Visiting Brittany? Stop in Saint Malo!
The French region of Brittany is a widely celebrated destination among both tourists and locals, and for good reason. Not only does it boast fascinating history that dates back as far as prehistoric times, but it’s also home to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful beaches in the world. Within this region there are a number of spectacular places to visit, but the most popular is Saint Malo, which epitomizes everything that Brittany has to offer and more. If a trip to Brittany is in your future, a stop over in St. Malo is simply a must. Here’s why.
With a long, sordid past that reaches back well into the Middle Ages, when St. Malo was a fortified island, it’s no surprise that the area remains a treasure trove of history to this very day. During the early part of the sixth century, saints Aaron and Brendan founded what’s known as Saint Malo and, over the centuries, the island became infamous for the fearless pirate-mariners that guarded its shores, demanding that anyone who passed through the Channel pay tribute. It was even the home of Jacques Cartier, who is credited with colonizing Canada. Today there is ample evidence of the area’s rich past, particularly in the many ancient buildings and structures – many of which still remain remarkably intact.
When it comes to popular sites to visit, there are plenty here to delight even the worldliest traveler. Solidor Tower, which is actually a structure of three towers linked together, stands proudly in the estuary of the river Rance. It was built during the 1300’s as a means of controlling access to the river. Over the centuries the impressive structure served as a military post, a jail and a museum that honors Breton soldiers, which is what it remains today. Another popular stopping point is the Saint Malo Cathedral (a.k.a. the Cathedral of St. Vincent), a magnificently designed building that is recognized as a national monument in France.
Not to be outdone by the area’s fascinating historical finds, St. Malo is also home to some spectacular natural landscapes, most of which revolve around water. Among the favorites are the Tidal Islands, in particular Petit Be and Grand Be. Petit Be is home to an imposing 17th century fort, which is now considered a historic monument. The island and its structure can be reached on foot at low tide. Grand Be is located at the mouth of the Rance River and also boasts remains of an ancient fort. It’s also the final resting place of the writer François-René de Chateaubriand, who was a St. Malo native. Just like Petit Be, during low tide, visitors can reach Grand Be on foot.
Another popular spot for visitors is the citadel, or Old Town. Today, glimpses of the area’s ancient past are still very much present, particularly in the old walls and cobblestone streets. Yet there is a remarkably modern feel mixed in with this old-world charm, with plenty of restaurants, hotels, bars and shops to visit during your stay. The city may be small, but you certainly won’t find yourself wondering what to do. In fact, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to stay just a little bit longer.