The pirate town of St-Malo, Brittany, France


trek - Posted on 19 August 2010

Gustave Flaubert famously described the fortified port of St-Malo, on Brittany’s northern coast, as a “stone crown over the waves”. Indeed, the view of St-Malo from the sea is incredibly impressive. It is an extremely pretty and elegant European destination, with its imposing, grey granite walls and charming streets and it is a wonderful place to enjoy a stroll or a few days of exploration.
The first settlement here dates back to the 6th century. Apparently, even these early settlers constructed an impressive defensive wall. But St-Malo’s most famous residents were the corsairs who, for centuries, transformed St-Malo into a famous pirates’ den. The corsairs became rich controlling the Channel and they constructed beautiful homes within the walled city.

Enjoy wandering this former pirate city, its winding streets, pretty churches and picturesque squares. The Saint Vincent Cathedral, begun in the 12th century, is the oldest surviving church. Walking along the city walls is a must and a beautiful way to enjoy the panorama. Visitors will also want to walk along the beach and along the rocky prominitory to the fortress.
The thing that really strikes a visitor is knowing that this entire city is reconstructed, for St-Malo was virtually destroyed by bombing in World War II. Practically the entire city was slowly and painstakingly reconstructed so that this architectural gem would not be lost forever.

Needless to say, seafood is the speciality in this Breton town. Saint-Malo is close to Cancale, said to have France’s best oysters. It’s a great place to sample some Fruits de Mer.
Since we were traveling with children, we set aside time to visit the small, but excellent Saint-Malo Aquarium , just outside of town. This was an enjoyable way to wrap up our day after visiting beautiful St-Malo.
Photo courtesy of the Saint-Malo Aquarium website
My Europe travel tip is to spend some time in Brittany, exploring inland destinations as well as the pretty coastal towns, such as lovely Saint-Malo.
The Saint-Malo Aquarium is open daily 10:00 – 19:00.  Throughout much of July and August, the aquarium has extended hours and is open until 22:00. Tickets are 15.50 euro for adults/9.50 euro for children (children under 4 are free). Tickets can be purchased online.
The pirate town of St-Malo, Brittany, France

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  • Having satisfied my craving for oysters in Cancale, I took the coastal road passing through a number of seaside villages to the city of Saint-Malo. Like a lot of people, I had only ever thought of this city as a ferry port; ferries arrive here from, and depart for, Portsmouth and Poole in the UK.

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  • The walled port city of St. Malo, in the north-west of France, is a popular destination for ferry trippers who prefer to go further afield than Calais or Dunkirk. Its location in Brittany, which borders the English Channel to the north, the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, makes it an ideal place to get to by ferry. The great thing about arriving by ferry is that you have the luxury of your own transport right from the start. Although it is possible to hire a car, many hire car companies don’t allow you to take their cars on to the ferries, so do check beforehand.