The island of Jersey has a vibrant history, which incredibly stretches as far back as 250,000 years, when the first evidence of human activity took place in the form of Neanderthal hunters using the caves at St. Brelade for shelter. Since then, it has been fought over by the British and French and was even occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. All this means there is a lot to learn, and the island’s museums are the best way to do so.
If you’re interested in visiting a variety of museums in Jersey, then you could consider becoming a member of Jersey Heritage, which will get you free access to their visitor sites and save you money in the long-run. A number of great museums are dotted across Jersey, and they are perfect places to get out with the whole family and do something fun, perhaps at one of the following.
Jersey Maritime Museum
The Jersey Maritime Museum is one of the largest and most popular museums on the island, situated in the capital St. Helier. It’s located on the capital’s historic harbour, a fitting place for a museum which focusses primarily on the island’s rich seafaring heritage. This is a great place to visit if you have children, as there are a range of interactive displays which are enjoyable for all ages. There is a lot to see – I popped in thinking it would take me about an hour but after two hours I was still there!
Among the exhibits are a unique knitted coral reef, stories about Jersey’s nautical myths and legends, and a wonderful Tapestry Gallery which was woven by islanders to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jersey’s liberation from the Nazis.
The only downside is that there is no dedicated car park at the museum, although parking is available nearby. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. during the tourist season.
The Channel Islands Military Museum
For a truly authentic taste of Channel Island history, you can step inside a real German World War II bunker at the Channel Islands Military Museum. The bunker once formed an important part of Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic defence and it has an imposing presence perched on Jersey’s western coast. Within the bunker, there are many rooms that are filled with hundreds of artefacts from the wartime period. While these are thoroughly interesting to stroll amongst, the experience of being in the bunker itself gives you a great window into the most tumultuous period of Jersey’s history.
The collection in the museum is accompanied by an incredible amount of information and photos, which really help to tell the story of what things were like. While the museum is small in comparison to others, there’s still a lot to see and it took me about an hour to go around everything. It’s probably better suited to adults, however I can imagine many of the artefacts would grab the interest of older children.
Undoubtedly one of the added bonuses of a visit to the Military Museum is its coastal location. You can combine a trip here with a stroll down to the beach, which is perfect on a nice day.
Jersey Museum and Art Gallery
One of the island’s most extensive museums, the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery is a must-see if you’re looking for cultural activities in St. Helier. Set within an impressive building, the exhibits of the museum detail almost every aspect of Jersey’s journey to the modern day.
One of the best exhibits I saw on my visit was the Merchant’s House exhibit, where you can travel back in time to the Victorian era and wander through this recreation of the time period. There are many more exhibits besides, including one about the Ice Age and another where you can meet the museum’s resident Neanderthal. You can also listen to Jersey-French being spoken or watch a film titled ‘The Story of Jersey’, which tells you all about the reasons behind why Jersey remained in the British Isles, despite being so close to France.
The museum also houses an art gallery and there is a cafe and gift shop on-site, although both of these are a little pricey. However, as the museum is located right in the heart of St. Helier, there are many great cafes and restaurants where you can get a bite to eat nearby.
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