What to know before travelling to Southampton

Located on the south coast of the UK in the county of Hampshire, Southampton is a friendly and diverse city famed for its long-standing and still thriving maritime heritage. Today it remains one of the world’s largest natural harbours and most important UK ports. Southampton is also recognised as the cultural, retail and commercial capital of the south of England.

Are you thinking of visiting for a staycation or a city break? Here’s everything you need to know before travelling to Southampton.

Is Southampton worth visiting?

When you think of UK city breaks, London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and places like Bath often spring to mind. Southampton isn’t usually high on the list, which is surprising because it has so much to offer, especially if you’re into maritime history! Southampton was where the Mayflower voyage started, taking pilgrims to the New World (now the United States and Canada) and where the Titanic began its tragic maiden voyage in 1912. Ocean Village in Southampton is an absolute must-visit for boat lovers, along with top Southampton museums, including SeaCity. The city also hosts Britain’s biggest boating event, Southampton Boat Show every September in Mayflower Park. But it’s not all about the boats! Here are more reasons why Southampton is worth visiting…

  1. Southampton has a thriving art scene and is home to some of the finest up-and-coming artists in the world. Top arty places to visit in the city include Southampton City Art Gallery, Solent Showcase, John Hansard Gallery and the Art House Gallery and Cafe.
  2. It’s a shoppers’ paradise! Find some of the finest names in retail at Southampton’s biggest shopping centre, WestQuay or visit Ocean Village for luxury boutiques.
  3. Southampton certainly isn’t short of picturesque woodland walks. Southampton Common has over 300 acres of managed woodland right at the heart of the city. It’s the perfect place to walk, jog and escape the hustle and bustle. It’s also a popular venue for community events throughout the year, including fairs, gigs and charity races.
  4. It’s a fantastic base for exploring areas of natural beauty and dramatic coastlines with the New Forest National Park, Isle of Wight and coastal resorts of Bournemouth and Poole close by.
  5. Southampton boasts numerous historical sites. Visit The Bargate, Tudor House and Garden, Holyrood Church and the Titanic Engineers’ Memorial to unearth the city’s fascinating past.

Top attractions in Southampton

The historic coastal town of Southampton has something to offer everyone, with an abundance of attractions, activities, events and experiences for all ages. Here are our top picks of Southampton attractions to visit.

Southampton Mediaeval City Walls

Like York and Chester, Southampton has mediaeval walls that you can walk along to enjoy unique views of the city. The Southampton City Walls were originally separated by 8 gates and supported by an impressive 29 towers! Entry to the wall is free, and it’s possible to do a self-guided one-kilometre walking circuit along the wall from Bargate Street to the Western Esplanade.

Tudor House and Garden

Tudor House and Garden is one of Southampton’s oldest and most important Tudor Buildings, located in St. Michael’s Square in the Old Town. The half-timbered structure was built in the late 15th century as a home for a wealthy merchant family. Today, it is a museum where you can get a unique insight into the lives of its residents through the years, along with Southampton’s vast history, with numerous exhibitions and fascinating displays, including reconstructed kitchens, artefacts and archaeological finds.

Tickets are available to book in advance online, and there is a shop and cafe on the premises.

Titanic Trail

Many of you will know that Southampton has close links with the Titanic. It was the port it voyaged from before sinking after hitting an iceberg on its route to New York.

One of the best ways to learn about Southampton’s connection to the ship is through the city’s Titanic Trail, which takes you to several sites around the city that have been constructed to commemorate the fateful journey and remember those who lost their lives. Pick up a map from the Sea City Museum (where you’ll find more information about The Titanic Story) or download one online to view on your mobile.

SeaCity Museum

Southampton is home to several fascinating museums, including the SeaCity Museum, which pays tribute to the city’s maritime history and heritage. Inside you will find two main exhibitions. The first celebrates the city’s role as the UK’s gateway to the rest of the world and the second exhibition focuses on the city’s connection with the Titanic’s tragic story.

Tickets are available to purchase before your visit online.

Solent Sky Museum

For a fun day of learning, head to the Solent Sky museum and find out about Southampton’s history in aviation. Sit in the cockpit of a Supermarine Swift, study the impressive collection of models and photographs from the golden age of aviation and learn all about the legendary WWII Spitfire, which was designed right here in Southampton.

Is Southampton a good place for families?

While most Southampton attractions we’ve shared are museums, they are all family-friendly, with many offering year-round activities and events to keep young minds engaged.

Southampton is also one of the greenest cities, with several large parks and woodland in the city centre - perfect if the kids need to let off some steam. Be sure to take the kids to cool off at Eling Water Park on a hot summer day. New Forest Wildlife Park and Manor Farm Country Park are also great places to visit near Southampton.

If it’s rainy day activities in Southampton, visit Hollywood Bowl Southampton, Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton and The Quays Swimming and Diving Centre to keep the kids entertained.

And if you’re after a free, family-friendly activity, why not head to Ocean Village and do some boat spotting? The kids will love watching the cruise and cargo ships come and go with an ice cream in hand.

Where to stay in Southampton

If it’s your first time visiting Southampton, it’s best to stay in the centre of town. It’s an excellent base for all the attractions, including the Tudor House and Garden, the Mediaeval City Walls, SeaCity Museum and the Titanic Trail.

Other popular locations to stay in Southampton include Ocean Village - lively, picturesque and close to the docks and Bassett - a quieter residential area popular with students.

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