The former capital of England, Winchester is a historic masterpiece; from walking its cobbled streets, climbing the 1,000 year-old cathedral, or gazing at King Arthur's Round Table - Winchester is a true gem waiting to be discovered.
The city only requires a night or two and is a perfect excursion as part of your UK adventure, or as something a little different tagged onto your London trip.
Winchester's currency is the British Pound (£). £1 = €1.19 / $1.30 (as of 2022).
Top 5 things to see
The symbol of the city, Winchester Cathedral is one of the most important religious structures in Britain. The cathedral was symbolic of the rich land to those invading in the 10th and 11th century. The city revolves around the cathedral and its beautiful grounds; the Spring and Summer are particularly picturesque with students and residents taking picnics onto the green.
Tickets cost £10 for adults and U16s go free.
The City Centre
Winchester's High Street is a museum of exposed-timber structures and medieval shrines illustrating what the city, and Britain more widely, once was. Take your time to stroll the High Street and shop at the local market for fresh local produce and street food.
King Arthur's Round Table
Housed in the 13th-century Great Hall is the legendary and mystical King Arthur's Round Table; scholars today continue to question who King Arthur was or who he represented. The Great Hall was built in 1222 as part of the old Winchester Castle and is one of the best-preserved medieval halls in the country.
Tickets cost £4 for adults, £3 for children, and a family deal (2 adults + 2 children) for £10.
Walk along the River Itchen
When the sun is out, walk around the cathedral grounds along the River Itchen. Head through the medieval gate (Kingsgate) into the city down College Street, where Jane Austen used to live, and you'll pass picturesque book shops like P&G Wells.
Meander past the iconic Winchester College and up against the river and stop off at Bishop on the Bridge for a perfect hour's walk.
St Giles' Viewpoint
St Giles' is a short but steep climb to a viewpoint overlooking the city. Its uninterrupted, panoramic views of the city demonstrates Winchester's important and influential location to Britain over 1000 years ago.
Cross the River Itchen and walk up Magdalen Hill briefly; follow the signs through the forest until you come to a small green and follow the path to the wooden viewing platform. Voila!
Where to eat and drink
Winchester's gastronomy has transformed in the past 10 years. The city blends some of the country's best pubs with local independent cafes and restaurants highlighting the fabulous produce across the UK and, more locally, the county of Hampshire.
Winchester is a costly area, much like the south of Britain and London generally is.
The Orangery is the place to visit if you're looking for a hearty start to the day, serving classics as well as those with a twist, such as the Turkish-style Full English.
The General Store offers the city's best pastries and coffee - it has a cute awning with chairs and tables and great vibe. Its cinnamon buns are a must.
The Square, next door to The Orangery, is also an excellent option with an outside terrace too.
Bishop on the Bridge is the number 1 spot to go when it's sunny. Perfectly balanced over the River Itchen, ask for a table on the terrace overlooking the river and you won't be disappointed. Its fish and chips are a classic - perfectly British!
Piecaramba is an eclectic spot cooking up outrageous pies, such as the Hunters Chicken or the Notorious P.I.G (pulled pork and barbecue) - great for kids and plenty of veggie and vegan options.
Forte Kitchen is a chic spot for the classic British afternoon tea.
Rawberry is a good alternative for those who require vegan, veggie and other dietary requirements.
The Winchester Market on the High Street provides wonderful street food to take onto the Cathedral Grounds - cost effective, delicious, and fabulous scenery.
Chesil Rectory is iconic and a must if you're looking to splurge and make your trip truly special. The oldest commercial property in Winchester, the breathtaking structure dates back to 1425 with exceptional food to match. It will be one of, if not the, highlight of your trip.
The Three Joes is renowned as the best pizza joint in the city, serving simple, unpretentious food with excellent results.
The Old Vine provides a lovely setting by the Cathedral Green serving up good pub classics.
Josie's and already mentioned General Store are fantastic spots and always buzzing.
Cabinet Rooms is a favourite too, providing an intimate setting as a cafe-bar for anytime of day.
Coffee Lab and Ashby's also deserve a special mention!
For the adults
The Royal Oak is argued, certainly by those in Winchester, to be the oldest pub in the UK surpassing even the cathedral! In terms of pubs, there are better elsewhere, but it's iconic and worth a quick drink. Make sure you sit at Table 1 or the cellars downstairs boasting the original stone wall from the medieval age.
St James's Tavern is the best pub for an intimate setting, serving great food and a local's vibe too. Its Sunday roasts are a real treat!
The Black Boy is the quirkiest pub imaginable. Its labyrinth of rooms all differ from each other, providing a cosy atmosphere along with a large garden out the back. You'll have to see it to believe it. It's a picturesque 10-minute walk east of the cathedral along the Itchen River.
The Green Man and The Stable (a cider and pizza joint) also deserve a special mention too.
Tipping is not required. For meals, a 12.5% is added to the bill as a discretionary charge.
Two Passports Top Tip: Winchester is Walkable!
Do not drive to Winchester if you don't have to. It is completely walkable as most of it is pedestrianised. If Winchester is a day/night trip as part of your London adventure, get the train. If part of a UK adventure, get the train and then hire a car to take you on your journey elsewhere, as parking within the city is infamously difficult.
When to Go
Low Season: November to February
Shorter days and higher chance of rain. Christmas markets are Europe-renowned. Busy in December for markets.
Shoulder Season: March to April, September, October
Weather is temperamental and can be grey. Student season means good deals for food and drink. There aren't many hotels in the city itself, so book well ahead as many parents come to visit.
High Season: May to August
Beautiful, consistent weather. Cathedral ground are buzzing and vibrant with picnics. Popular for day and school trips, so book hotels and restaurants well in advance.
How to Get There
Travelling by plane
We can't stress this enough, Winchester is not a destination you fly into for a city break, like many of our other travel guides. It is a day/night trip, two nights at best if you're a history enthusiast, either as part of your week-long London adventure to see something different outside of the city, or as part of your UK adventure. We've added the local airports on the map above for perspective, but this is a city to arrive in by train, or by car if really need be.
There are two smaller airports south of the city, Southampton and Bournemouth which are European-serving only. If your home location is fortunate enough to fly in and out of these, then there is that option.
Travelling by train and coach
Winchester has one train station, which is 5-10 minutes from the city centre. If coming from:
London by train: London Waterloo / 1 hour / £8 single (if you buy in advance).
London by coach: London Victoria Coach Station / 2 hours / £8 single (if you buy in advance).
Southampton Airport by train: Southampton Airport Parkway / 7 to 21 minutes / £5.50 single.
Bournemouth Airport by train: Bournemouth Station / 50 minutes / £5.60 (if you buy in advance).
Listen to the podcast!
We were kindly invited onto the We Travel There podcast, hosted by Travel Writer and podcaster Lee Huffman, to discuss Winchester. You can listen to the episode below!