Winchester has a long history: there has been continuous settlement at the site for over 2,000 years.
Winchester began as a Celtic hill fort, predating the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 CE. After the Roman conquest, the town grew and became known as Venta Belgarum. After prospering under Roman imperial rule for several centuries, Winchester discovered a new identity as an important Saxon city. Ultimately, King Alfred the Great named Winchester as the capital, first of his kingdom of Wessex and later all of England south of the Danelaw - despite the growing importance of London, it remained so until the Norman invasion of 1066. During the Middle Ages Winchester was renowned for its woollen goods, amongst other produce.
A visitor staying in London but with a day to spare and a desire to see more of England could do much worse than simply to hop on a train to Winchester (which gives good views of the southern English countryside) and spend the day wandering around Winchester.
The most convenient airports for Winchester are (in order of distance):
- Southampton Airport  is a relatively small airport and serves destinations in the UK and Europe. It is about 8 miles drive from Winchester via the M3 (northbound). There is a direct rail service from Southampton Airport Parkway station, which is immediately adjacent to the airport terminal building, to Winchester; four trains an hour take about 10 minutes for the journey.
- London Heathrow Airport  is about 60 miles drive from Winchester via the M25 (anti-clockwise) and the M3 (southbound). There is a RailAir coach service to Woking station, where mainline trains to Winchester can be boarded; two services an hour give a journey time of just under two hours for the whole journey. There are also direct National Express buses from Heathrow Airport Bus Station to Winchester, which take about an hour. See the 'By bus' section below.
- Bournemouth Airport
- London Gatwick Airport  is about 80 miles drive from Winchester via the M23 (northbound), M25 (clockwise) and M3 (southbound) motorways. By train, catch a London bound train which stops at Clapham Junction (note that the heavily advertised Gatwick Express do not stop there) from the airport rail station, and change at Clapham Junction for a service to Winchester; two or three services an hour give a journey time of just under two hours for the whole journey.
Winchester has a station on the main line from London to Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth. It is also served by long-distance services from Reading, Oxford, Birmingham and places further north.
From London, trains to Winchester depart from London Waterloo; there are several trains an hour which take about one hour for the journey. A "cheap" day-return adult ticket between Winchester and London Waterloo is typically around £22. Train times (from any location) can be found on the National Rail Planner  or by calling 08457 48 49 50 from anywhere in the UK.
Bear in mind that engineering works (at the time of writing, around November 2007) are occurring frequently. Double-check your journey times before you travel. At the weekend, consider using a coach/bus for travels outside Winchester instead - it may be faster than the replacement rail bus service and is invariably cheaper.
National Express  operate services to Winchester from cities throughout the UK including London. Advanced ticketing is required. National Express coaches drop off in the Broadway. Megabus , which requires online pre-booking, offers cheap daily tickets to Winchester from London on the routes to Southampton and Bournemouth. The drop off location is St. Catherine's Park and Ride car park, 15 minutes' walk from the city centre.
For those with a special interest in cathedral cities, Wilts & Dorset  operate the branded Cathedral Connection between Salisbury and Winchester, taking in some very attractive countryside on route. Despite its branding, this is a rural bus service (number 68) with no need for advance ticketing; it operates six times a day (except Sundays) and takes about an hour and a half for the journey. Timetable details can be found on the website, or by telephoning 01722-336855 from anywhere in the UK.Sometimes the buses take a long time to arrive
The town is conveniently situated for the M3 motorway (US English: freeway) from London to Southampton. Winchester and its city centre are generally regarded as car-unfriendly; an excellent Park and Ride site National Park and Ride Directory is located just off junction 10 of the M3 (from M3 north, exit at junction 9 and follow the signs) and buses provide a link to the city centre every 10-15 mins taking under 10 mins for the journey. Operates Mo-Fr 7.30am-6.30pm; Sa 8am-6pm; no service Sundays; £2.70 per car (including all passengers).
Winchester is at the western end of the South Downs Way  and hikers starting out on or completing the 100-mile trail are a common sight in the city.
If you are planning to do any visiting or exploring beyond central Winchester, you will probably want to obtain a decent map of the area. You should ensure that any map you buy clearly shows the national grid reference lines, and explains how to use them, as grid references are frequently used to indicate out of town locations. The best maps for this purpose are those published by the Ordnance Survey (Britain's national mapping agency) and the following maps cover all the locations mentioned below:
- Ordnance Survey Landranger 185. This map covers the area around Winchester at a scale of 1:50000 and is best for exploration by car or cycle.
- Ordnance Survey Explorer 132. This map covers the area around Winchester at a scale of 1:25000 and is best for walking.
These maps can be found in any good local bookshop, or can be bought online from the Ordnance Survey's web site .
Most of the things to see and do in Winchester, and the places to eat, drink and sleep are within easy walking distance of each other and the rail station. There are several attractive walks in the surrounding countryside, particularly towards Twyford along the Water Meadows, and on Old Winchester Hill.
Winchester has a reasonable bus service, both within the town and to the surrounding area, although frequencies can be quite low with little service in the evenings or on Sunday.
- Stagecoach in Hampshire , telephone 0845-121-0180 from within in the UK, operate most of the bus services in the city and surrounding area.
- Solent Blue Line , telephone 023-8061-8233 from within the UK, operate services from the city to the south.
- Traveline , telephone 0871 200 22 33 (+44 871 200 22 33 from outside the UK), provide an impartial online travel planner and telephone query service for all local bus services.
Winchester is quite small and a car is unlikely to be necessary for getting around. In addition, town centre parking can be difficult; if visiting for the day consider using the Park and Ride described above. Visitors with mobility problems can arrange to borrow a wheelchair or electric scooter through the Shopmobility office situated in the Brooks car park, off Friarsgate Street.
- Winchester Cathedral , tel 853 224, open daily 8.30am-6pm (restricted access during services), admission £5 (as from 1st March 2006) - a Norman cathedral begun in 1079, containing the Winchester Bible and featuring the longest Gothic nave in the world. An interesting fact is that the Cathedral was built on rafts floating on a peat marsh! For 800 years the raft was able to carry the weight but, by the 19th century, the Cathedral was in danger of collapse and the foundations were rebuilt by a diver working under water; look out for the statue and story of the Winchester Diver if you visit. See Winchester Cathedral in 30 described images The Cathedral is the venue for regular recitals and concerts, and hosts a Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra  Summer Series. The famous English novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester in 1817 and is buried in the cathedral. A statue by British artist Anthony Gormley is to be found, somewhat unexpectedly, in the Crypt of the cathedral, and is not to be missed.
- Dean Garnier Garden , Cathedral Close, open daylight hours, admission free - this garden lies on the site of the dormitory of the Benedictine Monastery and offers splendid views of the Cathedral. Pay special attention to the stonework, and how the medieval builders suffered from problems with subsidence.
- The old City Centre, with its narrow pedestrian streets and overhanging medieval buildings. Of especial interest are the Pentice, a group of old shops arcaded at the front, and the Butter Cross, dating back to the 15th century and built with a tax levied on people caught eating butter during Lent. Always open. Free.
- The Winchester Great Hall and King Arthur's Round Table , The Castle, tel 846476, open daily 10am-5pm, closed December 25-26, admission free but donations encouraged - the only remaining part of Winchester Castle is the Great Hall, built in the thirteenth century by Henry III. This is the home of the world famous Arthur's Round Table; although this is now thought to be a fake commissioned by Henry VIII.
- The River Itchen, a crystal clear chalk-upland stream that flows through multiple channels in central Winchester, seemingly just to surprise visitors by its tinkling presence at every turn. Always open. Free.
- Winchester City Mill , Bridge Street, tel 870057 - owned by the National Trust, this old water mill has been restored to working order and you can visit the working areas and a rather exciting walkway under the mill almost at river level. The building also houses a National Trust shop and the Winchester Youth Hostel (see 'Sleep'). Opening hours are very complex, but the mill is open Mar-Oct Sa-Su 11am-4pm and much more often in summer; visit the web site or phone the number above for more details. £2 (adult); £1 (children); free to National Trust members.
- Winchester College , College Street, tel 621100 - one of England's old public (US English:private) schools, founded in 1382 and believed to be the oldest continuously running school in the country. Guided tours are available, lasting approximately 1 hour and include Chamber Court; the Gothic Chapel with its 14th century vaulted roof; College Hall; the 17th century red brick schoolroom built in the style of Christopher Wren and the original Cloister. Walk in tours available most every day, see web site or phone above for times. £3-4.
- Wolvesey Castle , tel 854766 - this palace was the chief residence of the Bishops of Winchester and its extensive ruins still reflect their importance and wealth. Open Apr-Sep 10am-5pm. Free.
- St. Swithun's upon Kingsgate. This tiny church is perched atop the arch of the Kingsgate, one of the two surviving city gates. This was once a not uncommon position for a place of worship, but St. Swithun's is the only one remaining today. The interior is very plain, with whitewashed walls and an unadorned wooden ceiling. Sit for a moment in the simple wooden pews and it is hard not to feel a sense of peace. Open during daylight hours except for occasional services. Free (but donations gratefully accepted).
- The Westgate. The other of the two surviving medieval gateways, positioned close to Winchester's Great Hall. Interesting graffiti carved into the walls and floor from its use as a debtor's prison from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. Contains unique collection of the city's weights and measures, including the Winchester bushel and the standard yard of Henry VII's reign. Displays also include a fine ceiling from Winchester College painted to celebrate Queen Mary I and Phillip of Spain's marriage in 1554. Also armour, gibbet, leg-irons. A rooftop viewing platform gives great views down the High Street. Brass rubbing. Children's quiz. Free Entry, open every day during the summer.
Museums and Galleries
- Winchester City Museum 
Parks and Gardens
Abbey Grounds - located off the Broadway between King Alfred's statue and the rer of Winchester Cathedral. These are formal gardens through which the Itchen flows, and include a children's play area. Cathedral Grounds - the green space around the Cathedral contains part of the burial ground, and is a popular meeting spot. The main grounds are around the West entrance of the cathedral, and there is also green space on the Southern side.
- Walk the Three Castles Path , a 60 mile walk from Windsor to Winchester. This walk is inspired by the journeys of King John between the two cities via the castle he built at Odiham at the time of Magna Carta, and passes through a variety of attractive scenery including parkland and forest, heath and downland, quiet streams and picturesque villages. For more information see the web site, or get a hold of a copy of the book 'The Three Castles Path' by David Bounds and Dave Ramm (ISBN:1874258082).
- The South Downs Way  is a 100-mile bridleway running from Winchester to Eastbourne. It offers spectacular views of the South's countryside.
Fairs & Festivals
- Winchester Hat Fair  is Britain's longest running festival of street theatre. In a typical year, over 30,000 people flock to the city streets to watch this festival of street theatre which combines a mix of circus, clowning, outlandish performances, craft stalls, workshops and world music. First weekend in July, Th-Su (Main day Saturday). Free; but expect to see lots of hats being passed around for donations (hence the name).
- Art and Mind  festivals and symposia began in 2004, bringing some of the world's most eminent thinkers and artists to Winchester for events examining the way we experience music, myth, dance, film and visual art.
- The annual Homelands Festival  takes place at Matterley Bowl just outside Winchester. Shuttle buses run from the railway station.
- Alternative Transport Day  promotes sustainable forms of transport, from electric cars to bicycles. Held every year on 22 September in the High Street
- Winchester Chamber Music Festival (http://www.winchesterchambermusic.com) is a brand-new festival of chamber music and song taking place in the intimate setting of Winchester's historic Milner Hall from 25 - 27 April 2008. It is presented and performed by the London Bridge Ensemble, one of Britain’s most exciting and brilliant chamber groups and is co-directed by the Ensemble's highly-acclaimed cellist, Kate Gould, who received her early music training in Winchester.
- Winchester Cycle Fair held in June every year - times vary - that celebrates all things cycling, including a short gentle bike ride around historic points of interest on the move
- Hire a bicycle in Winchester at BikeAbout at the Gladstone Car Park near the Railway Station. Members of the scheme can borrow a bike as many times as they like. Terms and conditions at winchester miracles or by telephoning 01962 847474.
- Enjoy the splendid views around Cheesefoot Head on the off road cycle track, unsuitable for beginners.
The compact city centre of Winchester is unusual in retaining a number of independent bookshops, boutiques, toyshops, galleries, antique and foodshops, particularly in the roads off the High Street such as Parchment Street, Great Minster Street and The Square. Winchester is not a major shopping centre; if you want the large chains, go to Southampton, Reading or London.
- The Cathedral Shop . Housed in an old Coach House just 25 metres from the West Front of the Cathedral, this shop offers a range of gifts, many of them unique to the Cathedral. Open Mar-Oct M-Su 9:30am–5:30pm; Nov-Feb M-Su 9:30am–5:00pm.
- Winchester hosts what is reputedly the country's largest Farmers Market, now every second Sunday, Middle Brook Street, 9am-2pm. The extended trading hours have eased the crowds and made it pleasant to stroll around taking advantage of free samples of local produce on offer at many stalls.
There are lots of places to eat in central Winchester, particularly in Jewry Street, the High Street and the Square, and a good way to find one is simply to keep your eyes open as you visit. Here is a small selection recommended by individual Wikitravellers. The prices are best guesses for a meal including drinks & tips.
- Hotel du Vin, 14 Southgate St, tel 841414, . A town-house bistro in the centre of Winchester, popular with locals and visitors alike. See also 'Sleep' below. £~40.
- The Black Rat, 88 Chesil St, tel 844465, . This restaurant serves high quality 'Modern British' food with locally produced ingredients. It is located a few minutes form the main high street in what was once a pub. Open Mon-Sun 7pm-11pm Dinner; Sat-Sun 12pm-2.30pm Lunch. £~35.
- The Refectory, in the walled garden opposite the Cathedral west front, . An excellent volunteer run restaurant opposite the main entrance to the cathedral, offering a good selection of homely English dishes at reasonable prices. Open Mar-Oct 9.30am-5.00pm; Nov-Feb 9.30am-4.30pm. £5-10.
- Cafe Monde, in the newly pedestrianised Square - just off the High Street heading towards the Cathedral - is a popular, friendly and reasonably priced contemporary cafe serving breakfasts, fairtrade coffee and light lunches. Open Mon-Sat 8am-6pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. £~5-10
- Ask Pizza and Pasta, God Begot House, 101 High Street, tel 849464. This restaurant serves good value pizzas and pasta dishes in a relaxing, family friendly atmosphere. It is situated in one of the oldest and most historic domestic buildings in the city. Open M-Su noon-11pm. £~20.
- Pizza Express, Bridge Street 1. This restaurant chain specialises like the previous on pizza and pasta dishes, maybe slightly more italian style. Prices are similar. The restaurant is literally ontop of the bridge and the old house radiates a nice atmosphere.
- Loch Fyne, 18 Jewry Street, tel 872930, . This restaurant provides excellent (and apparently eco-friendly) seafood in an attractive environment in the city center. Open M–F 9am-11pm; Sa-Su 10am-10pm. £~30.
Winchester has a good selection of city centre pubs. The best approach is to take note as you wander around, and go to one you like the look of. However, it is worth noting that the Royal Oak pub (the entrance of which is located down a side alley next to ASK Pizza) claims to be the oldest pub in England, and the beautiful oak beams and downstairs areas suggest this. Other pubs of interest are the Eclipse Inn and the Old Vine, both of which are located near the Cathedral grounds.
- The Black Boy, 1 Wharf Hill, tel 861754, . Tucked away on Wharf Hill, off Chesil Street, the pub is still faithful to its origins. Although recognised in most of the well known beer and pub guides, it is still a traditional back-street boozer. Open M-S 11am-11pm; S 12pm-10.30pm.
There are many different places to sleep in Winchester. The following can only be a set of suggestions. The prices quoted are negotiable, and a good starting point would be to use one of the online booking services, such as Expedia.
- Wykeham Arms, 75 Kingsgate St, tel 853834. A well run, well regarded pub near the Cathedral and College, with 14 comfortable bedrooms. £90-120 (double room including breakfast).
- Hotel du Vin, 14 Southgate St, tel 841414, . Housed in an attractive city center Queen Anne townhouse, the Hotel du Vin has 23 cosy bedrooms. The best rooms overlook the hotel garden. See also 'Eat' above. £109-185 (double room).
- The Winchester Royal Hotel, St. Peter St, tel 840840, . Built as a private residence in the mid 16th century, it has served as a bishop's house, a Benedictine convent and, since 1857, an hotel. The hotel is located close to the Cathedral and has 75 bedrooms. £99 (single room), £129 (double room).
- The Wessex Hotel, Paternoster Row, tel 0800 400 9090 (from within UK only), . A functional hotel built in the 1970s adjacent to the Cathedral, with 91 bedrooms. £70-130 (single room including breakfast), £110-130 (double room including breakfast).
- Cathedral Cottage, . Single room available, very hospitable, within shouting distance of the cathedral and some wonderful pubs. Room very clean and well provisioned. Top notch English and Continental breakfast served next day. Well kept garden and incredibly quiet. £70 for double room
Winchester's area code is 01962 when dialed from within the UK or +44 1962 from outside the UK.
The area around Winchester contains some very attractive scenery and some interesting attractions. Use of a car (or a bicycle) is a near necessity for exploring most of these, although with patience and careful use of a bus timetable some are accessible by public transport.
- The Hospital of St Cross, St Cross Road, Winchester (1 mile south of city centre; grid reference SU476277), telephone 878218, [http://www.hants.gov.uk/discover/places/stcross.html. The Hospital of St Cross was founded in the 1130´s by Bishop Henry of Blois to accommodate thirteen poor men and is still home to 25 Brothers, whose apartments form one side of the historic quadrangle. The chapel is an unspoiled example of the period during which Norman architecture transitions into Gothic. The Hospital has a long tradition of hospitality and now offers refreshment to visitors in the restored Hundred Men's Hall. The traditional Wayfarer's Dole is still given at the Porter's Gate to all travellers who request it. Accessible by road, by a half-hour walk along the River Itchen (from City Mill; signposted), or by Solent Blue Line bus 47 (buses run twice per hour M-Sa and once per hour on Su; see Get Around above for bus company details; alight at the Bell Inn). Open any reasonable hour. Free.
- Mid-Hants Railway, The Railway Station, Alresford (5 miles east of Winchester on the A31; grid reference SU587324), telephone 733810, . Often known as the Watercress Line, this preserved steam railway follows the route of an old line from Alresford to Alton which was abandoned in the 1970s. The stations and trains are carefully restored to bring back the atmosphere of a Southern Railway journey in the first decades of the twentieth century. Accessible by road or by Stagecoach buses 64 and X64 (buses run twice per hour M-Sa and every two hours on Su; see Get Around above for bus company details; alight at the Swan Hotel, New Alresford). Operates on Sa and Su from Apr-Oct, and some weekdays May-Sep; See their website or telephone the number above for details. £10 (adults); £9 (seniors); £5 (children).
- Marwell Zoological Park, Colden Common (6 miles south-east of Winchester on the B2177; grid reference SU506217), telephone 07626-943163 from within the UK, . The Park has over 200 rare and endangered species of animals. The Marwell Preservation Trust is dedicated to conservation and increased knowledge of all living creatures. Accessible by road or by Stagecoach bus 69 (4 buses on Su only; see Get Around above for bus company details). Open Apr-Oct M-Su 10am-6pm; Nov-Mar M-Su 10am-4pm; last admission 90 minutes before close; closed Dec 25th. £11.50 (adult); £9.50 (senior or student); £8 (child).
- INTECH Science and Technology Centre, Morn Hill, Winchester, telephone 863 791, . An interactive family museum with regular activities and events. Daily 10am-4pm. Admission charge.
- Visit the New Forest, about half an hours drive or a short through train journey away.
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