What you need to know about Winchester
If you’re thinking of moving to Winchester or you’re going to be working in our fair city or you’re simply coming for the day, this is the Hampshire Workspace guide to life in the ancient capital of England.
A capital city
Winchester was the capital of England and the seat of King Alfred The Great. Wherever you go in the centre, you are surrounded by history. It is now the administrative centre of Hampshire County Council which may seem like a comedown but shows that the city is still important for more than its past. It’s a joy simply to walk around the city centre and look at the buildings but there are also many cafes, restaurants and shops, both well known and independent.
How To Get To Winchester
Winchester is very well served by public transport. The Rail Station is in the town centre and is less than an hour from London if you get the fastest train. If you miss that, there’s never another one far behind. If you prefer to drive, we’re close to the M3 which means you can get to or from the centre of London in a couple of hours. We’re even closer to Southampton.
Southampton Airport is a couple of stops away on the train or a 20 minute drive.
Where to Park In Winchester
There’s no denying parking can be difficult in Winchester. The Park And Ride service is very good and inexpensive, if you need to come into the city daily. If you would like to park in the centre, there’s a very handy app called Park Winchester which tells you how many spaces are left in the various car parks. It’s also worth checking out the car parks on either side of the rail station.
Who makes the best coffee in Winchester?
It’s a matter of taste of course but we like The Winchester Orangery in The Square (just off the High Street) and round the corner from Hampshire Workspace. The staff are friendly and efficient. There’s also a good choice of cakes, pastries, sandwiches and light meals.
The best places to eat in Winchester
There’s a wide choice of superb eateries in Winchester. Let’s start with The Black Rat, Hampshire’s only Michelin starred restaurant. You’ll find it at the bottom end of town on Chesil Street. At the beginning of the same street- and our first choice for a romantic evening- is The Chesil Rectory which occupies the oldest commercial building in Winchester, once owned by Henry VIII. Also worth a mention is Rick Stein‘s fish restaurant on Broadway- one of only four Stein restaurants outside Cornwall.
If you’re looking for good value in a prime setting, try The Ivy Brasserie on the High Street.
A walk round Winchester
There are so many sights to see in Winchester. The obvious one is Winchester Cathedral, a magnificent medieval building that dominates the low roofed town (and part of a great view from the back of Hampshire Workspace). It’s a place which visitors, residents and workers alike make a beeline for on a sunny day to sit on the grass and enjoy the view. In late November and December, you can look round one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe, complete with ice skating and a backdrop of the Cathedral.
We’re particularly fond of the High Street, a thoroughfare that has been there since the days of King Alfred. At the top of the High Street is the 13th century Great Hall, all that remains of Winchester Castle.
Our favourite walk takes you through Kingsgate, one of a number of ancient entrances into the city. (Southgate was near Hampshire Workspace but has long gone.) As you pass under the arch, look up at St Swithun Upon Kingsgate, a rare remaining example of a church built over a city gate. Turn left and look out for the blue plaque marking the last residence of Jane Austen (she is buried in Winchester Cathedral). Go past Winchester College and take a right which will bring you to the River Itchen, one of the world’s premier chalk streams and notable for its pure clear water.
You will be following in the footsteps of John Keats. This beautiful walk will take you past the Water Meadows which inspired his poem Ode To Autumn, the one that begins ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. After about half an hour, you’ll come to the Hospital of St Cross, a Norman church and buildings where monks have been providing hospitality to travellers for 900 years. You can still refresh yourself with the Wayfarer’s Dole, which is a small beaker of beer and a morsel of bread. Walk back the same way or down St Cross Road which becomes Southgate Street, home of Hampshire Workspace which has been providing support to small businesses in the form of serviced offices for nearly 40 years.
Winchester After Hours
So, when the work is done, what do you do in the evening in Winchester? If you fancy a cocktail, the place to go is Incognito, down a side street close to the statue of King Alfred on the Broadway. The drinks are delicious and they are delivered with wonderful theatricality. It’s very popular so you may need to book a table.
If you’re looking for a pub, The Wykeham Arms (pronounced Wickam Arms), next to Kingsgate, has great atmosphere- and the food is very good. Or you could stroll to The Hyde Tavern, a gem of a community pub offering cask ales and evenings of song. It’s in the idiosyncratic suburb of Hyde on the north side of the city, an area with 900 years of history.
The main venue for evening entertainment is the Theatre Royal which offers an eclectic range of shows. The Railway Inn has interesting music acts and there’s also The Guildhall which features the occasional music or comedy event. There are many annual festivals, the most famous of which is the Hat Fair, a cornucopia of free street entertainment which takes place every July.
What if I get ill?
We hope you don’t need one but there is a major hospital, the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, on the Romsey Road and of course a private GP, The Walcote Practice, at Hampshire Workspace.
Visit Winchester – information for tourists