"Corsair City" Top 5 Page for this destination Saint-Malo by rexvaughan

Saint-Malo Travel Guide: 257 reviews and 852 photos

Fortified for a reason

The old city of St. Malo, the "Intra-muros" is a 44 acre fortress. The rampart walls are 20 feet thick and date from the 14th C although there was some updating in the 18th C and some rebuilding after the city was bombed in WWII. Their location on a tip of the Brittany coast almost mandated sea going activities. The city is named, of all things, for a Welch monk who fled (I don't know why) to what was then called Aaron Rock. Evidently the folks here are somewhat independent as in the late 16th C they declared the city an independent republic with the motto, "Neither French nor Breton, but a Coursair am I." In looking for a good definition of "corsair" I concluded it depended on your perspective. The French king at the time would have called them wonderful as they brought a lot of booty to him. The English would call them pirates, as most of the booty was from hijacked British vessels.

Symbol of the Corsair City

Robert Surcouf was an 18th C Corsair captain who first went to sea at age 13 as a ship's boy. By his very early 20's he was already a captain. One of his most famous coups was in 1795 when he had captured 3 English vessels then met and English warship with 150 men and 26 guns. Surcouf had only 17 men and 2 guns so he resorted to trickery. Hiding his men on the boat, he pretended to be alone on the ship until the ships were close, then they jumped on and took control of the British ship. By the time he was 36 he had become one of the richest men in St. Malo, so he retired. This statue stands at the northern tip of the ramparts pointing toward the sea.

Tremendous beaches

The beaches of St. Malo are huge - stretching for miles. In the top photo on this page you can see a small beach beside the ramparts and here is one that seems to go on without end. This photo was in the morning at low tide (the beach all but disappears at high tide). We strolled a while and did a little shell picking. This beach is what we looked out on from our hotel. Great spot!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Wonderful sights, great food, few tourists
  • Cons:Transportation connections a little complex
  • In a nutshell:City of history, beaches and art
  • Last visit to Saint-Malo: Oct 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (14)

Comments (16)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Apr 30, 2010 at 7:38 AM

    Yes, I'm sure they had very good reasons for building these huge fortifications!

  • timada's Profile Photo
    Aug 24, 2008 at 12:46 PM

    Lovely photos...good and usefull tips !

  • nicolaitan's Profile Photo
    May 29, 2007 at 10:27 AM

    I just love this area. Your pictures are great, nice tips and descriptions. One day. N.

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Aug 22, 2006 at 6:31 AM

    Some stunning photos, especially the one with a view of the steeple through the opening. Mont Saint Michel is incredible. I LOL at your comment about the monks not having breath to speak after climbing all the stairs!!

  • Sue08080's Profile Photo
    Jul 1, 2006 at 5:55 AM

    Great tips for Saint-Malo. Thanks Rex. We love France but have never stayed in Saint-Malo, maybe next time. Interesting info about the Corsair, lots of classical music with that title

  • Kate-Me's Profile Photo
    Jan 12, 2006 at 12:35 AM

    thanks so much for the helpful info.... I'll be there at the end of May.

  • globerover's Profile Photo
    Jun 20, 2005 at 3:07 PM

    I know the restaurants in St. Malo rather well, because I always have dinner there when I stay overnight on my way to Guernsey; to see the other sights I have to refer to your page, and it seems I have to spend more than a night there in the future ...

  • Beckhanne's Profile Photo
    Apr 26, 2005 at 8:11 AM

    Hello Rex. I've paid close attention to your Saint-Malo pages since I'll be there in 10 days'time! Thanks for your pictures and comments. I've also noticed that you enjoyed Brugge, a favorite of mine ;-) Anne

  • freya_heaven's Profile Photo
    Apr 2, 2005 at 12:07 PM

    Interesting what you mention about the clouds there, I have seen so many beautiful sunsets in Bretagne! Wonderful page Rex, love the cloisters photo. You make St Malo look very tempting, thank you (~_~)

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Mar 14, 2005 at 12:46 PM

    Great destination, I see - lovely architecture and sceneries. Thanks for sharing :-). I have never been in Bretagne... a must for me, someday...


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