Surrounded by the Wiltshire countryside, and just an hour-and-a-half southwest of London by train, Salisbury is one of the United Kingdom’s best-preserved medieval cities. Thanks to its compact size, Salisbury’s 13th-century gothic cathedral, Tudor buildings, old-world pubs, water meadows, and even world-famous Stonehenge and Old Sarum, are all easily accessible from the main town square.
Wander the medieval streets around Guildhall Square to explore historic buildings housing cafés and boutiques. Visit St. Thomas’s Church to see its famed Doom Painting, a late 15th-century depiction of Jesus, the apostles and demons.
Back in the square, check out the twice-weekly (Tuesdays and Saturdays) Salisbury Charter Market, which dates back to the 1200s. Browse the 70-plus booths for English fruit wine or grab a traditional homity pie at Henderson’s Artisan Bakery. Take time to admire nearby Poultry Cross and its stone canopy that sheltered 15th-century vendors.
Just off the square is The Haunch of Venison, a 14th-century, Tudor-style pub constructed from the oak of old sailing vessels. Dine on Wiltshire pork belly and black pudding paired with a Summer Lightning pale ale. Don’t leave without seeing the restaurant’s mummified hand, which was chopped off a cheating gambler three centuries ago and preserved with smoke.
Catch the hop-on bus in the city centre for a 20-minute scenic drive to Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn about the neolithic monument at the visitors’ centre, then marvel at the 4,500-year-old bluestones and the Heel Stone, over which the sun rises and sets on the solstices.
Take the bus to Old Sarum, an Iron Age hill fort and site of the original Salisbury settlement. Find a spot for an afternoon picnic before climbing the ramparts to explore the remains of a medieval castle and the stone outline of Salisbury’s original cathedral, which dates to 1092.
Back in the city centre, dine on upscale Indian dishes, such as the honey and orange-glazed chicken curry, at Anokaa. Finish the night at nearby Yoyo with quirky cocktails served in teapots and topped with cookies.
Make your way to Salisbury Cathedral and admire England’s tallest spire, which soars 123 metres into the air. Inside, check out historic tombs, Middle Age graffiti—the circle markings around the pulpit were meant to ward off evil spirits—and the world’s best-preserved copy of the 1215 Magna Carta (charter of rights) document.
Enjoy afternoon tea in the garden at Mompesson House, an 18th-century, Queen Anne-style building used in the 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Nearby, Arundells features a former prime minister’s collection of art and gifts from past world leaders, such as Mao Zedong.
Take a stroll east of the cathedral in Salisbury’s water meadows to see the views immortalized by painter John Constable. Follow the pedestrian Town Path to the Old Mill Hotel, where the patio has views of the River Avon and there’s a rotating menu of burgers cooked in the outdoor charcoal oven.
Two Events to Experience in Salisbury
1. Music in the Park
Starting on July 7 and running every other Sunday until the end of August, this free, afternoon concert series, featuring everything from big band music to jazz, takes place in Queen Elizabeth Park.
2. Cecil Beaton at Wilton Exhibition
Images of the Second World War, along with aristocrats and classic Hollywood stars, by the British photographer are on display until September at the Wilton House, a stunning English country home.