Looking for things to do in Winchester?
From the iconic King Alfred Statue to the 15th century Buttercross monument, the cobbled streets of the ex-capital of England is a jewel in Hampshire’s crown. Who doesn’t like a romantic, historic, pretty city to explore?
Much like it’s pretty stone carved counterparts Winchester offers all the charm of Oxford, Bath and Cambridge but with the benefit of being much smaller.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll need your comfy walking shoes on but you’ll squeeze a fantastic amount of the city in just one day or weekend.
It’s also home to a thriving independent food and coffee scene too. Rather than trying to fit it all in one giant post, I’ll be following this up with a post all about the great restaurants and cafes in Winchester too, so keep an eye out for this.
Here’s your guide to fun, historic and cultural things to do in the city, all written from personal experience, to help you plan your next trip.
Days out in Winchester
You’ll find in-depth posts about each by clicking the link in the title. If I’ve not written a post yet there will be a link directly to the website in the text.
To make this post easier to navigate I’ve added subsections
I will add to this post as I write more about my experiences, so it will be regularly updated.
Within walking distance in central Winchester there is… don’t forget to click the title or link in the text for more information!
Art & Exhibition Spaces
Winchester Discovery Centre is actually the Library! For a long time I really thought these were two different places. And, it’s easy to forgive that as there’s a very modern building attached to the traditional one. It has two to three exhibition spaces and an auditorium and gets some really big national and local exhibitions. Keep an eye on this as it changes and has events all year round.
Museums & Historic
📍9 The Close
The Cathedral is impressive inside and out, and is the largest in Northern Europe, a fact that always surprises me despite having heard it many, many times. It has regular tours and a diverse and rather brilliant year round schedule of events, installations and exhibitions.
The Cathedral grounds are just as lovely, providing a spectacular backdrop for a walk and the Deanery bookshop is always worth delving into.
Just outside one of the Cathedrals’ gates is St. Swithun upon Kingsgate Church. This tiny church is above the gate in Kingsgate Village and worth a quick look around if open.
I’ve weirdly not written a post about the Cathedral… yet! One to remedy and a silly oversight as I visit regularly.
In the meantime, you can find out more about the Cathedral and its events on its website.
📍The Castle, Castle Avenue
An incredible artefact and hall that is hidden and tucked away at the top of the high street. The Great Hall also has lots of other interesting and very famous features including past and modern royal artefacts, and big screen movie locations. I can’t explain it but this place just feels a bit magical.
This English Heritage free open air ruins would be so easy to miss because they’re tucked just off the high street. But, it’s a beautiful spot to explore and part of the start of the famous John Keats ‘Ode To Autumn’ walk. Yes, Winchester is the place that inspired this literary great to write this famous poem. Also, a great spot in the summer for a picnic.
Did you know there’s a historic working water mill right in the centre of Winchester? This short but very charming experience is an interesting departure from the other museums in the city. Plus, I love the fact you can pick up some flour milled there to make some bread! Wholesome or what?
📍Winchester High Street
A very small museum with a fantastic view from the top of the tower down the high street. Make sure to look up at the ceiling and take a closer look at the stone walls to see the ancient graffiti. Find the hidden staircase in the stone arch to access and you’ll feel like you’ve entered the doorway to Narnia.
While most famous for its six military museums I actually prefer the outside space at the Peninsula Barracks. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic, or to sit and read. It’s serving those Bridgerton-Austen-period drama vibes.
Walks & Tours
📍Winchester Guildhall, High Street
A range of different tours showing the history and hidden parts of the city. I learnt so much and you wouldn’t believe what you’re standing on or looking at half the time. Despite living near here and going to college here I’ve found out so much about the city on these tours.
If you don’t have a lot of time in the city this is a really good way to fit in seeing a lot in a short time.
An incredible free view of the city but beware the climb!
This is my favourite walk up and out of the centre of the city. Not only do you take in some of the best parts of Winchester but you also can do Wolvesey Castle, St. Catherine’s Hill, and part of the Itchen Navigation Trail.
Winchester College Tours
📍Porter’s Lodge, College Street
Winchester College was founded by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England in 1382 is a boys’ boarding school nestled in the heart of the city. The medieval buildings make up a lot of Winchester and this is the only way to be see inside.
I think the last time I went on a tour I was a child, so I think it’s about time I revisit this.
Here’s some suggestions if you’re able to travel outside of central Winchester…
📍St Cross Back Street
Have you ever been to an AlmsHouse before? I hadn’t before I went to the Hospital of St Cross and to be honest I had no idea what it is. It’s well worth a look around, the grounds and buildings are beautiful. Oh and check to see if the Brothers are selling any honey. I don’t like honey but my partner said it’s so delicious and it didn’t last long in the cupboard.
Hinton Ampner is lovely year round, and the post I wrote that is linked in the title about takes you to the Festive Aesop’s Fable installation a few years ago. But, there’s a lot on year round and the grounds offer four miles of beautiful trails to walk.
- You could easily combine some of these shorter cultural experiences in the city for a longer day out.
- Some of the museums can be accessed with a Hampshire Cultural Trust multi-attraction ticket.
If this guide has helped, let me know in the comments below and follow me @r_henders on Instagram for more great things to do in Hampshire and beyond.
If you liked this, take a look at these other great places to visit and things to do in Hampshire…