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St Malo France

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St Malo is an extremely popular tourist destination in Brittany, and the tourists have good reason to flock there. An important port during the 17th and 18th centuries, St Malo was home to the Malouin privateers (essentially pirates sanctioned by the government) who terrorized the English ships in the Channel.

St Malo was a military stronghold and the walled city on the mouth of the River Rance has protected the estuary and sea since the 12th century, although most of the remaining granite buildings (reminiscent of the Mont St Michel in style) are later additions. The walled citadelle contains more shops, restaurants and bars now than pirates' lairs, and plenty of hotels, and the clean beaches nearby make St Malo an ideal place to spend some time.

Dinan airport information

The main focus of tourist attention is the citadelle, situated at the end of a long causeway attached to the mainland. Once an island, the old town is referred to as Intra Muros or the Ville Close because it is contained within the city walls. Other resorts within the larger St Malo area include the towns of St Servan, Paramé and Rothéneuf. If you tire of St Malo itself you could walk under the ramparts onto the shore and out to the Ile du Grand Bé along a causeway that is subject to tides. But be warned: if you stay too long you will have to wait for low tide again and will have only the tomb of didactic nineteenth century writer Chateaubriand for company!

Although the old town looks convincingly old, it was devastated by WWII and lovingly restored in the 17th and 18th century style after the Germans surrendered. The narrow streets can be very crowded during the busiest tourist seasons, mainly the summer months, but a walk along the 14th century ramparts with views out to sea and all around will restore the spirits. If you enter the citadelle by the Porte St Vincent you will see the castle on your right, now home to the Musée de la Ville (€4.40), containing a mishmash of maps, exhibits and pictures that bear testimony to St Malo's rich history, pirates and all.

Further out of town, due south from St Servan, is the Grand Aquarium (€9) which is distinctly postmodern and has one tank where the visitors stand in the middle while fish swim around them on all sides. Near to the aquarium is the hypermarket, where ferry passengers may wish to do some last minute shopping for convenience. Otherwise, there are markets in the citadelle on Tuesday and Friday, and several specialist shops that make for a much more pleasant way to buy local products.