St Malo has several districts, the most popular being intra muros or ‘inside the walls’. The tall granite buildings, most of which were restored after being bombed during the war, house an interesting mix of cosy hotels, restaurants to suit all tastes and shops by the dozen. Take a tour on the little train to get your bearings or enjoy a bracing walk around the ramparts. The Musée de la Ville tells you all you need to know about the town’s history and includes some fascinating maritime objects like the prow of a ship.
Where it all began
St Malo is best known as being a breeding ground for privateers, who based themselves in the St Servan district (although to see how they lived you should head back intra muros to Hôtel d’Asfeld). It was here that St Malo was founded by the Welsh monk St Maclou, who built a church on the site of the Roman city of Alet . The main reason to come this area, apart from the views back over the citadel, is to see the 14th-century Tour Solidor, which houses the Museum of Cape Horners.
South of St Servan is the Grand Aquarium, where you’ll encounter 600 species of fish from cold and hot waters across the globe – including a tank full of sharks.
Opposite the old town are two little islands that can be reached at low tide (heed the warnings or you’ll get stuck!). On one is the Vauban-built Fort National and on the other is the tomb of the writer and politician Chateaubriand, who was born in St Malo in 1768.
The Canada connection
Long sandy beaches sweep east from the old town to the district of Rothéneuf. Here you’ll find the former house of one of St Malo’s most famous sons, Jacques Cartier, who discovered Canada; the 15th-century Manoir de Limoëlou houses a fascinating museum dedicated to the explorer.