Wheelchair Accessibility of Saint-Malo
In June, we had the opportunity to spend some days in Saint-Malo, a historic port city in French Brittany. Although Saint-Malo certainly isn’t a perfectly wheelchair-accessible destination, it is definitely worth the struggles. It pleasantly surprised me to see so many other wheelchair users experiencing the beauty of the walled city in northwestern France.
Getting to Saint-Malo
TGV Highspeed Train
The accessible TGV high-speed train connects Paris to St Malo in about 3 hours. The ‘Accès Plus’ service helps wheelchair users to board the coach. Usually, the wheelchair spot is located in the first-class compartment. Make sure to contact ‘Accès Plus’ right after booking your tickets, but at least 48 h before your trip to reserve the wheelchair spot as well as the accessibility service. See more information on the official SNCF website.
Coming from Paris, it takes almost five hours via Highway A11 or A13 to drive the little more than 400 km (248.5 miles) to Saint-Malo. The French Start-up Wheeliz provides an adaptive car rental service for wheelchair users. Public handicap parking is available at Gate Dinan and Gate Saint-Vincent. Also, all private car parks have at least two handicap parking lots, as you can see in the photos below.
Rennes Bretagne Airport (code IATA: RNS) is the closest international airport near St Malo. It takes an hour to drive the 77 km (48 miles) to the port city. Air France offers direct flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Rennes. Another international airport to consider not too far from Saint-Malo is Nantes Airport, about 180 km (112 miles). During high season there are also flights deserving the UK from Dinard Bretagne Airport, which only is about a 20-minute drive away.
By cruise ship
The port of St Malo has a cruise terminal and attracts lots of cruise visitors from April to October. Mostly American, British, and German cruise lines stop in Saint-Malo.
General Wheelchair Accessibility of Saint-Malo
First, let me tell you that the wheelchair accessibility of Saint-Malo is quite challenging. Cobblestones in the historic city center and rather steep inclines aren’t easy to overcome for wheelchair users. It clearly would be best to travel with friends or family members to help whenever necessary.
Saint-Malo in a wheelchair is doable
Nevertheless, Saint-Malo is one of those places that shouldn’t be missed if you are traveling across France. There is a lot to see, also for wheelchair users and people with disabilities. Let me show you the most accessible spots in the history-loaded old town.
Stop at the accessible Tourist Office of Saint-Malo
Make sure to stop by the accessible Tourist Office of Saint-Malo at ‘Esplanade Saint-Vincent’ to get a map as well as a city guide. Inside the office, there is a lowered counter for wheelchair users, and the staff provides you with accessibility information. Behind the building, you also find two, unfortunately very narrow wheelchair-accessible restrooms.
Alternatively, you can use the accessible restroom at Gate La Grande Porte. It is not only larger but also way cleaner than the ones at the Tourist Office. However, note that you need to ask for the key.
Wheelchair-accessible stroll on the fortified walls
The City of St Malo invested in accessibility improvements and built two access ramps for wheelchair users. From the ramparts, especially at ‘Bastion de la Hollande,’ you have spectacular views of the Bay of Saint-Malo. Both access ramps are pretty steep, so manual wheelchair users will almost certainly need help. Moreover, it isn’t possible to do a complete roundtrip of the ramparts, which means you have to take the same way back to get down again.
Wheelchair ramp at Bastion St Philippe
The access ramp at ‘Bastion Saint Philippe‘ features a path for wheelchair users made of large, flat cobblestone. However, once up there, you have to deal with the bumpy ground. Admittedly, there isn’t much to see for wheelchair users in this area. Also, note that the view is pretty limited as the walls are quite high.
Access ramp at Bastion de la Hollande
Getting up the less steep slope at ‘Bastion de la Hollande’ is much easier as it is paved. Once up there, the ground is slightly graveled but still comfortable to roll on. You can admire the statue of explorer Jacques Cartier, who, by the way, is the reason why Quebec in Canada is French-speaking.
‘La Plage de l’Eventail,’ Eventail Beach, is undoubtedly worth a stop. The beach is stunning during low tide. However, watching the high tide rolling is is spectacular as well, as the water level rises up to 12 m (39 ft). You can best see Eventail Beach from the ramp at ‘Parking Galere (P10).’ An accessible but bumpy cobblestone path longes the beach and leads around Saint-Malo Castle to the old town.
Viewpoint at Beach Bon Secours
First, note that accessing the viewpoint at ‘Plage Bon Secours’ is rather difficult for wheelchair users. Unfortunately, a step leads down to the platform. If you are a power wheelchair user, you might need to bring a portable ramp.
The impressive Roman Catholic Saint-Malo Cathedral has an accessible entrance for wheelchair users located in ‘Rue de la Blatrerie.’ A wood ramp leads to the main area from where you can see the altar.
Take the accessible Sightseeing Train
‘Le Petit Train de St Malo’ is wheelchair-accessible thanks to a foldable ramp at the back of the train. The sightseeing train departs at the Tourist Office and runs from March to November. A ticket for a person with a disability costs 6 EUR (2019). Note that I didn’t do the tour myself due to a tight schedule.
See the Lighthouse
The pier to the Lighthouse ‘Le Môle des Noires’ is fully wheelchair-accessible. From the lighthouse, you have a completely different view of Saint-Malo and its impressive walls. Wheelchair users can best access the pier from ‘Gate Dinan.’ The rolling distance to the lighthouse and back is about 1,2 km (0.75 miles).
Wheelchair-accessible eateries in St Malo
During our stay, we discovered some amazing, wheelchair-friendly restaurants and coffee shops in Saint-Malo. Ice cream fans will almost certainly love the tasty creations of the renowned Glacier Sanchez. If you want to taste authentic French Brittany crepes with a view, you might want to check out the accessible Creperie Le Corps de Garde near ‘Bastide de la Hollande.’ For good coffee and sandwiches, go to Café Columbus (the French equivalent to Starbucks). There you will also find spacious accessible restrooms.
Just for fun, here is an impressive collection of different types of cobblestone you find across Saint-Malo. The best and easiest surface to roll on is the area around the Tourist Office.
Summing up, the wheelchair accessibility of Saint-Malo is quite a challenge for wheelchair users. Cobblestone is almost everywhere, so you should be prepared for a bumpy ride. However, Saint-Malo is incredibly beautiful and has a lot to offer for people with disabilities. The City of Saint-Malo has done a lot to increase its wheelchair accessibility wherever possible. Next time, I’ll show you around Mont Saint Michel in Normandy!
Have you already been to Saint-Malo?
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