This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. You can read our full affiliate disclosure here.
Nestled in the heart of southern England, there are so many amazing places to visit in Hampshire. The county offers a diverse array of attractions, rich history, and breathtaking landscapes, making it an ideal destination for visitors. From the picturesque rolling hills of the South Downs to the bustling maritime city of Portsmouth, this charming area has something to suit everyone’s interests and tastes.
Visitors to Hampshire can explore impressive historical sites, such as the ancient city of Winchester, once the capital of England, or the legendary naval heritage of Portsmouth. The county is also home to two idyllic National Parks – the New Forest, and the South Downs – providing an abundance of walking and cycling trails, as well as opportunities to spot amazing wildlife and enjoy the tranquility of nature.
In addition to its history and natural beauty, Hampshire boasts several market towns, stunning coastline, and exciting cultural attractions like Jane Austen’s House Museum and the Mary Rose Museum. No matter what piques your curiosity, Hampshire surely has an experience waiting for you to discover. Come and visit Hampshire and explore with us some of the best places around this beautiful county.
Historic Sites In Hampshire
Winchester Cathedral is a magnificent Gothic structure, situated in the heart of Winchester. The cathedral is famous for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and its association with renowned author Jane Austen, who is buried there.
A visit to Winchester Cathedral offers guided tours, special exhibitions, and various events throughout the year. The guided tour provides interesting insights into its thousand-year-old history, while the beautiful stained-glass windows and medieval carvings leave a lasting impression on visitors.
Located on the outskirts of Portsmouth, Portchester Castle is one of England’s most impressive Roman forts, built in the late 3rd century. The castle offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the Solent.
It has endured a fascinating journey from being a Roman fort to a medieval castle and then an impressive fortress. Exploring the keep, the Norman church, and other parts of the castle is an insightful experience for history and architecture buffs.
Jane Austen’s House
In the picturesque village of Chawton, you will find Jane Austen’s House, where the famous novelist lived for the last eight years of her life. This well-preserved historic house is now a museum dedicated to her life and work.
Here, visitors can see original manuscripts, personal possessions, and the room where she completed some of her most iconic novels. The garden surrounding the house is also a peaceful retreat that allows visitors to experience the surroundings that inspired Austen’s writing.
For a first-hand experience of visiting Jane Austen’s House Museum, read my blog on a place I have now been to multiple times. Yes, it’s a definite favourite!
A short walk away from Jane Austen’s House is Chawton House. This was once the home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, and is now a museum and a study centre dedicated to women’s writing from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
The house features a range of exhibits and displays, including a collection of rare books and manuscripts, as well as portraits and other artefacts related to women’s writing. Visitors can explore the house’s beautiful gardens, which feature a range of plants and flowers, as well as a walled garden, a sunken garden, and a topiary garden. There is also a cafe serving homemade food and drinks.
The house hosts a range of events and activities throughout the year, including talks, workshops, and literary festivals. I have been to several events at the house, my favourites were one at Christmas and the Garden Tour. Check out what’s coming up and book in advance if you don’t want to be disappointed.
Buckler’s Hard is a charming 18th-century shipbuilding village, nestled in the heart of the New Forest National Park. This historic site offers an insight into the area’s maritime history and the importance of the New Forest’s timber in British shipbuilding.
One can even learn about the village’s connection to Charles Dickens, who frequented the village. The nearby Maritime Museum offers fascinating artefacts and exhibits about the history of shipbuilding at Buckler’s Hard, making it a must-visit spot for people interested in maritime history.
Highclere Castle is a stunning country house that dates back to 1679 but was remodelled to its current design in the mid-19th century. The castle is known for its impressive architecture, beautiful gardens, and rich history. It is home to Lord and Lady Carnarvon and the house has played a significant role in British history, serving as a hospital during World War I and housing evacuees during World War II.
Highclere Castle has also gained fame as the primary filming location for the popular television series Downton Abbey. Today, the castle is open to the public for tours and events, allowing visitors to experience the grandeur and elegance of this historic estate.
Mary Rose Museum
The Mary Rose Museum is a popular museum located in Portsmouth. The museum is dedicated to the history and preservation of the Mary Rose, a Tudor warship that sank in the Solent in 1545. The ship was raised from the seabed in 1982, and the museum was opened in 2013 to showcase the ship and its artefacts.
Visitors can explore the museum’s many exhibits, which include the ship itself, as well as over 19,000 artefacts recovered from the wreck, such as weapons, tools, and personal items. The museum features a range of interactive displays, including a replica of the ship’s deck, where visitors can experience life on board the Mary Rose.
National Trust Places to Visit in Hampshire
The Vyne is a 16th-century country house located in Sherborne St. John Hampshire. It was built for Lord Sandys, a courtier of King Henry VIII, and is now owned by the National Trust.
The house features a mix of Tudor and Classical architecture, with a Great Hall, chapel, and gardens. The Vyne also has connections to Jane Austen, who is said to have visited the house and used it as inspiration for her novel “Mansfield Park”. The property is open to visitors and offers guided tours, exhibitions, and events throughout the year.
I have been to The Vyne so many times I have lost count. It is one of my favourite places to visit in Hampshire and definitely worth dropping in there if you are in the area.
Mottisfont Abbey is a historic country house located near Romsey. The house dates back to the 13th century and has been home to several notable families over the centuries. Today, the house is owned by the National Trust and is open to the public for tours and events.
Visitors can explore the house’s stunning architecture and interior design, which includes a medieval priory, a Tudor mansion, and a Georgian facade. The house is also home to a collection of art and artefacts, including works by artists such as Rex Whistler and Graham Sutherland. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens, which feature a range of plants and flowers, as well as a walled garden, a rose garden, and a water garden.
Hinton Ampner is a beautiful country house located in the South Downs National Park, near Alresford. The house was built in the 18th century and was then beautifully restored to its original state after a devastating fire, offering visitors a glimpse into the life of a wealthy family of that era.
The house features stunning Georgian architecture and interior design, including a grand entrance hall, a drawing room, and a dining room. Visitors can explore these rooms and learn about the history of the house and its former residents. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens, which feature a range of plants and flowers, as well as a walled garden, a sunken garden, and a topiary garden.
Museums and Hampshire Heritage
Gilbert White’s House
Gilbert White’s House is a museum and gardens located in the beautiful village of Selborne. The house was the former home of naturalist and author Gilbert White, who is best known for his book “The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne”. The house has been restored to its original state and features exhibits on the life and work of Gilbert White, as well as displays about the natural history of the area.
Visitors can explore the house’s beautiful gardens, which feature a range of plants and flowers, as well as a pond and a vegetable garden. I once had the fortune to experience the amazing sight of swallows swooping over my head as dusk descended on the gardens, it was an afternoon I will never forget.
The museum hosts a range of events and activities throughout the year, such as talks, workshops, and seasonal celebrations. The house also has a cafe that serves absolutely delicious homemade food and cakes!
Museum of Army Flying
The Museum of Army Flying showcases over a century of British Army aviation history. Exhibits include a variety of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, as well as displays exploring the role of the Army Air Corps.
Additionally, visitors can experience interactive displays and simulators, providing an exciting and educational day out for all ages.
Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson
The Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson houses a stunning collection of historic armaments and artillery. The museum is situated within a fully restored Victorian fort, offering a unique and immersive experience for visitors.
Exhibits include displays of cannons, armour, and firearms from across the centuries, with knowledgeable staff on hand to answer any questions.
Hyde Abbey was a medieval Benedictine monastery located in Winchester. The abbey was founded in the 12th century and was the final resting place of King Alfred the Great, as well as several other Anglo-Saxon kings and queens.
The abbey was dissolved during the English Reformation in the 16th century, and its buildings were demolished. Today, the site is a public park, and visitors can still see the ruins of the abbey, including the foundations of the church and cloisters. The site also features a garden and a small museum, where visitors can learn about the history of the abbey and its famous residents. The site is a popular destination for history buffs.
National Motor Museum
The National Motor Museum is a popular museum located in Beaulieu. The museum is home to a vast collection of over 250 historic cars and motorcycles, as well as a range of other vehicles, such as military vehicles, commercial vehicles, and racing cars. The museum features exhibits on the history of motoring, including the development of the automobile and its impact on society and culture.
Visitors can explore the museum’s many attractions, including the World of Top Gear, which features vehicles from the popular television show, and the On Screen Cars exhibit, which showcases famous cars from movies and television shows. The museum also hosts a range of events and activities throughout the year, such as classic car shows, vintage festivals, and family-friendly activities. With its vast collection of historic vehicles and fascinating exhibits, the National Motor Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history of motoring and transport.
Southampton City Art Gallery
Southampton City Art Gallery is a public art gallery located in Southampton. The gallery features a range of artworks from the 14th century to the present day, including paintings, sculptures, and photography. The gallery’s collection includes works by famous artists such as J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, and Auguste Rodin.
Visitors can explore the gallery’s many exhibits, which showcase the history of art in Southampton and the wider region. The gallery also hosts a range of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, featuring contemporary and modern art. Plus this creative hub offers a range of events and activities, including talks, workshops, and guided tours.
Gardens and Parks Around Hampshire
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is a stunning 180-acre garden located near Romse. The gardens were created in the mid-20th century by Sir Harold Hillier, a renowned horticulturist, and feature a wide range of plants and trees from around the world.
The gardens are divided into a series of themed areas, including a winter garden, a rhododendron and azalea garden, a hydrangea walk, and a Mediterranean garden. Visitors can explore the gardens on foot or by taking a ride on the garden’s miniature railway. The gardens also host a range of events throughout the year, such as plant fairs, art exhibitions, and outdoor concerts.
Staunton Country Park
Staunton Country Park is a beautiful 1,000-acre park located in Havant. The park offers a range of outdoor activities and attractions, including a farm, a maze, a walled garden, and a lake. Visitors can explore the park’s extensive walking trails, which wind through picturesque woodland and meadows.
The farm is home to a variety of animals and visitors can watch the daily feeding and handling demonstrations. The walled garden features a range of plants and flowers, as well as a Victorian glasshouse and a butterfly house.
The Banks of the River Itchen
The River Itchen is a beautiful river that flows through the county. The river is approximately 28 miles long and runs from its source near Cheriton, through the city of Winchester, and into the Solent at Southampton. Known for its clear waters, the river is home to a range of fish, including brown trout and grayling.
The river is also surrounded by beautiful countryside, with many walking and cycling routes along its banks. Plus the area is popular with anglers, who come to fish for trout and salmon, and with kayakers and canoeists, who enjoy paddling along the river’s gentle currents.
If you are lucky you can spot a range of wildlife along the banks, including otters, kingfishers, and water voles. When you need a rest, stop off at one of the many country pubs that offer lunch and a pint.
The New Forest
New Forest Wildlife Park
The New Forest Wildlife Park is a fantastic destination for families and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Home to a variety of native and international species, visitors can observe animals such as wolves, otters, and deer in their natural habitats. Informative talks and feeding sessions are held throughout the day, offering a glimpse into the lives of these fascinating creatures.
Exbury Gardens showcases breathtaking horticultural displays throughout its 200 acres. The spectacle of vibrant colours and intricate designs invites guests to explore the gardens further, revealing a serene, meandering river and the charming Rothschild steam railway. This gem in the New Forest is ideal for those with a love for natural beauty and heritage, as well as a perfect setting for a family day out.
The Watercress Line
The Watercress Line, also known as the Mid Hants Railway, is a heritage railway located in Hampshire and is the perfect destination for steam train lovers. The railway runs for 10 miles from Alresford to Alton, passing through the beautiful Hampshire countryside.
The line was originally built in the mid-19th century to transport watercress from Alresford to London, but it was later used for passenger and freight services. Today, the railway is operated by a team of volunteers, and visitors can take a ride on one of the steam or diesel locomotives that run along the line. The railway also features a range of historic stations, including Alresford Station, which has been beautifully restored to its original Victorian state. Visitors can explore the station’s exhibits and displays, which showcase the history of the railway and its impact on the local area. The railway also hosts a range of events and activities throughout the year, such as steam galas, vintage fairs, and Santa Specials.
A Hop Across The Water
Hayling Island is a beautiful and popular holiday destination located off the south coast. The island is known for its stunning beaches, which are popular with families and water sports enthusiasts. The island is also home to a range of attractions, including the Funland Amusement Park, the Hayling Seaside Railway, and the Hayling Island Sailing Club.
Visitors can explore the island’s beautiful countryside and wildlife, which includes a range of birds and other animals. The island also has a range of restaurants, cafes, and bars, serving delicious food and drinks.
Isle Of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a popular holiday destination in the English Channel. The island is known for its stunning beaches, picturesque countryside, and rich history. Visitors can explore the island’s many attractions, including Osborne House, where Queen Victoria spent her Summers, and the medieval fortress Carisbrooke Castle. The island offers many outdoor activities, such as cycling, sailing, and hiking, and a range of festivals and events are held throughout the year, such as the Isle of Wight Festival and Cowes Week.
Hampshire Family Attractions and Activities
Hawk Conservancy Trust
The Hawk Conservancy Trust, located near Andover, is an exciting family attraction in Hampshire. This award-winning centre is home to over 150 birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, and owls. Visitors can enjoy daily flying displays, informative talks, and even have the opportunity to meet some of the birds up close. With interactive exhibits, playgrounds, and a well-stocked gift shop, the Trust offers a great family day out for all ages.
Standing at a towering 170 metres above Portsmouth Harbour, the Spinnaker Tower is an iconic landmark offering breathtaking views across the Solent and beyond. Families can explore interactive displays and discover fascinating facts about the tower and the surrounding area. Daredevils can test their nerve on the glass Sky Walk, while the children’s play area keeps the little ones entertained.
Finkley Down Farm Park
Finkley Down Farm Park is a popular family attraction located in Andover. The park offers a range of activities and experiences for visitors of all ages, including animal feeding, tractor rides, indoor and outdoor play areas, and seasonal events. Children can interact with a variety of farm animals, including pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, and rabbits, and learn about their care and feeding. The park also has a cafe serving homemade food and drinks, as well as a gift shop selling souvenirs and toys.
Manor Farm is a living history museum located in Southampton. The farm dates back to the 13th century and has been restored to its original state, offering visitors a glimpse into rural life in the past. The museum features a range of historic buildings, including a farmhouse, a blacksmith’s forge, a dairy, and a granary. Visitors can explore these buildings and learn about the daily lives of the people who lived and worked on the farm.
The museum also has a range of farm animals, including cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens, and visitors can watch the daily animal feeding and handling demonstrations. The farm also hosts seasonal events, such as harvest festivals and Christmas markets, and has a cafe serving homemade food and drinks.
Marwell Wildlife is a popular and award-winning zoo in Winchester. The zoo is home to a range of animals from around the world, including tigers, giraffes, penguins, and meerkats. The zoo is known for its focus on conservation and education, with exhibits and displays that highlight the importance of protecting endangered species and their habitats.
Visitors can explore the zoo’s many attractions, including the Tropical House, the Penguin Cove, and the African Valley. The zoo also hosts a range of events and activities throughout the year, such as animal encounters, feeding sessions, and seasonal celebrations.
Our Pick of Places to Visit in Hampshire
I hope you have enjoyed this round-up of places to visit in Hampshire. As you can see from the photos I have been to quite a few of them and I want to explore many more. Have you decided which one you will head to first? If you want to plan your trips this year, don’t forget to download our free Travel Planner.