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.

winchester cathedral

Winchester arts

Winchester is a lively centre for the arts, with an arts centre, two theatres and several festivals throughout the year.

Tower Arts Centre
Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5ZZ
Box office: 01962 867986
The programme includes comedy, drama, folk, pop, blues, soul, and visual arts.

Theatre Royal Winchester
Jewry Street, Winchester SO23 8SB
Tel: 01962 840440
Lovely old theatre with a varied programme including plays, comedy, dance, concerts and musicals.


Winchester MayFest
Festival with a broadminded mix of music, from traditional to contemporary and folk and roots to jazz. Concerts and events in venues and on the streets of Winchester.
Tel: 01252 727 895

Grange Park Opera
A short summer season of opera. Book well in advance to be sure of a ticket.
The Box Office opens in mid March.
Tel: 01962 868 600

Hat Fair
The oldest festival of street theatre in England.
Tel: 01962 849 841


Winchester Festival
Winchester’s annual arts festival includes indoor and outdoor performances of music, art, drama, film and literary events.
Tel: 01962 877 977

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:

Ordnance Survey Landranger 185. This map covers the area around Winchester at a scale of 1:50000 and is best for exploration by car or cycle.
Ordnance Survey Explorer 132. This map covers the area around Winchester at a scale of 1:25000 and is best for walking.
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.

Stagecoach in Hampshire, telephone 0845-121-0180 from within in the UK, operate most of the bus services in the city and surrounding area.
Bluestar, telephone 01202 338421 from within the UK, operates the Bluestar 1 from the city to Southampton
Traveline, telephone 0871 200 2233 (+44 871 200 2233 from outside the UK), provide an impartial online travel planner and telephone query service for all local bus services.

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.

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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.

Mid-Hants Railway, The Railway Station, Alresford (5 miles east of Winchester on the A31; grid reference SU587324), telephone +44 1962 733810, Often known as the Watercress Line, this preserved steam railway follows the route of an old line from Alresford to Alton.
Marwell Zoological Park, Colden Common (6 miles south-east of Winchester on the B2177; grid reference SU506217), near Eastleigh.
Visit the New Forest, about half an hours drive or a short through train journey away.

Accommodation in Winchester