Saint-Malo, the jewel of the Emerald Coast in Brittany, is popular with our travelers for its beautiful beach, Grand Plage, its charming historical town, and its friendly locals.

Travelers Ann & Jim Hichak with the locals on the beach at Saint-Malo
Travelers Ann & Jim Hichak with the locals on the beach at Saint-Malo
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Ann & Jim Hichak

You may also have heard of Saint-Malo if you have read the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which has recently been adapted and released as a mini-series on Netflix. We enjoyed the series and recommend it, whether you’ve read the book or not. 

If you’re not familiar with the story, All the Light We Cannot See is set partly in Paris and mostly in Saint-Malo during World War II. Daniel LeBlanc, a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History, and his blind daughter Marie-Laure flee Paris for Saint-Malo following the German occupation in 1940. With them, they carry a valuable secret, which Daniel is determined should not fall into the hands of the Nazis.

The father-daughter relationship between Daniel (played by Mark Ruffalo in the series) and Marie (Aria Mia Loberti) is very moving. To help his daughter find her way around Paris and then Saint-Malo, he builds wooden models of the cities. Marie explores the model cities with her hands at home first, before venturing out into the streets with her father and exploring them in real life.

City wall and beach at Saint-Malo
Saint-Malo
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Teddy Charti, Unsplash CC0

Another key character in the story is a young German man, Werner Pfennig (Louis Hofmann). He is taken from his orphanage and forcibly recruited into the German army when they discover his talent for building radios. Werner ends up being stationed in St-Malo as a soldier specializing in detecting and tracking radio frequencies. 

Marie and Werner’s fates become intertwined through their shared love of a particular radio program, on a particular frequency, with a particular radio presenter…

But the situation becomes increasingly dangerous for all the characters in Saint-Malo. Marie’s father and Uncle Etienne (Hugh Laurie) disappear, the Allied bombings on Saint-Malo intensify as the Germans prevent the residents from fleeing the town, and Werner’s military colleagues start to question his loyalties…

We’ll let you find out what happens by reading the book or watching the Netflix series!

Saint-Malo old town
Saint-Malo old town
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Pline, CC-BY SA 3.0

For our travelers who are fans of the story, we have put together a self-guided walking tour of Saint-Malo, which takes you to many of the places that feature in the book and series. This includes:

  • The address where Marie-Laure lived with her great-uncle Etienne, Mme Manec and father in Saint-Malo
  • A hotel that Werner stayed at
  • Marie-Laure’s walking route from the house to the beach
  • The bakery where the family bought their bread
  • The Fort National, which was used as a prison under German occupation

You may also like to read our blog post on how to spend a day in Saint-Malo, Brittany.

The Fort National on the beach at Saint-Malo
The Fort National on the beach at Saint-Malo
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Xavier Foucrier, Unsplash CC0

If you would like to see some nice views of Saint-Malo from a recent movie, you may enjoy The Three Musketeers: Milady (in French, Les Trois Mousquetaires: Milady). With the charming actor François Civil playing D’Artagnan, all the scenes that are supposedly set in La Rochelle in the movie were actually filmed in Saint-Malo.

If you’re interested in exploring Saint-Malo and visiting other parts of Brittany, we warmly invite you to browse our self-drive tours of Brittany. A visit to Saint-Malo may also be added on to our tours of Normandy.

France Just For You

Experts in self-drive tours in France

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