Hampshire

The Best Attractions in Winchester

England’s ancient capital, Winchester is a stunning cathedral city situated on the outer reaches of the South Downs National Park. A former Iron Age settlement and later the seat of the famous Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great, it combines the intrigue of the past, the glamour and culture of a flourishing city and the pull of the surrounding countryside to create a destination that is truly one of a kind. Only one hour from London and easily accessible, it is absolutely perfect for short breaks and holidays throughout the year.

The 15 Best Attractions in Winchester

A place that has both produced and inspired some of the greatest figures in British history, Winchester’s grand buildings and historic houses are packed to the rafters with history, stories and secrets. As you wander around, you’ll find an endless supply of things to see and do to keep you enthralled in the city, from cultural hubs to family-friendly attractions. That said, there are some things that simply can’t be skipped and, to make sure you don’t miss out, we’ve put together a list of the 15 top attractions in Winchester.

Winchester Cathedral 

The intricate ceilings of Winchester Cathedral, one of the city's top attractions

One of the top historic sites in Hampshire, Winchester Cathedral has to be at the top of your list of things to see and do in Winchester. From its graves of Anglo-Saxon kings to the largest surviving 12th Century English bible to its resident peregrines, this 1,000-year-old cathedral is full of beauty and intrigue. A guided tour is highly recommended to learn about the cathedral and its famous connections, including Jane Austin, Pre-Raphaelite painters and crypt divers. 

The Great Hall

One of the finest surviving 13th Century aisled halls in the UK, the Great Hall on Castle Avenue is all that remains of Winchester’s 11th Century castle. Not only a visual feast, but this grand hall also happens to be home to King Arthur’s legendary Round Table. Head over to learn all about the battles, secrets and trials that were once held here and explore its historic Queen Eleanors Garden with authentic plants found in the 13th Century. 

Winchester City Mill

Winchester City Mill is a working watermill that dates back to at least the Saxon times, making it probably the oldest of its kind in the UK. With lots to see, visitors can learn all about the mill, its history and what’s produced there and, on certain days, receive flour milling demonstrations too. Wildlife observation cameras are also available for your chance to see otters, water voles, kingfishers and more.

The South Downs Way

A signpost showing the way to the South Downs Way, a long-distance walking and cycling path across the South Downs

The South Downs Way begins in Winchester before starting its 100-mile journey across the South Downs National Park to Eastbourne in Sussex. While we confess that the entirety of the walk may be a push for a day, smaller sections can easily be enjoyed during a holiday in Winchester. Pull on your walking shoes or hop on your bike and enjoy unrivalled views across the Hampshire countryside and beyond.

The Viaduct Way

 If you’d like to stretch your legs during a city break in Winchester, then the 2.6-mile Viaduct Way walk may pique your interest. Starting at the Victorian Guildhall, this walk takes you through the city, along the riverbank, out into the countryside and over the newly restored Hockley Viaduct – a former railway that’s been transformed into a scenic, traffic-free walking and cycling route. 

 Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium

A brilliant family-friendly attraction, the Winchester Science Centre and Planeturium provides an all-weather experience that affords endless hours of fun. Boasting a 360° cinema screen, the UK’s largest standalone planetarium, live science shows, interactive exhibits (including a 10-meter-long playable guitar) and much, much more, all generations of visitors will be gripped and beguiled here.

The Gallery at the Arc

 For more cultural exploration during your stay, the Gallery at the Arc is a must-visit destination in Winchester. Putting on a high-quality programme of events and exhibitions throughout the year, it showcases a range of its own temporary, curated exhibitions, as well as loans from the country’s leading institutions, including the Tate, the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Winchester City Museum

The outside of Winchester City Museum, one of the top things to do in the city of Winchester

Situated in the heart of the city, Winchester’s City Museum shares the story of England’s ancient capital. From its beginnings as an Iron Age settlement and trading centre to its glory years under the legendary Anglo‑Saxon King Alfred the Great to the final journey of Jane Austen before she was laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral, it invites you to explore the mystery and intrigue of the city’s past through three fascinating galleries.

Wolvesey Castle

The 12th Century Wolvesey Castle (also known as the Old Bishop's Palace) was once one of the greatest buildings in England – built when Winchester was second only to London in size and importance. Originally the home of the powerful bishops of Winchester, it remained in use until the late 17th Century before being abandoned in favour of a new palace. Today the dog-friendly remains of the castle can be explored on foot year-round.

Hospital of St Cross

 Enjoying a picturesque location below St Catherine’s Hill and amongst the water meadows of the River Itchen, the Hospital of St Cross is renowned for its tranquil setting. A beautiful, Grade I listed building, it is England’s oldest almshouse and somewhere that continues to provide sanctuary today. Ideal for a leisurely afternoon, many of its spaces and grounds are open for public exploration most days of the year.

The Gurkha Museum

Set within Peninsula Barracks in Winchester, the Gurkha Museum leads you on a 200-year-journey through Gurkha history, beginning with their origins in Nepal and culminating in their ongoing relationship with Britain’s Armed Forces. Venture over and learn all about the culture and religion of the Gurkha’s homeland, as well as their hard-fought battles and campaigns alongside the British.

Marwell Zoo

Rhinos at Marwell Zoo, Hampshire's largest animal attractions and one of the top attractions in Winchester

 The 140-acre Marwell Zoo is Hampshire's largest animal attraction and home to more than 250 exotic and endangered wildlife species. Nestled within a landscaped park, the zoo is owned by global conservation charity Marwell Wildlife and provides visitors with the chance to see incredible species from all over the world, including white rhinos, red pandas, snow leopards and more.

The Royal Green Jackets Museum

A stone’s throw from Winchester’s Great Hall and Gurkha Museum is the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum. A brilliant attraction for anyone looking to learn more about British military history, it tells the story of the three famous Regiments that together combined to form the Royal Green Jackets: The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps and The Rifle Brigade. 

Winchester College

Founded in 1382, Winchester College is the country’s oldest and one of the world’s most famous schools. Surrounded by 11 acres of formal gardens and home to over 80 listed buildings, its grand aesthetics have long captured imaginations and it has appeared in many films, including Harry Potter and Les Misérables. Guided tours are the perfect way to see the college and its grounds and are available throughout the year.

City Walking Tours

A statue of King Alfred the Great, one of the many things you can see during a guided walking tour of Winchester

One of the best ways to get to know a city is by exploring it on foot – especially if you have some insider help. Fortunately, in Winchester you can make the most of accredited tourist guides to get to know the city. With 30 years’ experience behind the collective and with each guide undergoing extensive training, an official tour will provide you with the perfect opportunity to learn all about this incredible city.

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