The region of Brittany is the largest peninsula on mainland France. Its dramatic coastlines, atmospheric light, charming medieval towns, half-timbered houses, and old walls that hearken back to the Middle Ages make this region a popular tourist destination. Rather than trying to cram in the whole area on a weekend away, we recommend seeing just a part of Brittany. Saint Malo and Dinard are the perfect combination for a getaway from Paris by the sea. Facing each other on the coast of Brittany, the twin cities are rich in history, architecture and natural beauty. Whether you enjoy strolling ramparts, browsing cool boutiques, relaxing at the spa, or sampling fresh seafood and delicious food, if you only have 48 hours to spend in Brittany, here is our perfect itinerary for a weekend in Saint-Malo and Dinard.
How to Get There
There are direct trains from Paris Gare Montparnase to St Malo. The journey is just under three hours. There is a train station in Dinard or you can reach it via a 10-minute ferry ride from St. Malo by Compagnie Corsaire.
Explore the Walled City & Ramparts
Our first stop was St. Malo. The best way to start your first day in St. Malo is by wandering through the intra-muros, its walled historic city centre. With a history in fishing and navigating, Saint-Malo flourished in the 17th century thanks to wealth brought in by corsaires, pirates sanctioned by the king to attack British ships during wartime. Although the walled city was heavily damaged by bombing in WWII, it was meticulously restored and remains a unique example of a French fortified city. Along your way, treat yourself to a local culinary delight of salted caramels, kouign amann (buttery Breton cake), or an artisanal ice-cream at Sanchez.
Shop for Seaside-Themed Delights
Lining its charming cobbled streets, you’ll see a wide range of shops selling typical seaside clothing, Breton specialities and other seaside-themed gift items. Look out for Epices Roellinger, a favorite of France’s top chefs where you can find exquisite spices. Chocolate lovers can satisfy their cravings at Carré Chocolat, the boutique of local master chocolatier Pascal Pochon. You can take a piece of Brittany back home with you at Vent de Voyage, a boutique selling locally-made bags and decorative objects made of recycled sails and boating material. Stop in at Ma Kibell for cosmetics and skincare products made with local ingredients or pick up local food products at Les Fermiers du Baie.
Lunch: Sample Authentic Breton Crêpes
Enjoy the local cuisine by indulging in one of Brittany’s best-known dishes at a crêperie. You can’t go wrong with the original Comptoir du Breizh Café (famous for its Parisian outposts). Bergamote is also a pretty perfect place, which has been run by the same family for several generations.
An Afternoon on or around the Sea
In the afternoon you can work off your lunch by walking around the ramparts. Encircling most of the city, they provide a nice vantage point of the many imposing stone mansions, the port and the beaches. If it’s a clear day, you could extend your stroll to the Môle des Noires jetty or down on the beaches, the loveliest and the longest being La Plage Sillon, found east of the historic center.
You can enjoy the perspective the corsaires had of the city by taking a boat excursion with Marin Malouin. This friendly company offers various cruises on a lovely boat with a maximum of 10 passengers (in French or private English cruises available). Their history tour is a great way to learn about the city or the degustation cruise, which includes sampling local specialties. A a delicious way to end your day!
Dinner: Local Specialities with Sea Views
In addition to crêpes, Brittany has other renowned cuisine which you can try at dinner. To sink your teeth into the famed Chateaubriand steak, book a table at the stylish Chateaubriand Brasserie, found within the Hotel Chateaubriand next to the writer’s birthplace. On the top floor is the sleek Le 5, which boasts soaring views over the bay and a menu of contemporary land and sea dishes. Exceptional sea views and gastronomic cuisine using fresh local ingredients (with healthy and vegan options), can also be savored at Le Cap Horn overlooking the Plage sillon. Exceptional local seafood can also be enjoyed in the Japanese dishes of the minimalist dining room of Otonali, within the Breizh Café family.
Pamper Yourself at the Thalasso Spa
Get your second day off to a rejuvenating start by pampering yourself at the Thalassotherapy spa at the Thermes Marins Hotel. Saint-Malo is renowned the world over for its seawater therapy treatments thanks to the pioneering center at this historic hotel. These can be included in packages for both hotel guests and outside visitors.
Dinard and its Historic Villas
After or instead of the spa, hop on the ferry across the other side of the Rance Estuary to Dinard. As of the 1850s, the elegant city rose to prominence as a premier seaside vacation destination. During its golden age, over 800 villas were built and the resort attracted glitzy visitors from royalty to celebrities. Many of these can be viewed either on foot or bike around the Pointe de La Malouine and du Moulinet. You can also spend some time browsing the boutiques of the center of Dinard.
Dig into a Gourmet Brunch
If you’re in Dinard on a Sunday, come on an empty stomach to treat yourself to the gourmet brunch offered by Le Grand Hotel. Not your typical brunch, served within its posh George V restaurant, it includes a seafood table, chic starters and hot mains, all of which go well with une coupe de champagne and lovely sea views.For a more casual lunch made of seasonal local ingredients, track down La Parenthèse, a charming tea salon and creative crêperie in the town center.
You can spend your afternoon either on or walking along the lovely beaches around Dinard, you can view these and the bay by strolling the coastal Passerelle du Clair de Lune. If you’ve rented a bicycle (through your hotel or Breizh Cycles), you can take a bike ride all the way to Saint Lunaire, a smaller seaside resort, or Saint Briac, a picturesque former fishing village which once inspired artists like Renoir and Signac.
A Gastronomic Dinner at Didier Meril
If you’re staying for dinner in Dinard, be sure to reserve in advance at Didier Meril. Made of excellent local produce and seafood, the inventive chef’s succulent dishes are enjoyed with a backdrop of the Baie du Prieuré and Saint-Malo in the distance, the ideal way to cap off your weekend getaway.
Le Port Malo
Enjoy the convenience of having a small kitchen at this apartment-hotel. Found in intra-muros, it’s a great base for a budget stay in Saint Malo.
Hotel de France et Chateaubriand
This historic hotel is a good option for a night’s stay intra-muros. It’s spread over two buildings, including the historic mansion where writer Chateaubriand was born. The hotel has recently been redecorated with an eye to modern design and some rooms boost beautiful sea views.
Thermes Marins de Saint-Malo
For a well-deserved and restorative splurge in Saint-Malo, book at this exceptional hotel. Located right on the prized Sillon Beach, the historic hotel has been one of France’s leading thalassotherapy centers since the 1960s (therapeutic and spa treatments using seawater and marine ingredients). The seaview rooms offer sweeping views over the Channel and the ramparts of Saint-Malo.
Le Grand Hotel Dinard
This classy historic hotel is your best option for a luxurious overnight stay in Dinard.
Dating back to Dinard’s golden age, the hotel is now with the Barrière group. The airy interiors feature tasteful contemporary decor with nods to the sea. It has a restaurant, bar and spa with an indoor pool looking out to the sea.
Glaces Sanchez, 9 rue Vieille Boucherie, 35400 Saint-Malo
Epices Roellinger, 12, rue Saint-Vincent, 35400 Saint-Malo
Carré Chocolat, 47 Quai Duguay-Trouin, 35400 Saint-Malo
Vent de Voyage, 12, rue Broussais, 35400 Saint-Malo
Ma Kibell, 4 rue Porcon de la Barbinais, 35400 Saint-Malo
Les Fermiers du Baie, 1 rue Christophe Colomb Le Petit Paramé, 35400 Saint-Malo
Le Comptoir du Breizh Café , 6 rue de l’Orme, 35400 Saint-Malo
Marin Malouin, 15 Cale Saint-Père, 35400 Saint-Malo
Bergamote, 3 Place Jean de Châtillon, 35400 Saint-Malo
Brasserie Chateaubriand, 2 Place Chateaubriand, 35400 Saint-Malo
Le 5, 2 Place Chateaubriand, 35400 Saint-Malo
Hotel de France et Chateaubriand, 2 Place Chateaubriand, 35400 Saint-Malo
Le Cap Horn and Les Thermes Marins, 100 bd Hébert, 35400 Saint-Malo
Otonali, 53 Quai Duguay-Trouin, 35400 Saint-Malo
Le Port Malo, 15 Rue Sainte-Barbe, 35400 Saint-Malo
La Parenthèse, 2 Ter Rue du Maréchal Leclerc, 35800 Dinard
George V and Le Grand Hotel, 46 Av. George V, 35800 Dinard
Didier Meril, 1 Pl. du Général de Gaulle, 35800 Dinard
Breizh Cycles, 8 Rue de Saint-Enogat, 35800 Dinard
- Check out the rest of our 48 hours series: Lyon, Nice, Bordeaux, Barcelona, Venice, Brussels, Vienna, and Strasbourg
- Need somewhere to stay in Paris? We got 12 dreamy Paris vacation rentals to recommend!
- We got a food guide to make the most of your trip on Brittany: Culinary treasures from the Breton Coast
- Looking to travel to the south of France? Here’s what to do in Montpellier.
Written by Lily Heise for HIP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.