Visiting Southampton - What to See and Do
(Southampton Airport SOU, England)
One of the largest cities on the south coast of England
, a major cruise-liner port and university city. Thanks to repeated and relentless bombings during WWI and WWII, there isn't much left of the historic cityscape. Postwar rebuilding has resulted in wide boulevards, planned parks and modern shopping centres, while the city also offers an excellent location for day trips in this lovely part of England.
While there are a few highlights of historic character in Southampton's central core, most of the older attractions lie on the outskirts. The city's maritime heritage is well-represented, however, through museums like the Southampton Maritime Museum, the SeaCity Museum and God's House Tower.
There is a decent nightlife scene here, with the old Mayflower Theatre hosting everything from West End plays to rock concerts. New shopping complexes such as the West Quay Retail Park are sprucing up the waterfront district, and traditional pubs like the Red Lion maintain a certain atmosphere of Englishness. The waterfront is where the bulk of the good restaurants, bars and entertainment options can be found.
Ten things you must do in Southampton
- The 14th-century stone warehouse that contains the Southampton Maritime Museum is almost as impressive as the collection of seafaring attractions inside. The exhibits trace the timeline of the city as an important port from medieval days right through to the launch of the Titanic. This is a decent museum if you want to learn about the history of the city or enjoy maritime themes.
- Broadlands is one of England's finest examples of mid-Georgian era architecture. The previous home of the infamous Earl of Mountbatten of Burma has just completed a major renovation project, and now offers a great insight into the lives of Hampshire lords.
- The West Quay Retail Park was an important part of the redevelopment plans for the esplanade district. It is a very attractive area, with a pedestrian core lined with dozens of shops, restaurants and bars. Thoughtful landscaping and the usual presence of street performers add to the pleasant atmosphere.
- To get a look at a historic working silk mill, take a trip to the edge of town to the Whitchurch Silk Mill. Located right on the River Test, there is a beautiful setting to enjoy after checking out the workings of the mill. An onsite gift shop sells all manner of silk goods as well.
- Ironically, one of the very few buildings to survive the WWII bombings is the Red Lion pub. It is a beauty of a structure, dating back to the 13th century with classic Tudor style and a cool Henry V Court Room. If there is one place to have a pint in Southampton, it is the Red Lion.
- The historic Mayflower Theatre is the largest in southern England and the most likely place in Southampton to catch a quality show. Opened in 1928, this classic venue hosts music concerts, theatre plays, ballet and comedy shows.
- Southampton's Old Town offers a fun look at medieval England. It is home to a very long stretch of medieval fortified wall. Inside are a wealth of nicely restored Tudor-era houses, a pub or two, and the aptly named Tudor House and Garden. The waterfront is next door, with its scenic Town Quay and Ocean Village.
- Fans of aircraft and aviation may want to stop by the Solent Sky Museum. This venue houses some cool old planes like a Spitfire, and showcases the important role that Southampton played in the rise of the global aviation industry through exhibits and artefacts.
- Close by the Old Town are seven traditional parks that were once the farmland of medieval sharecroppers. In the Victorian era they were transformed into formal parks and today have been wonderfully restored to their former glory. The vast 326-acre / 132-hectare Common is one of the best, being just a short walk from the Old Town and the ideal place for a stroll or a bit of peace and quiet.
- Southampton's newest museum is SeaCity. It showcases the long heritage of seafaring in this city that began as far back as 250,000 years ago. Most of the exhibits are about the modern era, with a major display focusing on the Titanic. This is a modern, state-of-the-art museum that has lots of interesting artefacts and photos of Southampton's maritime history.