The insider's city guide to where to shop, walk, scoff and hang out.
We’ve discovered Salisbury is kinda the perfect relaxing summer mini-break: stuff to do, cool places to eat & drink, but not so much that you’ll bust a tourist gut. If you’ve not been for a while, it’s come-up somewhat in the funky-eating and drinking stakes.
A tad arty, off-beat and yet not too cool for school, Salisbury is the only city in Wiltshire but it’s a little gem. Toxic nerve agents aside, it’s full of medieval splendour with a cluster of funky independent shops and restaurants and only a few short miles from the Neolithic splendour of Stonehenge, so when you’re done with shopping, eating and drinking you can hot-foot it there and find your inner druid.
For a small city there are plenty of quirky, indie choices. First up, Nole Pizza serves up sourdough pizza to die for, either in town On The Square or out at The Pembroke Arms at Wilton. Fresh ingredients, inventive toppings, expert dough and friendly staff. When pizza’s this good it’s hard to beat.
The new cool kid in town is Wilding. Focus is on the wine, with sharing boards, small plates, burgers and pizzas to soak it up in a super-stylish interior.
Anokaa on Fisherton Street is the place for less run-of-the-mill Indian. Its street food style twice cooked beef vindaloo curry, chardonnay soaked crispy duck breast and Persian spice rub and oven roasted Gooshargh’s organic black leg chicken breast (try saying that after a couple of Tiger beers) will sort you out.
Mexican Tinga is a hit with locals and visitors alike – its crazy-colourful interior screams Friday night quesadillas.
The Old Mill Hotel is a 15th century building with features dating back to 1250. From its early ecclesiastical beginnings, it was transformed in the 16th century to a paper mill and now is a hotel is in the most tranquil location with rushing water, roaring fires and impressive gardens. Saying that, the shopping and tourist district of Salisbury City centre is a mere (and very beautiful) 10 minute walk away through Harnham Meadows. Another favourite (and Muddy Awards Boutique Stay Finalist) is The Pembroke Arms in Wilton with some lovely rooms where trad pub meets Soho House cool.
Salisbury is tiny, so for this read walkable. Easily do-able in a day, you’ll be able to catch the Cathedral (the home of one of four original surviving copies of Magna Carta), the old town and then head out along the River Avon to Old Sarum and back in time for lunch.
If you’re keen on going bespoke, then tailoring a walk around the history is a good bet. The Salisbury City walk highlights the main attractions in the city centre and Cathedral Close. Hear about how the medieval city was created by Bishop Poore from 1220 and how it grew to be one of the wealthiest in the country. See the world famous Doom painting and the store where the Duke of Buckingham’s ghost haunts the Blue Boar Inn. Find out what happened to a cheating card player at the Haunch of Venison pub and the story of John Halle whose grand house is now the oldest cinema foyer in the world.
You can search for wee ghosties on Friday evenings from with Salisbury Ghost Tours; there are some chilling tales of hauntings and gruesome happenings from the City’s past, with witches, wizards, ghosts and the violent death of the Duke of Buckingham just for starters.
Salisbury has a thriving cafe scene and one of our faves is The Yard, a shop and gallery as well as tea rooms – all mis-matched furniture in a revovated warehouse. Another must-try is Muddy 2021 Award winner The Cafe at Fisherton Mill – it’s also won the Observor Food Best Cheap Eats, so it’s not just us. Boston Tea Party is worth a stop, not only because it’s nestled in The Old George Inn, a Grade 1 listed building dating back to the early 1300s which once boasted the likes of William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell and Samuel Pepys amongst its guests. Check out the expert coffee art of resident barista Alex on insta @coffee.by.alex.
Come evening (or lunch? Depends on how you roll, I guess), Craft Bar at The Salisbury Arms is a popular jaunt. Plenty of craft beer and cider (obvs), but also top cocktails, with a cool street food kitchen, it’s a welcoming local – some might say it’s that great ‘back street bar’ you’ve always hoped to stumble across. It’s an independent, young family business, which we always like to hear, and the gourmet burger and cheesemary (rosemary and cheesy) fries are legendary.
There are some cracking indie treasures tucked away if you know where to look, and our enduring favourite is OsoBoutique (another Muddy Award-winner!) on the High Street, with a beautifully curated collection of stylish and affordable jewellery, clothing and accessories. They stock super-cool ranges Uno De 50, Mama B and Two Danes and some unusual jewellery, accessories and even homeware from all corners of the globe.
If your kids will sit still, Salisbury Punting will take you out on the water to escape the busy pavements and see the city as you never could on foot.
Treasure Trails is a great way for kids to see Salisbury – they offer a murder mystery-themed walking trail around the city which’ll keep them busy for an hour or two – then stop for coffee and when you’ve got your energy back, rent bikes from Hayballs and explore the flat traffic-free trails around town.
Our absolute fave is Splash of Colour in Fisherton Street, which will rest your feet and deliver you flat whites while the Mudlets get creative with pottery. A super relaxing, therapeutic and creative place, it is perfect for all ages, and especially for little fingers to go crazy with paint on china. They also run parties for little kids (and big kids. Their hen nights are very popular!), or it’s the perfect place to capture your tiny one’s hand or foot print to treasure forever. During the school holidays Splash of Colour run a programme of workshops with a range of activities from pottery painting projects, mosaics and potter’s wheel.
We love Salisbury Arts Centre for its mix of comedy, cinema and workshops. Worth mentioning too is the Salisbury Playhouse, doing its thing for youth theatre and West End shows on tour as well as producing its own high-quality theatre.
And finally, if you’re looking to sniff out those true indie’s, doing things in their own authentic way, check out micropub Haunch of Venison. The oldest hostelry in Salisbury and certainly the most haunted, The Haunch boasts a former bread oven with a smoke preserved mummified hand inside (no joke. An 18th century whist player lost it in a card game while cheating) and a Horsebox bar with rare gravity-fed spirit taps. The Horsebox was reputedly used by Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower during the planning of D-Day landings in 1944.
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