Seven highlights of the historical city
A 13th century city steeped in history and tradition, Salisbury is famed for its medieval architecture and the nearby monument of Stonehenge. The amount of fascinating sights and things to do in Salisbury can often become overwhelming, so we've selected some of the city's highlights for you to check out.
No visit to Salisbury would be complete without seeing the nearby mysterious monument of Stonehenge. Whether it was used for pagan sacrifices or as some form of ancient observatory, nobody is sure exactly what it was built for, although most experts agree that it dates back to at least 2000 BC. There are plenty of ways to see this historic site, from expert guides to audio tours. However, for the best Stonehenge experience, book a circle access tour in advance. Whilst most visitors have to stay behind a fence, this tour allows you to walk amongst the stones and truly explore the monument in all its glory.
Two miles north of Salisbury lies Old Sarum, the original site of the town before its relocation in the 13th century. The raised Iron Age hill fort offers excellent views of Salisbury itself, and the spire of the new cathedral can be seen clearly from the ruins of the old one. Old Sarum is also a must see for history enthusiasts — the mound in the centre of the settlement was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 to form the base of a great defensive tower, the foundations of which can still be seen.
This Gothic Cathedral, constructed shortly after the move from Old Sarum, is a building deeply rooted in history; as well as having the oldest working clock in Europe, it also contains one of only four original copies of the Magna Carta. It boasts the largest spire in Britain at 123 metres (404 feet) tall, which visitors can climb up accompanied by a guide who will tell you plenty of interesting facts about the Cathedral. When you are finished with the building itself, take some time to wander the beautiful 80 acre grounds. These tranquil gardens make for a relaxing walk, and are the perfect place to have a quiet family picnic.
Durrington Walls and Woodhenge
Although a hugely impressive monument, the one downside to Stonehenge is that its popularity means the site is practically always filled with crowds and tourists. If you want a quieter day out, then consider visiting the less well known henges at Durrington Walls and Woodhenge. These two monuments consisted of a circular structure, but differed from Stonehenge in that they were filled with wooden posts rather than stones. They also have the added bonus of no admission fees and no fences — tourists are free to walk around the sites as they please.
For a taste of authentic 18th century architecture, there is no better place to visit than Mompesson House in Salisbury. In fact, it is so well preserved in its historic townhouse style that the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility was filmed there. If the impressive building and gardens aren't enough to convince you, the house also contains a huge collection of 18th to 19th century items consisting of over 2,000 pieces of furniture, ornaments and decorations. A small admission fee will allow you to tour the house, gardens, and adjoining gallery, but make sure you check opening times in advance. The house isn't open on Thursday and Fridays, and occasionally closes down completely for renovations.
St Thomas's Church
St Thomas's Church was one of the first buildings constructed when Salisbury relocated from Old Sarum in the 13th century, so it can be found right in the middle of the city. The main attraction of this church is the huge 'Doom' painting above the chancel arch. The largest of its kind in Britain, this traditional medieval painting depicts 'The Last Judgement', and was painted after a successful pilgrimage in 1470. Ironically, the painting is so well preserved because it was whitewashed over in the 16th century due to its controversial subject matter, which led to its discovery in nearly perfect condition in the late 19th century.
Shoppers have been enjoying the wide range of goods on offer in Salisbury's Market Square since its establishment in 1269, and it's still as lively today as it was all those hundreds of years ago. The surrounding roads still retain their original market names based on what was sold there, such as Oatmeal Row and Silver Street. However, the square isn't just an opportunity for a fascinating glimpse into the economy of days gone by. Markets are still held there every Tuesday and Saturday, and the wide variety of surrounding shops and restaurants make for the perfect shopping day out.