Nestled on the western side of the island, Saint Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey. As capitals go, it’s a rather small example, home to a population of just 18,000 people. But what it lacks in size, Saint Peter Port makes up for in charm.
Known to locals simply as town, its 2.5 square miles of area are made up of narrow, cobbled streets and quaint rows of houses. The aura of the town has a very Mediterranean feel, especially on a warm summer’s day, making it a hotspot for tourists looking to experience the delights of urban Guernsey.
Saint Peter Port – as the name suggests – is a harbour town, and it boasts the largest port on the island. This makes it the first point of contact for many visiting the island by boat, both from the UK, France and the other Channel Islands. Even in the off-season, the port remains a hub of activity, meaning its various piers are great places to stroll among the moored boats and enjoy the sea breeze.
The town as a whole has a fantastic vantage point over the ocean, with views across the Little Russel towards the neighbouring islands of Herm and Jethou. On clear days, it is even possible to see the French coast of Normandy, provided you have a good viewpoint. I guarantee that there is far more to see besides, with the town offering a little something for everyone.
A Historic Landmark
On a visit to St. Peter Port, it is hard to miss the most prominent feature on the town’s landscape – the fortified walls of Castle Cornet. Constructed in the 13th century, the castle is positioned at the southern edge of the port, overlooking the harbour. It was built upon land that initially formed a small, tidal island, with the ultimate aim of providing defence against invading French forces. It is also one of my favourite places to go for a walk.
The castle has seen many conflicts during its time, even being occupied briefly by the Germans in World War II. However it sustained the greatest damage in 1672, when a bolt of lightning struck the magazine and caused a large explosion. The keep was destroyed and several lives lost, before the damage was eventually repaired. Several hundred years later, a bridge to the castle was constructed and it now forms part of the breakwater that protects the harbour. It is a popular tourist destination and there is much to learn about Guernsey’s history within its impressive walls.
St. Peter Port provides more opportunities for cultural exploits, with the Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery being a notable example. Located within the scenic Candie Gardens, near the centre of the town, the museum holds a range of exhibits that focus on Guernsey’s unique archaeology and folklore, as well as having rare artefacts from around the world. It’s an interesting place for a family visit – offering many engaging aspects for children, as well as catering to older generations. Art enthusiasts will also not be disappointed either, as the museum’s art collection holds more than 500 paintings in total.
A Famous Former Resident
As Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery lies within Candie Gardens, it can also be a great idea to explore the gardens themselves. They are a colourful remnant of the Victorian Era, rich in flower beds, manicured lawns and fish ponds. The heated glass-houses you can find here are the oldest in the British Isles and they are home to plants from all over the world. The gardens are free to enter and are situated just a five-minute walk from the centre of St. Peter Port, making them an ideal destination to visit. If you keep an eye out, you might spot the statue of the legendary French writer, Victor Hugo, who lived in the town for many years after being exiled from France.
Even without visiting its popular attractions, St. Peter Port offers intrigue at every turn. A stroll through Market Square is an excellent way to take in the town’s cafe’s and shops. This is especially worth doing on a Friday, when the island’s Fresh Friday market occurs. This event sees local sellers offering up fresh produce and street food, making it one of the best things to do if you’re after a taste of Guernsey at its finest. St. Peter Port is therefore one of the most interesting towns in Guernsey and is a hub for culture, history and local cuisine, making it ideal for brief visits and longer stays.
Would you like to learn more about Guernsey via food? Then you should not miss the following article: Discover The Mouthwatering Cuisine of Guernsey