

    photo by Marco Usan (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveler