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Winchester’s prominent history as England’s first capital, established by Alfred the Great in 871, is reflected in its distinctive architecture. Wandering through its narrow lanes, you’ll discover a mix of medieval and Georgian buildings, indicating the city’s rich past. The proximity to the South Downs National Park is a bonus, which can be explored through the South Downs Way, a 100-mile trail beginning in Winchester and ending in Eastbourne, perfect for walking and cycling enthusiasts.
Activities to Enjoy
The Winchester City Mill, powered by the River Itchen flowing through the city, dates back at least a millennium to King Alfred’s reign. This National Trust site boasts a café, where cakes, often baked with flour ground on the premises, are a must-try. A short drive will take you to the quaint village of Chawton, the final home of celebrated author Jane Austen. Her house, now a museum, showcases many personal items, including the tiny table where she penned her famous novels.
Award-winning Forte Kitchen offers a menu of delectable British dishes, including wild mushrooms on sourdough toast. For a more traditional setting, head to the 18th-century inn, The Old Vine. Its warm, rustic ambiance, complete with wooden beams and a fireplace, provides the perfect setting to savour pub classics like Hampshire cured ham or the day’s special pie.
Sights Not to be Missed
Guided tours of the Winchester Cathedral offer an in-depth look at its almost 500-year construction journey. Opting for the Tower Tour lets you climb to the rooftop for an incredible cityscape view and beyond.
What We Love
The Great Hall, the last standing piece of Winchester Castle built by William the Conqueror in 1067, is a testament to centuries of historical events, from extravagant feasts to treason trials. The medieval round table, displayed on the hall’s end wall, is often linked to Arthurian lore.
Experiencing local charm is part of any English city getaway.
Where to Lodge
Established in 1755, The Wykeham Arms, a former coaching inn, is conveniently located near the cathedral and above a well-liked pub. Opt for the Hamilton Suite, showcasing a unique brick accent wall, historic framed artwork, an exquisite chandelier, and a rolltop bath for ultimate relaxation. The pub downstairs serves a hearty breakfast menu, from a classic full English to modern avocado on toast. Double rooms start at £159, B&B.
This narrative is made possible with the collaboration of Visit Hampshire.
Featured in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Winchester Travel Guide
What is the historical significance of Winchester?
Winchester holds a special place in English history as the country’s first capital, established by Alfred the Great in 871. Its medieval and Georgian buildings are a testament to its rich past, and places like The Great Hall of Winchester Castle offer a glimpse into significant historical events.
What activities are recommended in Winchester?
Visitors can explore the Winchester City Mill, a property of the National Trust that dates back a millennium, and visit the house of famous author Jane Austen in the nearby village of Chawton. For outdoor enthusiasts, the South Downs National Park offers a 100-mile-long walking and cycling route that starts in Winchester.
What are some dining options in Winchester?
Forte Kitchen, an award-winning restaurant, and The Old Vine, a cosy 18th-century inn, are two recommended dining options in Winchester. They serve a variety of delicious dishes, including British classics and local specialities.
What is a notable sight in Winchester?
One notable sight is the Winchester Cathedral. Visitors can learn about its construction, which spanned nearly five centuries, and can even opt for the Tower Tour for stunning views of the city.
Where is a recommended place to stay in Winchester?
A recommended place to stay is The Wykeham Arms, a former coaching inn dating back to 1755. It is located near the cathedral and offers a unique stay experience, with characterful rooms and breakfast served in the pub downstairs.