The Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium has over 100 interactive science exhibits and the largest standalone planetarium cinema in the UK. The science centre is a fascinating place to visit for everyone with a smidgen of interest in science and the planetarium shows are mind-blowing magnificent. It is a 2-in-1 venue with a shared lobby where visitors can choose to pay for entry to either or pick up a discounted planetarium ticked with a main entry ticket.
Price: £5 – 17.50
Included in the box: “General Entry covers entry to the Hands-on Exhibition, which offers two floors of hands-on exhibits. There are often free events within the exhibition during school holiday periods; check the What’s On guide for information. The admission ticket does not include entry to the planetarium cinema, but it gives you a reduced rate when adding planetarium cinema shows to your visit.”
Comprehensive information about admission prices are on the Centre’s site here.
Paid Extras: There is a cafè, snack bar and shop on-site. On-site parking during school holidays are charged at £7 per car for centre visitors, but free shuttle buses are provided from the local Park & Ride and the Science Centre does refund the parking cost. Limited time free parking is available for planetarium only visitors. Blue badge and Gateway Card holders park for free.
Retailer: Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium:
“Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium is a unique, exciting interactive centre which is an educational charity… The charity was founded in 1985 by like-minded people in business, industry and higher education in response to the local shortage of scientists, engineers and technicians.
From humble beginnings the Science Centre has grown into an important regional hub for informal science learning and a popular visitor attraction for schools and the general public. Winchester Science Centre is self-funded and needs to raise £1.8m per annum to stay open, which is achieves through donations and ticket sales.” Read more on the Centre’s site here.
The Centre has been designed to include as many people as possible. Recommended age is 5+ years. We agree that it isn’t a pre-school attraction unless your child is particularly fascinated by science at a very early age. The large range of exhibits is highly inclusive and interactive.
On the day of our visit, all the interactive exhibitions was fully functional on our arrival at opening time, however, it was a busy half-term day and towards the end of the day a few were no longer in working order despite technicians actively going around and fixing things. It is a small price to pay for the opportunity to get hands-on experience and with over a 100 exhibitions there remained more to do in a day than there was time for.
The science centre and planetarium is geared towards school aged children. There are many children about during the holidays and the centre warns that during term time up to 300 children may be visiting. However, there are also regular adult-only evenings strictly for adults only.
- Target age range: 5+ years
- Target gender: All
- Optimized for ambidextrous use
- Seated and standing interactive features present, also wheelchair accessible
- Optimized for a diverse, wide ranging audience
- Primarily indoor attraction with indoor and outdoor picnic tables and play areas (loose part soft play indoors).
For comprehensive access information, see the Centre’s site here.
Environment & People
Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium offers great value for money. The science centre has much to offer for a full day visit and during school holidays there are additional free events included in the ticket price. Standard planetarium tickets are £5 (£2.80 with main entry) which is an absolute bargain.
Travel season: Year round attraction
Location: Telegraph way, 3 miles east of Winchester, SO21 1HZ. Detailed travel directions here.
On-line booking: Yes (pre-booking recommended)
Check-in/Opening: 10 am during Hampshire term-time, 09:30 am during Hampshire holidays
Check-out/Closing: 4pm weekdays in term-time, 5pm weekends and holidays
Map: PDF map can be found here.
Kitchen & Food
On-site cafè, snack bar and picnic tables inside the main centre. Not accessible without entry to the main exhibition.
A single set of toilets near reception. Separate toilets for boys and girls, as well for as gents and ladies within the main centre as well as accessible toilets on each level.
Coat/bag stands for visitors where items may be left at the owner’s risk.
Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium is an outstanding attraction that bring brings science to life. In the course of our visit, we played wheelchair basketball, completed a circuit board, stepped inside a giant colon to learn about digestion, scanned a (plastic) human brain, learned about recycling and landfills, created a vortex, set a giant Newton’s cradle in motion, experimented in ballistics and buoyancy, learned how a periscope and locks work, measured our jump height and sprint speed and learned there’s a correlation, checked the insulation of different clothing using the thermal imaging camera and much more.
We also paid a visit to the Planetarium to see “We are Stars” and I think the short film probably deserves a review of its own. Breathtakingly beautiful and very well made.
Accessible, informative and highly entertaining, the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium is a must-visit attraction. Highly recommended.
This travel review is based on a visit to the planterium during February 2016. Click to read more about our eco icons and access icons used in this review.
This article was first published on 30 March 2016.