No trip to Winchester is complete without a visit to Winchester Cathedral, which has the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe.
Dating back to 1070, the cathedral is home to the Winchester Bible, the largest and finest of all surviving 12th century English bibles and a pivotal landmark of medieval art, as well as 12th century wall paintings, medieval carvings and contemporary art.
Many are drawn to the cathedral as a result of its association with Jane Austen, one of the most popular literary figures in British history, who died in Winchester on 18 July 1817. Her funeral was held in the cathedral and her grave is in the north aisle of the nave. A permanent exhibition was installed in 2010 beside Austen’s grave to mark the bicentenary decade of her heyday and to tell the story of her life in Hampshire.
But Winchester Cathedral is much more than a museum. It is a space for worship and a busy place for a range of community activities, with more than 80 staff and 700 volunteers keeping the place running smoothly. One of the best ways to explore the cathedral is on a guided tour, which offers a great introduction to its history and treasures. And if you’re visiting with children, you can follow the free children’s trail.
The Cathedral Refectory, sheltered behind an ancient flint wall opposite the cathedral, is also worth a visit for a nice coffee, lunch or afternoon tea.