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Ranking just after the City of London, Wells is the UK's second smallest city. Thanks to the Cathedral, Wells has been a city since Medieval times and is one of only two cities in the county of Somerset.

Wells came top of the UK's tourist destinations for 2024 in a Which? survey and second in The Telegraph's scientific study of the UK's Top Cities, placing it just behind Bath.

The city of Wells take its name from three wells situated in the original settlement area. Those three wells were dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle, the first disciple of Christ. The three wells are situated in the market place and two in the Bishop's Palace and cathedral gardens.

The cathedral in Wells is one of the main draw points to the city, which was built on a former church dedicated to the same St Andrew as the wells. With the original church built in 700 AD, there are remains situated in the cloisters of the cathedral.

Image by Amber Maxwell Boydell

The Vicar's Close in Wells is the oldest residential street in Europe. Originally consisting of 44 houses, the rows were completed in 1412 and built to accommodate chantry priests, who were on duty for services eight times per day. The houses allowed them to move from residences across the city to be near to the cathedral.

The close houses a chapel and library at the North end, with the interior of the chapel decorated with 19th century gesso work by Heywood Sumner. The close itself is 140 metres long, with the width tapered by 3 metres to make it look longer when viewed from the cathedral.

Wells is famous for its markets, held in the town centre twice weekly. A farmer's market is held on Wednesdays, with a general market held on Saturdays selling local produce and goods.

The market place also holds frequent events, including a twice yearly funfair and the annual charity boules (petanque) competition. There is also an annual Christmas market held in Wells at the market place and the nearby Bishop's Palace.

Image by Annie Spratt
Image by Amy W. D

Wells Cathedral was the first English cathedral to be built entirely in the Gothic style. This was a revolutionary idea of architecture brought from France, with 300 Medieval statues featuring on the West Front of the building. The initial building phase began in 1175 and took 80 years, with subsequent additions carried out in the 1300s.

Wells Cathedral clock is famous for its 24-hour astronomical dial and set of jousting knights that perform every quarter-hour. The cathedral has the heaviest ring of ten bells in the world.

The Bishop's Palace and gardens in Wells consist of 14 acres of RHS partner gardens and has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for over 800 years. The medieval palace is surrounded by a moat and situated in the heart of the city, next to Wells cathedral.

The Bishop's Palace houses a moat, ramparts and gatehouse, with views over to Glastonbury Tor. The grounds also have their own chapel, built between 1275 and 1292 for Bishop Burnell, Lord Chancellor under Edward I. The gardens also house two of the wells of Wells, with a series of pools and the ancient Well House built in 1451.

Image by John-Mark Strange

Wells is a fantastic place to visit for the Somerset Illuminated Carnivals Guy Fawkes Carnival Circuit which begins on 5 November each year. Wells is usually the penultimate carnival on the circuit and the only one held in a city.

Somerset's illuminated carnivals feature enormous floats, usually towed through the streets by tractors and featuring teams who have made their own floats and choreographed dances during the several hours of processions in their villages, towns and the city of Wells. Somerset's illuminated carnivals are the biggest of their kind in the world and luxury magazine Conde Nast Traveller named the Somerset carnivals as one of their "must see" worldwide travel activities.

The line "No luck catching those swans then?" from the film Hot Fuzz is very fitting for Wells, where the comedy and action flick was filmed. Wells is famous for its mute swans, who have been trained to ring a bell at the Gatehouse on the moat to be fed.

Wells is a very popular filming location due to the architecture, with the BBC's The Hollow Crown and Poldark using the city for filming. It was also used as a backdrop for The Canterbury Tales, Doctor Who, The Gathering and Jack the Giant Slayer.

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