There’s nothing quite like it. Walking through slightly misty or drizzly dark Winchester streets, past historical buildings and pushing open the door to a a cosy pub with a raging fire. An evening of good booze and good company holed up in cosy nooks is quintessentially a British thing to do. The following pubs are our favourites to meet up with friends, read a paper, eat some hearty grub, play a board game and share a pint or two for those of your visiting our city.
If you are visiting Winchester, you have to walk around this part of town near Kingsgate. The Wykeham sits on the corner of Canon Street. Literally my favourite street in the city – we lived here for two years and I never had enough of just how magical it is to walk down. Wykeham is a great pub. I love the interesting decor, the roaring fire as you walk in, usually a good selection of dogs to pat and a nice restaurant attached to get some food. I also love the motto for Bishop of Wykeham (who founded Winchester College in 1382) ‘ Manners Makyth Man’ Sit at the bar, grab a table and warm your cockles here feeling like you’ve just stepped out of an episode of The Crown (which incidentally has filmed here).
This has become a weekly destination for What’s Up Winchester and here’s the reasons why. It’s a proper local for local people. You will see people come in and greet each other. The landlady and landlord are lovely folk. Dogs are welcome and I mean properly welcome. You will probably see Jim the landlord and ladies dog who spends his time taking rubbish to the bar counter in exchange for biscuits – don’t expect him to hang around for pats though. I have met so many good doggos here. It’s got really interesting music nights on. We went here on Christmas Eve once and there was this incredible sing along around a table. In the basement you might find a sea shanty group practicing or ukulele group. I also love this place as you can bring your own food. Just pay the £1 surcharge per head. That’ll be me with the Dominos. And finally – great beer and wine. Oh and a fire. I just love this place.
Controversial name aside, this place rocks. We no longer live this side of town, but we do make the journey along the River Itchen for this cosy and eclectic venue. When I say the decor is eclectic, it really is. When you visit see if you can find the jaguar above the bar, or fake eyeball ceiling. This place also has an amazing open fireplace to cozy up to. Table football in the back for your competitive types. Plus an epic gin bar. I mean I’ve drunk a lot of types of gin in my life, but I still find something new. Great selection of local beers and French wines too. Good simple fresh pub grub available too with a decent roast on a Sunday. Nothing too fancy (go to their sister company The Black Rat if you want Michelin star). But visit, walk around and find yourself a nook to make yourself comfortable. Oh and look up!
The most central pub of the list, The Eclipse is hard to miss. Dating back to 1540, the outside of this pub screams Tudor Winchester. Though I have always enjoyed this traditional pub, recent changes in management have made it more welcoming inside. It’s cosy, great fire and has a resident ghost! Dame Alice haunts the upstairs (which you can now sit in) as she spent her last night in September 1685 before stepping out of the upstairs window onto a scaffold to have her head removed. This story, and the slightly crooked stairs and corridors on the way to the ladies all add to the atmosphere of this place. I’ve never eaten here but heard they’ve added Pieminster pies to their offerings.
St James Tavern
Another one not in the centre, but a great cosy pub with a great selection of beers. A real strength of this put is the excellent food selection with regular special nights making it a proper mid week bargain. I can recommend both burger and pie nights! I like to pop in when I walk around the Great Hall or up to the Military barracks – an under visited spot in the city in my opinion. The Tavern also team up with University of Winchester for Tavern Talks once a month – hear from an academic in the Arts department. Well worth a walk up the hill here.