If you have an interest in history, love Northern France, and are on the lookout for a quirky getaway, then perhaps you should consider taking the time to visit Saint-Malo in Brittany. Situated in a place where the land meets the sea and where myth is often hard to separate from legend and history itself, here are the very best reasons to visit St Malo!
All the history
It’s well-known that the motto of Saint-Malo, which dates back to the 16th-century, is “Ni Français ni Breton, Malouin suis” (I am neither French nor Breton, I am Malouin). The town has a long history of being self-governed, a fact which undoubtedly led to the rise of a whole host of privateers and pirates over the years.
If you love reading fiction books with a twist of history (and are also a francophile at heart!) then you simply must read ‘All the Light We Cannot See‘ by Antony Doerr. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is set at the height of WWII and takes place in various locations throughout Europe, including Paris and, of course, St-Malo. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s worth noting that the prose and descriptions are out of this world beautiful…
With its own local language of Breton and Celtic mythology never too far away, Brittany is now only awash with the sea but also by regional myths and legends. Local Arthurian tales worth mentioning are those involving the wizard Merlin, who is said to have resided in magical Breton forests, as well as that of Château de Comper, in the Morbihan Region, which is said to have been the birthplace of Sir Lancelot.
Elsewhere in the Brittany region, there are plenty of stories of star-crossed lovers, sinners, and of course, saints. Saint-Malo himself is the patron saint of the city of Saint-Malo, lost items, and (rather randomly) pig-keepers. Allegedly born in Wales, he is said to be the founder of the modern day city, as well as one of the founding saints of Brittany.
Read more: 10 useful & beautiful Breton words
If sandy beaches are your thing, then you’ve come to the right place. Provided that the weather is good (it’s worth noting that it rains quite a bit in this part of France- there’s a reason those rolling hills are so green!), then spending the day exploring the golden beaches of Saint-Malo is an absolute must.
Highlights of the sands which lies outside of Saint-Malo’s fortified structure include Plage du Mole (what this popular beach lacks in space, it most certainly makes up for in prime views), as well as the Plage de l’Eventail (though the rockiest of Saint Malo’s beaches, Chateaubriand named it among his favourites as a child).
Perfect base for exploring the region
Some of the very best day trips from Saint-Malo include a visit to nearby Mont Saint Michel (you know, that conically shaped tidal island which is home to a Gothic Abbey), as well as a trip to the best-preserved medieval town in Brittany, that of Dinan. Check the best Saint-Malo accommodation prices here.
Elsewhere in the Brittany region, a land well-known for its rugged coastline and wild waves, there’s stretches of coastline to explore, long-abandoned châteaux to spy, and more hikes than you could hope to walk in one lifetime. For a more off-the-beaten-track destination as a day trips fromSaint-Malo, consider visiting the beach Fort Guesclin, a tidal island which has since been fortified to an impressive degree.
Read more: How to spend three days in Brittany
The best French crepes come from Brittany. That’s a fact. (And it’s worth noting that many of the crêpes are made of buckwheat). Those who love sweet desserts should also sample Kouign-Amann, a local pastry made from plenty of sugar and dollops of butter.
If savoury is more your thing than sweet, it’s worth noting that this area of the world is famous for its cheeses and locally brewed ciders. Highlights of Brittany and nearby Normandy dairy include Pont-l’Eveque, Livarot, Brillat-Savarin, Port Hi.
For fans of all seafood-related dishes, then it’s worth noting that due to Saint Malo’s proximity to the sea, there’s plenty of restaurants serving a sea-inspired menu inside the walled city. Must-try seafood from Brittany includes Moules Marinières (Cancale Mussels) and Cotriade (a kind of fish stew).
Read more: History of the Kouign-Amann