Home to Saxon kings in days gone by, whimsical Winchester is known for its historic waterside trails and mighty cathedral. Delve a little deeper, though, and you'll find an up-and-at-it creative crowd of artists, makers and bakers.
Integral to this community is jeweller Suzannah Key. Having moved to Winchester from Devon before the pandemic, Suzannah co-founded Winchester Makers - a town-centre jewellery workshop, creative studio and shop - with the intention of creating a space that celebrated crafts made by local artisans. Now offering silversmithing workshops for those looking to try their hand at jewellery-making in a relaxed environment, Winchester Makers also offers a maker's table for hire, as well as a supported hot-benching facility for up-and-coming jewellers looking to practise their craft.
Read on for Suzannah's round-up of the best places to eat, sleep and shop in this laidback Hampshire hub.
Wonderful Winchester: a local's guide to the city's best independent shops, restaurants and cafés
How did you get into jewellery-making?
I have always had a passion for making things. When I was introduced to jewellery-making at school, I was in love - it immediately became my favourite thing to do. I still love working with ceramics and wood as a hobby, but I've found that working on a smaller scale and with a more functional product suits me better for a career.
What inspires you and your work?
I split my time between my own designs and bespoke commissions. I work really closely with my customers and try to pour as much of their personality into each piece as possible. I welcome getting to know them and their stories. With my own work, I'm inspired by organic forms and tiny geometric details, and I always keep the wearer in mind. My work is comfortable, playful and tactile. I travelled to Sri Lanka recently and brought back a selection of beautiful Ceylon sapphires. I'm currently building a range inspired by these colours.
What's your favourite thing about your profession?
I love the fact that most jewellery is infinitely recyclable. I work a lot with repurposed antique jewellery, and it feels good to waste as little as possible. The industry is certainly moving in the right direction, making it easy for makers like me to work with recycled and responsibly sourced metal, as well as more ethical stones such as lab-grown diamonds.
Where do you go in Winchester for creative inspiration?
I walk every day to clear my head and to think of new ideas. Winchester has so many beautiful walks, many of them through woodland and along riverbanks.
Where should we go jewellery shopping?
My shop, Winchester Makers, of course! Myself and my business partner Joanne Bowles make the jewellery we sell in the shop, so you can pop in and see us or book a consultation to discuss a commission.
What are some of your favourite independent shops in Winchester?
Winchester's independent scene is growing and growing. Lifestyle store The Hambledon always has a beautiful window display, as does furniture shop The Consortium. Both are great for finding unique gifts. I also love Earthian - a brilliant zero-waste refill shop.
Describe the city's vibe in three words…
Easygoing, beautiful and safe.
When's the best time to visit?
Definitely Christmas. Winchester goes big on decorations, and the city feels incredibly festive and twinkly.
Describe a perfect day in Winchester.
One of the best things about Winchester is that you can spend the whole day on foot and still see so much. I would begin my day with a swim in the river, followed by coffee and breakfast at The General Store, my favourite café. You can walk for hours around the city, meandering down side streets and finding shops and historical sites you never knew were there. Winchester has some amazing Nepalese and Indian food, so I would end the day with a curry, either at Ghandi Restaurant or with a takeaway from Shaad Kitchen.
Where should we go for the best brunch in town?
What about coffee on Monday morning?
What's the best day of the week to be in Winchester?
Saturdays can be a bit busy, so I'd recommend arriving on a Thursday. The town will be a little quieter, but all the restaurants will be open late and there's usually a good buzz in the air.
What's the best way to explore the city?
Catch the train here if you can, then continue on foot. The city is really very small.
Are there any local markets you'd recommend?
There's a market every Thursday through Sunday, and it's great for street food. I recommend Marse, whose grain-based Nepalese food is delicious. The first Sunday of every month also sees a craft market for local and visiting artists, which is definitely worth a visit. Tash Fry has a beautiful ceramics stall.
Your favourite local walks?
I love hiking up St Catherine's Hill for mega-views across the city. You'll also catch the last of the sunlight up there.
For some culture, head to…
I wouldn't be a Winchester resident if I didn't mention Winchester Cathedral. You have to visit to really take in its magnitude. Venture down into the crypt to view Antony Gormley's impressive Sound II statue, as well as reading about Jane Austen and the many Anglo-Saxon kings who are buried here.