Have you heard of Saint-Malo, a gem on the Emerald Coast in Northern France? With its towering fortresses, cobblestone streets and picturesque beaches, Saint-Malo is a perfect destination for travelers looking for a good mix of history and nature.
On Ferryhopper, you can find out the best travel tips about Saint-Malo, including the must-see places, local delicacies and all the ferries to get there!
The breathtaking ramparts in the the old part of Saint-Malo
Holidays in Saint-Malo
The enthralling town of Saint-Malo definitely shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Brittany. With its large fortified walls and location in a place where the land meets the sea, Saint-Malo looks as if it’s straight out of a storybook.
If you are fond of maritime history, love Northern France and are on the lookout for a unique vacation destination, you might want to consider making the trip to Saint-Malo. The town is well-known for serving as a significant port in the 17th and 18th centuries for both commercial ships and the notorious corsairs (privateers who roamed the English Channel).
Today, the beautiful walled city in Northern France is a wonderful destination for a French holiday with family and friends. It’s popular among holidaymakers thanks to its many historic buildings, stunning vistas and wealth of things to do.
How to get to Saint-Malo
You can travel to Saint-Malo by car, plane, train or ferry. If you wish to travel by plane, the main airport serving the city is the Dinard–Pleurtuit–Saint-Malo Airport, which is located just a 25 minute drive from the city center. It is also possible to arrive in Saint-Malo by car. From Paris it will take you approximately 4 hours. One route takes you on the A13 and the other on the A11.
If you prefer getting to Saint-Malo by train, from the Gare Montparnasse in Paris, there is a TGV that travels to Rennes, the capital of Brittany, from where you can quickly transfer to a regional train to Saint-Malo. Total travel time by train is just under 3 hours.
Alternatively, you can reach Saint-Malo by ferry. Your ferry journey begins at one of the following ports: Portsmouth, Poole, Jersey, and Guernsey. To learn more about the ferries to Saint-Malo, check out our section below.
What to do in Saint-Malo
One of the top things to do when arriving in Saint-Malo is to explore Intra-Muros, the old town, home to many historic buildings and monuments. Wander through the narrow winding streets and discover the charming boutiques, cafes and galleries. Don’t forget to check out the infamous Saint-Malo Cathedral and meander along the ramparts, which offer a stunning bird’s eye view of the city.
Saint-Malo is also a great starting point for day-trips around the region. The greatest ones include a visit to the nearby Mont Saint Michel, a tidal island with a Gothic Abbey, as well as a trip to Dinan, the best-preserved medieval town in Brittany. Alternatively, you can access the Petit Bé and Grand Bé, small islands right in front of Saint-Malo, during low tide straight from the ramparts. Feeling hungry? Head to Saint-Malo’s harbor and have lunch at one of the several restaurants specializing in seafood and fresh fish.
If you are a keen beachgoer, then spending the day exploring the golden beaches of Saint-Malo is an absolute must. Highlights include plage du Mole, as well as plage de l’Eventail. Another option is to head to plage de Bon Secours, a protected tidal swimming pool west of Saint-Malo's walls. This is also an excellent location to admire Instagram-worthy sunsets.
Lastly, if you feel fascinated by the tidal phenomenon, we recommend visiting Saint-Malo in March or September, when the highest tides occur. Watch the Saint Malo waves crash into the walls from a safe distance, of course!
The golden sand plage du Mole at low tide
Sightseeing in Saint-Malo
The coastal town of Saint-Malo is filled with many interesting sights and landmarks that help to create its historical significance and its charismatic aura. Here are some of the most popular attractions for sightseeing in Saint-Malo:
- Château de Saint-Malo, home of the Musée d'Histoire de Saint-Malo
- The Ramparts of Saint-Malo, constructed at the end of the 17th century
- St-Vincent Cathedral
- The Memorial 39-45, depicting Saint-Malo's WWII history and liberation
- The Fort National
- The Grand Bé, a tidal island near Saint-Malo housing the grave of the famous French writer Chateaubriand
- The Grand Aquarium, 4 km south of the city center
The historic St. Vincent Cathedral in the center of the old city of Saint-Malo
Nightlife in Saint-Malo
The charming town of Saint-Malo is also known for its vibrant nightlife. The city has a wide variety of bars, restaurants and clubs to suit all tastes and budgets. The best area for nightlife is the Old Town, but there are some lively bars and clubs along the waterfront. For a more relaxed evening, head to one of the many cafes in the area. You can also find some great live music venues, perfect for a night out with friends.
If you’re looking for something a little different, head to the nearby Dinard, which is known for its casinos.
Food in Saint-Malo
One thing is for sure, your visit to Saint-Malo promises some delightful discoveries, both from the land and the sea. Among others, this area of the world is famous for its traditional churned butter, cheeses, crepes, oysters, and multi-award winning cider.
Here are a few of the finger-licking dishes and products that visitors should try when in Saint-Malo:
- galette de bretagne (thin crepes filled with eggs, ham, mushrooms, and bacon)
- galette-saucisse (a cold buckwheat crepe wrapped around a grilled pork sausage)
- cotriade (a kind of fish stew)
- mussels from the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel
- Cancale oysters
- galette (savory crepe with ham, egg and cheese)
- caramel beurre salé (salted butter caramel)
- kouign-amann (butter cake)
Tip: butter lovers alert! For the best butter in the world, make sure to visit La Maison du Beurre Bordier.
The buttery, crusty and delicious kouign-amann from Brittany, France
Here are 4 tips for your stay in Saint-Malo:
- Keep in mind that the climate of Saint-Malo is oceanic and therefore it is windy and it rains quite a bit. So make sure to come prepared.
- Be aware of the extreme tides at Saint-Malo. They are among the biggest in Europe, with water that can rise 13 m over the course of 6 hours.
- For more food-related things to do in Saint-Malo, we recommend visiting the indoor market held at Halle au Blé on Tuesdays and Fridays.
- Discover the Breton coastline on the Sentier des Douaniers, a hiking path with a length of more than 1,300 km. Follow the GR-34 on either side of Saint-Malo for a fantastic half-day or full-day of hiking.
High tide and dramatic waves in Saint-Malo
Useful information about Saint-Malo
Across the city, you can find all essential visitor amenities for a pleasant stay. Due to its popularity as a tourist destination in Brittany, the town and its surroundings are home to a wide variety of well-rated accommodations, from seaside gems to elegant chateaux with gourmet restaurants.
As for health care, there are several hospitals as well as medical centers in Saint-Malo and the surrounding area.
Important phone numbers for your stay in Saint-Malo
Here are some useful contacts for your trip to Saint-Malo:
- Saint-Malo Port Authority: +33299205100
- Saint-Malo Police Station: +33223181818
- Saint-Malo Hospital: +33299212121
- Saint-Malo Airport: +33299461846
- Tourist Information Center: +33299566699
- European emergency number: 112
Transportation in Saint-Malo
The city center of Saint-Malo is around 4 sq. km. in size and, therefore, it’s easily walkable. In addition, considering that there are more than 50 km of bike lanes and paths in the city, riding a bicycle is another cool way of exploring it. Note, however, that cycling is not very practical in the Old Town due to the cobblestone pathways and crowds. Driving a car is also not the best idea for getting around the walled city, since much of it is pedestrianized.
For longer distances you can rely on the city’s public transport. The primary public transportation company in Saint-Malo is Saint-Malo Agglo Transports (MAT). It has 16 bus routes covering 18 towns in the historical Pays de Saint-Malo (Saint-Malo county). The main bus terminals are located on Quay Saint-Vincent outside the walled city and at the train station.
Finally, from April to October, you can hop on the sea bus if you’re interested in visiting Cancale, Saint Cast-le-Guildo, Dinan or Dinard.
Ports in Saint-Malo
Saint-Malo Ferry Port is located conveniently on the north coast of Brittany, just a few minutes from the center of the city. It is one of the largest and busiest ports in France.
The closest train station is located just a 25-minute walk from the port, in Avenue Anita Conti. Additionally, there is a bus stop about a 3-minute walk from the port. A regular bus service operates from here to the town center.
Near the port area, you will find many amenities, such as a cafeteria, a gift shop and a tourist information desk. There’s also both short and long term parking available at the port.
Saint-Malo ferry: schedules and tickets
The port of Saint-Malo can be reached by ferry from England (Portsmouth, Poole) and the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey). The main companies that operate these ferry connections are Condor Ferries and Brittany Ferries.
Here you can find more information on the ferry connections to Saint-Malo:
- Portsmouth-Saint Malo ferry: the ferry connection between Portsmouth and Saint-Malo is operated by Brittany Ferries with up to 7 weekly crossings all year round. The crossing takes about 11 hours.
- Poole-Saint Malo ferry: there are usually 3 daily ferry connections between Poole and Saint-Malo and the journey lasts around 6.5 hours.
- Jersey-Saint Malo ferry: the connection between Jersey and Saint-Malo is operated by Condor Ferries with up to 5 weekly crossings. The ferry trip takes about 1.5 hours.
- Guernsey-Saint Malo ferry: the ferry between Guernsey and Saint-Malo is operated with around 3 weekly crossings. The journey takes about 2 hours.
The Vauban marina and the city of Saint-Malo in the background
Where to book ferry tickets to Saint-Malo online
At the moment, it’s not possible to book ferry tickets to Saint-Malo on Ferryhopper. As we focus on including more routes, check out our interactive Map of ferries, browse all available ferry schedules in France and book ferry tickets for your next trip!