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414km (257 miles) W of Paris; 69km (43 miles) N of Rennes; 13km (8 miles) E of Dinard

Despite past lives as a fortress and the site of a monastery, St-Malo is best known for the corsaires who used it as a base during the 17th and 18th centuries. During wartime, a decree from the French king sanctioned the seafaring mercenaries to intercept British ships and requisition their cargo. During peacetime, they acted as intrepid merchant marines, returning from Asia and the Americas with gold, coffee, and spices. Indeed, the sea is in the hearts of all Malouins, as natives of St-Malo are called—especially during the city’s famous transatlantic sailing race, the Route du Rhum, which is held every 4 years and finishes in Guadeloupe.

Walking the ramparts and cobblestone streets, it’s hard to imagine that 80 percent of St-Malo was destroyed in World War II. What you see today is thanks to a meticulous, decades-long restoration.

 

St-Malo encompasses the communities of St. Servan and Paramé, but most tourists head for the walled city, or Intra-muros. In summer, the Grande Plage du Sillon towards Paramé is dotted with sun-seekers; year-round it’s sought after for its deluxe seawater spa. St. Servan’s marina is adjacent to a large terminal where ferries depart for and arrive from the Channel Islands and England.