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Coordinates: 48°39′N 2°01′W / 48.65°N 2.01°W / 48.65; -2.01
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Saent-Malô (Gallo)
Sant-Maloù (Breton)
Walled city
Walled city
Flag of Saint-Malo
Coat of arms of Saint-Malo
Location of Saint-Malo
Saint-Malo is located in France
Saint-Malo is located in Brittany
Coordinates: 48°39′N 2°01′W / 48.65°N 2.01°W / 48.65; -2.01
CantonSaint-Malo-1 and 2
IntercommunalityCA Pays de Saint-Malo
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Gilles Lurton[1]
36.58 km2 (14.12 sq mi)
 • Density1,300/km2 (3,400/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
35288 /35400
Elevation0–51 m (0–167 ft)
(avg. 8 m or 26 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Saint-Malo (UK: /sæ̃ ˈmɑːl/,[3] US: /ˌsæ̃ məˈl/,[4][5] French: [sɛ̃ malo] ; Gallo: Saent-Malô; Breton: Sant-Maloù) is a historic French port in Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany.

The walled city on the English Channel coast had a long history of piracy, earning much wealth from local extortion and overseas adventures. In 1944, the Allies heavily bombed Saint-Malo. The city changed into a popular tourist centre, with a ferry terminal serving the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, as well as the Southern English settlements of Portsmouth, Hampshire and Poole, Dorset.

The famous transatlantic single-handed yacht race Route du Rhum, which takes place every four years in November, is between Saint Malo and Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe.


The population in 2017 was 46,097[6] – though this can increase to up to 300,000 in the summer tourist season. With the suburbs included, the metropolitan area's population is approximately 133,000 (2017).[7]

The population of the commune more than doubled in 1967 with the merging of three communes: Saint-Malo, Saint-Servan (population 14,963 in 1962) and Paramé (population 8,811 in 1962).

Inhabitants of Saint-Malo are called Malouins in French.[8] The population data in the table and graph below refer to the commune of Saint-Malo proper in its geography for the given years.[9]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 10,730—    
1800 9,147−2.25%
1806 9,934+1.39%
1821 9,949+0.01%
1831 9,981+0.03%
1836 9,744−0.48%
1841 10,053+0.63%
1846 10,076+0.05%
1851 9,997−0.16%
1856 10,809+1.57%
1861 10,886+0.14%
1866 10,693−0.36%
1872 12,316+2.38%
1876 10,295−4.38%
1881 11,212+1.72%
1886 10,500−1.30%
1891 11,896+2.53%
1896 11,476−0.72%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 11,486+0.02%
1906 10,647−1.51%
1911 12,371+3.05%
1921 12,390+0.02%
1926 13,137+1.18%
1931 12,864−0.42%
1936 13,836+1.47%
1946 11,311−1.99%
1954 14,339+3.01%
1962 17,137+2.25%
1968 42,297+16.25%
1975 45,030+0.90%
1982 46,347+0.41%
1990 48,057+0.45%
1999 50,675+0.59%
2007 48,563−0.53%
2012 44,620−1.68%
2017 46,097+0.65%
Source: EHESS[9] and INSEE (1968-2017)[6]


St Malo, painted c. 1900 by Emil Krause

Founded by Gauls in the 1st century BC, the ancient town on the site of Saint-Malo was known as the Roman Reginca or Aletum. By the late 4th century AD, the Saint-Servan district was the site of a major Saxon Shore promontory fort that protected the Rance estuary from seaborne raiders from beyond the frontiers. According to the Notitia Dignitatum, the fort was garrisoned by the militum Martensium under a dux (commander) of the Tractus Armoricanus and Nervicanus section of the litus Saxonicum. During the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Armorica (modern-day Brittany) rebelled from Roman rule under the Bagaudae and in the 5th and 6th centuries received many Celtic Britons fleeing instability across the Channel. The modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron and Saint Brendan early in the sixth century. Its name is derived from a man said to have been a follower of Brendan the Navigator, Saint Malo or Maclou, an immigrant from what is now Wales.

Saint-Malo is the setting of Marie de France's poem "Laüstic," a 12th-century love story. The city had a tradition of asserting its autonomy in dealings with the French authorities and even with the local Breton authorities.

From 1590 to 1593, Saint-Malo declared itself to be an independent republic, when 'la république de Saint-Malo' (Saint Malo Republic) functioned as a de facto micronation, and from whence the town takes its defiant motto "not French, not Breton, but Malouin" (‘Ni Français, ni Breton, Malouin suis’).[10]

Old map of Saint-Malo

Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates. In the 19th century, this "piratical" notoriety was portrayed in Jean Richepin's play Le flibustier and in César Cui's eponymous opera. The corsairs of Saint-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute but also brought wealth from further afield. Jacques Cartier lived in, and sailed from, Saint-Malo to the Saint Lawrence River, visiting the villages of Stadacona and Hochelaga that would later become the sites of present-day Quebec City and Montreal respectively. As the first European to encounter these sites and learning the local word "Kanata" (meaning a group of houses), Cartier is credited as the discoverer of Canada.

Inhabitants of Saint-Malo are called Malouins in French. From this came the Spanish name Islas Malvinas for the archipelago known in English as the Falkland Islands. Islas Malvinas derives from the 1764 name Îles Malouines, given to the islands by French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville.[8] Bougainville, who founded the archipelago's first settlement, named the islands after the inhabitants of Saint-Malo, the point of departure for his ships and colonists.[8]

In 1758, the Raid on Saint-Malo saw a British expedition land, intending to capture the town. However, the British made no attempt on Saint-Malo and instead occupied the nearby town of Saint-Servan, where they destroyed 30 privateers before departing.

World War II[edit]

An air raid on Saint-Malo during August 1944

In World War II, during fighting in late August and early September 1944, the historic walled city of Saint-Malo was almost totally destroyed by American shelling and bombing.[11][12] The beaches of nearby Dinard had been heavily fortified against possible Allied commando raids. Artillery at the two locations provided mutual support. The fortification complex was garrisoned by more than twelve thousand German troops from different services and units as well as stragglers from other battles in the Cotentin. About eight thousand Germans were in Saint-Malo itself when the battle began.[13]

Colonel Andreas von Aulock, the German commander, refused to surrender when asked to do so by the town's authorities. He said he "would defend St. Malo to the last man even if the last man had to be himself".

The first American attack was launched by the 83rd Infantry Division on 5 August 1944. German positions at Châteauneuf quickly fell. Cancale was abandoned and occupied by the Americans on the 6th. In the same way and on the same day, Dinan fell to Free French forces. The Germans shortened their lines and drew closer to the ancient citadel at St. Servan-sur-Mer, now reinforced with concrete.

Effective German artillery emplacements on the island of Cezembre were out of reach of American ground forces. German garrisons on the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney were able to use small craft to bring in water and remove the wounded from the battle.[13]

On 13 August, the walled city was on fire and a short truce was declared to allow French civilians to flee the city. Outlying German positions at St. Ideuc and La Varde fell to infantry attacks. This fighting ended resistance on the north shore of the peninsula. Only the citadel remained. Surrounded by American artillery and under frequent air attack, this last holdout surrendered on the afternoon of 17 August.

Cezembre surrendered on 2 September when the three-hundred-man garrison ran out of drinking water. The Americans had taken more than ten thousand prisoners during the two-week fight, von Aulock among them.[13]


Saint-Malo was rebuilt over a 12-year period from 1948 to 1960.

It is a subprefecture of the Ille-et-Vilaine. The commune of Saint-Servan was merged with Paramé, and became the commune of Saint-Malo in 1967.

Saint-Malo was the site of an Anglo-French summit in 1998 that led to a significant agreement regarding European defence policy.


The Gulf of Saint-Malo has an oceanic temperate climate. Temperatures are softened by the Gulf Stream and the range of average temperatures between winter and summer is very low (from 6.1°C in January to 17.8°C in August) with an average temperature of 11.6°C.

Climate data for Dinard Pleurtuit Saint-Malo
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16.4
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 8.8
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 3.4
Record low °C (°F) −13.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 67.0
Average precipitation days 12.6 10.8 11.1 10.7 10.3 7.8 7.6 8.0 9.7 13.6 13.8 13.4 129.5
Average snowy days 1.7 2.5 1.4 0.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 1.4 7.9
Average relative humidity (%) 84 81 79 79 79 81 81 81 82 85 84 85 81.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 69.5 84.3 127.5 164.1 188.4 206.4 206.4 198.6 167.1 112.6 77.8 64.0 1,666.6
Source 1: Meteo France[14][15]
Source 2: Infoclimat.fr (humidity, snowy days 1961–1990)[16]


Saint-Malo is part of Ille-et-Vilaine's 7th constituency, and is currently represented in the National Assembly by Republicans Member of Parliament, Jean-Luc Bourgeaux.



Schools include:

  • 13 public preschools (écoles maternelles)[17]
  • 11 public elementary schools[18]
  • 8 private preschools and elementary schools[19]
  • 3 public collèges: Chateaubriand, Duguay-Trouin, and Charcot[20]
  • 3 private junior high schools: Choisy Jeanne d'Arc, Moka, and Sacré-Cœur[21]
  • 3 public senior high schools: Lycée Maupertuis, Lycée Jacques Cartier, Professional Maritime Lycée Les Rimains[22]
  • 2 private senior high schools: Lycée Institution Saint Malo-La Providence and Les Rimains[23]

Higher education[edit]


Saint-Malo has a terminal for ferry services with daily departures to Portsmouth operated by Brittany Ferries,[24] and services on most days to Poole in England via the Channel Islands operated by Condor Ferries.[25] It also has a railway station, Gare de Saint-Malo, offering direct TGV service to Rennes, Paris and several regional destinations. There is a bus service provided by Keolis. The town is served by the Dinard–Pleurtuit–Saint-Malo Airport around 5 kilometres (3 miles) to the south.

Sites of interest[edit]

Beach at low tide in Saint-Malo

Now inseparably attached to the mainland, Saint-Malo is the most visited place in Brittany. Sites of interest include:

  • The walled city (La Ville Intra-Muros)
  • The château of Saint-Malo, part of which is now the town museum
  • The Solidor Tower in Saint-Servan is a 14th-century building that holds a collection tracing the history of voyages around Cape Horn. Many scale models, nautical instruments and objects made by the sailors during their crossing or brought back from foreign ports invoke thoughts of travel aboard extraordinary tall ships at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
  • The tomb of the writer Chateaubriand on the Ile du Grand Bé
  • The Petit Bé
  • The Cathedral of St. Vincent (Saint-Malo Cathedral)
  • The Privateer's House ("La Demeure de Corsaire"), a ship-owner's town house built in 1725, shows objects from the history of privateering, weaponry and ship models.
  • The Great Aquarium Saint-Malo, one of the major aquaria in France.
  • The labyrinthe du Corsaire (an attraction park in Saint Malo)
  • The Pointe de la Varde, Natural Park
  • The City of Alet, in front of Saint Malo Intra Muros
  • Fort National
  • Fort de la Conchée

Panoramic photographs[edit]

Panoramic view from the tidal island Grand Bé during low tide
View of the walled city from the south-west
Panoramic view of the old walled city with bastion St. Philippe (left) and cathedrale St Vincent from the south
Panoramic view of La Cité, Cap-Hornier, les Corbières at the Quai Sébastopol from the south

Notable people[edit]

François-René de Chateaubriand's grave, on Rocher du Grand Bé

Saint-Malo was the birthplace of:

Twin towns – sister cities[edit]

Saint-Malo is twinned with:

In popular culture[edit]

Saint-Malo is one of the main settings in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and was a filming location for the Netflix miniseries of the same name.[28]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires". data.gouv.fr, Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 2 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2021". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ "St Malo". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 27 August 2022.
  4. ^ "Saint-Malo". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Saint-Malo". Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  7. ^ Comparateur de territoire: Aire d'attraction des villes 2020 de Saint-Malo (088), INSEE
  8. ^ a b c Hince, Bernadette (2001). "Falkland Islands". The Antarctic Dictionary. Collingwood, Melbourne: CSIRO Publishing. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-9577471-1-1.
  9. ^ a b Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Saint-Malo, EHESS (in French).
  10. ^ S. and J. Beaulieu, Saint-Malo et l'histoire, pp. 10 to 32
  11. ^ "Key Dates". Saint-Malo official website. Archived from the original on 19 August 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2014..
  12. ^ "Brittany Campaign - Rolland Despres, 4th platoon, B Company, 1 Bn, 331st IR, 83rd Infantry Division". www.angelfire.com.
  13. ^ a b c Blumenson, Martin (20 November 2012). Breakout and Pursuit: U.S. Army in World War II: The European Theater of Operations. Whitman Publishing; Har/Map edition. ISBN 978-0794837679.
  14. ^ "Données climatiques de la station de Dinard Pleurtuit Saint-Malo" (in French). Meteo France. Archived from the original on 27 August 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Climat Bretagne" (in French). Meteo France. Archived from the original on 2 August 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  16. ^ "Normes et records 1961-1990: Dinard - St Malo (35) - altitude 58m" (in French). Infoclimat. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Écoles maternelles publiques." Saint-Malo. Retrieved on 6 September 2016.
  18. ^ "Écoles élémentaires publiques." Saint-Malo. Retrieved on 6 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Écoles privées élémentaires et maternelles." Saint-Malo. Retrieved on 6 September 2016.
  20. ^ "Collèges publics." Saint-Malo. Retrieved on 6 September 2016.
  21. ^ "Collèges privés." Saint-Malo. Retrieved on 6 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Lycées publics." Saint-Malo. Retrieved on 6 September 2016.
  23. ^ "Lycées privés." Saint-Malo. Retrieved on 6 September 2016.
  24. ^ "Portsmouth to St Malo". Brittany Ferries.
  25. ^ "St. Malo destination guides". Condor Ferries. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  26. ^ Ripley, George & Dana, Charles Anderson (2010). The New American Cyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge. Vol. 8. Nabu Press. pp. 410–411. ISBN 978-1146913317.
  27. ^ "International collaboration". gmiezno.eu. Gniezno. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
  28. ^ Cormack, Morgan (2 November 2023). "Where is All the Light We Cannot See filmed? Location guide for Netflix drama". Radio Times. Retrieved 15 November 2023.

External links[edit]