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The Essential Guide to Winchester for History Buffs and Nature Lovers

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Rich in tradition and surrounded by fertile countryside, Winchester is the sort of small city that makes overseas visitors fall in love with England. It's full of meticulously preserved architecture, characterful places to eat and drink, and quirky cultural attractions that equally inform and entertain. Towering above it all is Winchester Cathedral, one of the UK's most significant religious buildings.

Ancient institutions

 

The cathedral defines Winchester - it is the geographical and cultural focal point of the city, welcoming thousands of visitors each year and sustaining an active congregation of locals. But it's not the only historic landmark in town: Winchester College is known as the oldest running public school in Britain, and the ruins of Wolvesey Castle date back to the 12th Century. The Hospital of St. Cross, a medieval almshouse, was also founded in the 1100s and comprises a range of well-preserved buildings.

 

  • Winchester Cathedral, 9 The Close, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9LS; Tel: +44 1962 857200; Website: Winchester Cathedral
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  • Winchester College, College Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9NA; Tel: +44 1962 621100; Website: Winchester College

Restaurants, cafés, and pubs

 

There’s a wide range of eating and drinking options in Winchester: some cater to the city's affluent residents, while others provide affordable sustenance for day-trippers and local students. At one end of the spectrum is The Black Rat, a high-end restaurant in a converted pub that serves seasonal modern-English fare. An affordable alternative is The Refectory, a volunteer-run diner near the cathedral. In the city centre, a cluster of old-fashioned pubs serves up a huge variety of beer along with genuine British hospitality.

 

  • The Black Rat, 88 Chesil Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 0HX; Tel: +44 1962 844465; Website: The Black Rat
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  • The Refectory, 9 The Close, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9LS; Tel: +44 1962 857258; Website: The Refectory

 

Outdoor excursions

 

Winchester's location at the western end of the South Downs National Park makes it an ideal base for those interested in exploring the English countryside. The 110-mile-long South Downs Way begins here, as does the Three Castles Path, a 60-mile stretch that passes the ruins of Odiham Castle on its way to Windsor. The picturesque River Itchen runs through the city and can be accessed via well-maintained paths. Near the cathedral, the neat Abbey Gardens are a favorite spot for locals who want to relax.

 

  • South Downs Way; Website: South Downs Way
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  • Abbey Gardens, The Broadway, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9GH; Tel: +44 1962 457747; Website: Abbey Gardens

 

Major museums

 

Winchester has an unusually large number of well-curated museums, including the renowned City Museum, which contains detailed exhibitions about the history of the area. The Westgate Museum is dedicated to weaponry, while the Historic Resources Centre contains official documents and records. You can learn about Nepalese soldiers at The Gurkha Museum and visit Jane Austen's House Museum in the village of Chawton, a short drive from the city.

 

  • City Museum, The Square, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 9ES; Tel: +44 1962 863064; Website: City Museum
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  • Jane Austen's House Museum, Winchester Road, Chawton, Hampshire GU34 1SD; Tel: +44 1420 83262; Website: Jane Austen's House Museum

 

Culture and festivals

 

Although Winchester is best known for its historical attractions, there is a vibrant contemporary arts scene in the city, too. Street fairs and festivals are particularly popular: There's the varied Winchester Festival in July; the Hat Fair, a long-running celebration of street theatre, also in July; the Winchester Chamber Music Festival, held in April; and many more festivals throughout the year. Winchester is also home to the highly regarded Blue Apple Theatre company.

 

  • Winchester Festival, Cathedral Box Office, Visitors' Centre, The Close, Winchester SO23 9LS; Tel: +44 1962 857276; Website: Winchester Festival
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  • Blue Apple Theatre, The Tower at Kings, Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5PD; Tel: +44 7510 844480; Website: Blue Apple Theatre