What are the best things to do in Chichester? We went on a day trip to this beautiful, historic city to find out.
Chichester is a quaint, cathedral city at the foot of the South Downs in West Sussex, England. It has a rich history, dating back to Roman times and still boasts many significant Roman features today. None are more evident that the Roman walls which surround the city.
After dropping the kids for a race day at Goodwood Estate, we found ourselves with a rare child-free day. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for a day out in Chichester and the harbour. Luckily, its compact size makes it ideal for exploring by foot in one day.
Read on to find out how we spent a sunny day in Chichester and Bosham Quay.
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The first on our list of things to do in Chichester was a visit to the Cathedral. It was very easy to find, as the spire reaches high above the other buildings.
Chichester Cathedral is over 600 years old and is one of the must-see attractions in the city. It stands on the site of a monastery founded by St Wilfrid and in 681 became the first cathedral in Sussex.
Considering how old it is, Chichester Cathedral is in amazing condition. This gothic building is the only English Cathedral with a surviving detached medieval bell tower. We took a leisurely wander through the cloisters and grounds but couldn’t go inside as it was closed.
Bishop Palace Gardens
Next on our list of things to do in Chichester was a stroll around the Bishop Palace gardens. You can access the gardens via St Richard’s Walk, a narrow alleyway at the side of the cathedral.
The Bishop’s Palace is at the west side of the cathedral and dates back to the 12th century. The palace itself is not open to the public, but the adjoining gardens are. These historic gardens provide a beautiful green space, with flowers, an arboretum and pergola walk. Admission is free and it is open until dusk.
The gardens provide a good place for relaxing and you’ll find several benches here. You can get some of the best views of the cathedral from the gardens.
After a mooch around the Bishop’s Palace Gardens, we headed back to the city centre for breakfast. In Chichester all paths lead back to the Chichester Cross, so we retraced our steps back there. It is only 5 minutes’ walk from the cathedral.
Chichester City Centre
From here, it’s easy to find somewhere to eat and drink , as there are plenty of cafés and restaurants in Chichester. We opted for the Trading Post Coffee Roasters on South Street, as it has a good breakfast menu.
The pedestrian zone has a choice of standard high street shops and some more interesting independent stores.
Chichester Market Cross
The Tudor Market Cross is the centre point of Chichester. It is an impressive gothic monument, which stands at the intersection of the city’s four main pedestrian streets.
In 1501 Bishop Edward Storey commissioned the octagonal Market Cross to provide shelter for tradesmen trying to sell their wares. He bought the land for just ten pounds, which seems like a bargain to me. Nowadays the Tudor Cross serves as a popular meeting place for visitors, as it is so central.
Chichester City Walls
After our pit stop, the next on our list of things to do in Chichester was a walk of the city walls. These defensive walls were built by the Romans about 1800 years ago. They are mostly intact and considered to be some of the best-preserved city walls in the country.
The walk around the city walls is about 1.5 miles. It has several access points so you can just do a section of it and return to the centre if you prefer.
However, we followed the length of the walls, which led to Priory Park. The park is one of the best green spaces in Chichester and has been used for cricket since the Victorian era. For history-lovers this is an interesting spot, where you can see the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle.
Furthermore, in the middle of the park is the Guildhall, formerly the chapel of the Franciscan Priory. Nowadays the Guildhall is used as a wedding venue. Priory Park is a popular green space, which would be a good place for kids or a picnic.
Having done our mini tour of the city, we wanted to spend the rest of our day in Chichester by the sea. Fortunately, Chichester Harbour is only 4 miles from the city centre.
Chichester Harbour and the surrounding land is one of England’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). As well as the main harbour, the area includes some exceptionally pretty villages on the inlets near the harbour. It is a popular spot for nature lovers and sailing enthusiasts.
One of the coastal villages near Chichester Harbour is the picture-postcard Bosham Quay.
Although tiny, Bosham Quay has played a significant role in history and was important in the Saxon period.
It was reputedly the place where King Canute tried to hold back the tides. According to tradition, his daughter was also buried in Holy Trinity Church at Bosham, after drowning at the young age of eight.
Years later, Bosham became home to King Harold. If you have a close look at the Bayeux Tapestry you can see him riding from Bosham to meet the Duke of Normandy.
Things to do in Bosham Quay
For such a little village, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Bosham Quay. However, without a doubt the best thing to do is enjoy the scenery. Whether the tide is in or out, the views of the harbour and sailing boats are stunning. We chose a table on the balcony of The Anchor Blue Pub to enjoy them at leisure. What a perfect view for Sunday lunch!
Bosham Quay is a great place for walkers and from the village, you have several choices of walking routes. There are public footpaths in both directions along the waterfront. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, you could walk all the way to Chichester Harbour.
We did a circular walk which started at the shoreline, went past the 11th Century Holy Trinity Church, then returned via Bosham Quay Meadow. It wasn’t the most scenic walk, as quite a stretch was on a road, but the start and end were pretty.
Finally, a visit to Bosham Quay wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Bishop Walk Arts and Crafts Market. Here you’ll find 20 shops under one roof, selling a tempting range of homeware, gifts, and craft goods. There’s also a café and ice-cream vendor.
Other things to do near Chichester
If you have more than one day in Chichester, you may want to visit the Fishbourne Roman Palace, the site of the largest Roman villa in Britain. Or you could go further afield to the lovely town of Arundel.
Another of the best things to do near Chichester is the circular walk to the Halnaker Tunnel. Just 4 miles from Chichester, this trail leads to the Halnaker Tree Tunnel and Halnaker Windmill. From here, you can return via the Tinwood Vineyard to Boxgrove Priory.
Practical information for your visit
How to get to Chichester
Chichester is in South-East England at the foot of the South Downs. It is the county town for West Sussex.
You can get to Chichester by car on the A3/M27.
The train from London to Chichester takes less than 2 hours. Direct trains run about 65 times a day from London Victoria.
Parking in Chichester
There are plenty of pay and display car parks near Chichester city centre. If you go on a Sunday, you can park on some side streets for free.
Accommodation in Chichester
If you need longer than a day, there’s plenty of charming self-catering accommodation near to Chichester City Centre.
If you are looking for a remote location, you could stay in one of the lodges on the Tinwood Estate Vineyard. This is in the perfect location for a walk to Halnaker Windmill.
Have you been to Chichester? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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