You know you’re in Winchester when…
A city in Hampshire in the south of England, with a population of over 40,000 and home to schools, English language centres, the University of Winchester and the Peter Symonds' College of further education… Winchester has a lot to offer. But what really defines a day in Winchester?
We asked Savannah King, International Students Officer at the University of Winchester Student Union, to explain! You know you’re in Winchester when you are…
…peering the whole way down the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe
Winchester Cathedral is a majestic gem in the heart of Winchester that has been welcoming visitors for over 1,000 years. Not only is it a magnificent building to see, it's a popular picnic spot – when the weather is nice, the cathedral's gardens are full of families and friends socialising, reading and enjoying the fresh air.
Winchester's impressive cathedral by night (©VisitBritain/D.Bosworth)
Plus, in December, the Cathedral Close is transformed into a winter wonderland. Cosy Christmas market stalls selling all sorts of goodies surround an ice skating rink, all set against the backdrop of the Cathedral’s amazing architecture... magical.
The South Downs National Park officially begins in Winchester, so there is no excuse not to climb a nearby hill for a fantastic view over the city. The banks of the River Itchen are great for reflective rambles, and the area known as the Water Meadows allows keen runners and casual weekend walkers (and everyone in between!) to escape to the peaceful countryside just a 10-minute walk from the city's central shopping areas.
A walk across the South Downs (©Diana Jarvis/Visit England)
…carrying a flaming torch through the city centre
Winchester takes its Bonfire Night celebrations very seriously at the beginning of November! The most interactive part comes at the start of the evening, when you can buy a torch to join in a procession through the ancient streets, all the way up the High Street to an enormous fireworks display.
But this isn’t the only annual parade in Winchester – at the opening of the Christmas market, there is a procession of huge, handmade, glowing lanterns heading down to the festivities.
The Christmas Lantern parade, making its way from the Great Hall at the top of the High Street (©Thalia King)
…walking in the footsteps of Jane Austen and John Keats
The Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen lived for most of her life in a small village outside of the city, and penned her final pages during the last few months of her life while living in Winchester. Austen's butter-yellow house (now a private residence) can still be gazed upon admiringly. Just around the corner in the Cathedral, readers can pay their respects at her final resting place.
Left: The house, beside Winchester College, where Jane Austen spent her final months in 1817 (©Thalia King). Right: Inside Jane Austen's House Museum in nearby Chawton (©VisitBritain/D.Bosworth)
The poet John Keats was another writer inspired by Winchester, where he supposedly proclaimed the air to be worth ‘six pence a pint’. This area is believed to have given Keats his ideas for the poem To Autumn – and on a crisp day during this ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, his words do seem to flutter through the city.
An autumnal view of a local church, and the South Downs National Park (©Thalia King)
…heading to the station for the 59-minute train journey to London
All of the benefits of London – culture, sports, history, entertainment – are easily accessible from Winchester, by train in only an hour. You can enjoy your time in the busy capital in a jam-packed day, then return to Winchester for a relaxed evening and a quiet night's sleep.
Cafés, pubs, restaurants, farmers’ markets, pasty shops, bars, celebrity chef establishments, bakeries, tea shops, bistros, diners, taverns… whatever type of food and drink you crave, there's more than enough to satisfy your appetite here! As a bonus, most places to eat and drink are in historic or refurbished buildings. Imagine having a Sunday roast in a 600-year-old medieval house, sipping a drink in an 18th-century coaching inn, or tasting antipasti in the former newsroom of the local newspaper?
Left: A table set for dinner in The Wykeham Arms, a pub in an
old coaching inn from the 1700s (©Daniel Bosworth)
…dropping coins into a busker’s hat
Every day of the week, musicians and entertainers of all ages strum guitars, blow trumpets, beat drums and sing all genres of music on the streets of Winchester. There are other kinds of performances, too, from sand sculpting to breakdancing!
In July, the city hosts the Hat Fair – the UK's longest-running festival of street theatre. These acts are both inspiring and wacky, with three creative days of unicycles, upside-down gymnasts and even more unexpected sights. Plus, most of the events are free – it's called the Hat Fair because a hat is passed around at the end of each show, for audiences to donate as much or as little as they can afford.
…finding it hard to leave
According to local legend, there is a curse put on the Buttercross – the medieval statue in the middle of the High Street. Apparently, thanks to a witch from the Middle Ages, anyone who sits on the steps of this monument is cursed to return again and again to Winchester. As far as curses go, though, this one could be a lot worse – with all there is to see and do, you might never want to leave anyway!
Above: The 15th century Buttercross found in the centre of the
High Street, and a popular meeting spot (©Thalia King)