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Top 3 Places to Visit in Winchester City

Article by Robin OBrien

Winchester is arguably one of England’s most beautiful cities. Its beautiful old buildings, pedestrian-friendly streets and parks are delightfully set in the gentle Hampshire countryside. Its beauty and place in history captivates, and many visitors return again and again.

No one comes to Winchester without paying a visit to its cathedral. The cathedral is thought by many to be England’s finest. The cathedral has its origins in the 7th century when a Christian place of worship was built by the newly converted Saxon chieftains – many parts of Britain being under the control of Viking Kings. The construction of the present cathedral was begun in 1079 and was built in the Romanesque style. The cathedral stands in what was once the heart of King Alfred the Great’s Wessex Kingdom – the Saxon King who ‘saved’ the southern half of England from Viking overlord-ship. Many important figures from history are buried inside the building, from kings, noblemen, saints as well as ‘worthy’ laymen; the most famous being Jane Austen, the novelist, who lived her last days in the city.

The setting of the cathedral is exquisite, being surrounded on three sides by a park – the fourth side is called the cathedral square, and is a lawn of grass and trees. In summer, you’ll find visitors and residents alike, picnicking in the park with the cathedral as a backdrop. If you’re planning on going inside the cathedral your best bet is to go on one of the official tours. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and will be able to answer any questions you may have. Just outside the cathedral there is a souvenir shop and a restaurant, called the Refectory; both discreetly hidden from view of the cathedral.

One must also go for a walk around the ancient heart of Winchester. There are many walks but I would advise the visitor to undertake the ‘Winchester College and Weirs’ walk. It is about a mile in length. The walk starts from the cathedral and proceeds to some fine Elizabethan houses that used to be home to the Bishops of Winchester. You then proceed through one of the ancient city gates called ‘Westgate’. Once through the gate you are on College Street. On theis street you’ll pass the house in which Jane Austen died. You’ll also pass by the Porter’s Lodge to the private and ancient Winchester College. Founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, the college is the oldest private boys’ school in England. The walk also takes you passed Wolvesey Castle, present-day residence of the Bishop of Winchester. Finally, the walk will take you along the banks of the river Itchen. The river is shallow and exceptionally clear. It’s full of trout, ducks and swans and two ancient water-mills stand at either end of the walk – one of them, the Winchester City Mill has been fully restored and you can see how wheat is ground to produce flour.

The third top place to visit is Winchester Great Hall. The hall is all that remains of what was once a large castle built the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087). By the end of King John’s reign in 1216 the castle and its royal palace needed extensive repair. Between 1222 and 1235 the Castle’s hall was replaced by the building, which stands today. On the wall of the Great Hall you can see the Round Table. This was made in about 1250. According to ancient legends, King Arthur sat around a round table like this with his 24 knights. In 1520 King Henry the Eighth had this table painted. Each of the 24 segments represents one of Arthur’s knights. In the centre Henry put a rose, the symbol of his family (the Tudors), and above this is a picture of King Arthur, based on his own image as a young man. Sir Walter Raleigh – Queen Elizabeth’s favourite and most loyal servant, was tried for treason in the Great Hall on 17th November 1603 at the behest of king James. The trial was a farce but Raleigh was found guilty. King James, grotesque exhibition of royal clemency, later pardoned him.

Winchester has many other attractions to offer the visitor. It has numerous museums, including the first ever purpose built museum outside of London, as well as old churches, St Johns Hospital, countryside walks, shops and cafes. The three described above are a must for anyone who loves English history.

About the Author

Robin O’Brien is founder of Winchester Tourist Information that provides information of this beautiful, historic town. You can find walks, pictures, things to do as well as Winchester Accommodation.

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