Brittany. 1. Ille et Villaine. Saint Malo

Last Updated on 01/04/2023

Brittany (Bretagne) on the maps seemed somehow quite easily “explorable”, especially since the first time we decided to take a car, remembering from previous trips that traveling in France without a car creates some, in some places significant, problems. In reality, the region turned out to be huge and interesting. However, the vast distances make it impossible to explore Brittany in any detail in a week.

You have to choose what is characteristic of Brittany and drive a lot, or explore one small piece, hoping to see other parts next time.

I wanted to see in Brittany it’s “speciality”:
an ancient city (Locronan, Dinan),
some famous church parish (St Thegonnec),
a large oceanarium (Oceanopolis),
a beautiful coast (Crozon, Cote de Granit Rose, Cote de Goelo, Cap Frehel),
dolmens (Tregastel),
folk festival or procession.

With folklore, I was not at all lucky: they prefer to arrange holidays and processions when there are more tourists – from the 20th of June to the end of August.

For tourists without a car (and with a car too), it is more bequem to settle closer to the Crozon Peninsula or on the Pink Granite Coast. Better yet, change two or three places of stay in two weeks. For example: Saint Malo, Tregastel (Pink Granite Coast), Camare (Crozon Peninsula), Quimper.

Brittany has quite developed transport system. Buses are available and easier to find (maps and timetables on the Internet) than in other regions. The railway is also present. However, as already mentioned, the distances are decent.

Bus nummers can change. I check it regullary, but not every year.

More about Brittany:
Mont Saint Michel
Pink granite coast (Cote de granit rose)
2. Dinan, Cote d’Armor
3. Côte de Goelo
4. Finistere. Crozon, Locronan
5. Finistere. Brest and Thegonnec

Saint Malo and nearby interesting places. Ille-et Vilaine Department

Saint Malo What to see

There is a train to Saint Malo from Paris Montparnasse train station, there is also an airport.

Saint Malo is a fairly large city, consisting of two parts:

  • “inside the walls” (intra-muros) – the old city surrounded by walls, built on a rocky peninsula,
  • and “outside the walls” (extra-muros).

Monks settled here in the 6th century, and the city arose in the 12th century. In 1308, the inhabitants of Saint Malo founded the first independent city in Brittany. And in 1395 they rebelled against the Duke of Brittany, declaring that they would obey only Charles 6, King of France. The city was granted the status of a free port.

In 1415, Duke John 5 tried to restore his authority and built a castle in the city. In the 15th century the locals were described as the greatest thieves who swam in the sea. They rob those who fly other flags and do not respect their duke.

By the end of the 17th century the city became a wealthy and important port thanks to its trade with America. After the attacks of the British in 1693 and 1695 it was decided to build a new, fortified city.

However, this city was destroyed by 80 percent during the Second World War. Residents have restored it according to available documents, some houses from the surviving stones.

What to see in Saint Malo:

  • castle of the 15th-16th centuries, which houses a historical museum,
  • cathedral of St. Vincent 12-18 centuries,
  • fortress walls 7 m thick,
  • Museum of Mariners who sailed around Cape Horn,
  • Grand Aquarium
  • along the coast towards Cancale – sculptures of the Abbot Furre (Les Rochers Sculptes, 2.50 euros). A partially paralyzed priest, created they in 1870-1895.
  • boat excursions: to Cape Frehel and Fort La Latte, to Dinan, Cancale, along the bay of San Malo.

What to do around Saint Malo

Around Saint Malo map
enlarge Map data ©OpenTopoMap

1 Dinan

Picturesque old town

About Dinan in detail on another page

How to get:
bus 10 Brezgo,
or train / bus with change in Dol-de-Bretagne
or bus from Dinard
or boat from Saint-Malo

2 Mont-Saint-Michel

About Mont-Saint-Michel in detail on another page

How to get:
Bus from Rennes, Saint-Malo, Dol-de-Bretagne, Pontorson

Mont Saint Michel abbey

3 Dol-de-Bretagne

Cathedral of the 13th century. Museum of the Middle Ages Medievalys (link).
Menhir Champ-Dolent 2 km from the city (9.5 m high)

How to get: bus / train

4 Cancale

Oyster farms. Scenic Customs trail along the coast

How to get there:
by bus 9 MAT from Saint Malo – in summer,
bus 5 from Saint Malo to the center of Cancale,
bus 15 goes along the coast from the cape through the center of Cancale to the nearest railway station.

5 Combourg

Castle of the 11th century, rebuilt in the 14-15th centuries. In 1761, it was acquired by the father of the French romantic writer Chateaubriand.

How to get: train

6 Vitre

The old town, surrounded by walls, the castle of the 13th century, which houses the art and history museum. Church of Notre Dame 15-16 centuries.

How to get: the train with change in Rennes

7 Fougeres

The old town and the fortress of the 12th-15th centuries Church of Saint-Sulpice 15-18 centuries

How to get there: train, bus 17 Dol-de-Bretagne – Fougeres (in summer it runs from Saint Malo)

8 Parc Floral de Haute Bretagne near Fougeres

One of the best (according to reviews) parks in Brittany (link)

Bus 17 Dole de Bretagne – Fougeres, bis stop St-Germain-en-Cogles

9 Zoo and Castle Bourbansais

Zoo, shows with dogs, birds of prey, animal feeding, guided tours of the castle, garden (

How to get: Bus 8 Saint Malo – Rennes

10 Megaliths Roche-aux-Fees

Megalithic structure, one of the most impressive in Brittany. Built in the 3rd millennium BC. It consists of 41 stones, some of which weigh 45 tons, almost 20 m long, 4 m high. Stones are stacked in the form of 4 rooms

How to get: 2 km from the town of Retiers, to which by train from Rennes

11 Forest Broceliande (Paimpont)

Paimpont is a village with an abbey of the 7th century, from which the 13th century church and buildings of the 17th century have survived. Around there is a forest known from the Celtic legends of the Arthurian cycle. An exposition dedicated to these legends is presented at the Chateau de Comper. You can also visit the “Tomb of Merlin” and the “Fountain of Youth”. There are very old trees growing in the forest.

How to get: train to Rennes, then bus 1 to Paimpont

All topics by Brittany – #Brittany.

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