Winchester is a city in Hampshire, on the edge of the South Downs. It is a city of rich historical heritage, home to the Round Table and Winchester Cathedral. Its cobbled streets and ancient past have been extremely well preserved, giving the city the air of a cosy village town.
There has been a settlement in Winchester since Iron Age times. But it came into its own during the Medieval age. As seat of the kingdom of Wessex, Winchester became an important town to the Saxon kings.
King Alfred the Great extensively redesigned the city in the 9th century to better protect it from Viking attack and the general layout persists to this day. Alfred is very important to Winchester. It was his seat of power throughout his reign and after his death, he was buried in the Old Minster.
Today, he is honoured with a statue, which you can see at the end of The Broadway.
After the home palace moved to London, Winchester was left to its own devices. With a large trade town to the south (Southampton), and not political weight to speak of, Winchester has been able to preserve many of its original buildings. The College, Cathedral, Great Hall and city walls all remain largely intact.
Visitors to Winchester will find it quiet and cosy. It has many cafés and tea rooms, with lots of outdoor seating on summer days. In winter, the Cathedral grounds host a Christmas market that features an ice rink.
Shopping is reserved to a few boutique stores and antique shops and it has little to no nightlife to speak of outside of the university campus. Students usually head own to Southampton for a night out, which leaves Winchester’s many excellent pubs to cater for a more genteel audience.
And what pubs there are. The Royal Oak, which is tucked into an alley off the High Street, is the oldest pub in the country. You can venture into the basement to see a preserved section of the original structure.
Being an ancient city, Winchester is not kind to cars. The roads are tight and dominated by a one-way system. Parking is also difficult, but you can rely on the public transport.
Throughout the city, you will find small plaques that tell you a little story about the building or local area. For example, near the Buttercross, you will learn about two pubs 15th century pubs named Heaven and Hell. And that is why you should visit Winchester – to explore its thousand years of history.