Last month I spent a few nights in Brittany, France. One of my favourite spots that I visited was Saint Malo. I’d never experienced that true seaside aspect of France before and it was absolutely beautiful. Here’s my guide to Saint Malo France including all the details you need on how to get to Saint Malo, my glorious spa experience in Saint Malo, visiting Dinard, the different Saint Malo beaches and more. Oh and all about my stunning hotel right on the beach. I never used to understand why people were so obsessed with holidaying by the sea in France year after year, but now I get it.
My Guide to Saint Malo France
About Saint Malo
Saint Malo is a gorgeous port city in Brittany. It was severely damaged during World War II. It took around twelve years to rebuild it and the original bricks from the rubble were used, which is why the city maintains its historic charm. The city is known for its walls and is often called The Walled City (La Ville Intra-muros). You can walk the walls of the city to get a great view over the cobbled streets, port and islands in the distance.
The three main islands visible from Saint Malo are Cézembre, Grand Bé and Petit Bé. Due to the tidal phenomenon (Saint Malo has the highest tides in Europe), you can walk to some of the islands at certain times of the day. Just be careful that you’re safely back on dry land before the tide starts to come back in, it could catch an unprepared tourist off guard!
Wandering around the streets of Saint Malo it’s clear to see that salted caramel and salted butter are specialties of the region. This is due to the fact that Brittany has no tax on salt, a deal they negotiated when they lost their independence. Galettes are something that you have to try when visiting Saint Malo or Brittany in general.
There’s a bit of a debate about what exactly a galette is, but it was explained to me by the locals as being a crepe made from buckwheat. They are much lighter than a traditional crepe made from normal flour. I tried one with seaweed butter, which was DIVINE, and one with egg, artichoke and cheese curds. I highly recommend the Breizch Café for lunch or dinner if you want to try a traditional galette.
You can read more about Saint Malo here.
Getting to Saint Malo
Saint Malo is very easily accessible from Paris, and pretty much everywhere else. There’s a direct train from Gare Montparnasse in Paris that takes around 3 hours. From the UK there is a direct ferry to Saint Malo from Portsmouth with Brittany Ferries. The ferry goes overnight so you can sleep on board and wake up in Saint Malo. You can also fly direct from London to Saint Malo with various airlines such as Flybe and Air France. From Ireland you need to fly from Dublin to Rennes with Aer Lingus and then take a train up to Saint Malo which is about 50 mins. Or, if you prefer, you can catch a ferry, with Brittany ferries, from Cork to Roscoff and drive to Saint Malo. Really, you are not short of options!
My Spa Experience in Saint Malo
The absolute highlight of my time in Saint Malo was my spa treatment at Le Grand Hotel Des Thermes. My therapist was called Celine and we communicated in Frenglish (French/English). She was absolutely lovely. I didn’t even hold it against her when she presented me with the dreaded disposable underwear which, despite the absolute state of them, they absolutely love in spas. The treatment room was stunning, with a bathtub overlooking the beach and the perfect amount of natural light.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I was told I was about to commence three hours of absolutely glorious, relaxing treatments. First there was the seaweed wrap which was done using local seaweed. Once that had all soaked in and my skin was suitable quenched I had to shower off in preparation for the next treatment. The shower was huge and modern and I didn’t want to get out, especially since it was lashin outside and the shower was so warm.
Then it was on to the back scrub which seemed to have a lot of steps to it. There was a steam machine involved, which I’ve never experienced in my life but now feel like I need one. There were hot towels and layers of various products and there was also a full body massage. I’m pretty sure I drifted off at one point.
Then came the full facial with hot mist and about 6 different layers which I imagine were exfoliates, moisturisers, serums etc. She even squeezed a few spots for me! This was actually my very first facial. I normally just get full body massages, so I didn’t really know what to expect. My skin felt absolutely fantastic afterwards though I did break out a bit around my chin which is apparently to be expected after a facial.
I nearly floated out of the treatment room when Celine told me that it was over. I sipped my fruit infused water and drifted down to the reception clutching my list of products that she had recommended for me. I would definitely recommend this spa to absolutely anyone who needs/deserves a bit of self care. They also have Thalasso facilities and can even arrange Thalasso short breaks with several treatments per day.
Read about the BENFITS OF A SPA DAY!!
Visiting Dinard From Saint Malo
It’s a 10 minute boat trip from Saint Malo to Dinard. The water taxi departs from the port in Saint Malo and has two different return posts from Dinard. It costs €6 return. The crossing was smooth during my visit and offered great views of both Saint Malo and Dinard. Dinard is an absolutely beautiful seaside town with giant Belle Epoque houses perched on cliffs overlooking the sea. I expected the houses to be home to Sabrina’s aunts, or Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children. They had a sort of beautifully creepy air to them. In reality they’re more likely to be owned by celebrities.
There are several walkways around the coast from the port to the main town area and beyond, with rocky outcrops and beautiful views. The main beach is Plage de l’Ecluse and is known for the blue and white striped beach tents. There’s plenty of water-based activities to partake in if you fancy a more active trip. The town itself is full of independent boutiques, cute coffee shops and fantastic restaurants. I picked up some French skincare products in the pharmacy and then had the most incredible strawberry and avocado salad in Le Cafe Rouge.
This visit was one of the highlights of my trip and I’d definitely recommend taking the time to see Dinard if you’re in Saint Malo. It’s an incredibly photogenic town!
Saint Malo Beaches
Plage du Sillon is the main big stretch of beach in Saint Malo, spanning nearly two miles. The sand is soft and there aren’t too many stones/pebbles. You’ll often see people learning to surf or windsurf here, though there never seemed to be much in the way of waves when I was there. However, there was a storm one evening and the kite surfers came out in force. Plage de Bon Secours is a non-smoking beach closer to the walled city of Saint Malo. It has a saltwater pool with a diving platform so that you can still swim even when the tide is far out. Plage de l’Eventail, close to Plage du Sillon, is a more rocky beach. When the tide is low you can walk from this beach to the island fort. Plage du Mole is the smallest beach in Saint Malo but it is the most sheltered from the wind. In the summer it fills up quick because of its size, beautiful views and prime tanning conditions. No matter where you are in Saint Malo you’ll be close to one of its lovely beaches.
Hotel Les Charmettes
During my time in Saint Malo I stayed in Hotel Les Charmettes, a quirky, beautifully decorated 3* hotel right on the Plage du Sillon. There’s a small shop in the back where they sell locally produced food and crafts. The breakfast/dining room has a lovely view out over the beach and sea. There is an open-air restaurant/bar area at the back of the hotel that leads right out on to the beachfront. The rooms are decorated with great taste in an offbeat, indy style. The wifi is decent (I watched a few episodes of something on Netflix). The bathroom is a bit dated, that’s the only criticism I would have if pushed. There are two buildings, I stayed in the main hotel building. There are bikes that can be rented from reception so that you can cycle into the walled city. I walked and it took about 15-20 minutes with beautiful beach views.
You can see more about the hotel or book a room here.
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