Visit Winchester city and step back in time as you walk along the narrow streets and admire the Elizabethan and Regency architecture. As the capital of the Saxon kings and a commanding base for bishops, this timeless cathedral city is a cultural haven for any history buff in your family wanting a weekend getaway.
Be on the lookout for two of the city’s famous statues that honour English legends, Alfred the Great and King Arthur. While admiring the beautiful ancient architecture families can also explore Winchester’s lovely waterside trails. In addition to history, Winchester is the resting place of famous author Jane Austen, is the birthplace of modern cricket, and home to one of country’s largest farmers’ markets. With over four million visitors every year, there’s something for everyone in your family to enjoy.
One of Winchester’s many visitor favourites are the 11th century Cathedral and the Great Hall, the home of King Arthur’s famous Round Table. Another of the city’s highlights is Winchester College; the country’s oldest consecutively running school. The college is famously known as the film location for numerous classics including Harry Potter and Les Misérables. Visit the city’s many kid-friendly attractions like the city centre, the zoo, and the science centre. Afterward, eat your way through 95 stalls at Winchester Farmers Market. This city is a must see destination at any time of year – in the summer, families can enjoy festivals, markets, and stunning flowers but another popular time to visit is during the Christmas season when the ancient city lights up and the quaint market opens. With so much to do, here’s a guide to the best of Winchester city for families.
Marwell Zoo: For a day of wild fun, take the little ones to Marwell Zoo, a 140-acre park, which houses hundreds of animals including giraffes, tigers, hippos, and many more. New to Marwell Zoo is the park’s largest exhibit ever, ‘Energy for life’ Tropical House. This two level exhibit allows visitors to come face-to-face with a variety of wildlife and exotic plants in a tropical atmosphere. Be sure to have the kids listen for the calls of the yellow-throated frog, which inhibit the waterfall. In addition to special exhibits, the park also offers daily talks and animal feedings. The kids will also love the Adventure Playgrounds and Road and Rail Trains. There are numerous special events throughout the year, including Christmas at Marwell where young ones can enjoy storytime, crafts and even meet Father Christmas!
Price: Buy your tickets ahead of time on the Marwell Zoo website, children are admitted at a discounted rate and infants age two or younger get in for free.
© Marwell Zoo – Kanika – Amur Leopard Cub
© Winchester Science Centre – Explorer: Space – by Harvey Mills
Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium: Home to the largest standalone planetarium in the United Kingdom, the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium provides hands-on interactive fun for children of all ages. With so many exhibits to explore, this science centre is a great way to immerse your children into the exciting world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Be sure to visit Explorer: Space, an engaging space zone where the whole family is transported through the solar system. A kid favourite is the Science of Sport zone, where little ones can bend light, generate their own vortex, and test their speed and balance.
Price: General admission is £11 and children under three can get in for free.
Winchester Cathedral: A must see attraction amongst visitors is the Winchester Cathedral, Europe’s longest medieval cathedral. Visitors can discover more than 1,000 years of history in just one afternoon. The Winchester Cathedral offers a free children’s trail, which provides families with a fun and educational look at the Cathedral introducing them to a few notable historical figures. The Cathedral also offers a wide variety of events that take place throughout the year ranging from concerts, to Christmas markets and ice-skating.
Price: Admission to the church is £7.95 but the Cathedral offers a discounted student rate for £4.45.
© Winchester Cathedral
© Winchester City Museum
Winchester City Museum: A must see attraction for families is the Winchester City Museum, which reveals the story of England’s historic capital, the seat of Alfred the Great. This family-friendly museum offers an array of fun activities for the kids to enjoy such as becoming a novice archaeologist and examine real artefacts. The little ones will also jump at the chance to try on Roman and Saxon costumes. For the miniature detectives in your family, attempt to solve the museum’s spotter trail.
Theatre Royal Winchester: In a beautiful 400-seat venue, the Theatre Royal Winchester brings the city a wide array of immensely talented artists and performers. Catering to young audience members, the Theatre Royal Winchester puts on special performances just for kids. Be sure to check the website to find your child’s favourite show.
For the parents, there are two bars that serve refreshments before the show. For families visiting Winchester for a summer holiday, on the first weekend in July, the Theatre Royal Winchester hosts the annual Hat Fair, the UK’s longest running street arts festival.
© National Trust – Winchester City Mill & Shop
Winchester City Mill & Shop: With a history dating back to at least the Saxon Times, the Winchester City Mill & Shop is likely the oldest running watermill in the United Kingdom. Ever since its restoration in 2004, the Winchester City Mill & Shop has been a popular destination for families with many interactive activities and flour milling and baking demonstrations. The kids will love testing their skill at flour milling with the hand querns. Baking demonstrations are held on weekends throughout the year and every Wednesday from April through October. After milling around, stroll through the gift shop for local produce, gifts and books.
Mid-Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’: Board a restored Steam train that covers 10 miles of picturesque Hampshire countryside. The kids will love the sights and sounds of traveling in a real life Steam train. Families can board the Mid-Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’ train at the Georgian town of Alresford or Alton, a lively market town. The Steam train makes stops at Ropley and Medstead & Four marks stations.
Price: Adult tickets are £16 and children’s (2-16) tickets are £8. Children under two have free admission.
© Matt Bentley – Mid Hants Railway
© Beaulieu – National Motor Museum
The National Motor Museum: This multi-award winning family activity is the perfect day trip for everyone. The National Motor Museum houses over 250 vehicles in its world-renowned collection. The museum showcases Britain’s motor history from its humble start to modern day. Collections include class cars, historic sporting moderns, new rally cars, F1 racers and an austere 1930’s country garage.
Price: Adult tickets are £19.50, children’s tickets (5-16) are £9.50, and those under five have free admission.
The Woolpack Inn: This beautiful country pub provides a picture perfect retreat. Although just an easy 15 minute drive from Winchester city centre, The Woolpack Inn feels every inch the traditional English countryside, surrounded by rolling hills and tree-lined winding lanes. The rooms are immaculately designed, with their Golden Pheasant suite being best suited for families; enjoy two spacious yet cosy rooms with a large shared bathroom and you’ll feel like you have your own home away from home for the weekend. Head downstairs to the restaurant for a seat beside the fireplace and tuck into a truly delicious meal at breakfast lunch or dinner, or head outside in the warmer months where little ones can play in the onsite playground. Impeccable service and a community feel set this delightful hidden gem above the rest.
© The Woolpack Inn
© Marwell Hotel
Marwell Hotel: Inspired from Treetops in Africa, the Marwell Hotel is by far one of the most kid-friendly hotels families can find. On arrival, children are given activity packs to help keep them entertained while parents are checking in. Other exclusive offerings from the Marwell Hotel are healthy children’s menus, DVD player and movies upon request, and a heated indoor swimming pool. The fun does not stop there; the hotel also has special family rooms with bunk beds that the little ones will love. The Marwell Hotel is also in a splendid location located near the Marwell Zoo, Paultons Theme Park, Peppa Pig World, just to name a few.
The Woolpack Inn: One of the best restaurants in the area, in a truly beautiful setting, make sure you take a trip to The Woolpack Inn for a unique epicurean delight. Serving seasonal and locally sourced produce from pumpkins to sausages to partridge, you’ll taste the true flavours of the area. There’s a kids menu for smaller dinner guests and a great selection of beers, wines and spirits.
Forte Kitchen: Serving deliciously simple British food, Forte Kitchen offers tasty options for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. For breakfast, the menu offers a wide variety of delicious choices ranging from the full English breakfast to Scotch pancakes to healthier choices such as the Forte Granola. Kids will love the traditional breakfast sandwiches and tasty blended smoothies. For a sweet treat, take the kids to afternoon tea and let them choose from a variety of indulgences like the Chocolate Brownie or Forte Signature Macaroons.
© The Woolpack Inn
© No. 5 Bridge Street
No.5 Bridge Street: Offering a variety of seasonal dishes that are freshly prepared, No.5 Bridge Street uses seasonal ingredients to create delicious dishes that both kids and parents will enjoy. For the adults, the dinner menu offers mouth-watering options such as the Treacle Marinated Aged Pork Ribeye or Steak Tartar complemented by Charcoal Mayonnaise. Ideal for families, No.5 Bridge Street also has a tempting kids menu with classics like fishcakes, Mac & Cheese, and rice pudding with strawberry jam for dessert.
Brasserie Blanc: For savoury French cooking in a secret alfresco courtyard, the Brasserie Blanc is a top Winchester City pick. For the adults, start with the BB Cheese Soufflé or the Wild Mushroom & Truffle Risotto. The selection of five French cheeses is also hard to pass up on. Brasserie Blanc also has a kid’s menu where the little ones can enjoy a delicious main course, side dish, and a dessert all for £6.95. The menu also features tasty vegetarian options on both the adult and kids menus. Go for dinner or treat the family to Sunday brunch.
Winchester Farmer’s Market: Bring your appetite and your family to the Winchester Farmer’s Market, which offers a wide assortment of local goods from over 80 producers. Explore the market’s authentic bites like the veal and buffalo meat, ice cream, game and fresh smoked fish. Wander around the stalls and even sample some of the best produce in all of Hampshire. Local must tries are the buffalo burgers, egg and bacon rolls, fish cakes, and hot roast. With so many options to choose from, your family will have trouble choosing their favourite.
Warren’s Bakery: For any afternoon sweet, look no farther than Warren’s Bakery, one of the UK’s top three craft bakeries. This local gem is best known for its artisan bread, fresh deli sandwiches, and of course pastries. For lunch, try the BBQ pulled pork or sweet chilli chicken sandwich. For a seasonal treat, we recommend the Cinnamon Spiced Bun. Warren’s Bakery also caters to a wide variety of dietary needs offering customers delicious vegan options such as their Vegan Thai Pastry.
© Warrens Bakery – Instagram @warrens_bakery