So you’re considering a vacation in West Sussex and - as if that wasn’t enough - you’re looking at Chichester of all places. You really have our attention. We here at Plum Guide applaud bold moves. To reward you, we've put our expert heads together to list a few entertaining things to do in Chichester that might prevent your vacation from being a total disaster. For our non-Brit readers who have no idea what Chichester is or how they even ended up on this article, Chichester is a pocket-size town about 80 miles away from London that is famous for once having been inhabited by Romans. Which, unsurprisingly, was probably also the last time a foreigner set foot on this enchanting small town.
Visit Chichester Cathedral
Chichester Cathedral, England, UK
One of the reasons we chose Sussex as one of our new holiday destinations is because it's full of cute little towns. But did you know that, in the UK, having a cathedral makes a town a city? (OK, turns out that's not technically true, but still a fun half-fact). Anyway, as far as things to do in Chichester go, you can't miss Chichester Cathedral, the city's one and only main attraction. Chichester Cathedral features an amalgam of Gothic and Norman Romanesque architecture and actually houses a rather impressive art collection. Medieval works hang right next to contemporary masterpieces by John Piper, Philip Jackson, Marc Chagall and others, telling the tale of the 900-year old Cathedral to those that are attentive enough to listen. Chichester Cathedral also houses various events like lectures, exhibitions and concerts. Make sure to check the Cathedral’s website before you visit.
Marvel at Goodwood House
Being the distinguished expert home critics that we are here at Plum Guide, we can’t help but recommend a visit to Goodwood House. The seat of the Dukes of Richmond was built at the dawn of the 17th century, and was expanded in the following century by English superstar architects of the time like James Wyatt. The impressive estate houses a vast array of art including paintings, tapestries, fine porcelain and exquisite furniture that really bring out the chic in Chichester. Goodwood House remains a private residence but it opens up for guided tours from March to October.
Walk along the Chichester city walls
This one goes out to all of you who decided to take a spontaneous vacation instead of staying at home and staring at a wall. What better way to spice things up than staring at some ancient Roman city walls instead? Originally built to fortify the town of Noviomagus Reginorum (and you thought Chichester sounds funny), they constitute the most well-preserved Roman wall circuit in southern England, making for an excellent opportunity to take a mile-long walk around the city centre. Pick up a leaflet from Novium museum and you’ll be able to explore the ancient walls yourself. How exciting.
Take a trip to Novium Museum
If you actually follow through and do reach Novium Museum for a leaflet, consider spending some time here. The award-winning museum that stands on Chichester’s ancient Roman baths is home to thousands of amazing artefacts, ranging from mosaics and coins to sculptures and statues. The museum is split into three floors, with the first one occupied by remains of the Roman Baths where you can watch a video of how they were built, or enjoy a cup of coffee while you ponder what a steamy room full of ancient Romans would look like.
Visit Weald & Downland Living Museum
Set within the lush South Downs National Park, the Weald & Downland living museum is a vast outdoor museum that spans 40 acres and encompasses more than 50 traditional rural buildings. The whole museum is a representation of everyday life in England over a period of 1000 years, from the Anglo-Saxon to the Edwardian times. Here you can escape the stress and hardships of the modern lifestyle by trying your hand at weaving, farming, milling, blacksmithing and Tudor cooking, all while being careful not to be trampled by a Percheron horse or pecked by a wild goose. Makes you wish you were born in the old times.
Watch a play at Chichester Festival Theatre
If all that hard work at the watermills and farms suddenly made you yearn for some good old fashioned indoors entertainment, then Chichester Festival Theatre is your safest bet. This world-class venue is one of the most famous theatres in the UK and the cornerstone of the Chichester Festival that takes place from April to November. The grand playhouse, whose first artistic director was Laurence Olivier, provides a stage for all kinds of plays and musicals as well as intriguing side events, workshops and talks at its studio theatre Minerva.
Stroll around West Dean Gardens
West Dean House Gardens, Chichester, England | Image courtesy of Wiki Commons
Rounding off our list of things to do in Chichester, we have West Dean Gardens. If you’re looking for a place without any ancient Roman remains and plaques with complicated names and dates, head for the great outdoors and the West Dean Gardens at South Downs. Here you’ll find a superb garden complex with a huge Edwardian pergola, an arboretum, century-old cedars and chestnuts as well as modern fibreglass trees and a serene restaurant. If you’re planning for a longer staycation in Chichester, you can also take a short course at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. Acquaint your inner gardener to your inner artists and hone your practical gardening skills, learn all about garden photography, or draw garden landscapes on canvas.