48 Hours in Chichester, West Sussex

There’s been a plan in my head to go to Chichester since June last year. So the trip has been a year in the making, and I finally made it there this week for a two nights’ stay. It’s not so far away from me – merely an hour and half’s drive (if traffic is good) – but I’ve never had reason to go before and hadn’t thought of it as ‘short break’ destination. But then while I was in Aldeburgh last June, a volunteer in Benjamin Britten’s house who saw me admiring a John Piper painting (the artist was a friend of Britten’s) told me I must go to the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester as they had one of the best collections of Piper paintings. I’ve long admired Piper’s work and saw that the gallery also had some works of Eric Ravilious, another favourite artist, so this was a reason in itself to go sometime. And when I found myself with a bit of a break between my freelance book editing jobs, I decided to treat myself to a little trip.

Why go?

Well, as I said above, the Pallant House Gallery is a good reason to head to Chichester if you enjoy fine art, but there’s plenty more to see and do. Chichester is one of the best preserved Georgian cities in the UK. It’s one of my favourite architectural periods and I loved walking down roads full of beautiful Georgian houses and cottages. There’s good evidence of the Romans in the city too. The pedestrianised city centre is enclosed within ancient Roman walls; many of the roads in this part of the city bear the word ‘wall’ within their name, and there are ‘wall walks’ with steps leading up onto the walls where you get a good view across parts of the city. It was when walking down Lower Walls Walk that I saw a road sign indicating that it led to Keats Way.

A little further on to the end of the road and into East Street – one of the main roads with shops – I saw a statue of the poet Keats. A sign told me that he often visited friends in the city and got into the habit of taking tea with an elderly lady who lived in the Vicar’s Hall in South Street. The crypt below the building is said to have inspired his poem, The Eve of St Agnes.


At the far end of East Street, near the cathedral, stands the 16th century Market Cross.

Initially it was intended to provide traders somewhere covered to sell their goods. You wouldn’t get many traders inside these days but it’s a beautiful building in the main shopping area and my first afternoon we were entertained by an accomplished busker. A market appeared on Friday morning – a farmers’ market was setting up when I wandered down from the hotel. On Saturday and Wednesday mornings there’s another market – but more a traders’ and not just food – in the Cattle Market nearby (but actual cattle were not seen!).

There are a number of green areas including Priory Park, which was very close to my hotel, where you can see the 13th century Guildhall. The park is also a route to the Festival Theatre, which is easily walkable from the city centre, and there is a road with shops as an alternative route of about the same distance.

I didn’t go to Chichester Harbour, which is about 4 miles from the city centre, but it was an important shipping haven in Roman times and is now an outstanding nature reserve. This would make a good excursion if you were staying longer in Chichester than I did, and you could also go a little further to enjoy the sea at West Wittering or Selsey.

How to get there

It’s an easy drive of about an hour and a half from west London down the A3 but you can also go by train from London Victoria (about 1hr 50mins).

Where to stay

I stayed at the East Walls Hotel in the city centre.  A restored Georgian townhouse, it’s a family run hotel and I received a very friendly welcome and although arriving quite early, was let into my room straight away as it was ready. As the name suggests, it was right by the Roman walls and so close to the shops, cafes and cathedral that I could be down to the main road (East Street) in a couple of minutes. It’s great to be so central when you’re only staying somewhere for a short time. There’s no parking but the hotel recommended the Cattle Market car park, less than 5-minutes walk away, which was large so it’s unlikely you wouldn’t find a free space, and costs £7.20 a day.

My room was comfortable. A fan stood ready in case I needed it – it was very hot outside.

There was an en-suite shower room and a minibar (water free but you paid for alcohol) and a kettle with various teabag choices; milk in the minibar.


I’m not a cooked breakfast person so didn’t take advantage of the good choice on offer but a bowl of muesli, yogurt and fresh fruits was made up for me, which was very good.

There was a nice, quiet garden at the back of the hotel and a patio area with chairs and tables for eating breakfast or having a drink outside.


There are other hotels in or near the city centre including a Travel Lodge, a Premier Inn (on the edge of the city) and various B&Bs. My hotel was quite special and fairly expensive but there’s probably somewhere to suit every price range.



The Cathedral

The magnificent 12th century cathedral, built by the Normans, towers over the centre of the city and lies within the heart of its centre. It’s built of Caen stone which is soft and easily erodes so maintenance and restoration is often needed. The spire was rebuilt by the Victorians after it collapsed. The inside is beautiful and tells of its Norman origins. There are many treasures, including some Roman mosaics as well as modern treasures like the artworks of Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Marc Chagall.


There’s a lot of beautiful stained-glass to admire, particularly the beautiful window designed by Marc Chagall (on the right below). The left photo shows Graham Sutherland’s painting. Some famous people, like composer Gustav Holst, are buried there.


If my search for the works of John Piper (1903-1992) had taken me to Chichester, then finding his tapestry in the High Altar of the cathedral was a wonderful surprise. In 1966 the Dean of the cathedral commissioned Piper to produce a tapestry that would enliven the dark area around the high altar. ‘Enliven’ hardly does it justice – this is just the most glorious work of art. The abstract design shows the Holy Trinity flanked by the Elements and the Evangelists.


The Pallant House Gallery

Of course, as I said at the beginning, John Piper had taken me to the Pallant House Gallery. There is an irony that once there, there was only one painting of his on display – a design for a stained-glass window in Coventry Cathedral, which was almost hidden in a narrow stairway. After I’d looked round the gallery and been unable to find a single Piper, I asked a man at reception about them. He searched his database online and told me most were currently in storage but there was one I could see. He came out from the back of the counter and offered to take me. I followed him up a maze of corridors and rooms until we reached it. What kindness that he should take such care to help me. I didn’t find any Eric Ravilious paintings either, so I guess if you’re going there to see the work of a particular artist that’s in their permanent collection, it might be wise to check before you go. The man who helped me said they changed things round quite often!

The gallery has one of the best and most important collections of artworks in UK. It was founded on works left to the city in 1977 by Walter Hussey, a Church of England priest who had a big interest in the arts. There are works by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, John Piper, Graham Sutherland, LS Lowry, Ben Nicolson, Lucien Freud and many other famous artists. Pallant House is a Grade 1 listed Queen Anne townhouse built in 1712 and lies in the centre of the city.

There may have been a shortage of Pipers to look at but an exhibition of Gwen John’s work had recently opened to enthusiastic reviews. I knew only a little of her but was intrigued to learn more.

Gwen John was born in 1876 in Haverfordwest, Wales. The second of four children, her younger brother, Augustus, became a famous artist too. Gwen’s mother died in 1884 when she was just eight and the family moved to Tenby in Pembrokeshire – Landscape at Tenby with Figures is one of the paintings in the exhibition and was made when Gwen was just 20. In 1895 she moved to London to go the Slade School of Fine Art. She went to Paris in 1898 to attend James McNeil Whistler’s school and moved to the city permanently in 1904. She met artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Rodin, eventually becoming a lover of Rodin’s.  A perfectionist, she tended to work slowly and developed a distinctive style of strong, simple forms using soft, pastel colours. A fact that appealed to me was that she loved cats and they appear in many of her works. There was a lovely ‘woman with black cat’ in the exhibition and being a woman with a black cat myself, I’d hope to buy a print or postcard of it at the end, but sadly couldn’t find one.

Gwen John is finally escaping the stereotype assessment of her as a timid, reclusive Welsh artist of plain interiors and frail women. The Spectator, in reviewing this exhibition, talks of her ‘quiet genius’. I really loved her paintings for their quiet calm and strong energy

I found a small art gallery nearby, following a sign that led me just off East Street. It had some nice paintings and craft things and entry is free. Another recommended museum with free entry is the Novium Museum, built over a Roman bath house and tells the history of the city – I didn’t get to that one but it sounds a great place to visit another time.


The Chichester Festival Theatre

Chichester’s prestigious Festival Theatre has become renowned in recent years for outstanding productions. The closest I’ve come to it before was seeing their production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, starring Sir Ian McKellen, that was so successful it moved to London’s West End. There have been other productions there that have appealed to me but it’s too far away to go for just an evening. Of course, once I’d made my plan to visit Chichester, I just had to look at what was playing at the theatre. Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins had just opened. Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021) was one of the world’s leading theatre composer-lyricists. He’s said to have reinvented the musical, melding words and music in a new way. I have to confess I’m not really a fan of musicals, and if I’m going to one prefer something a bit more traditional than Sondheim, but I was in Chichester, the theatre was famous, I should go, I told myself. Well, I remain unconvinced by musicals, but I’m glad I’ve now seen the theatre. It’s impressive inside, similar in size and design to London’s Oliver Theatre at the National, both seating about 1,200 people, and I’ll certainly keep an eye open for future productions and be less hesitant about heading down to Chichester.


The Chichester Peregrines

An unexpected highlight of my trip was viewing peregrines. I’m not a birdwatcher and am really pretty hopeless at identifying birds other than obvious robins, blackbirds and magpies (though there was recently the excitement of the Marsh Harrier when I was in Norfolk). But as I was walking round the cathedral precinct on the first day, looking for the entrance, I spied a tent belonging to the Chichester Peregrines.

I stopped to see if there was something I could buy for the grandsons. I ended up talking to David Shaw. He and his wife Janet have been watching the peregrines since 2001. You can see the glorious peregrines from March to August each year. I was told the current birds had just flown off but told to come back later and I was sure to see them. Meanwhile David – when I told him about this blog – took me to the cathedral’s cafe and introduced me to the manager. After looking round the cathedral I went back to the main road via the tent. My interest was growing – would the birds be there now? They were, and I was shown a brilliant view of them through someone’s enormous telescope. I was slightly amazed at how excited and even moved I was to see them, and the telescope gave such a fantastic close-up view that I was in awe. I joked later to family that I felt as if I’d stumbled into BBC TV’s Springwatch! Back again on my last morning, not long before I planned to head home, the peregrines were there again – an adult and two young ones (but still quite big so teenage peregrines?). I got a great view of the adult and one teenager. I rummaged in my bag for my phone; said I’d try to take a photo but it would likely be very fuzzy. Oh but another of the men there was good at taking photos through the telescope, I was told. By the time he’d been summoned and I’d handed over my phone, the adult had flown off, but a very special photo of the young peregrine was successfully taken and I was delighted. It had all been such a great experience – not just seeing the birds but the enthusiasm and friendliness of the people who watch them. Take a look at their website: click here.




Morning coffee


As I like to stick to a simple breakfast of cereal, fruit and yogurt, a morning coffee and pastry a bit later on is an important part of my eating day. Chichester is full of cafes – all the chains you could name like Costa, Caffe Nero, etc. and many independents. Just down the road from the hotel, I saw Common Grounds. A tiny place and modest looking but once I looked inside, I was confident this was a good place to try out. And it was. I had an excellent coffee and croissant (left in photos below). On my second and final morning, I took a chance on going into Trading Post Coffee Roasters in South Street and again found a very good coffee and pastry. They roast their own beans and when I looked at the menu, they had a great choice for lunchtime, so that’s definitely on my list for anytime I go back to Chichester.


On my one full day after spending the morning at the Pallant House Gallery and eating lunch there, I went back to the cathedral cafe in the afternoon intending to have a pot of tea. A last minute change given how hot it was, I ordered a cold drink instead and took it out to the pretty walled garden and found myself a table in the shade.



Just as there are plenty of places to stop for a coffee, there’s a good choice for lunch. On my first day I went to The Barn which was just a short way down from my hotel. I’d passed it when I went exploring soon after my arrival and thought it looked like just the place I’d get a good light lunch. As it happened it was a disappointment. I went in a bit later than intended given I’d booked a table for supper at 7pm. I wanted a salad – it was so hot outside (and I’m not complaining – I love the summer). The only salad seemed to be their Rainbow Salad Bowl that had so many ingredients, I won’t try to list them all, but basically spiced roasted cauliflower, hummus and lots of other things. The kombucha drink I ordered came quickly, but the food was very slow. It took half an hour to arrive, by which time I was contemplating leaving and just grabbing a sandwich in the M&S Simply Food down the road.

The salad was warm, so no nice light and fresh things for me to eat. Still, it was tasty but I think I’d enjoy it more at a cooler time of year.

The next day, I had a table booked at the Pallant House Gallery Cafe, which I saw had great reviews. It was also, of course, wonderfully convenient to eat there after I’d visited the exhibitions.  I stepped into a cool garden cafe, shaded by parasol trees. When I booked sometime before going, I chose an indoor table as the weather at that time was uncertain. Now, looking around I saw all the tables had ‘Reserved’ signs on them. Oh dear. But all was not lost for a waitress came up to me and asked if I’d like her to see if there was a free outdoor table. And there was!

This auspicious start to lunch was borne out by a fabulous salad. Again I was looking for something light and refreshing. The Halloumi Mezze plate had ‘honey glazed halloumi, beetroot salad, sumac tomatoes, pickled red onion, tzatziki and warm pitta’ (£12). It was fabulous and exactly what I wanted. It was also great to sit in the attractive shaded garden. Definitely a favourite eating place of the trip.



This is as much a food blog as a travel one and so when I’m away, where I eat is an important part of the experience. Thus I spent some time looking up restaurants in Chichester before I went. I wasn’t looking for Michelin starred fancy places, but something a bit different. Chichester offers most of the well-known chains: Brasserie Blanc, The Ivy, Côte, Carluccio’s etc., but it was Reina Kitchen, a Turkish restaurant, that attracted me. Reviews were good and I do like Turkish food, though rarely get the chance to eat it. So I booked a table. I saw the restaurant immediately on leaving the car park when I arrived. I have to say it looked a little rundown and I hoped I’d made a good choice. But from the moment I arrived in the evening, I knew I had.

The welcome was warm and friendly. I was shown a table and asked if I was happy to sit there or would prefer another, but it was fine, so I sat down.

The weather had been hot and sunny all day so a glass of chilled rosé seemed a perfect choice to start. There were many things on the menu I’d happily have chosen but for my starter I went with Patlican Ezme – grilled aubergine, yoghurt, garlic, olive oil & mixed herbs (£5.95). Warm Turkish bread came too and a selection of olives, spicy tomato salsa and some flavoured yoghurt. It was all delicious. The ‘aubergine salad’ reminded me of one I had in Greece years ago, but this one had a slightly smokey flavour – so it was all a bit like Baba Ganoush with added yoghurt.

I chose one of Reina Kitchen’s ‘house specials’ as my main: Iskender – chargrilled lean minced lamb on skewers, served on toasted bread with special tomato sauce, yoghurt and melted butter (£20.95). It wasn’t quite what I’d expected when it arrived and was a huge plate of food, which I couldn’t finish. However, it was very tasty and I enjoyed what I ate, though perhaps might have been happier with a more simple grilled kebab. It came with bulgur on the side and a nice green salad, so I was happy with my meal and the service had been great.

I had tickets for the Chichester Festival Theatre on my second and final night, so it seemed a good plan to eat at their brasserie. There was a set menu of £28 for 2 courses; £35 for 3. It all looked good and it’s nice to eat at a theatre when you don’t have to worry about time. The show started at 7.30 and I booked a table for 5.45 to give myself plenty of time. It was fairly empty as I sat down but soon filled up and was busy.

I ordered a glass of rosé again, chose my food and was ready to relax and take things slowly. However, my chosen starter of Creamy burrata, Nutbourne tomatoes smoked almonds, basil oil, pickled shallots, came almost immediately. I was slightly taken aback and took a few more sips of my wine before settling in. It was all right but I thought the tomato salad had been ‘marinating’ in the dressing for a little while. I contemplated asking that my main dish didn’t come as quickly. When I looked around, everyone was getting served at great speed. My main of Whole plaice, new potatoes, Isle of Wight garlic aioli, shallot, caper and herb butter sauce didn’t come immediately but quite soon. It looked nice but I felt the fish was overcooked – quite soft. I came to the conclusion, although I don’t actually know of course, that the kitchen prepared a lot of the food in advance, more catering style, and that’s how they were serving so many people so quickly. Of course a theatre restaurant presents a challenge as everyone wants to eat at the same time and not be late to the show. But plenty of places manage it better. The meal was okay but serviceable rather than good. I didn’t want any of the desserts on offer and decided to pay and head back into the main theatre (the brasserie is in the smaller Minerva Theatre opposite the Festival one). My meal had been quickly over in about 40 minutes. Not great. But I found a tub of nice ice cream in the main theatre, bought some mint tea in the cafe, and settled down with those until it was time for me to take my seat for the show.


Well, the food experience in Chichester wasn’t perfect, but I liked some of the cafes and the brilliant Pallant House Cafe a lot; Reina Kitchen was good too, even though I might choose a different main course another time. But food aside, the Chichester 48 Hours experience was a good one: a comfortable, friendly hotel in a perfect location; the glorious cathedral; the amazing peregrines; and the brilliant Pallant House Gallery. Chichester is an attractive city that offers a lot and is without doubt a good destination for a short break.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

4 thoughts on “48 Hours in Chichester, West Sussex

  1. Lovely post! You’ve reminded me of our short November break in Chichester last year. Such a friendly town with much to see. Pallant House is the jewel in its crown! I’m so glad you managed to eat in the cafe.

  2. What a wonderful and comprehensive review of Chichester! So much interesting information and I’d certainly be tempted to go. Thanks Kay for such an informative post – a joy to read 🙏

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