Steeped in history, Winchester is undoubtedly one of Hampshire’s best-known – and prettiest – cities.

With its array of independent shops, restaurants and no interesting places to discover, the city remains a popular destination.

Developed from the Roman town of Venta Belgarum, which in turn developed from an Iron Age oppidum, Winchester was one of the most important cities in England until the Norman conquest in the 11th century.

The remains of sections of city walls built during the Roman period – the Kingsgate and Westgate – are still visible near the ruins of Wolvesey Castle. In the city centre, is the City Cross featuring 12 statues of the Virgin Mary, other saints and historical figures.Also known as the Buttercross, it has been dated to the 15th century and was restored by George Gilbert Scott in 1865.

The city boasts literary connections – the novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester on July 18, 1817 and is buried in the cathedral. Meanwhile romantic poet John Keats wrote several of his works while staying in Winchester during 1819. Winchester’s major landmark is its cathedral, but the city is also home to the University of Winchester and Winchester College, the oldest public school in the UK still using its original buildings. Winchester City Mill was built on land owned by the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral in 1813 and now serves as an industrial heritage museum. You can also explore Winchester’s origins as an Iron Age trading centre and the hunt for King Alfred’s remains at Winchester City Museum.

Winchester is a popular shopping destination with both independent stores and big name brands on the high street, quaint, surrounding streets and The Brooks Shopping Centre. There are weekly markets, offering fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables to fashion, bric-a-brac and jewellery. Food-wise the city boasts a number of eateries by well-known chefs including Rick Stein and Brasserie Blanc, as well as The Ivy Brasserie and Côte Brasserie. But there is equally a wonderful range of local cafés, bars and restaurants.

The Theatre Royal Winchester hosts shows including comedians, musicals and plays all year round, while the nearby Bombay Sapphire distillery is a great adults day out, or you can head to Marwell Zoo with the family. Winchester is also a good base to explore the South Downs with breathtaking views and a rich variety of wildlife. Visit the tranquil and unspoiled countryside and find rare species or get on your bike and take on the 220-mile King Alfred’s Way cycle route.

Get stuck into science at Winchester Science Centre, located just outside the city.
Stay over at the flagship Hotel du Vin and experience the city at night.

READ MORE: Winchester second happiest place to live in Great Britain