The threat from the sea is embedded in Saint Malo’s history and culture. Since the middle ages, Vikings and British armies would try to invade France from the sea. Located at the mouth of the Rance River, Saint Malo, had a strategic position. To protect the town from invasions by man or ocean, Saint Malo was built within walls that could withstand both.
In the 17th century, the port of Saint-Malo had become rich from transatlantic trade. Goods brought back from Newfoundland and India allowed shipowners to build large mansions called “malouinières”
The Malouins, as the towns inhabitants are called, became a force to be reckoned with in the late middle ages and remained so for some centuries after. Saint-Malo became notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and sometimes pirates. The corsairs of Saint-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute but also brought wealth from further afield.
The greatest appeal lies in the old walled town with its intense feeling of solidity. Those walls withstood the ocean for centuries, and most armies as well. The air strikes in the second world war couldn’t be foreseen by the 16th century architects and did considerable damage. The town has since been completely restored.