So here it is – our romantic hideaway for the weekend of Summer 2018. Cobbled quiet streets leading to rows of quaint, trellis-covered terraced houses, the lilting birdsong of a blackbird mixing with the solemn bell toll from a nearby church, a garden bathed in bright sun-trapped light. This unusually warm April reminds me of it oh so well… I’m going to encourage you to take a little trip around this city with me and explore slightly further afield into the villages and country walks of West Sussex. You can come along from your armchairs, as that’s as much travelling as we can do right now! Inside this three-storey Georgian period house in Chichester is a red leather armchair where I curled up every morning to sip my coffee over that glorious weekend in May – when thoughts of COVID-19 were very far away…
Welcome to the historic city of Chichester in rural West Sussex, England – the perfect spot for anyone who dabbles in secondhand bookshop hunting, ancient cathedral wandering, afternoon tea-sipping and dipping their toes in the good ol’ seaside even if the temperature is slightly brrrrisk – we are in England after all! Chichester was founded by the Romans all the way back in the 1st century and thus has many historic monuments that visitors can explore. The city itself, for example, is surrounded by a wall circuit nearly 1.5 miles long, built by the Romans in the 3rd century to protect the city from attacks from the coast (Chichester is very close to the sea, as we shall see later on in this guide). Chichester is also West Sussex’s county town and the only city in the county with a cathedral. Chichester today holds true to its heritage as a medieval market town – at the centre of the town is a buttercross called the Chichester Cross.
This stunning monument is more elaborate than most buttercrosses – the name originating from the fact buttercrosses stood at the centre of market towns where people from neighbouring towns would buy dairy products and eggs. But where is the best place to settle down, unpack your bags and explore all of this from? Well, I’ll show you…
I really recommend checking out AirBnB to find somewhere beautiful and quaint to stay. We found this gorgeous Listed Georgian House in Chichester which was just perfect for us. It even had a piano with loads of 1940s sheet music stored in the stool so we spent our first afternoon singing old classics such as ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and felt very grateful to have a host who shared our love of music! But I think the best thing about it was the garden – it was like a little Alice in Wonderland alcove with shady bowers, a garden shed with model ships lining the windowsills and a table and chairs placed strategically to catch the most of the suns rays…
When you’re on a budget (as we were), finding a little place that has a spot outside where you can enjoy a home-cooked meal or sip your coffee at breakfast is essential as it means you can have the most beautiful setting and not have to spend loads of money eating out. This is what we did and I really recommend it. It also means you feel a little bit more like a ‘local’ and can wander into town to do your shopping.
With regards to location, Chichester is quite a quiet town in general – it’s certainly not London where you choose your spot based on the likelihood that you’re not going to get woken up by sirens screeching at 3 AM! Our house was located just on the outskirts of the main city walls but because Chichester town centre isn’t massive it was easy walking distance to get everywhere we needed to go. I really recommend our romantic getaway spot for any couples looking for somewhere beautiful to stay! Here are a few more pictures:
Eat and Drink…
There are many pretty spots to grab a bite to eat in Chichester. For Breakfast, we chose Charlie Harper’s Cafe Brasserie, located at 5 Eastgate Square and open from 7.45 AM – 4 PM Monday-Saturday and 9 AM – 3 PM Sundays. This is the best place in Chichester to come for a Full English Breakfast and it is perfect for anyone searching for a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free menu too, which is why I picked it (along with the reviews, which are all fantastic).
For Lunch, we treated ourselves to another traditional British cuisine – Afternoon Tea and Cake at The Chichester Harbour Hotel and Spa –served from 12 PM – 4 PM, Monday-Friday and 2 PM – 4 PM Saturday-Sunday. We went for the Champagne Afternoon Tea with cream teas, scones, and a selection of cakes and finger sandwiches, all served in the very smart airy setting of this restored Grade-II listed period building with views of Chichester’s stunning cathedral. I highly recommend booking ahead to reserve your spot!
Dinner was a pub meal. Pubs are such a staple on our getaway guides – we love to plan our day around them and turn up with comfortingly aching legs from all our exploring, ready for a glass of something cold and refreshing and a hearty feast. For this meal, we chose The Park Tavern for its proximity to Chichester’s beautiful sprawling Priory Park and its cricket grounds. We took our pre-dinner drinks outside into the warm late afternoon sun with the locals to listen to the dull thwack of cricket balls hitting bats and watch the men in their cricket whites playing on the dusty green pitch. For dinner, we had a Sunday roast as this was the day our trip fell on so we were very lucky, but the pub also offers a simple gastro menu featuring burgers piled high and bar snacks.
And now! What to do to tire yourself out long enough to really enjoy all of these tasty meals?! Let’s find out where to…
Chichester Cathedral & Gardens
Chichester Cathedral is a very important central architectural place in the city’s history, dating back to the 12th century, and well worth a visit. My partner was particularly excited to come here as he loves the British poet Philip Larkin and one of his most famous poem’s, ‘An Arundel Tomb’, is inspired by a real tomb that you can see inside the cathedral. I think it is a really touching sculpture.
The cathedral also has its own gardens which are absolutely stunning and very peaceful. They are called Bishop’s Palace Gardens and can be found to the rear of the cathedral through an archway on Canon Lane.
You can also have a quick rest stop and bite to eat at either The Cloisters Cafe, located adjacent to the cathedral within its cloisters or the beautiful ancient building of The Buttery at the Crypt just down the road on South Street. My mother used to take my sister and I here regularly, catching the train at the weekend from our little home village of Pulborough and riding along towards the South Downs until the cathedral peaked into view. Later on, when I was at boarding school, I used to come to the cathedral to play my violin with the school Chamber Orchestra, and I have fond memories of my grandparents attending those concerts and sitting in the very front row to wave and clap…
The Novium Museum
If you’re looking for a museum to visit in Chichester I highly recommend The Novium Museum on Tower Street. This is the city’s local history museum and displays artefacts and history of the area over the past 500,000 years! This is a relatively new museum, finished in 2011, and it has a really interesting story. The remains of a Roman bathhouse dating back to 1st century AD were uncovered during an excavation in 1974 but could not be explored or put on display, as archaeologists and locals battled to see off a multi-storey development that would see the ruins lost forever. Eventually, a temporary car park was built over the top of them and the archaeologists covered the remains in sand to preserve them. Finally, in 2010, work began on the museum that would display them fully on the ground floor and protect them for generations to come. You can visit the remains of the Roman bathhouse and many other facets of Chichester history here.
One of the most attractive things about Chichester is that it really offers so many independent shops and art galleries. I try to only buy from small businesses when I visit somewhere new as I think it gives the local economy a boost and I like chatting to the owners. So here is a brief list of the best indie shopping spots in Chichester…
Perfect for diving into a treasure trove of literature spanning subject areas such as ‘Sussex’, ‘Railways’, and ‘Local Folklore’. You could spend hours browsing in this quiet rambling shop and we did! My partner bought me this and it is fascinating:
I love finding independent jewellery shops in market towns and I always look for ones that are budget-friendly rather than selling loads of fine jewellery that I could never afford. Ebony Jewellers is housed in a really olde Englishe building on South Street leading to the centre of town. You can browse everything on their website here.
Chichester is just buzzing with local talented artists who take inspiration from the historic surroundings, stunning countryside and the seaside that envelops Chichester and many are proudly displayed in several privately owned galleries dotted around the city itself. With this in mind, the art galleries that I would recommend most seeing are:
These four galleries are close enough to the city centre that you don’t have to travel too far and the walk to get to each of them is very pleasant. You can purchase smaller artworks and sculptures by local artists if you’re not on the hunt for something larger (and more expensive). I will never forget my mother bought the most beautiful carved sculpture of a naked woman in copper at an art gallery in Chichester when I was very young. It was one of the most prized possessions in our little cottage in Pulborough until one day my chicken Jesse, who was more of a house pet really, jumped through the living room window and knocked it off the window sill! She was in the dog house that day or should I say chicken coop!
Walk The City Walls
This is probably one of the things I look forward to most when visiting Chichester. As the walls circle the city and have been incredibly well looked after since they were built by the Romans in the 3rd century AD, they offer several beautiful viewpoints over Chichester. The walls are preserved by the Chichester Walls Trust, who also offer Guided Walks for those looking to learn a little more about their history.
Canoe Down Chichester Canal
The Chichester Ship Canal is a leisure canal that runs for 4 miles and connects Chichester to the sea. You can walk along the canal path if you would rather stay on dry land, but you can also rowboat, canoe, and take a narrowboat trip along its waterway.
The cruise trips for me are particularly special and I can’t recommend them enough. This is because they offer themed seasonal events along with the cruise itself, such as Easter Bunny Boat Trips and Father Christmas Boat Trips. My Nana and Grandad used to take my sister, mother and I on the Father Christmas Boat Trip almost every year and it was exhilarating getting onto the boat in the freezing winter with a flask of hot chocolate made by my Nana knowing that we were about to meet Santa Claus and tell him all our wishes in his bright red and white suit!
Take Your Lunch (And Bathing Suit) To The Beach
The beach closest to Chichester is West Wittering, located outside of the city itself about a half an hour bus ride away. The bus departs from the city centre at bus stop ‘Cathedral (Stop P)’ and runs every 20 minutes so it’s perfect as a day jaunt if the weather is beautiful, which it was for us. I recommend taking a packed lunch with you including sandwiches and pastries. We stopped off at a little sandwich deli called Spires Bakery & Coffee Shop at 3A Crane Street – it was really, really yummy and satisfying eating our little lunch on the beach with hardly anyone around and then whipping off our shoes and socks and going for a paddle in the sea!
Take A Train Ride To A Nearby Village
The great thing about Chichester is that it is located on a train line that includes stops off at some of the most beautiful (in my opinion) towns and villages in southern England. We decided on two towns to visit – Arundel and Pulborough. If you are ever at a loss for what to do in Chichester and fancy a short train ride to explore further afield these two picturesque locations will delight. Both deserve a whole other article on their own, but I will share with you some pictures of the walk my partner and I did on Pulborough Brooks and the pub we visited afterwards as this might give you a little inspiration for your next trip! Enjoy!
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed our little trip!
In Love&Light, MM XOXO