St Peter Port
Brimming with history and character, but also buzzing with the modern day hum of business and leisure activity, Guernsey’s capital St Peter Port is streets ahead of the rest when it comes to claiming the title of prettiest town in the Channel Islands.
The busy commercial centre is home to one of the world’s leading offshore finance industries, yet St Peter Port’s warm heart retains all its traditional, historic charm, with quaint cobbled streets, ancient stone steps rising from the beautiful seafront and a beguiling network of narrow alleyways and side streets to explore.
The colourful seafront is a sensational place for wining and dining, packed with cafés, bars and restaurants, many of them offering wonderful panoramic views of the harbour area and the neighbouring islands. Just a few metres walk away lies the main shopping area, centred around the cobbled High Street, with a great selection of tax free goods on offer. You can find anything from perfumes, wines and tobacco to jewellery, computers, cameras, mobile phones and designer fashions. Around the corner is the newly refurbished Town Market building with its impressive square, ideal for an al fresco coffee or tasty snack. Just a little further along the street you'll find the ‘Old Quarter’ which is home to a great little selection of antique and gift shops, galleries and boutiques.
St Peter Port’s rich history goes back more than a thousand years and its story is told at the award winning Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery, which is set within the delightful Victorian Candie Gardens overlooking the harbour. In the middle of the top garden is a statue of the famous French novelist Victor Hugo and on the other side of Town the grand old house where the great man lived (which now belongs to the city of Paris) is open for public viewing and guided tours.
Dominating the harbour entrance is the magnificent spectacle of Castle Cornet, the imposing fortress built in the early 13th century to repel French invaders. Today it houses four different museums and throughout the summer months it's brought alive with open air entertainment provided by theatre groups, musicians, poets and performers from the island’s ‘Living History’ performers.
St Peter Port is a superb centre for culture and music, with the splendid St James Concert Hall attracting top class artists from classical to jazz to ‘world’ music. St James is also the home of Guernsey’s amazing millennium tapestry.
For leisure and pleasure seekers St Peter Port also has much to offer. The modern Beau Sejour centre is a great place for a workout or a sauna and the outdoor pools at La Vallette are a year round magnet for hardier swimmers, but for a full scale pampering pop into a place like the Old Government House Hotel & Spa.
St Peter Port has provided a safe haven for seafarers for hundreds of years and today the smart new harbour terminal is the point of entry for thousands of visitors as they step off the regular fast ferries from England and France. With its picturesque marinas crammed with pontoons, St Peter Port attracts thousands of yachts and private motor vessels from both sides of the Channel. It is also a favourite stopping off point for visiting cruise liners whose passengers are ‘wowed’ by the sensational backdrop of the smaller islands, Herm, Jethou and Sark. Getting to Herm or Sark for a day trip by ferry could not be easier. Fishing expeditions for anglers are available through private skippers while another company offers ‘eco-voyages’ on a fast rigid inflatable motorboat (RIB) to view the islands’ abundant marine and bird life at close quarters.
So whether you wander the old streets, take in some theatre, sit back with a coffee, pamper yourself at a spa or join a boat trip around the island, St Peter Port is a vital port of call on everyone's Guernsey getaway.