Visit Winchester > Blog > Our top tips for a staycation

Our top tips for a staycation

Cheese and Chilli Festival
Cheese and Chilli Festival

If you’re staying at home this summer then listen to Visit Winchester’s Tourism Marketing & Development Manager – Rachel Gander on BBC Radio Solent for some brilliant ideas on great days out for free across the Winchester district. 

All week BBC Radio Solent’s Breakfast Show has been interviewing destinations across the south to find out what listeners can enjoy right on their doorstep without having to travel too far. Presenter Lou Hannan sets a challenge for each destination to find the top three things to do for free.

Below are some of the highlights of Rachel’s interview – including what to expect when you arrive in Winchester and how to make the most of your staycation.

You can also listen again here and skip along to 1:18.

How’s Winchester looking as restrictions have begun to ease over the last few weeks?

Winchester still looks beautiful – it’s the stunning heritage city it has always been. Many of our businesses are delighted to be back welcoming customers and have introduced new measures in response to government guidelines to reassure residents, locals and visitors.

Safety signs on the floor of Winchester higstreet

Whether you are visiting Winchester city centre or one of our beautiful market towns you can expect to see areas which have been given over to pedestrian priority creating wider streets. We’ve got new street markings and social distancing signage to remind people to respect others while they are out and about. There are one-way pedestrian flows and queuing zones to make it easier for you to do a spot of local shopping.

The Visitor Information Centre next to the Guildhall is now open for information and advice from 10am until 3pm Monday to Saturday. Our local team of experts has been out exploring what’s on their doorstep during lockdown and found even more hidden gems to share with you.

Many of our attractions are open or about to open. I know many parents celebrated when Marwell Zoo opening its doors back in July. It’s worth bearing in mind that you can buy a joint ticket for City Museum and Westgate Museum (£17 for a family ticket) and enjoy as many visits as you like for the rest of the year. Also the same applies for the Cathedral – and children under 16 can enter the cathedral for free (adults £9.95).  Just make sure you take a look at the websites of the places you are thinking of visiting as you may need to prebook in advance.

A taste of continental cafe culture without having to jump on a plane…

There really is a feel of being on holiday – thanks to this great weather. People are soaking up the alfresco café culture as we have supported, where possible, local businesses to create more outside seating space. We’ve also got more than 70 restaurants and cafes taking part in the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme throughout August. You can find a full list here.

The city with a village feel

The great thing about Winchester is you are never far from open spaces – it really is a city with a village feel. So if an area looks busy then why not explore one of the local walks or grab a coffee and sit along the river or explore one of our market towns across the district?

A view of a street in bishops waltham

Three things to do for FREE

  1. I would really recommend getting on your bike and cycling along Winchester’s restored historic railway – the Viaduct Way. It’s only about two and a half miles and flat which is great for kids. You can get great views of the River Itchen and countryside around Winchester. You can stop off at St Catherine’s Hill for a picnic and run around the Mizmaze before heading back down to Winnall Moors Nature Reserve which is another great place for wildlife spotting. There’s a great board walk that takes you right into picturesque patchwork of wildflower-rich meadow, pasture and woodland. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can travel further along the South Downs Way – it’s 100 miles in total from Winchester to Eastbourne in East Sussex. Stop off along the way and explore the chalk downland and rolling hills of the South Downs National Park.
  2. For another free day out take a trip to Bishop’s Waltham Palace and explore the ruins of this beautiful medieval palace. There are loads of countryside walks and nature reserves in Bishop’s Waltham too. Or head to Alresford and watch the old steam trains coming in and out of the Mid Hants Railway Station. Alresford is the hub of the UK’s watercress industry and you can see it growing as you follow the riverside walks past the watercress beds. You’re also bound to  find it on the menu in a local cafe too – chefs have found ways to include it in popular recipes from pies, soup and cakes to gin.
  3. We’ve also got six fantastic Military Museums located close to the city at Peninsular Barracks, a Victorian complex that is the historic home of the rifle regiments and three of them are completely free. They have fantastic collections of medals, paintings and military objects. And out of the city we have Fort Nelson due to reopen next Tuesday 11 August. The fort is home to the Royal Armouries national artillery collection with over 350 historic guns on display plus tunnels and ramparts to explore.
Bishop's Waltham Palace

Bishop’s Waltham Palace

If you are thinking of visiting one of our attractions please do make sure you check out any new arrangements in place before you go – you’ll find most tickets for our attractions must be prebooked – which certainly does make it easier on the day. And most importantly enjoy your time in Winchester!