Winchester is packed full of ancient treasures, spectacular architecture, unrivalled shopping and offers a host of culinary delights that will put you in food heaven. With its cobbled streets, meandering alleyways, pretty boutiques and eclectic dining, it’s little wonder that Winchester is one of the South’s most picturesque cities.
There is so much to see and do that picking the best places to visit in Winchester is almost impossible. Some of our best places to visit in Winchester include the cathedral, castle, science museum, wildlife zoo and Bombay Sapphire distillery.
Whether you are visiting Winchester for the day, on a weekend break or here for an extended holiday, there’s so much to see, explore and discover. And if you see rats or any other vermin in and around the area you should call a professional. Contact Malum Integrated Pest Control in Winchester for advice and a free site survey.
Top 10 best places to visit in and around Winchester
In order to help you plan your trip, we have specially selected our top 10 best places to go, in and around Winchester depending on what you like doing.
Winchester is a vibrant heritage destination steeped in a wealth of history. So, if you are a culture vulture or history buff, then this is the perfect city for you.
You can’t fail to be impressed by the imposing structure of Winchester Cathedral. Situated in the heart of the city, it boasts to be Europe’s longest medieval Cathedral and draws thousands of visitors through its gigantic doors each year.
Inside, its strong, solid exterior gives way to the soaring perpendicular aches of the nave. Look around and you’ll discover medieval carvings of dragons, owls and monkeys as well as contemporary art juxtaposed against the beautifully illuminated 12th Century Winchester Bible.
Here you can stroll at your leisure or take a guided tour before refuelling at the Cathedral café, with its pretty garden and open-air terrace. And, depending on the time of year you visit, you might be lucky enough to catch a classical concert, marvel at an exhibition or be entertained by the open air theatre.
The Great Hall
Unfortunately Winchester Castle lies in ruins after it was part destroyed in a fire in 1302 before being demolished on Oliver Cromwell‘s orders in 1649. The Great Hall, however, is one of the finest surviving medieval aisled halls of the 13th century, and is a fascinating find, packed with myths and legends.
Here you can come and see the iconic Round Table of King Arthur and his knights, discover the heroes and villains of the past and take a glimpse at the secret passage, created to surprise enemies and aid dramatic escapes.
St Catherine’s Hill
If you are feeling energetic then there is no better place to view the city of Winchester than atop St Catherine’s Hill. After a dramatic 220ft climb you’ll be well rewarded with showstopping views in all directions. At the summit are the earthworks of an Iron Age fort, and these buried ruins of the Norman chapel are what gives this site its name.
This nature reserve is packed full of wildlife and in the summer, you’ll be able to hear the tapping of woodpeckers, spy buzzards and kestrels soaring in the sky and watch over 25 different species of butterflies dancing on the breeze.
The areas in and around Winchester have been inspiring poets, writers and artists for centuries. Thanks to its parklands, woodlands and riverside walks it offers many paths depending on whether you want to amble, ramble or hike.
The South Downs Way
One of Britain’s great national trails, The South Downs Way, begins – or ends – in Winchester. Here you can step out for all or part of the hundred mile trail, enjoying rolling chalk downland, navigating across springy turf, wandering through pretty villages and even taking in the iconic Seven Sisters Hills.
Passing through five National Nature Reserves and dozens of Sites of Special Scientific Interest, you won’t be short of stunning wildlife or sites to explore.
The English Romantic poet, John Keats, stayed in Winchester in the summer and autumn of 1819, where he enjoyed a peaceful and reflective visit despite leading quite a troubled life. Each day he would stroll around the city taking in the sights of Cathedral Close, along the water meadows and on to the Hospital of St Cross – which today is thought to be one of the oldest almshouses in England.
So enamoured by Winchester was Kates, that he penned his famous ‘Ode to Autumn’ in honour of the city. It was the last poem he composed and tragically he died the following year in Rome, without ever returning to Winchester. You can follow Keats’ daily route, with a self-guided walk that is approximately 2 miles long.
Winchester has a growing reputation for drawing on its rural resources by supplying local produce and fine fare, endorsed by various farmers markets and local delis. And, thanks to some ‘starry’ chefs and a well-known distillery, Winchesters restaurants now have an enviable reputation for both food and drink.
The first restaurant that celebrity chef Rick Stein opened outside of his flagship venue in Cornwall, is conveniently situated at the top of Winchester high street. Bringing a hint of Cornish heritage to the heart of the Hampshire countryside, you can enjoy some tantalising fresh fish dishes whatever the occasion.
Known for his uncompromising commitment to seasonal, ethically produced food and his concern for the environment it is rather fitting that Hugh Fernley Whitingstall chose to renovate the historic mill building in Abbey Gardens for his River Cottage Canteen.
Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery
For those who enjoy a tipple or two of Gin, then why not take a ride out into the nearby countryside with a visit to Laverstoke Mill – home of Bombay Sapphire Gin. Here you can see what lies behind the doors of this historic distillery and discover the care, skill and artistry behind every drop. And, at the end of your tour, you can relax and enjoy a glass of the good stuff.
Family fun time
There’s fun for everyone when you take a trip to Winchester, regardless of the what the Great British weather has in store. Take a look at the best places to visit in Winchester with little ones.
If you have children to entertain, then why not let them walk on the wild side by taking them on a trip to the zoo. Located just five miles outside of Winchester, Marwell Zoo is a must-see attraction. Set amongst 140 acres of rolling countryside it boasts well over 1,000 animals from endangered Amur tigers to snow leopards, white rhinos, giraffes, hippos and penguins to name but a few.
In addition to a variety of educational themed areas to explore such as ‘Into Africa’, ‘the World of Lemurs’, and ‘Penguin Cove’, Marwell Zoo has added ‘Wild Explorers’, a fun safari-inspired experience that offers visitors unrestricted views of its animals from a series of boardwalks. And for little legs that can’t take the pace, why not hop on board the miniature scenic railway for a 15-minute trip past a variety of animal enclosures.
Winchester Science Museum and Planetarium
For those children who like to get ‘hands on with science’ this wonderful interactive museum is the perfect place to spark your child’s curiosity. Just like anything that captures the imagination, it has to be fun! And this Science Museum with interactive exhibits and largest standalone planetarium in the UK, has entertainment in abundance.
From explosive live science shows, to challenges and inventions this museum brings the worlds of science, technology, engineering and maths to life. It is also home to Explorer:Space, an awe-inspiring, immersive space zone, where the whole family can take an epic journey through the Solar System for an out of this world experience.
As you can see, there are so many things to do and sights to explore that picking the best places to visit in Winchester is almost impossible. So, why not experience this wonderful city for yourself?