Welcome to Southampton!
Having been virtually obliterated in the second world war, Southampton, England, has rapidly re-established itself as one of the UK’s most important port cities, and the gateway to southern England. Best known, perhaps, as the port of choice for cruise ships visiting London, the city is, in fact, a thriving University town with much to offer.
By visiting the town of Southampton as a worldwide local, you will see beyond the high street shops and student bars toward the historic port city of Southampton. Here is our guide to getting the most from your time in Southampton.
Where to Begin
One of the oldest buildings in Southampton, the historic Tudor House & Gardens on Bugle Street is a great starting point. From here, a leisurely stroll along Castle Way, enjoying the Southampton weather, will take you past the Medieval Merchant’s House past some of the remaining segments of Southampton’s City Wall, to the ruins of Arundel Tower. Continue straight for another 800 meters, and you will arrive at the excellent new SeaCity Museum, which documents the city’s maritime past and its connections with the Titanic.
Worldwide Local Tip: The area where High Street and West Bargate meet, is not only the heart of Southampton’s shopping district, but it’s also home to one of the historic city gates. Dating back to medieval times, the top floor of Bargate is now home to an excellent visitor’s center, full of useful local information.
Central Southampton, despite being relatively spread out, is best explored on foot. Much of the central area is pedestrianized, offering a welcome escape from the city’s notorious traffic. If you need to take a bus while in Southampton, it is best to ask the driver which kind of ticket is best for your journey. There are several different bus operators in town and no common ticketing policy. If you’re ever confused, the managers at most Southampton hotels should be able to put you to rights.
Worldwide Local Tip: Follow the signed walking trail that guides you along the route of the historic city walls. Many segments of the wall remain, and following the circuit provides an excellent overview of the city. Westgate Street, close to the Tudor House, is an excellent place to start.
For a taste of the modern Southampton, head to the contemporary WestQuay shopping center, located between the old town and cruise terminal. Featuring hundreds of shops, ranging from high street brands to luxury designer labels, the center is billed as one of the best shopping plazas in the south of England. You can also experience the award-winning City Art gallery.
Worldwide Local Tip: Every year in September, Southampton plays host to the International Boat Show. An extravaganza of all things nautical and aquatic, this 10-day show brings in visitors from across the globe to see everything from the latest luxury yachts to stand-up paddleboards and Kayaks.
Southampton Restaurants, Pubs, and More
Thanks to its large student population, Southampton has more than its fair share of eating and drinking establishments. For classic British eats such as Pie & Mash or Burger & Chips, head for a traditional British pub. Those run by national breweries, such as Fullers or Youngs, tend to be the most reliable and can be identified from the swinging pub signs above their front doors. Have a pint and listen to the locals blather on about the merits of the popular Southampton FC.
Naturally, being a seaside town, Southampton is also a brilliant place to try traditional English Fish & Chips. Cod and Haddock are the classic fish used and are best enjoyed sitting by the waterfront, with plenty of salt, malt vinegar, and mushy peas.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you want to let your hair down without breaking the bank, the student enclaves of Portswood and Bevois Hill are home to plenty of no-frills party places that stay open well into the late hours. The drinks are cheap, the music tacky, and the crowd is just there for a good time!
Enjoy Your Stay!
So while, on the face of it, Southampton may offer the casual visitor a little more than a convenient transit point, the worldwide local will discover a city steeped in history and full of culture.