The charming capital of Guernsey, St Peter Port, is a colourful hotch potch of old and new, built into the side of a hill giving wonderful views of the lively harbour. The best way to get a feel for the town is to wander along the Quayside, where old cargo ships docked to unload their precious cargo of spices, fruits, wool, wine and other valuables into the warehouses that jostled for space. Nowadays these buildings house chic boutiques, quirky souvenir shops, friendly cafes and popular restaurants. The harbour is a 24 hour whirling diorama of island ferries, private yachts, freight ships, fishing boats and pleasure craft. Here are five of my favourite things to do in this attractive Guernsey town:
Hear the Noon Day Gun at Castle Cornet
Noel Coward may have sung about the Noon Day in Hong Kong, but Guernsey has one equally as impressive at Castle Cornet, overlooking the harbour. Get there well before midday to have a look round the five museums which give a fascinating insight to Guernsey’s amazingly varied life. You can discover the explosive story of the Castle and there’s a very impressive collection of military uniforms, artefacts and replicas. If sea-faring history is your thing, then make time for the Maritime Museum which has lots of fascinating nautical facts and an excellent display on the Roman galley found in the harbour in 1985. The 18th century cannon is fired bang on noon every day – take your ear defenders – by soldiers dressed in bright red uniforms who will happily pose for a photo afterwards.
Indulge your inner culture vulture at the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery
Set amongst the Victorian flowers beds of the Candie Gardens, with a great view across the town to the blue sea below, is Guernsey’s Museum and Art Gallery. You can easily pass a couple of hours here, with its diverse collections of porcelain, antiquities, weapons, furniture, archaeological remains and much more. The Art Gallery has a bust of Rodin and Renoir’s ‘Fog on Guernsey’ plus some fine sketches by local artist Peter de Lievre. There’s a handy cafe in the quaint French-style bandstand.
Take a tour round Maison de Victor Hugo
When French writer Victor Hugo chose Guernsey as his home in exile from France he described the Island as “The rock of hospitality and freedom”. He might be pleased to know that those words still resonate today, 150 years after he was inspired to write Les Miserables and many other literary masterpieces whilst living on the island. His house, Hauteville, at the top of a very steep hill, open to the public. Every inch of the house is decorated and adorned with objects owned by the author; it feels as if he has just stepped out of the house to get some inspiration in the garden. Do make sure you check the opening times and ideally book in advance. Tours – alternately in French and English – get booked up quickly in the busy holiday period.
Savour a taste of French cuisine
There are numerous enticing places to eat and drink with the gastronomic influence of nearby Franceo in the superb cuisine to be sampled throughout the town. A popular place for locals and tourists is Le Petit Bistro in St Peter Port. Book before 7pm and try their excellent Menu Special avec beaucoup de atmosphere! Another favourite is Christie’s Brasserie in Pollet, a very French part of town – relax on the balcony overlooking the harbour whilst tucking into a seafood platter on the balcony. Or for a very simple Gallic treat, buy a crusty baguette and some French cheese from one of the little delicatessens, sit on the harbour wall and watch the world go by …
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in St Peter Port that has all the luxury and personal quirkiness you’d expect on Guernsey, I can highly recommend Red Carnation’s Duke of Richmond Hotel for smiling faces and excellent service. Its black and white themed interior has a glamour that’s carried through to the individual bedrooms, friendly bar and superb restaurant.