Sitting on the English Channel coast of Brittany in northern France, the gray granite, walled town of St-Malo is today the prettiest of the Channel ports and a great gourmet destination. With a skyline dominated by the spiky tower of medieval Cathédrale St-Vincent, the town has a long and turbulent history that has seen repeated invasion, and the mile-long fortified ramparts were constructed as protection in the 12th century. Tucked inside the walls are cobbled streets lined with bookshops and souvenir stores, as well as scores of restaurants serving up the very freshest of seafood from oysters to lobster; find many of them between Porte St-Vincent and the Grande Porte, which was historically the main entrance to St-Malo. To the right of these great gates stands the Musée d’Histoire de la Ville (History Museum), showcasing the town’s history of slave trading and piracy as well as looking at German occupation during World War II.
Long, sandy expanses back the waterfront promenade and the halyards of bobbing yachts clank in the marina. Further out of town – and perfect for family vacationers on a rainy day – is the Grand Aquarium, with its many species of shark and turtles. The UNESCO-listed abbey of Mont St-Michel is an hour east of Saint-Malo, perched on rugged cliffs and only accessible during low tide.
Regular ferries run between Saint-Malo and Portsmouth in England, but Saint-Malo is four hours from Paris by TGV train and so is best visited as part of a multi-day tour.