Around the World is a travel guide series where readers share what they love about hometowns, favorite vacation spots, home away from homes and everything in between. If you want to learn more, see what places have been covered and/or su...
Around the World is a travel guide series where readers share what they love about hometowns, favorite vacation spots, home away from homes and everything in between. If you want to learn more, see what places have been covered and/or submit a travel guide of your own, check out the Around the World page.
Today’s guide is brought to you by Kate, a Winchester native!
Winchester is a fascinating city – first off, it’s not the size you’d expect for a city. In fact, it’s tiny. But it has a Royal Charter to say it’s a city, so size isn’t important. At least, that’s what I told my Geography teacher in Year 8 when she had the cheek to refer to it as a “market town”. It used to be the capital of Wessex, and was an important city in England for a long time and is still the county town of Hampshire, fending off competition from the far-bigger Southampton. So it deserves some respect.
As you’d expect, Winchester’s packed full of history and however carefully you try and spot everything of historical significance, you’re bound to miss something, especially if you explore Hampshire’s other attractions (the county Winchester is in). But with our insider’s guide you’ll have the best chance possible..
Tell me then, where should I go in Winchester?
The most popular destination is Winchester Cathedral, proud owner of the “Longest Nave in Europe” title. First built in 1079, it almost collapsed at the start of the 20th century and had to be restored by a diver called William Walker. It contains Jane Austen’s grave, along with many bishops and other historical figures.
Then there’s the Great Hall, containing the Round Table of the legendary King Arthur. There’s the statue of the slightly-less-legendary King Alfred. There’s the City Museum, which will tell you the story of the city and nearby is the 15th century Buttercross, a stone structure where the youth of the city often congregate, listening to the buskers on the High Street.
And what should I do in Winchester?
Well, sightseeing is the obvious starting point. Should you get bored of walking around the historical sights of the city, you can climb St Giles’ Hill and picnic there, with the whole city spread below you. You can see as far as the hospital and prison, and it makes for a charming view, the mix of modern and ancient architecture. The green roof of the 19th century Guildhall particularly stands out.
If you’re looking for a day trip out of the city, there’s the famous Marwell Zoo nearby with its hundreds of species of animals, or there are huge shopping malls with multiplex cinemas in Basingstoke and Southampton. There’s also some scenic countryside around and it’s close to both the South Downs and the New Forest, which are preserved for their natural beauty.
I’m hungry/thirsty/tired – if there anywhere I can get a drink nearby?
You’re in luck! Winchester had – at last count – 42 pubs within a mile radius of the centre. A favourite among locals is the Royal Oak, which claims to be the oldest bar in England and dates from 1002 (current building is from 1630 though!). Next door is the equally-historical building that houses Ask, a modern Italian restaurant. For more food choices, you’ll also find Pizza Express at the bottom of town, next to a working watermill and Dim T at the top of the High Street, for affordable but great dim sum.
If you prefer your food less affordable, some big chefs have restaurants in Winchester – notably Raymond Blanc (Brasserie Blanc) and Jamie Oliver (Jamie’s Italian). The food is, naturally, pricier but it’s worth treating yourself!
And where can I find something to take home?
As mentioned before, the bigger cities of Hampshire are the places to go for huge malls – the Brooks Centre in Winchester is small and not over-full of shops. But lately, a few higher-end stores have opened on the High St, such as Jack Wills (clothing) and Cath Kidston (quirky homewares). Plus, there are hidden streets of specialist shops, such as the jewellery stores on