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We rate the ancient city of Salisbury – one of our favorite parts of Britain – as number four on the list of top tourist destinations in Britain.

Salisbury is easy to get to from London, is in the center of an area full of fascinating sights and experiences, and has a compact town center to explore with some lovely old buildings.

We highly recommend you make Salisbury a part of your next visit to Britain.

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Salisbury - England's Overlooked Gem

Salisbury's beautiful cathedral dates back to 1220 and has the tallest spire of any cathedral in England.

Although Salisbury's most notable feature, it is far from the only reason to visit this lovely town and region.

Part 1 of a 4 part series - click for Parts  One  Two  Three  Four



Salisbury, in Wiltshire, is a lovely town, and is suitable both as a day tour excursion from London and/or as a location to spend several nights in, while sightseeing around the town and surrounding area.

Salisbury - Not Well Known to Many Visitors

Strangely, Salisbury has been inexplicably and unjustly neglected by many Americans and the travel writers they rely upon.  Rick Steves, for example, ignores it entirely in his British book.  And so, to correct this oversight, here’s all you need to know about this lovely city.

Facts and Figures

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Founded in 1227
Population 40,000
Location 85 miles Southwest of London
Close to Cotswolds, Bath, Portsmouth, Southampton, West Country
Train Service :  Every half hour from Waterloo. Journey takes 80 – 90 minutes.

Tourist Information :  Fish Row (just behind the main Market Square). [p] (01722)334-956 Open Mon-Sat, and Sundays also in May-Sept

Where to Stay :  Grasmere House, The White Hart, The Red Lion, Milton Hall
Where Not to Stay :  The Cathedral Hotel
Where to Eat :  La Luna (Italian), LXIX (modern), Old Mill (outdoor), Milford Hall and Grasmere Hotel restaurants
Where Not to Eat :  Haunch of Venison
What to Do/See :  Cathedral, Town Center, Old Mill, Museums


Salisbury itself can be experienced in a single day train trip from London, but there is so much to see and do around Salisbury that you’ll probably want to spend a couple of nights or longer, and perhaps hire a car to explore around the area.

Salisbury, on the banks of the River Avon, is best known for its proximity to Stonehenge and for its glorious cathedral. The building of the cathedral also marked the founding of the ‘modern’ town of Salisbury; prior to that time most people lived a couple of miles north at Old Sarum, a settlement dating back to Iron Age times (open daily, English Heritage). Nowadays there is little remaining at Old Sarum, but some of its stone was taken to Salisbury and used for building the walls of the Cathedral Close.

The main attractions within the town itself include the Cathedral and some of the other buildings in the Cathedral’s Close.

There are three main attractions within the Close. The first is the National Trust’s Mompesson House, a Queen Anne style house built in 1701, and its walled garden (closed on Th and Fr, open between late March and late Oct). Also in the Cathedral Close are two museums – the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, set in an old medieval building known as the King’s House (open Mon-Sat plus Sundays in July and August), and the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment Museum, in a 1254 house that was one of the first buildings erected in the Close (open Tues-Sun in Feb, Mar & Nov, daily Apr-Oct).

The town retains some lovely medieval streets and the 15th century Poultry Cross is worth a visit.

Market days enliven the city center every Tuesday and Saturday. Guided walking tours of the town operate at 11am in the summer and may operate in other months; there are also Cathedral Walks and Ghost Walks – details of current walk schedules are available at the Tourist Info Center.

Itinerary Planning

Salisbury Day Tour

Travel by train between Salisbury and London. Hire a taxi from the station to take you to Stonehenge - ask for a flat rate Stonehenge tour price.  There are also coach tours that pickup from the station, but if you're pressed for time, the taxi tour will be quicker.

Visit the Cathedral area, the Town Square, the Poultry Cross. Stroll through some of the old streets, perhaps visit the Antique Center on Catherine Street. Walk over to the Old Mill and view the Cathedral from the other side of the river, with a view little changed from Constable’s times.

If you're there on a Tuesday or Saturday, you can enjoy the market that is held in (where else) the Market Square in the center of the town.

Walk back to the railway station and return to London.

Salisbury Area Touring

Plan on spending half a day to a day on foot around the town itself.

A one day drive out of Salisbury to the south could include a visit to, Romsey, the church there and Broadlands, the former home of Lord Mountbatten, then through the New Forest and back up to Salisbury.

A one day drive north would include Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Woodhenge, and Avebury, including driving past several White Horses.

A one day drive west could include Wilton House (and/or Longleat), the Fovant Regimental Badges, and Old Wardour Castle.

Salisbury could be a stop on your itinerary either before or after travel to/from the West Country, or London, or Bath, or the Cotswolds.

Salisbury's Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral, seen here in a painting by famous British painter John Constable, is generally considered to be England’s finest medieval cathedral, and is unusual because it was all built at the same time with none of the subsequent additions of most other cathedrals. This gives it a very pleasing unity of appearance. Construction commenced in 1220, with most of the work complete by 1258.  This means that 2008 is being celebrated as the 750th anniversary of this gorgeous building.

It has the tallest spire (404 ft) of all the English cathedrals, with this having been extended subsequent to the Cathedral’s initial construction. The extra 6500 tons of tower and spire have caused the support columns in the church to visibly buckle under the weight.

Notwithstanding this, and some crumbling of the exterior decoration, the church is generally well preserved. It also has an extensive Cloisters and Close, as well as one of the four remaining originals of the Magna Carta (the British equivalent of the US Constitution, signed in 1215), and the oldest working clock in all Europe (built in 1386).

Volunteer guides give free tours regularly every day. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but you are strongly requested to make a ‘voluntary’ donation. Some parts of the cathedral complex do have admission charges – for example, if you wish to climb the 332 steps up to the base of spire.

The cathedral is open daily, but there are some interruptions during formal services every Sunday. A lovely glass-roofed restaurant offering views up to the cathedral spire, and the inevitable gift shop are also onsite.

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Originally published 15 Apr 2003, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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An Introduction to Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
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