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Saint-Malo (Photo:gnoparus/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Saint-Malo

In Brittany's walled city of Saint-Malo, France, getting lost is part of the lure. You're almost guaranteed to be drawn delightfully off course by an enticing quiet cobblestone alley, the warm sugary aroma of a creperie or a shop window beckoning passersby with artfully arranged French fashions. But if you ever find yourself truly disoriented by the maze of narrow medieval streets, just keep walking; the historic section of Saint-Malo is so small that you're never more than a few minutes from the thick stone ramparts that have protected the city for centuries. Follow these walls until you reach a gate to the outside world or a set of stairs leading up to the top of the ramparts, from which you can orient yourself by looking out over the city.

About Saint-Malo


Pro

Saint-Malo is a fantastic base for exploring the Brittany region of France

Con

Many of the shops in town close on Sundays

Bottom Line

A gorgeous town to explore by foot, Saint-Malo has a well-preserved old city and creperies galore


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Known as the City of Corsairs, Saint-Malo made its fortune on the high seas through trade, exploration and, in some cases, privateering -- piracy that was sanctioned by the crown during times of war. These 17th- and 18th-century pirates, called corsairs, could capture enemy ships and keep both the vessel and anything on it for themselves, as long as they contributed a portion of the bounty to the king. Modern-day visitors can learn more about the dangerous but lucrative life of an 18th-century corsair at the Demeure de Corsaire, or Privateer's House.

Saint-Malo has long since outgrown the bounds of the original medieval city, and today, only about 1,000 people live permanently within the walls. The area is particularly popular with wealthy Brits and Parisians who keep summer residences there and with visitors who appreciate the convivial sidewalk cafes, historic plazas and bracing salt air.

Many cruisers skip Saint-Malo altogether in favor of a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel, the famous medieval abbey and village that loom over the surrounding tidal flats in many a French postcard. Saint-Malo is also a good jumping-off point for other explorations in the Brittany region; appealing stops include the oyster farms of Cancale, the pretty riverfront village of Dinan and the 19th-century beach resort of Dinard.

Where You're Docked

Smaller ships dock along the Quai Saint-Louis, just a few steps from one of the entrances into the old city. Larger vessels must moor farther out and tender passengers to Cale de la Bourse, which is also within walking distance of the city walls.

Good to Know

At low tide, visitors can walk to the fort on the island of Petit Be, but stay too long and you could be stranded on the island when the water rushes back in. Ask about the tide schedules at the tourist office before setting out.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency in France is the euro. You can check the latest exchange rates at www.xe.com or www.oanda.com. There's an ATM in the old city at the Banque Populaire de L'ouest (3 Rue Porcon de la Barbinais).

Language

French is the official language. Many locals speak at least a little English, especially within the city walls, where tourists are common.

Shopping

Save space in your suitcase for locally crafted lace or pottery, or perhaps a Breton shirt with the horizontal stripes that fashion icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel made famous. If you're looking for edible souvenirs, salted butter caramel candies make for a sweet and easily transportable indulgence.