Having lived the majority of my life in Australia, I’m accustomed to the ocean being only a stone’s throw away. The ability to jump in the car and have my feet buried in sand in less than 10 minutes, is probably what I miss the most now that I live in Paris. From my home, the nearest beaches are in Britany, which is about a 2-3 hour train journey away. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s far away enough that I’ve never really made the effort. I also assumed that Britany was cold and rainy, making me more hesitant to take the plunge. BOY WAS I WRONG!
After recently spending a few nights in Saint-Malo and Dinard, I completely fell in love with the region! The beaches are spectacular and so different from anything I’ve seen before. Dinard, is made up of historical zones where generations of wealth and creativity is expressed through grand chateaux, and breathtaking mansions, while Saint-Malo oozes history but also style and class – not to mention the food is great!
I was very lucky to collaborate with Brittany Tourism for this trip. They organised our accommodation and gave us a great list of restaurants & shopping recommendations that we slowly worked through. We also had some spare time to discover some incredible spots ourselves. We loved so many of the places we visited, I thought I’d share with you this guide for 3 days in Saint-Malo and Dinard.
Le Chateau du Nessay, Saint-Briac-sur-Mer
The Chateau du Nessay isn’t technically located in Saint-Malo, nor in Dinard. It’s in a charming, little town called Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, roughly 15 minutes by car, from Saint-Malo. The Nessay is breathtaking in its own right but it’s especially spectacular as it’s surrounded by the glittering sea. The chateau was originally constructed in 1886 by Count Maurice de Villebresme but today, serves as a 17-room boutique hotel, with ocean views, a restaurant, tapas bar, spa and terrace. It’s worth visiting the region just to stay at the Nessay – although it would be a shame not to see more.
From the décor to the views, everything about our stay at the Chateau du Nessay was perfection. It was a truly memorable experience. I don’t think I’ll ever forget just how lovely it was relaxing on the terrace, sipping a pear & sage cocktail, while watching the sunset over the ocean.
While it’s tempting to spend the entire day relaxing at the Chateau du Nessay (no judgement here if that’s what you do), you may want to have a walk and discover what this little town has to offer.
Enjoy the Picturesque Beach
Just below the chateau you’ll find a charming sandy beach, lined with white wooden changing huts. It’s incredibly picturesque and a great spot for taking photos. If it’s warm enough, enjoy the beach, otherwise there’s a great little walking trail around the Nessay where you can enjoy the views of the tide coming and going.
Discover the City
While in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, it’s also worthwhile discovering the heart of the town. It has a very charming village feel and there are some great shops tucked away, including a florist/vintage store called Fleuriste Mademoiselle Canelle, and a wine cellar called Cave Briac & Bacchus. Be sure to also see the town’s uniquely designed post office. To find the main square and shopping area, follow the main street called “Grande Rue”.
We only had time to eat at one restaurant during our time in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, so we chose le Nessay. The cuisine here can best be described as modern French. The serving sizes were generous and yet the dishes remained refined and beautifully presented. I tried the crumbed pork fillet with buttery potato purée and cherry jus, which was absolutely divine.
Located in the heart of the walled city of Saint-Malo, is Le Grand Bé hotel. With unique rooftop views, the luxuriously designed hotel is the perfect spot to stay while spending 3 days in Saint-Malo and Dinard. We were very privileged to be able to stay in one of the larger suits with its own private terrace. The view was spectacular and we could even see a hint of the ocean. We spent a lot of time on the terrace, lounging in large oversized beanbags and enjoying as much of the sun as possible. In regards to the room, it was chic and minimalist. The bed was super comfy and I really appreciated the Nespresso machine in the room. We spent two nights here and loved it. It ticked all the boxes, especially location.
There’s so much to see within the walled city of Saint-Malo and it’s actually much larger than I had expected. Whether you’re into history, food, shopping or nature, Saint-Malo has something for everyone.
A great way to start your holiday in Saint-Malo is with a walk around the ramparts. It’s approximately 2km long and gives excellent views of the beaches, the sea and the harbor. You’ll also notice 2 small islands during your walk called Grand Bé and Petit Bé. When the tide’s low, you can visit the islands. Just be sure to give yourself ample time to return before the tide comes back in.
Exploring the beautiful, cobblestone streets of Saint-Malo is a must. There are so many fantastic shops, restaurants and galleries, it’s easy to lose track of time. I completely fell in love with a homewares store called La Maison Generale. It’s every designer or interior sytlist’s dream store! I also really liked a jewellery store called Siliac and a concept store/ coffee shop called Choubidoux.
An Unforgettable Private Sailing Experience
To make your trip truly unforgettable, Sensations Littoral, provides visitors with a private sailing experience around the coast of Saint-Malo. The sail boat is magnificent and the skipper has a wealth of knowledge about the area and the sea. We learnt so much about Saint-Malo’s history and monuments, and I even learnt a thing or two about preparing oysters. It was honestly the best guided tour I’ve ever been on. The real highlight though, was the aperitif. It was the end of the day to we enjoyed a glass of wine and tried some of the freshest seafood the region has to offer before sailing back to shore.
A trip to Britany is not complete without a bowl of mussels or a seafood platter! The bright red, traditional restaurant, Café de L’Ouest, serves the freshest seafood dishes from 11am to 11pm every day. I couldn’t resist getting a steaming hot pot of mussels, which were incredible moreish, followed by a tradition crème brulee. Both very good.
With 100 percent locavore cuisine, an amazing wine selection, and stunning oat wood bar, Les Terroiristes Associés, quickly became my favourite restaurant in Saint-Malo. At night they serve creative tapas, such as shredded spider crab and Kohlrabi rémoulade, while during the day they serve affordable, delicious dishes that always have a unique twist. I can say hands-down this was my favourite restaurant in Saint-Malo.
I mentioned about that a trip to Saint-Malo wouldn’t be complete with a seafood feast, it also wouldn’t be complete without crepes. I tried quite a few crepes while in Britany and found the best ones to be from La Brigantine. They’re organic and no too overfilled so you could still taste the crepe itself. Be sure to try a crepe with soubise, which are onions confits in cider.
Spending the day in Dinard is a must! It’s only 10 minutes away by car, or ideally, you can take a boat there. Originally, Dinard was a fishing village but in the end of the 19th century, it became a beach resort for the rich and famous. Fabulous villas and eclectic chateaux were erected. One can only imagine the high-society parties and receptions that took place in these glorious Belle Epoque mansions. Other than fantastic architecture, Dinard also has fantastic sandy beaches, oceans walks, a great market, and even a British Film festival. It’s very easy to spend a day or two in Dinard!
Explore the Coastline
There are many great walking trails along the coastline of Dinard, each giving fantastic views of the sea. The most popular walking trail is the Promenade au Clair-de-Lune, which takes you past the magnificent Belle Époque mansions mentioned above, all the way to the Point du Moulinet. If you want to discover as much as possible by foot, I recommend following this 12km walking trail.
Relax on the Beach
Dinard has three beautiful beaches, the Plage de Saint-Enogat, which has fantastic views of Dinard’s impressive villas; the Plage de l’ecluse, which has the most facilities and activities; and slightly further down the Plage de Port Blanc, which is perfect for those seeking calm and tranquillity. If you’re reluctant to visit the beaches due to weather concerns, it’s worth noting that Dinard is affected by the warm Gulf Stream so it has an unexpectedly mild climate for the region – meaning that even if it’s a little chilly in Saint-Malo, the weather will likely be warmer in Dinard.
Take a Trip to the Markets
Dinard has a daily market in the Halles de la Concorde, and on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings from 7:30 until 1:30pm there’s a fantastic market in Place Crolard that’s definitely worth a visit. With over 300 stallholders, there something there for everyone.
After a day spent in the hot sun, a relaxed lunch was in order so we stopped for a pizza at Castor Bellux. I knew nothing about this restaurant but it was calm and inviting (and truffle pizza was on the menu), so we decided to try it. The pizza was fantastic made only better by the tiramisu and coffee we had to finish the meal.
We headed back to Paris late in the afternoon so we only had time for one meal in Dinard. I have, however, found some fantastic restaurants I’d love to try next time we visit. They include, Le Balafon, who serve up dishes using fresh produce from the nearby market, and a restaurant called La Gonelle, which has incredible views and delicious looking seafood dishes. I’ll be sure to update this post once I’ve tried them.
If you’d like to find out more information on Saint-Malo or Dinard, head to www.brittanytourism.com .