Winchester Opens Up

This weekend sees the return of one of Winchester’s most popular annual events, eagerly anticipated by residents and visitors alike – Heritage Open Days, the annual opportunity to visit the district’s most interesting buildings for FREE, with over 30 special openings, tours and events around the district.

Between Thursday 11 and Sunday 14 September, a host of properties will open up to welcome visitors; from favourites - like Winchester Cathedral - to the more unusual – such as ‘hard hat’ tours of Greek revival house, Northington Grange – there will be something to appeal to everyone, no matter what age, interest or background. The list this year also includes a chance to view a display of civic silver at the Guildhall, a visit to the Friends of King Alfred bus restoration workshop and a tour of the lovely gardens at Lainston House Hotel.

This year, the open days mark the start of Winchester’s two week build up to the launch of the Cultural Olympiad which goes under the banner ‘Open Up – Lighten Up Winchester’. The Cultural Olympiad is the four year celebration of the best of British arts, culture and heritage leading up to London 2012.

The ‘Open Up – Lighten Up Winchester’ programme continues with five early evenings of extended shopping, entertainment and café culture, bringing the city centre alive at what has traditionally been a very quiet time. Visitors to Winchester may even think they are in continental Europe, as they wander through the High Street and The Square to enjoy a feast of live music, art and craft workshops, dance displays and early evening guided walks. The event culminates on the Friday evening with a lively lantern procession along the High Street. The best news is that most of these activities are also FREE of charge.

Winchester City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Sport, Cllr Patricia Stallard, said:

"Heritage Open Days is the perfect opportunity for residents to rediscover the history on their doorstep and with free entry there really is no excuse not to get out and start exploring. I’m looking forward to the rest of the Open Up - Lighten Up festivities, particularly the lantern procession which is sure to create a really festive finale."

Full details (including pictures and directions) of venues participating in the Heritage Open Days programme are available by following the link from You can also download the programme for the full ‘Open Up - Lighten Up Winchester’ fortnight. Alternatively, call the centre on 01962 840 500 or email

Some tours during the open weekend need to be pre-booked; for example Wolvesey, the residence of the Bishop of Winchester, is offering tours on Saturday only. This fine 17th century building has beautiful gardens and is well worth the visit. Organisers advise a little research on the website to plan the best combination of visits and check for any special booking requirements.