Winchester (England)

Winchester is an historic cathedral city in the English county of Hampshire, situated within the South East region. Erstwhile capital of England, it was from here that Alfred the Great governed the newly unified country. Visitors appreciate Winchester first and foremost for its cathedral, but also for its other ancient buildings, its medieval centre, its markets and museums.


Winchester has a long history: there has been continuous settlement on the site for over 2,000 years.

Winchester began as a Celtic hill fort, pre-dating 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, among other produce.

Presently, Winchester is an attractive and peaceful cathedral city deep in the southern English countryside, located conveniently close to both London and Southampton.

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 travelling to Winchester by train (itself a pleasant way to see the Hampshire countryside) and spend the day wandering around this ancient city.

Get in

By plane

The most convenient airports for Winchester are (in order of distance):

By taxi

There are couple of Winchester based taxi companies providing long distance transfers from major airports, towns, bus and rail stations to Winchester: Winchester Taxi Company, Winch Taxis, Taxis Winchester and Winchester Taxi Link provide online taxi booking facilities.

By train

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 Journey Planner or by calling 08457 48 49 50 from anywhere in the UK.

Bear in mind that engineering works can occur, particularly at weekends. Double-check your journey with South West Trains before you travel. If engineering works are occurring, consider taking the coach instead - it may be faster than the replacement bus service offered by the train company and is invariably cheaper.

By bus

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 en route. Despite its branding, this is a rural bus service (number 68) with no need for advance ticketing; it operates six times a day (MSa) and takes about 1 hour 30 minutes for the journey. Timetable details can be found on the website, or by telephoning 01722 336 855 from anywhere in the UK.

By car

The town is conveniently situated for the M3 motorway (US English: freeway) from London to Southampton, with the A34 providing access from the Midlands and the North. Winchester and its city centre are generally regarded as car-unfriendly; an excellent Park and Ride site is located just off junction 10 of the M3 (if you are heading southbound, 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 MF 7:30AM6:30PM; Sa 8AM6PM; no service Su; £2.70 per car (including all passengers' bus fares).

On foot

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.

Get around

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:

These maps can be found in any good local bookshop, or can be bought online.

By foot

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.

By bus

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.

By car

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's city centre is known for its narrow pedestrian streets and overhanging medieval buildings. Besides the cathedral, the main landmark is the Statue of King Alfred the Great, first king and nominal founder England. Located nearby is the Victorian Guild Hall, which hosts many events throughout the year. Also of special 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. The River Itchen, a crystal clear chalk stream, flows through multiple channels in central Winchester, seemingly just to surprise visitors by its tinkling presence at every turn.


Museums and Galleries

Parks and Gardens



Fairs & Festivals



The compact city centre of Winchester is unusual in retaining a number of independent bookshops, boutiques, toyshops, galleries, antique and foodshops, particularly in the Upper High Street and in the roads off the High Street such as Parchment Street, Southgate 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.


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. The prices are best guesses for a meal including drinks & tips.


England is known for its public houses, and Winchester - being the ancient heart of England - is no exception. Winchester has a good selection of city centre pubs, many of which are noted in the Real Ale bible 'The Good Beer Guide', and a few that are worth taking a stroll and the time to discover.

This plethora of pubs means that Winchester is not saturated with one type of beer. It is in the enviable position that there are many brewers represented in the city. Although the best approach is to wander around and to go into the one you like the look of, there are a few that may not reveal their delights until you venture inside.


There are many different places to sleep in Winchester. The following can only be a set of suggestions. The prices quoted may be negotiable.



Winchester's area code is 01962 when dialed from within the UK or +44 1962 from outside the UK.

Go next

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.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, December 08, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.