Over the summer, we took some time off and headed to France! As you can imagine, France is big and so you cannot see it all in a week. So, I took Erikas for a vacation in my home town of Saint-Malo, in Brittany. He has never been there before, so I got to show him the best of Northern Brittany in just a few days!
In fact, even Brittany is a fairly large region. Since we didn’t want to rush as well as decided to spent some time with the family, we chose to explore just a part of it. Basically, we only went to places suitable for day trips from Saint-Malo.
Day 1: Saint-Malo & Dinard
Some places just have something special to me. You know this “home” feeling…! But not only these places are home, they are also beautiful and worth a visit.
Our suggestion is to start by Dinard, preferably in the morning and on a market day (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays). Walk around the market and stock up on souvenirs, yummy food like bread and other delicacies! From the market, walk towards the seaside and aim to reach “Promenade du Clair de Lune”. This walkway takes you as close as possible to the sea and goes all around the city. The best is to get to the “pointe du Moulinet”. Not only you can have a great view on Saint-Malo, but also the opportunity to observe the tides pretty well. From there, continue on the walkway, through the city’s central beach (plage de l’Écluse) and then all the way to the villa ‘Les Roches Brunes‘. There are a few stairs to get back up to the road level. This way you can walk back through the city centre.
Some places to have lunch: Au Bouchon Breton, Oyster Club, Ombelle, etc… You can find all of them and more on Mapstr with the name ‘northernitinerary’. After your meal in Dinard, jump on the sea bus to the Old Town of Saint-Malo. Not only the ride is beautiful, but is also the most efficient way (takes only 10min) to get to the heart of the Old Town.
Saint-Malo is a lot more packed with tourists than Dinard. The city is also bigger, but if you only have a few days available, focus on the Old Town called ‘Intra-Muros’.
You should start by walking on the main streets of the old town, however if there is way too many people, don’t hesitate to go on parallel streets. They are more quiet and as pretty! When discovering the city, don’t forget to pop in some stores, bakeries, spices or butter shops. They perfectly portray our culture and love for food. Some of our favorite places are on Mapstr.
Once you walked in the city, take the time to go on the walls and enjoy the city from another angle. The view from up there shows how close from the sea we are, and also why these walls were important to protect the city back in the days. Don’t hesitate to stop for a snack here and there, a crêpe is always a good idea! But be aware of the seagulls – these ones are not afraid of anything and love sweet treats!
Depending on which city you are staying in, you may want to take the ferry back or drive around. If you have the time, some cities and villages around are worth a visit: St. Suliac, St. Lunaire, St. Briac, just to name a few! And the best way to enjoy your evening there is to sit on the beach, and enjoy a beautiful sunset!
Day 2: Dinan & Léhon
Radically different from Dinard and Saint-Malo, the city of Dinan will take you back in time! The city is located on 2 levels, the river level and the city centre in the upper part of the town. The city is based roughly 20 minutes drive away from the coast.
Dinan is more of a medieval city, with paved streets and particular architecture. We recommend you start by the lower town, next to the port. We actually parked our car there for the time needed and it is no struggle to find a spot. So, we enjoyed a walk along the river, took our time and just appreciated being outside in a not-so-packed area! There are a few restaurants with nice terraces next to the river, which give a number of options for lunch. But we recommend you first have a walk in the city (up and down) to look at the different places to eat at!
The best and nicest way to get to the upper part of the town is to go through the ‘rue du petit fort‘ and continue onto the ‘rue du Jerzual‘. It goes quite uphill, but it is a really nice walk. There are restaurants and small shops on both sides, perfect to get some rest before reaching the top.
Once we got there, we just walked around the upper part of the city and enjoy the architecture. In the city, you’ll probably find a lot of entertainment or things related to the medieval times. When you are in the upper town, spend some time to walk on the walls around the city. Not only it helps you understand how it has been built, but also a very nice view on all the green area around the city opens up.
From Dinan, drive to Léhon. This little village is only 5 min away and surely is worth a visit if you like small, kinda stuck-in-time towns! And, probably one of my favourite villages around home! To be honest, I’ve never been there before this summer! But no regrets I took Erikas there.
Léhon is a really small village, with a cute centre. It represents pretty well how cities and villages were built back in the day. There is a free of charge parking place from which you can just walk towards the church. Take the time to go around it and discover the garden in the court yard, which is full of apple and pear trees as well as flower fields. There are quite often exhibitions in the rooms just by the castle – make sure to check it out. We then went on the ruins of the castle, which is just 5 minutes walk away from the church.
It is needless to say that this village is not the most lively, but it is a great place to relax and enjoy some time off. It is definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in typical, traditional architecture, or if you are looking for a peaceful place to meditate.
Day 3: Cancale & Mont St. Michel
While other places could be visited in half a day, we recommend you take a full day for this one and wake up rather early. Remember to take good shoes as there will be a lot of walking, and good outdoor clothing. Brittany is probably the only place on earth where you can wear shorts and a winter jacket – with sunglasses at the same time.
Cancale is a famous place for oysters. Not that we are oyster-lovers, but I like to go there and walk by the port, eat a nice crêpe and stop by my favourite spices store. I also took Erikas there to show him the great nature and cliffs we have in Northern Brittany.
We started by going to the cliff named ‘pointe du Grouin‘. We found a good place to park nearby (for free) and walked along the coast. The weather was not the best, but we still enjoyed the walk and went down to the beach. The colour of the sea is really unique in this part of Brittany. After being on the beach for a bit, we walked the other way to go towards the cliff. We climbed some rocks and just sat there. The wind is always a bit stronger on the cliff but it is the best place to enjoy the view and the smell of the sea.
From there, we drove to the city and went to the port area. We had some traditional galettes and crêpes with some cider. All of this while watching the tide coming up. We then walked along the sea and went to the small oysters market. From the port side, you can walk uphill to the centre of town, where there are some great cafés and stores!
Cancale is a great departure point to go to the Mont Saint Michel. The drive, along the coast is a bit longer, which took us roughly 40 minutes.
Mont Saint Michel
Some people would start by going to the Mont Saint Michel early in the day. And this is not a bad idea! But we tried a new technique this time. We went there after 19:00. The main reason for it, is that the price of parking goes from 14,50€ to 4,50€. While I have been to this place a lot of times, it was Erikas’s first time, so I thought that it would be nicer to discover the city without the usual crowd of tourists.
As anticipated, it was very few people on site and we really enjoyed walking in the small paved streets, stopping everywhere to take in the view and looking at the sea going away with the tide. The one thing to know is that at this hour, it is not possible to visit the abbey anymore. If it is the only time you will go there, you might want to see it, hence, go there late afternoon instead.
How to get there: the nicest way to access the Mont Saint Michel, is to drive along the road of the bay. The signs will show “Route de la Baie“. You will have a beautiful scenery during the drive, and despite that it is not the fastest way, you can stop anywhere to get oysters, or a picnic just by the sea.