What to do in Chichester

PUBLISHED: 10:38 17 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:38 17 January 2020

Chichester Cathedral

Chichester Cathedral

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The West Sussex town of Chichester has plenty of cultural capital and a fascinating history

Chichester Festival Theatre and Minerva TheatreChichester Festival Theatre and Minerva Theatre

West Sussex's only city is brimful with history, being the proud possessor of Britain's largest Roman home, Fishbourne Palace. Within the city's Roman walls are a number of distinctive landmarks including the market cross, which marks the intersection of the town's four main shopping streets.

Chichester Cathedral, newly divested of scaffolding after having its roof replaced, dominates the city's low-slung skyline. Thanks to Dean Walter Hussey and his patronage of the arts, the cathedral holds much artistic interest including a stained glass window by Chagall and an altarpiece by John Piper. Generally, the town punches well above its weight where the arts are concerned, being also home to Chichester Festival Theatre and Pallant House Gallery as well as a number of excellent museums including the Weald and Downland in nearby Singleton.

Also close by are some of the best beaches in West Sussex, including the sandy stretches at West Wittering. And sporting interests are well catered for, with horse racing and motor sports at Goodwood and sailing in Chichester Harbour.

IN THE MORNING

Pallant House GalleryPallant House Gallery

It may be a little out of town, but we can't ignore the call of those golden sands so start the day with a bracing walk at East Head, where depending on the season you might spot common seals, ringed plovers or skylarks. In summer the roads can be absolutely gridlocked by sunseekers so make the most of the peace and quiet out of season. On the way back to Chichester, call in at Fishbourne Roman Palace for a look at those extraordinary mosaics and a stroll around the recreated Roman gardens.

On arrival in the town centre, make a beeline for the 900-year-old cathedral. Don't miss the Philip Jackson sculpture of a cloaked St Richard which was commissioned to commemorate the millennium. Inside there is so much to see that one of the Monday-Saturday tours is recommended, but highlights include the Arundel Tomb, which inspired Philip Larkin's famous poem, the beautiful copper font, the 12th century Chichester Reliefs and Graham Sutherland's painting Noli Me Tangere.

More art awaits at Pallant House, the city's modern art gallery housed in a historic Queen Anne townhouse and contemporary extension. Here you can see work from 20th century greats such as Barbara Hepworth, Eduardo Paolozzi and Lucian Freud.

AFTERNOON ONWARDS

After lunch, enjoy a stroll around the pedestrianised centre, perhaps calling into the Oxmarket Centre for the Arts and Draper's Yard with its interesting independent shops. It's also well worth popping into the Novium Museum to find out more about Chichester's history. From 20 January a new exhibit will detail the discovery nearby of the Mystery Warrior, or North Bersted Man, 12 years ago. It is arguably the most elaborately equipped warrior grave in Britain and serves to illuminate a critical period in British history, the years immediately preceding the 
Roman invasion.

Next, a bit of fresh air is probably in order and Priory Park, bounded by the city walls, is a lovely area for recreation. It has several points of interest including The Guildhall and the remains of a Norman motte.

A short walk away, Chichester Cinema at New Park is another jewel in the city's cultural crown. Favouring more cerebral celluloid fare than the multiplex down the road, the cinema boasts a varied and interesting programme year-round plus the wildly successful (and Celebration of Sussex Life Award-winning) Chichester International Film Festival every August.

Finally, try to catch a show at the wonderful Chichester Festival Theatre which plays host to highly acclaimed original productions - many of which transfer to the West End or - as in the case of 2017's Caroline, Or Change - Broadway.

DAY ON A PLATE

While the city centre is rather dominated by chains (from Wahaca to Brasserie Blanc), there are more original offerings too. Try Field to Fork on Guildhall Street or Purchases on North Street, both of which serve interesting food and well-priced pre-theatre menus. St Martin's Organic Coffee House off East Street is a quirky little place with a piano and healthy, homemade treats.

Or if you are happy to venture outside of town you will be richly rewarded: Farmer, Butcher, Chef on the Goodwood Estate and The Earl of March in Lavant both come highly recommended.

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