Top 10 things to do with kids in Saint-Malo, Brittany

Are you planning a family vacation in Saint-Malo, France? If so, you’re in luck! This charming coastal town is full of history, culture, and kid-friendly attractions. After a recent trip with my own little ones, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things to do with kids in Saint-Malo. There are so many things to explore in Saint-Malo and the surrounding area that I recommend spending at least a few full days here.

Top things to do with kids in Saint-Malo

1. Walk Along the Saint-Malo Ramparts

A visit to Saint-Malo would only be complete with exploring its iconic ramparts.

Constructed between the 12th and 18th centuries, the ramparts were designed to protect the town from invasions and pirate attacks. Over the years, Saint-Malo’s strategic location made it a hub for trade, fishing, and privateering, which resulted in a constant need to fortify and expand the town’s walls. Walking along the ramparts, you’ll find yourself immersed in history, from the Middle Ages to the World Wars.

Saint-Malo’s ramparts stretch for nearly 2 kilometres, enclosing the old town known as Intra-Muros (meaning “within the walls”). The ramparts are easily accessible, making it a perfect activity in Saint-Malo for kids of all ages. Be careful if you plan on bringing a buggy as there are some uneven surfaces and stairs. The walk takes approximately 1-2 hours, depending on the time spent at each viewpoint. The weather in Saint-Malo is unpredictable so plan for rain and shine each day!

2. Beachcombing at Grand Bé and Petit Bé

Explore the fascinating islands of Grand Bé and Petit Bé when the tide is out. Grand Bé is the final resting place of famous French writer Chateaubriand, while Petit Bé boasts a 17th-century fort that you can visit during low tide. Your kids will love exploring the rocky shores and discovering the hidden forts that once guarded Saint-Malo.

Before planning your adventure to Grand Bé and Petit Bé, it’s essential to check the tide times. As we discovered, the islands are only accessible during low tide. You can find the tide timetable on websites like Tideschart. Alternatively, many hotels and tourist information centres in Saint-Malo provide tide information for their guests.

The lowest point of the tide lasts for approximately 2-3 hours. This window provides ample time to explore both islands and make your way back to the mainland safely. Keep in mind that the tides can change quickly, so always keep an eye on the water level and be prepared to return to the mainland in time.

Besides exploring the historical sites, beachcombing offers an opportunity to discover unique shells, sea glass, driftwood, and other fascinating treasures. Encourage your kids to use their imagination and create stories about the items they find!

The beaches of Grand Bé and Petit Bé are rocky and rugged, with a variety of interesting rock formations and pools. These pools are home to a variety of marine life, including crabs, sea urchins, and starfish. Kids can spend hours exploring the tide pools and discovering these fascinating creatures.

Getting to Grand Bé and Petit Bé involves walking on sand, rocks, and possibly slippery surfaces, so wearing appropriate shoes for the whole family is crucial. Opt for comfortable, closed-toe footwear with good grip, such as water shoes, hiking sandals, or sturdy sneakers. It’s also a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks or shoes to change into after the walk.

3. All Aboard Le Petit Train

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Treat your kids to a fun ride on Le Petit Train de Saint-Malo. This little locomotive tours the town and is a hit with kids providing a welcome break for tired little legs.

The train departs from the Esplanade Saint-Vincent, located just outside the main entrance to the old town (Porte Saint-Vincent). During the high season (July and August), the train operates daily, with departures approximately every 30 minutes from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. In the off-season, the train runs on weekends and holidays, with a reduced schedule. You can check this website or inquire at the local tourist office for the most up-to-date schedule and departure information.

4. Discover the Saint-Malo Aquarium

The Saint-Malo Aquarium is a fun nearby attraction for families. Home to over 600 species, this immersive experience allows your kids to explore the underwater world and learn about marine conservation.

The Aquarium is home to over 600 marine species from diverse aquatic environments, including tropical reefs, deep-sea trenches, and the local waters of Brittany. With 50 tanks housing over 2 million liters of water, the Aquarium offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide array of marine creatures, from colorful clownfish to fearsome sharks.

The main attractions include the Abyssal Descender and the Nautibus Submarine Adventure. Embark on an exciting underwater journey aboard the Nautibus, a mini-submarine that takes you through several aquatic environments, providing an immersive experience and unique perspectives on marine life.

5. Climb Aboard a Pirate Ship at the Étoile du Roy

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Let your kids unleash their inner pirates by climbing aboard the Étoile du Roy, a replica of an 18th-century corsair ship docked in Saint-Malo’s harbour. Onboard, children can explore the ship’s deck, cabins, and even pretend to steer the boat. The friendly crew provides historical insights and thrilling tales of piracy.

Initially built in 1996 as a replica of a 1745 British frigate, the ship was later transformed into a French corsair vessel, complete with period-appropriate details and décor. It is a 47-meter-long vessel with 3 masts which will immerse you in the history of corsairs and pirates.

Located at the foot of the ramparts of Saint-Malo, it is accessible to kids of all ages. While this is a docked ship, Étoile du Roy does offer full day sailing experiences aboard the ship and you can book these in advance by clicking here.

6. Discover Magic at the Harry Potter Shop

For the wizarding enthusiast in your family, a visit to the Harry Potter Shop is a must! This store offers a wide range of merchandise, from wands and robes to magical sweets. It’s a delightful spot to fuel your child’s imagination and bring home some souvenirs.

Located within the historic old town of Saint-Malo, this Harry Potter Shop is also known as “La Boutique Harry Potter”. As you step through the door, you’ll be surrounded by a treasure trove of themed merchandise, memorabilia, and magical ambience.

7. Savor Crêpes at Le Corps de Garde

saint malo with kids, le corps de garde, crepes

Indulge in Brittany’s famous crêpes at Le Corps de Garde, a delightful crêperie offering spectacular sea and rampart views.

Le Corps de Garde is perched atop the city walls, offering diners stunning panoramic views of the sea, the nearby islands, and the historic ramparts of Saint-Malo. The crêperie is housed in a building that was once a military guardhouse, adding a unique historical charm to the dining experience.

Le Corps de Garde is renowned for its delicious and authentic Breton crêpes, made using traditional recipes and locally sourced ingredients. Their menu offers a wide range of both sweet and savory crêpes, catering to various tastes and preferences.

8. Have Some Beach Fun

Saint-Malo has several beautiful beaches, including Plage du Sillon, one of the most popular. Kids can enjoy playing in the sand and swimming, while parents can relax and soak up the sun. These are some of the best beaches to visit in Saint-Malo with kids:

  1. Plage Du Sillon
    • Stretching for three kilometres along the coast, this beach is the largest and most popular beach in Saint-Malo. With its soft sand, clear waters, and great views of the walled city, it’s an ideal spot for families to unwind and play. Kids can build sandcastles, swim in shallow waters, or watch surfers ride the waves. Plage du Sillon also offers numerous watersports, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, and paddleboarding.
  2. Plage de Bon-Secours
    • Located at the foot of the walled city, Plage de Bon-Secours is a charming and sheltered beach, perfect for families with young children. The seawater pool nestled on the side of the beach is a major attraction, as it allows kids to swim safely even during low tide. Plage de Bon-Secours is also home to the legendary “Diving Boards,” offering some thrilling fun for older kids and parents who dare to take the leap.
  3. Plage du Môle
    • This beach is located south of the old town, at the foot of the ramparts. This small sandy beach is well protected from the wind and offers a beautiful view of nearby Dinard.

9. Explore Micro-Zoo

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Discover the world of Micro Zoo, an interactive and educational attraction for the whole family. The displays feature a variety of microscopes and high-definition screens, allowing your little ones to observe and interact with the minuscule world of insects, plants, and other tiny organisms.

10. Take a Spin on The Carousel

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Situated near the ramparts, Saint-Malo’s charming carousel is a classic attraction for kids and parents alike. It’s located right next to the departure point for Le Petit Train so you can combine the two activities together.

Tip For Parents: Best Coffee Shop in Saint-Malo

Phew! After a busy day of chasing your little adventurers around Saint-Malo, you will undoubtedly need some caffeine and a well-deserved break.

Check out Cavoua Coffee Shop at 3 Rue des Orbettes! This cozy and welcoming cafe offers the perfect escape. Aside from knowing how to make proper coffee they also do amazing breakfasts. They bring your kids colouring sheets with crayons to entertain themselves and their hot chocolate comes with a giant dollop of whipped cream. Win win for the entire family!

How to get to Saint-Malo

By train

If you want to travel to Saint-Malo from Paris by train, head to the Paris Montparnasse station and board a high-speed TGV train operated by SNCF, France’s national rail company. You can purchase train tickets online in advance by using train ticketing platforms such as Trainline, Omio or booking directly with SNCF.

You can travel from Paris to Saint-Malo either directly or via a change in Rennes. The journey takes approximately 2.5 to 3.5 hours, depending on which option you select.

By car

Driving a car isn’t the best idea for getting around Saint-Malo, as much of the old town is reserved for pedestrians. You can park your car and explore the town on foot. However, if you intend to visit other towns in Brittany or elsewhere in France, renting a car is strongly recommended.

Driving to Saint-Malo from Paris will take you approximately 4-5 hours.

You can use Rentalcars or Discover Cars to compare prices of rental cars from your location to Saint-Malo.

Recommended Reading:

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Saint-Malo is the setting for a wonderful Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Anthony Doerr called “All the Light We Cannot See”.

“All the Light We Cannot See” tells the story of two young people, Marie-Laure and Werner, whose lives are intertwined during World War II. Marie-Laure, a blind girl, lives with her father, a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Werner, a German orphan, is a gifted radio operator and has been enlisted in the Hitler Youth. As the war progresses, their paths cross in Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s great-uncle has hidden a valuable diamond.

One of the things that make this book stand out is its vivid description of Saint-Malo. Doerr describes the city’s architecture, the sea, and the sky in such a way that the reader can imagine themselves in Saint-Malo, seeing and feeling everything as if they were there. The book also captures the mood of the city during the war, the fear, and the resilience of the people.

If you’re a fan of Saint-Malo, or simply looking for a beautifully written book, I highly recommend “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.

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