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Wonderful Wells, Somerset

Wonderful Wells, Somerset

Wells in Somerset is a beautiful medieval city. It is packed with things to do and see. Wells is only a couple of miles away from my bed and breakfast and it has long held a special place in my heart.

I was fortunate enough to spend over a decade working in Wells, so it is a city I know well. Its size makes it easy to navigate – it lays claim to being England’s smallest city – so you can experience all the city’s delights on foot.

Map of Wells in Somerset

Things to do in Wells Somerset

Wells is a place that offers so much. Historic buildings and incredible architecture aplenty. The city has over 300 listed buildings and a number of ancient monuments. There is also a wide range of independent shops, bars and cafes and an award-winning market (held on Wednesdays and Saturdays). You can watch swans ring a bell to be fed on the moat of the Bishop’s Palace, marvel at the incredible West Front of Wells Cathedral and take a stroll down Vicars’ Close. The close is one of the oldest, inhabited residential streets in Europe! All these delights are within a 5 minute walk of each other.

Swan on the moat at the Bishop's Palace

A swan ringing a bell for food. Pic: Nick James

There is also a museum, lovely park with adventure play area, Cedars Hall (an incredible concert hall) and regular festivals which celebrate food, comedy, art and literature. (October is the prime month for festivals in Wells.)

Cedars Hall

Cedars Hall in Wells

An ambitious mosaic project is underway. Once finished, this walkable map of Wells will be 6 metres in diameter and feature 750,000 hand-cut ceramic tiles! It will depict events and people from the city’s past.

great things to do in wells somerset

In no particular order, these are the best things to see and do in Wells.

1 wells cathedral

The architecture inside and out is breath-taking. Outside you can gaze upon (probably) the oldest clock face in the world and the amazing sculptures that make up the West Front. The astronomical clock inside the cathedral is very unusual. Watch how it ‘chimes’ on the hour below.

A vacant plinth on the West Front has been filled with a piece by Antony Gormley. ‘Doubt’ will reside here for many months. It’s a statue which has certainly divided opinion.

Antony Gormley statue 'Doubt'

The statue by Antony Gormley

The inside of the Cathedral is stunning. When the seating is removed the space feels vast. It is very atmospheric.

Inside Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral. Pic: Nick James

Among the beautiful interior you’ll find scissor arches, stained glass windows and an octagonal chapter house.

Wells Cathedral

Regular concerts are held in Wells Cathedral and some are free. The Christmas carol concerts are spellbinding and always a sell out.

Interesting exhibitions and installations are commonplace.

Wells Cathedral

Festival of the Moon 2021 in Wells Cathedral

On a sunny afternoon you can sit on the Cathedral Green (or if you are a little more ‘mature’, one of the numerous benches) and watch the cathedral take on a golden hue as the sunlight hits it.

In 2019, Simon Jenkins of The Guardian named Wells Cathedral the number one cathedral in the country. In 2022 Which? readers named Wells Best Small UK City for a short break’. No argument here!

Wells Cathedral West Front

2 the bishop’s palace

As the name suggests, this is the home of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Within the 14 acres of gardens (which have been recognised by the R.H.S) you’ll find the springs which gave the city its name. 

Wells in the gardens of the Bishop's Palace

One of the wells in the Bishop’s Palace

In 2020, the palace celebrated its 800 year anniversary!

Stroll back over the drawbridge and you might be lucky enough to see the resident swans ring a bell for food. During the August Bank Holiday the calm waters of the moat are temporarily churned up as teams paddle furiously to battle for honours in the Wells Moat Boat Races. Even the Bishop has been known to take part!

Wells Moat Boat Races

Wells Moat Boat Races

3 VICARs’ CLOSE

This is one of the oldest, continually inhabited streets in Europe. The close has a beautiful symmetry to it and many of the houses are occupied by members of the cathedral choir. You will find it just off the Cathedral Green.

Vicars' Close in Wells Somerset

Vicars’ Close

4 FOOD, DRINK & shopS

The Market Place, just off the Cathedral Green (in the opposite direction to Vicars’ Close) is the venue for a twice weekly market. Alongside independent stalls selling an array of handmade goods is an award-winning Farmers’ Market. This is a ‘foodies’ delight. Fresh fish, pies, fruit, veg and food from different nations. There are usually over 50 different stalls selling their wares on market day.

Support one of the many independent retailers in the high street. These include a great hardware store (where you can still buy individual nails and screws), shoe shops, a butcher, cafes and coffee shops.

great Places to eat in Wells

Whether it’s a takeaway sandwich or a full 3 course blow out, Wells has an eatery to meet your needs. (This list is far from exhaustive.)

The Swan Hotel has indoor and outdoor seating areas. (The area at the front of the hotel has a super view of Wells Cathedral.)

In the same street as the Swan, you’ll find the Thai Dragon and a lovely Italian restaurant called Rugantinos. If modern British or French cuisine is your thing then pop into The Olive Tree.

Just off Sadler Street, you will find The Courtyard Restaurant. This family-run business serves up great grub.

Venture further down Sadler Street and you will reach the cobbled market square. Here, there is the Crown public house and a host of independent cafes.

From the market square you can either venture towards the cathedral and Bishop’s Palace (which both offer seated dining) or head down the High Street. Alongside popular chains such as Fosso Lounge there is a host of independent cafes. Keep your eyes peeled. Some of the side streets have other gems such as The Greek Tavern in Sun Street.

Further down the High Street the road splits and the eateries keep on coming. The Good Earth is great for vegetarians while Burns the Bread offers a great range of sandwiches, pastries and cakes. 

Fancy a decent coffee and a light bite? Alongside several well-known chains there is also the wonderful Strangers with Coffee (opposite St. Cuthbert’s church which is very pretty and sometimes mistaken for the cathedral!).

MORE THINGS TO DO IN WELLS Somerset

Visit Wells in May and you could be laughing. It’s the month in which the Wells Comedy Festival takes place. This festival attracts some big names.

Wells Food Festival

Wells Food Festival attracts a good crowd

And if that wasn’t enough, Wells is also one of the routes for the Somerset Carnivals in November.

Wells carnival

Wells carnival. Pic: Nick James

ENJOY THE COUNTRYSIDE around wells

If you are more of a rambler than a stroller, (or fancy walking off a big lunch) then it’s handy that Wells sits on the side of the Mendip Hills. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Mendip Way walking path takes in 49 miles of beautiful scenery, so Wells could be just one of your stop off points. Hopefully, The Cross at Croscombe will also feature…

Come and experience Wells. It maybe small, but it is perfectly formed and there are so many things to see and do.

Find out more about;

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Historic Wedmore

Porlock Weir

Chew Valley Lake

Magical, mystical Glastonbury

 

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