Not French, not Breton; but Malouin
Our next stop-over for today coming from Rennes and after the Mount Saint-Michel was the city of Saint Malo. Because of it being quite near Saint-Michel and because there is enough time to visit both cities on the same day, we could not leave the occasion pass and complete this area by coming here too. That was in fact a great decision! But I cannot imagine having to do the same we did if you are not having your own transportation (rental car) and depending instead on public buses or trains. Still feasible but stressful and way much shorter time to enjoy the places.
I could not imagine myself having to spend a full day in Saint Malo anyway, I would not know where else to go, unless heading across the Bassin de la Rance to Dinard which in any case, apart from luxurious mansions there’s no more. That’s why when you plan to come here, try to include either Saint-Michel if you’ve not been before, or other cities nearby to make the most out of the day, otherwise coming only just here is not that worth it. Yes it is a pretty city, but not one of the really must-dos if I am to be honest.
Saint Malo was in origin an island-city, but for many years not anymore although it is still surrounded by water at all sides, with a very strong tide, on the same way as it happens with Mont Saint-Michel, you can have 2 different views of this city either at high or at low tide, whichever is the case, the beauty of the city still there, and the number of tourists speak for themselves. It’s the most visited place in Brittany.
Because of its small size and easiness to visit, there is not much more to be said in this brief introduction. For more information about Saint Malo check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The currency in France is the Euro. Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Saint Malo
- The walled city Reason number one why to come here for visiting this city. The beautifully preserved old city lies entirely within the city walls, and although it was badly damaged during the WWII, it was rebuilt and restored in truth and detail.
-Fortifications, bastions and gates All around the perimeter of the walls.
-Grand Porte Main entrance gates to the old town located on the east.
-Porte Saint Vincent Located to the north, next to the Château of Saint-Malo.
-Porte de Dinan The smallest of the gates, located at the southern tip.
-Château of Saint-Malo The castle, on the northern tip of the old town, now serves as the Town Museum.
-Cathedral of Saint Vincent Combining Romanesque and Gothic styles, dates its origins to the 12th century, having to be rebuilt in part after WWII.
- Outside of the walled city Not much outside from a tourist sightseeing point of view, bearing the beaches and 2 islands off the coast, linked to mainland on low tide.
-Plage de Bon-Secours Is the beach on the west of the walled city, and right in between the Grand Bé Island.
-Grand Bé Island If at low tide, then you can walk from the Bon-Secours beach up towards this island from where you will get the best views of the walled city of St Malo.
-Petit Bé Island Only accessible at low tide, from the Bon-Seours beach and Grand Bé a little farther west. You can see the fort at its top from everywhere.
-Plage de l’Eventail and Plage du Sillon Both in the north of the walled city, are the largest ones in the city.
The nearest airport is Dinard–Pleurtuit–Saint-Malo, 13 kilometres away from St Malo downtown. Please note there is no public transportation serving the airport!. This leaves you with the only option of getting a taxi for the fixed fare of 22 Euros to the train station, or 25 Euros to anywhere within the walled area of the city. This airport is mostly served by low-cost carriers like Ryanair, but offers few destinations.
At around 1 hour away you have Rennes airport, with larger air traffic, but mostly national. The international routes are served by flag-carriers, so do not expect to find a great deal as you could find if flying to Dinard instead.
By train, the city is well connected to Rennes, taking around 50 minutes. Anywhere else along the west coast is also possible with trains to Les Sables d’Olonne, La Rochelle or Nantes. If going farther or to Paris, then a change in Rennes will be needed. The same applies to buses across France, not all the routes are direct and will involve a change in between.
Within the city and due to its reduced size, there is no need for taking any public transportation. The old historic town is enclosed within the city walls, and is mostly pedestrianised.
Although the accommodation choice is not too large in St Malo, in combination with Dinard just across the river make a good point to start with. In any case, I cannot recommend anything in this area since we made our base in Rennes.
The choice of hotels in Rennes, while not too big, is large enough to have a good variety among luxurious and more modest places. Also it was very simple and straightforward to find a good deal especially because it was still low season, even though it was almost April, just a week before Easter. As always, good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred hotel search engine websites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Ibis Rennes Centre Gare Sud. Modest 3* hotel, greatly located next door to the train station and a short walk to the old town and majority of the sights. Great staff care and attention, friendly at all moments; nice fresh room well cared with comfortable bed and very quiet at night. Perfect for a night as it was all we needed.