12 Unique & Fun Things to Do in and Around Salisbury, England

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Often seen as a jumping point for visiting Stonehenge, the English city of Salisbury (misleadingly pronounced as Sawls-bree) is a destination that, in my eyes, doesn’t get enough love.

Sure, its name (in the UK at least) is mainly tied to a high-profile poisoning. Abroad, it’s probably most famous for its link to a gravy-soaked steak dish that has nothing to do with the city at all.

But, despite this murky branding crisis, there’s good amount of fun Salisbury activities to keep visitors occupied, from its majestic cathedral and unique medieval core to monuments spanning across thousands of years of history.

So whether you’re in for a pre-Stonehenge visit, or staying a little while longer, read on for a list of some unique things to do in Salisbury that you don’t want to miss. History buffs in particular, you’re in for a treat.

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1. Visit the famous Salisbury Cathedral

The most famous of all the Salisbury attractions is, of course, Salisbury Cathedral.

Constructed between the years 1220 – 1258 it’s regarded as one of the best examples of Early English Gothic architecture and holds many, many records.

Not only does this overachiever have the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom (at 123 metres high), it also has the largest cloister and the largest cathedral close in Britain, as well as one of only four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta.

Not impressed? It also happens to contain the oldest mechanical clock in the world. No biggie.

A visit here is a must if only to gaze in awe at the huge and beautiful building, but you can also join a special Tower Tour to see the interior of the spire.

Plus, official accolades aside, I also found this to be one of the most visitor-friendly cathedrals in England, with volunteer guides in fancy turquoise sashes happy to explain all the little secrets that aren’t included on the info panels.

Lastly, there’s a lovely Refectory Restaurant on site and you can even enjoy your food or drink in the beautiful cloisters.

So, in sum: one of the best things to do in Salisbury is visit the cathedral. Don’t miss it!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: Tickets must be booked online in advance for a timed slot, but purchasing one ticket will get you free re-entries for a year. Photos are only permitted when there is no service going on. 

2. Wander through Cathedral Close

The area directly around Salisbury Cathedral (traditionally called a close because it was usually gated and could be closed off) is also a wonderful part of the city to explore if you want to see the historical side of Salisbury.

In particular, this grassy area is home to a number of excellent museums, as well as being the largest Cathedral Close in Britain. One of the highlights is the Salisbury Museum, where there are displays on Stonehenge, the archaeology of the area and beautiful artworks.

There’s also Mompesson House, an elegant Queen Anne townhouse that you can visit, which was used for filming in the Sense & Sensibility movie starring Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.

And, finally, the Grade II listed former home of Sir Edward Heath (a former UK Prime Minister), Arundells, is also well worth exploring.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: Many of the sites in Cathedral Close have an “off-season” and close during the winter, so be sure to double-check opening times before you visit. 

3. Explore the Old City Centre

One of the most fun things to do in Salisbury is to simply wander around the many streets and explore, particularly in the Old City Centre.

Salisbury advertises itself as a “modern medieval city” and this is most apparent in the area surrounding the main marketplace, where streets are named for their earliest uses (like Butcher Row and Fish Row).

Here, you’ll find an eclectic mix of half-timbered buildings and modern shops which are fun for snooping, shopping, or simply grabbing a photo or two.

4. Enjoy Salisbury Market Place

One of the top things to do in Salisbury on Tuesdays and Saturdays is to visit the local market, but you can enjoy the historic Market Place any day of the week.

The Charter Market is held twice a week and has been running in this location since 1227! Today this is one of the best places to do some shopping, from weekly fresh groceries to clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, flowers, linen and more.

Even if the market isn’t on, the wide marketplace is surrounded by lovely cafés and historic pubs, such as the Ox Row Inn (pictured below). On sunny days it’s particularly nice to sit out on the terrace and people-watch while enjoying some food or drink.

5. Get a Snap of the Poultry Cross

In case it wasn’t apparent, I loves me a good photo opp, and luckily there are plenty of great opportunities for photography if you’re looking for fun free things to do in Salisbury!

Just around the corner from the main market square is the Poultry Cross, a market cross that was constructed in the 14th century and stands on the spot where another local market was located.

There were originally four market crosses in Salisbury, but the Poultry Cross is the only one still standing. On market days some of the stalls spill out and around this cross, plus it’s standing in front of another must-visit Salisbury attraction…

6. Look for ghosts at the Haunch of Venison

Directly behind the Poultry Cross is the Haunch of Venison, a cosy and historic pub that’s also apparently very haunted.

The Haunch of Venison is one of the oldest pubs in Salisbury, the first record of it being used for accommodation was in 1320 when it housed builders working on the cathedral spire.

There have been multiple ghost sightings here and there’s a mummified hand (believed to be from a card player who lost it due to cheating) on display as well!

Aside from the creepy aspects of this pub, it’s also very beautiful inside, with exposed wooden beams and special gravity-fed spirit taps on the bar dating to 1909. Pop in here for a pint or a pub meal and you’ll also be apparently hanging out where Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower planned the D-Day landings in 1944.

7. Discover Fisherton Mill

Fisherton Mill was once a Victorian Grain Mill which has been turned into an interesting collection of businesses to explore, and a visit here is one of the most unique things to do in Salisbury.

There are many independent shops and boutiques to discover in Salisbury, but Fisherton Mill is the crown jewel of the city, with an award-winning café, the largest independent art gallery in the South West region and a number of creative shops to browse.

The Gallery Café is one of the best places to eat in Salisbury, with a menu that changes according to the seasons while also catering to gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan or vegetarian diners. It’s also dog-friendly, so you may spot some cute pups here too!

Afterwards, browse the art on display and shop for jewellery, crafts or homewares by local artists. How dreamy.

8. Walk down Fisherton Street

If you love shopping, or even just a window shop, walking down Fisherton Street is one of the best things to do in Salisbury.

Fisherton Street is the main road between the Salisbury train station and the city centre, so you’ll probably be walking down it if you arrive in the city by train. As well as the fantastic Fisherton Mill, this street is lined with eclectic independent shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants.

Highlights include the adorable Foxtrot vintage clothing store, a stamp shop dating from 1958 called Dauwalder’s and Splash of Colour – a pottery painting café!

9. Visit the Parish Church of St. Thomas Becket

Salisbury Cathedral is the most famous church in Salisbury but you would be missing out if you don’t also visit St. Thomas’s Church, which was reportedly built for the cathedral workmen to worship at during the cathedral’s construction.

The main drawcard of St. Thomas’s Church is the ‘Doom’ painting above the chancel arch, which is the largest and most complete painting of the Last Judgement still surviving in the United Kingdom.

It was painted between 1470 and 1500 but was whitewashed over during the Reformation. It has since been restored and conserved, so many visitors come to see it, as well as the beautiful stained glass windows.

There’s also a very cute secondhand bookstall held in the church on Tuesdays and Saturdays if you want to see the painting and maybe buy some books.

10. See the ruins of Old Sarum

When it comes to cool things to see in Salisbury, you can’t go past some good old-fashioned ruins!

Just north of present-day Salisbury are the ruins of Old Sarum, a settlement dating back to the Iron Age which featured a royal castle and cathedral inside a hill fort.

A new cathedral was built on what became New Sarum and then Salisbury, but you can still explore the remains of the original settlement of Old Sarum.

If you’re interested in ancient human history this is a really fascinating site, where you can learn about how the Romans, Normans and Saxons left their mark, while also enjoying incredible views over Wiltshire.

Photo by Tzenik on Unsplash

11. Admire beautiful Wilton House

Wilton House is a gorgeous manor house with beautiful gardens located on the outskirts of Salisbury and it has to be included on any list of stuff to do in/around Salisbury.

This stunning Grade I listed manor has been the seat of the Earls of Pembroke for more than four hundred years and was originally a medieval abbey before Henry VIII gave it to the first Earl of Pembroke following the dissolution of the monasteries. It has also served as a filming location for many popular movies and TV shows, from Bridgerton to Pride & Prejudice!

Fans of these period pieces will love exploring spots they’ve seen on the screen, but it’s also fun to explore the opulent rooms even if you haven’t seen the film/tv show before. The staterooms are absolutely magnificent while the gardens are just as grand and lovely to wander through in nice weather.

12. Experience Stonehenge

Lastly, of course I have to mention it: one of the most popular activities in Salisbury is to take the short trip out of the city to nearby Stonehenge, one of the most famous sites in England.

No one really knows the purpose of Stonehenge or who built it, but this prehistoric monument is one of the most well-known English landmarks in the world. It’s made up of two rings of vertical standing stones and is thought to perhaps be a burial site. Archaeologists have dated Stonehenge’s construction to between 3000 and 2000 BC.

As well as the standing stones, today visitors to Stonehenge can explore a Neolithic village and an exhibition which includes items discovered in the landscape surrounding Stonehenge.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: Pre-booking is strongly recommended for Stonehenge, and visitors should know that close-up access to the rocks is only possible through a special VIP experience outside normal visitor hours. Otherwise, your visit is restricted only to a pre-set path. Unless coming by car, the easiest way to visit from Salisbury is by booking a tour, as public transport does not go all the way there.

Photo by Jack B on Unsplash

Did I Miss Any of Your Favourite Fun Things to Do in Salisbury?

Let me know in the comments so I can add more Salisbury activities to the list!

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