There are some nice walks around the outskirts of the city. Visit Abbey Gardens close to the cathedral and follow the river Itchen, also close by is Wolvesey Castle. Winchester has a lot of history and you'll notice its richness if you explore the quieter parts.
The church of St Swithun is actually upstairs, lying over the Kingsgate just outside the Cathedral close. In Medieval times it was quite common to build churches over town gates, but very few remain today so it is worth popping in (it is open most days). It would be very, very easy to miss.
This church was first mentioned in 1264, although the present building (and gate) most probably date from the 13th century. Most pilgrims to the shrine of St Swithun (in the cathedral) would have arrived at this gate, and would probably have stopped at this little church to give thanks for a safe journey.
In the 17th century it was used as the porter's house (he apparently kept pigs in it), but was restored as a church in 1677.
There used to be a statue of St Swithun on the east wall, but only its niche now remains.
The riverside walk from College Street to the City Mill is most pleasant (even in February); pretty gardens, babbling waters, ducks, overhanging trees, young lads cycling back from rugger practice...well, perhaps not the latter, but the rest is very nice. Would be even better in sunshine, I think; a good place to sit and eat your sandwich/pasty/ whatever.
The walk is called 'Weirs Walk'. Or 'Wolvesley Slips'. Or 'Riverside Walk'. It matters not.
Keep your eyes open for the tree-fern near to the exit to College St (it's fenced off with ?bamboo). Tree-ferns have been around longer than dinosaurs, so they are pretty impressive. They aren't native to the UK (and are a pretty unusual sight) but can cope with our climate if sited properly and given lots of tlc.
Winchester is so full of history! Some of the shops have trade signs hanging over the paths ---just as there would have been hundreds of years ago.
Look out for the boot!
Look out for the coffee pot!
The pedestrianised High Street is the best place for these.
Tudor topic work, teachers?
I recommend walking the quiet streets around Cathedral Close as there are two sights of interest to literature fans. The house where Jane Austen once lived the final months of her life is on College Street, and a plaque on the wall of the house commemorates the time she spend in the town. Also worth seeing is Keats' walk, a path which provided the inspiration for John Keats to write "Ode to Winter", which lies around the corner from the close.
Winchester was once an important Roman town ('chester' comes from 'castrum', a fort). Hardly anything remains visible now, although you can still trace the dead-straight Roman roads leading into and out of the town.
However, tucked away by the riverside (the Romans re-cut the river channel to better drain the town area) is a tiny remnant of the original town wall. You wouldn't notice it if it wasn't pointed out..........Winchester has much more important later history to celebrate, obviously.
Anyway, if you look to your left as you walk along the river towards the mill bridge, and the town (or to your right if you are walking away from them, obviously) there's a small green-gated alcove. And what remains of the once hugely impressive Roman town walls is inside.......
No. It isn't. And it's not a paintpot and brush either.
Walk down the High St, then Broadway, towards the City Mill. Just before the statue of King Alfred is St James' House (rather a pretty shade of pink) on your left.
Stand on the opposite pavement. The fifth window from the left on the second floor is open, and there's a paintpot and bruch on the sill.
Except there isn't. The whole top row of windows is a trompe l'oeil; they are just paintings.
Why? Well, why not?
Many English towns and cities were originally walled, beginning in Roman times (although Iron Age hillforts were embanked, ditched and palisaded) and continuing into the Middle Ages. A town wall provided security, but could also be an outward expression of prosperity and power. Naturally, gates were needed to allow access during the day, and to be closed against strangers at night.
Most towns have lost most or all of their walls and gates. Winchester originally had 6. The Kingsgate has Roman foundations, being built along the line of the original Roman town wall, and is first noted in 1148 (in the Domesday Book). The church which lies over it was destroyed by fire in 1264; what is visible today dates from the 13th and 14th centuries.
The man who single-handedly saved the Cathedral, so George V said.
In 1906 Walker and another diver were employed to underpin the cathedral foundations. this entailed working in nil visibility, in water, for years....the other diver left after a year, but Walker continued for five and a half years. His job was to remove the remains of the Medieval foundations and replace them with concrete (all underwater). And he did it.
Walker was honoured by the King for his work. He died in the flu epidemic of 1918, but there is a bust in his honour in the Cathedral (although I could not find it, so perhaps it is being restored?) and another by the gift shop (see photo).
It would be easy to miss Walker's efforts; it would certainly be easy to underestimate them.
If you are into fishing you may well have heard of Izaac Walton.
In 1653 he wrote 'The Compleat Angler', which is by far his best known work (he wrote other things too, including biographies), weaving fishing information, quotations, folklore and folk songs into the story of three friends travelling through the English countryside.
Walton was born in Stafford in 1593 and died in 1683. He is buried in a quiet side-chapel in Winchester cathedral (a floorslab marks his grave); when I visited it was (appropriately) decorated with fishy works of art.
You might miss this. You might decide not to look at the cathedral crypt, especially if you have just missed a tour (or the tours aren't running).
The crypt has a well, and floods regularly in the winter. You might think it's not worth visiting because you won't be able to explore even without a tour guide.
Go and look anyway, because you'll be able to see the sculpture 'Sound ll' by Anthony Gormley.
And if you are lucky, as I was, sunlight will flood through the windows and you will be able to see the sculpture and the water and the light working together.
This is not really off the beaten path, but I couldn't think of where else to put it.
There are undoubtedly a number of very fine restaurants in Winchester, but if you fancy a quick bite, I recommend Reeve, the bakers in the High Street just beside Boots the Chemist. They do a range of delicious, and very inexpensive pies and savouries. Just what's needed to keep up the strength for all that sight-seeing!
The Wiltshire pasty is particularly delicious.
This is not really a "must see" unless you are a particularly literary minded visitor. It is the house where the author, Jane Austen, spent the last weeks of her life before she died on July 18th 1817, aged 41. she was subsequently buried in Winchester cathedral.
the house is now a private home and cannot be visited, but there is a small plaque commemorating her on the outside wall.
Near the centre of Winchester, there is a prominent statute of Alfred the Great, the great West Saxon king who beat back the Danes and set the stage for the "English Reconquest" that unified England in the 10th century.
You can find the most interesting things in unexpected places! Like this museum which is located in The Brooks Shopping Centre.
Winchester is a very old city. When they started to build this new shopping centre sometime in the 1990's, they unearthed a whole history underground. Spread over much of the Brooks site were the remains of houses, suggesting that this was a mainly residential area in the Roman period. In some parts of the site, medieval layers were found to be virtually undamaged by later activity.
There are two dioramas, which depict life in both the Roman times and in Medieval times. They are a bit cheesy, using animatronic figures with a narration which plays along with the story. While this isn't the most innovative museum I have ever visited, it certainly is a hidden treat which you should visit!
There is no entrance fee.