Victor Hugo

Literary lovers can walk in the footsteps of one of the most celebrated authors of the 19th century.

French author and poet Victor Hugo spent 15 years in exile in Guernsey from 1855 and the island provided the inspiration for many of his fine works, including Les Miserables and Toilers of the Sea.

Hugo fell in love with Guernsey and his island home, Hauteville House, offers fans a chance to experience how he lived - and see where he wrote some of his most famous books and poems.

His writing room, the Crystal Room, is at the top of the eclectic house and has panoramic views across the ever-changing capital St Peter Port, out to sea and across to his homeland, France.

But it isn't just his unique home in the heart of the island where you can walk the paths of one of the most controversial and fascinating writers of his time.

Take a dip where he swam in the clear waters of Havelet Bay, walk his favourite coastal path to Fermain Bay or take a stroll down to one of the island's prettiest bays Moulin Huet. Walk out to the exposed headland at Pleinmont with breath-taking views across to the Hanois Lighthouse and continue on up the length of the west coast to Port Soif, a favourite stretch of the island's coastline which provided inspiration for the writer.

It is not hard to see why Hugo was captivated by the islands.

While the writer is remembered for his life's works, his private life was equally fascinating.

Although married to childhood friend Adèle Foucher - they had five children together - he had a number of lovers throughout his life, most notably French actress Juliette Drouet.

She became his secretary and travelling companion, a relationship that lasted 50 years, and sacrificed her career to follow the love of her life to Guernsey when he and his family were exiled. She is mentioned often in the biography of Victor Hugo and thousands of letters between the pair have been recorded.

It is said that they secretly met at the top of Victoria Tower. Built to commemorate a visit to the island by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it offers unparalleled views across St Peter Port. If you look closely you might find their initials - VH and JD - which were etched somewhere into its interior granite walls.

Hugo began, completed or published the majority of the works for which he is best known whilst living here, in particular 'Les Contemplations' (1856), 'Les Misérables' (1862), 'La Legende des siecles' (1877), 'William Shakespeare' (1864), 'Les Chansons des rues et des bois' (1865), 'Les Travailleurs de la mer' (1866), 'L'Homme qui rit' (1869), and 'Quatre-Vingt-Treize' (1874).

Hauteville House

The City of Paris preserves the two houses where Victor Hugo lived the longest: the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée in Place des Vosges in Paris, where for 16 years (from 1832 to 1848) he rented a 280 square-metre apartment on the second floor, and Hauteville House on the island of Guernsey, where he lived in exile for 15 years (from 1856 to 1870).

In 1851 the banned poet left France for an exile which would last 19 years, and after unsuccessful attempts at refuge in Brussels and Jersey, Hugo arrived on the shores of Guernsey in 1855.

On 16 May 1856, with the proceeds from his successful collection of poems Les Contemplations, Victor Hugo purchased Hauteville House in Guernsey; a large white building with a garden overlooking the sea. An enthusiastic collector of second-hand furniture and bric-à-brac, he brought back a profusion of chests, sideboards, carpets, mirrors, crockery, figurines and other objects from his excursions around the island. He put his boundless imagination to work on the house, spending months overseeing a major conversion on a medieval pattern, which gave this unique building an inner force and mystery. Hugo lived in Hauteville House until 1870, when he returned to France after the fall of the Second Empire, but he returned again for a year in 1872-73, for a week in 1875 and for four months in 1878.

In March 1927, the centenary year of the Romantic Movement, the house was donated to the City of Paris by the writer’s descendants Jeanne, Jean, Marguerite and François.

Victor Hugo's garden in Guernsey

Hauteville House has been preserved exactly as it was. Hugo's abundant creativity is displayed in the astonishing richness of its decoration. As Charles Hugo put it, the house is "a veritable three-storey autograph, a poem in several rooms".

Hauteville House has some wonderful gardens which are included on a visit to the house.

Hugo's Guernsey

Victor Hugo was immediately captivated by Guernsey: he was struck by the harshness of its cliffs and the gentleness of the inland scenery. He appreciated both 'the breath of the ocean' and 'the breath of the flowers'. He was led to express his gratitude to the island in the dedication of his famous novel Les Travailleurs de la mer, “I dedicate this book to the rock of hospitality, to this corner of old Norman land where resides the noble little people of the sea, to the Island of Guernsey, severe and yet gentle...”.

Hugo described the Channel Islands as "fragments of France which fell into the sea and were gathered up by England". It is that fusion of French and British culture that makes Guernsey so unique and its heritage, scenery and people left a lasting impression on the author. Any visitor who follows his well trodden path will leave feeling as inspired as he did over 150 years ago.

Popular travel blogger, Gareth Huw Davies, visited Guernsey to find out more about Victor Hugo's time in the island. To read more follow this link: Gareth Huw Davies blog. Hauteville House and Guernsey are also featured as part of a travel feature in The Telegraph Online.

Victor Hugo Guided Walks

There are 3 local accredited walking guides who offer walks based on Victor Hugo's life in Guernsey.

Walk in Victor Hugo's Footsteps

Enjoy this walk around the streets of St Peter Port, hear about Victor Hugo's exile here, finishing outside his amazing house in Hauteville where he completed his masterpiece Les Miserables. This walk is led by gold accredited guide Gill Girard.

Click here for more information about this walk, which is part of the 2015 Channel Islands Heritage Festival.

My Affair with Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo was resident in Guernsey 1855-1870. This tour around St Peter Port follows his steps and we learn more about him, his personality, influences and relationships.
Contact Carla Bauer on 07781 127422 or 01481 723276. Alternatively, email Starts at the Guernsey Information Centre and ends at Hauteville House.

Victor Hugo's Exile in Guernsey

A guided walk, in either French or English, led by Agnès Perry which takes in the history and sights of 19th century St Peter Port.
Contact Agnès on 07781 443321 or email

For further information please contact the Guernsey Information Centre

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