Stanley has been the capital of the Falkland Islands since it was founded in 1843, but it was only made a city in 2022. Though it may not look like a city, it’s still home to most of the population of the archipelago, and as such, it has plenty of cultural sights to hit up.
From churches to memorials and intriguing architecture, Stanley also boasts British pubs and wine bars so you can spend an evening unwinding after seeing what makes this small city tick. The Falkland Islands’ main town is the archipelago’s central hub. Here are just a few things you can do in Stanley during your visit.
Main Attractions In Stanley, Falklands Islands
Historic Dockyard Museum
The Historic Dockyard Museum is one of the most visited sights in the capital city of the Falkland Islands. It’s a good first port of call to learn more about the history of the island and the life of the islanders over the years.
The idea to have a space which tells the story of the Falkland Islands and their people came in the early 20th century, when the wife of the governor conceived a collection of exhibits from the colony. Over the years, the collection grew and comprised a variety of objects such as pictures, drawings and photographs, all documenting island life, as well as things like farming tools.
In 2014, the museum was moved to a new building – the current location of the museum. This new development continues on the original theme, but adds more about the geology and nature of the island. This is also the place to go to learn more about the impact of the Falklands War in 1982 on those who lived through it; there are audio recordings from children at the time.
The new complex is made up of buildings that each have their own historical significance. These include an old storehouse, smithy and boathouse, as well as the old telephone exchange, full of old communications equipment.
Visitors can also enter the Cartmell Cottage, which is one of the oldest buildings in Stanley. Inside, you’ll find a recreation of local lives from the 1850s up to the 1970s.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10 am – 4:00 pm; Saturday, 9:00 am – 11:00 am and 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm; Sunday, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm (weekend hours shortened in winter).
Those looking to enjoy a drink in a cozy atmosphere can wander into the Victory Pub – a favored watering hole for locals and visitors alike. Set in the center of town, the Victory features classic pub interiors with wood-beamed ceilings strung with Union Jack flags.
Here you can simply find a space at the bar and order your favorite tipple. If you’re a beer fan, you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to try Rockhopper Beer, locally brewed beer by Falklands Beerworks.
The Victory Pub is also a great place to enjoy a bite to eat. The classic pub menu features many British staples including fish and chips. Once you’re full, you could play a bit of pool.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm; Saturday, 11:00 am – 11:30 pm; Sunday, 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm.
This set of charming late Victorian villas were built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. This type of classic terrace-style properties can be seen in many coastal locales back in the UK, but in Stanley they really stand out against the stark scenery and the other more modern buildings.
Constructed just behind the jetty, the villas were built by the Dean family – influential local traders of the Falkland Islands at that time. Interestingly, they’re a little different to other late-19th-century houses you’d find in the UK, mainly due to the materials used.
The English slate normally used was simply too heavy to be transported to Stanely. Instead, typical Falklands-style corrugated iron was used as roofing material. The result is a hybrid architecture that represents the islands’ identity.
While these four houses are currently lived in, walking past and admiring the contrasting beauty of their architecture (and snapping a few pics from a distance) is a great way to further understand the aesthetics of the archipelago.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is the southernmost Anglican cathedral in the world. It was built on the site of an older church, the Holy Trinity Church. However, in 1886 tragedy struck when a peat slip ripped through the town, destroying parts of it (including the church) and causing loss of life.
The new building was constructed between 1890 and 1892, and was designed by British architect Arthur Blomfield. Local stone and brick were the main materials in its construction. The design incorporates a tower, 19th and 20th-century stained glass windows and a pipe organ shipped in from Ireland.
The cathedral is an important landmark in the Falkland Islands. Alongside the regular schedule of services, there are a number of commemorative services that take place at the church, including Liberation Day and Remembrance Sunday.
Christ Church Cathedral is a welcoming place where visitors can enter and soak up the simple elegance of its interiors, including the beautiful stained glass windows (one of which features a bicycle in the design!).
Just in front of Christ Church Cathedral is the unmissable Whalebone Arch. This arch was placed here in 1933 to mark a century of British rule of the islands. It is made from the jaws of two blue whales.
It was given to the islands and the people of Stanley by the Falkland Islands Company. This double archway didn’t originate in the Falkland Islands at all, but actually from the South Shetland Islands. They were shipped to the Falkland Islands in 1922 and were originally intended to be used as part of a whaling museum. Instead, they created this unforgettable installation.
Years of being left to the elements caused damage to these giant, decades-old bones, and so in 2017, a restoration project took place. The bones, discolored and worn by years of water erosion, were carefully restored and given a new lease of life. They are back to their gleaming former glory, and make for an ideal photo opportunity with the church on one side and the sea on the other.
Saint Mary’s Church
Located on Ross Road in Stanley, Saint Mary’s Church is the only Catholic church in the Falkland Islands. It’s a small but charming building, featuring wood slat walls painted black and white and a corrugated iron roof. Consecrated in 1899, the church’s interior features murals painted by Falkland Islands-born artist James Peck. You can visit the church, but there are also regular church services if you would like to attend.
Margaret Thatcher’s rule as prime minister of the UK played a key role in the modern history of the Falkland Islands. The leader headed up the defense of the islands when they were invaded by Argentine forces in 1982.
Following her death in 2013, the former prime minister – then Baroness Thatcher – was commemorated with a sculpture that was commissioned by the Falkland Islanders. Local artist Steve Massam created the piece, which was unveiled by Baroness Thatcher’s son in 2015 on Thatcher Day on a street called Thatcher Drive.
The sculpture sits on a stone plinth and is accompanied by a plaque from a speech given by Thatcher herself on the 3rd April 1982: “They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and determine their own allegiance.”
This large residence has been home to the Falkland Islands’ governors since the mid-19th century. With its white-washed walls, large windows, red chimneys and slanting green corrugated iron roofs, the sprawling property is set within clipped green lawns behind a white picket fence.
Built in 1845, the Government House features in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which describes it as “grey, stone-built and slated, calls to mind a manse in Shetland or Orkney.” (A manse is a typical home of the clergy in these parts of the British Isles.)
Sadly, the property is not open to the general public and is only available by appointment only. You can, however, snap pictures of the building from various angles. There are information boards situated around the outside of the house to tell you more about certain interesting parts of the house.
The conservatory, for example, which was visited by Prince Philip during his 1991 visit, is the location of one of the world’s most southernmost grapevines!
1982 Liberation Memorial
This important memorial commemorates all British forces and supporting units involved in the Falklands War of 1982. The memorial is located overlooking Stanley Harbor; an obelisk in shape, it has the coat of arms of the Falklands Islands on its front and is topped with a bronze statue of Britannia.
The words inscribed on the front of the memorial read, “In memory of those who liberated us.” Alongside this is the date of the end of the war, 14th June 1982. The other sides of the memorial feature the names of the British Army, RAF, Royal Navy and Royal Marines who took part in the conflict.
The curved brick wall behind the obelisk features several plaques, inscribed with the names of 255 British military personnel who lost their lives during the war. There’s also a relief that depicts a number of moments from the war. It’s an important place for Falkland Islanders and visitors to pay tribute to those who took part in this modern conflict.
Red Telephone Boxes
Not far from Saint Mary’s Church is Stanley’s post office. Just outside the post office are a few icons of the UK: red telephone boxes (two of them!) and a red post box. Though they probably don’t get much use anymore, these are a reminder of the strong British identity of the Falkland Islanders – and a great place for a photo opportunity.
The post box here is also a great place to send a postcard back home, complete with a Falkland Islands stamp. Just head inside the post office for any letter-writing equipment you may need, make your purchases (don’t forget the stamp), and send away!
The Harbour View Gift Shop
Those who are visiting Stanley will of course want to pick up souvenirs of their time spent exploring the islands. Thankfully, The Harbour View Gift Shop is the place to go to pick up anything and everything Falkland Islands-related.
Located inside a classic Falklands building, with white-washed walls and a green corrugated iron roof, here you’ll find a wide range of gifts and souvenirs. Think penguin-themed Christmas decorations, T-shirts, mugs, keyrings, magnets, socks with penguins on – and more than just penguin paraphernalia, as well. Trust me, I have been inside a few times!
It’s the kind of place where you’ll step inside thinking, “I’m only going to buy a penguin keyring,” but then you end up buying a whole lot more! There are also cute things like woolen hats made from Falkland Islands wool.
Opening times: Every day, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm (closed on Sundays).
How to get there
Getting to the Falkland Islands, and then to Stanley, is not exactly straightforward. To start with, you begin by flying into Mount Pleasant (on East Falkland) from Santiago. There are weekly flights between the two destinations. Bear in mind, however, that there’s a stop along the way in Punta Arenas where customs formalities for the Falkland Islands are completed.
Another option is to fly from the UK. The Ministry of Defence operates two flights a week from Brize Norton, a RAF airbase in Oxfordshire. The 18-hour flight connects to the Falkland Islands directly, but involves a refueling stop at Cape Verde. Flights from Brize Norton leave every Sunday and Wednesday; from the Falkland Islands, flights depart for the UK on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can book a seat on the plane through operators such as International Tours & Travel or Penguin Travel.
All flights to the Falkland Islands land at Mount Pleasant Airport. The airport is managed by the UK’s Ministry of Defence, so don’t come expecting a shiny arrivals area – it’s all about being practical here. From here it’s one hour to Stanley. Shuttle buses connect the airport with Stanely, but these must be booked in advance; your accommodation or tour operator will be able to provide this for you (Penguin Travel is one, for example).
Another way that many people travel to the islands is on a cruise ship. In fact, more than 40 different cruise ships visit the islands during the Falklands summer season, usually as part of an Antarctic adventure.
Make sure to read my post How To Plan A Trip To The Falkland Islands.
Where to stay in Stanley
Waterfront Boutique Hotel
Situated in the center of Stanley, close to a number of local sights and amenities, the Waterfront Boutique Hotel is a popular accommodation option. Rooms at this cozy property are warm and inviting, and come with comfy seating areas, large beds and en-suite bathrooms.
It’s the perfect place to return to after a day out in the cold, exploring the natural scenery of the Falkland Islands. Another bonus is that the Waterfront Boutique Hotel has its own on-site restaurant – one of the best in town.
Situated just across the Historic Dockyard Museum, Malvina Hotel is one of the only purpose hotels in the archipelago. With its wide sweeping views across the water, rooms here are traditional but comfortable, classically decorated with a warm color palette, allowing the views to take center stage.
Downstairs, guests can enjoy drinking and dining at the hotel restaurant and bar, and start the day with an English style breakfast.
Best bars and pubs in Stanley
There’s no better place to go for a drink with locals than the Victory Pub. This popular drinking hole is a great spot for an evening tipple, and is ideal for those seeking a British pub atmosphere.
Unwined is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for somewhere a little more sophisticated than the pub. The recently opened wine bar was started up after the pandemic, in which more people got used to spending time at home, so Unwined creates an easygoing atmosphere that allows you to enjoy a home-like environment.
They don’t only sell wine, either: there’s plenty of alcohol to choose from here, as well as tapas for when you’re feeling hungry.
Another lovely spot to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat in Stanley is the Waterfront Cafe. Part of the Waterfront Boutique Hotel, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the dining on offer here.
As well as a few Italian-inspired dishes they also have a nice wine selection. It’s the kind of place you want to keep coming back to – everything from a morning coffee to a big evening meal is great here.
These other posts will be useful when planning a trip to the Falkland Islands:
- 6 Best Reasons To Visit The Falkland Islands
- The Best Things To Do In The Falklands
- The Most Interesting Facts About The Falkland Islands
- Where To See Penguins In The Falklands
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of The Falkland Island as part of the #ilovethefalklandislands campaign. I wish to thank them and Blogilicious for organizing an incredible trip. The views expressed in this post remain my own.