The market town of CHICHESTER began life as a Roman settlement, and its Roman cruciform street plan is still evident. The main streets lead off from the Gothic Market Cross, a bulky octagonal rotunda topped by ornate finials and built in 1501. Chichester's chief attraction is its Gothic Cathedral (daily 7.15am–6/7pm), begun in the 1070s and only minimally modified since about 1300, except for the slender spire and the unique, freestanding fifteenth-century bell tower. The interior is renowned for its contemporary devotional art; the highlight is a pair of exceptional Romanesque stone carvings created around 1140 and showing the raising of Lazarus and Christ at the gate of Bethany.
Two miles west of Chichester, Fishbourne Roman Palace is the largest and best-preserved Roman palace in England (March– July, Sept & Oct daily 10am–5pm; Aug daily 10am–6pm; Nov to mid-Dec & mid-Jan to Feb daily 10am–4pm; mid-Dec to mid-Jan Sat & Sun 10am–4pm; £6.80). The vast, hundred-room palace of a Romanized Celtic aristocrat, its floor mosaics depict Fishbourne's famous dolphin-riding cupid as well as the more usual geometric patterns. The underfloor heating system has also been well restored, and an audiovisual programme portrays the palace as it was in Roman times. The extensive gardens attempt to re-create the appearance of the palace grounds as they would have been then.
Chichester is one of southern England's major cultural centres, well known for its Festival Theatre in Oaklands Park (Tel:01243/784437, Web: www.cft.org.uk ), with a season running roughly between Easter and October. Chichester Festivities (Tel:01243/785718, Web: www.chifest.org.uk ), taking place at a range of venues over two weeks in late June and early July, features music from blues to classical, plus talks.