Southampton is immortalized in fictional and historical books as a port for famous ships and cruise liners. Thanks to its tradition of sailing and shipping, visitors to the city are treated to scenic attractions like
Entrance to the City
One of Southampton's most attractive features is the abundance of green open space. If you enter the city on the A33 and travel down The Avenue, which was once a perilous road frequented by highwaymen, you will come to
Continue down The Avenue and you will eventually arrive at the top of town (about 25 minutes walk). Just off the main high street on Commercial Road you will find the
Walk back to the main high street and carry on into the center of town, past the busy shopping precinct, and you will come across the historical Bargate, one of the surviving gateways to the city. Look up when you are walking through and you may see the damage caused by trams, which attempted to pass through the middle until 1949 and sometimes didn't quite make it. Carry on down the high street and you may want to stop off for a drink at
Other places of interest in the lower part of town are the
At the bottom of town you will come to Southampton's waterfront, where there is much to see and do.
Outskirts of Southampton
Just a twenty minute drive from the center of Southampton, or a short train or bus journey, is the
Southampton was once known as the gateway to the world and people have long traveled through the city on the way to distant and exotic locations. But as one of the country's foremost commercial ports, Southampton has a unique cultural heritage and a few treasures of its own to offer.
The 20th century put the town on the map, when the magnificent but ill-fated Titanic sailed from Southampton docks on 10th April 1912. Glamorized on both television and celluloid, most famously in James Cameron's lavish Hollywood blockbuster, the doomed maiden voyage and its victims have long been honored with the city's own monument. Located in East Park, the Titanic Engineer Officers Memorial is a true testament to those who died, particularly to the locals - in one school alone, 140 children lost a father, brother, cousin or uncle.
But not all of Southampton's sea-faring past has been blighted by tragedy. The Mayflower, which proudly bore aloft America's founding Pilgrim Fathers, set sail from here in August 1620. The Mayflower Memorial, outside the Maritime Museum, and Southampton's premier theater The Mayflower commemorate this historic quest.
From Canute to Henry V
It was in Southampton, in 1014, where the Viking Canute defeated Ethelred The Redeless and was pronounced King of England. According to a famous tale, Canute commanded the mighty waves of the Solent to retreat and had an impromptu paddle.
Following the Norman Conquest, Southampton grew prosperous as the main port of transit between Winchester and Normandy. During this time the town walls began to take shape, the remains of which are some of the finest examples in the country. But this is largely due to the fortifications which took place after the devastating raid by the French in 1338. The town became one of the strongest fortresses in the land - its encompassing wall measured up to 30 feet high in places and had no less than 29 towers and seven gates.
In 1415, Henry V left with his troops for France and the Battle of Agincourt. Prior to their departure, however, the King had to deal with a plot for treason. The traitors were tried and executed outside the Bargate, the medieval entrance to the town, and their heads were gruesomely displayed on spikes for the delight of the public.
From the 1700s to the 20th Century
Southampton's seawater hasn't always been the reason behind its popularity. From the 1750s to the 1800s, Southampton enjoyed its heyday as a spa town. People flocked to drink from the mineral springs and enjoy sea-bathing. The original queen of the spa town, Jane Austen, is said to have visited in 1807 and danced the night away at the The Dolphin Hotel, which survives to this day. The patronage of George II's son, Frederick Prince of Wales, who bathed there in 1750, probably did nothing to harm Southampton's reputation either. Sadly the water does not seem to have returned the favor, as he died the following year.
The 20th century was a turbulent time for Southampton. For the first time since 1338 the town was devastated by enemy attack. The German bombers of the Third Reich reduced 630 buildings to rubble and damaged a further 3500. But Southampton was not defeated, for it was from its docks that more than three million troops left for Normandy in the D-Day landings of 1944.
Alternative glories Southampton has since enjoyed include the football team's FA Cup win in 1976, a triumph yet to be repeated, but hopes have been lifted with a new state-of-the-art premiership stadium about to open. A city facelift in general has enhanced a broad spectrum of facilities, including the Quays Swimming and Diving Complex and the country's seventh largest shopping mall – the enormous WestQuay shopping center.
So while travelers pass through Southampton's port on their way to distant cultural capitals, shoppers flock to the High Street, which is actually on the site of an old bull-ring and just around the corner from the site of a Norman Castle, which in its time was host to Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Richard the Lion-Heart, who spent his only Christmas in England there. The parks, popular for picnics and walks, were once the town's arable land and main source of food. Their preservation makes Southampton unique among English towns.
And finally, whilst some visitors may stop to admire the QE2 harbored in Southampton's docks, it could possibly surprise them to know that Southampton is also the home of the fighter plane "Supermarine Spitfire" or "Spitfire" for short designed for use by the RAF in World War II.
Whatever your reason for visiting Southampton, whether you are visiting friends or family, enjoying the Boat Show, negotiating a sale or planning a conference, you will find accommodation that suits all tastes and pockets, ranging from small family run bed and breakfasts to luxury waterfront hotels. And you don't even have to stay in the city.
The larger and more luxurious hotels are located around the town centre and waterfront areas. The five star De Vere Grand Harbour Hotel boasts a quayside location, yet is within walking distance of the town centre shops, art galleries and museums, as well as being close to the Isle of Wight ferry terminal, the docks, Ocean Village and Mayflower Park. For those preferring something a little less grand, the Hotel Ibis just along the road has good quality two star accommodation from just £52.00 per room per night. Hotel chains such as Forte and Novotel are also represented in this area of the city.
The Southampton Park Hotel in Cumberland Place, north of the Civic Centre, is a three star hotel situated opposite one of the Central Parks and is very convenient for the railway station, the Mayflower Theatre and the City Art Gallery. Nearby, in the area known as the Polygon, there are a variety of reasonably priced guest houses, such as Acorn Lodge Guest House and Linden Guest House, both with parking facilities - an asset in any city center location. You have a good choice of places to eat in this popular part of the city and nearby Bedford Place also has a wealth of cafes, bars and restaurants.
Out of Town
For those wishing to stay on the outskirts of town, perhaps near the University, the Common, or the General Hospital, there is a good choice of hotels and guest houses. This area is easily accessible from the airport and the motorway. Areas to look for include Bassett, Highfield, Shirley and Portswood. As well as privately run hotels and guest houses, such as the Nirvana Hotel or the Carmel Guest House, you can also find lodge-type accommodation, particularly convenient for those arriving in the city from the motorway. Try the Granada Travelodge off Junction 12 of the M3.
If you'd rather have the peace and quiet of the countryside, whilst at the same time enjoying good access to Southampton, why not try the Marriott Meon Valley Hotel and Country Club, which is set in acres of countryside and offers opportunities for a round of golf after lunch. You could even stay in a lovely New Forest village hotel, such as the Watersplash at Brockenhurst and maybe have a swim at the end of a long day's sightseeing or watch the ponies, donkeys and other forest wildlife from your bedroom window.
There is plenty of good quality, reasonably priced bed and breakfast accommodation in the New Forest area, in towns and villages such as Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst and Beaulieu. These all have good access to Southampton. Dale Farm House, built in the 18th century and set on the edge of the New Forest, has six rooms and offers a warm welcome at reasonable cost.
If you enjoy your food, perhaps a restaurant with rooms would suit you. Try the Old Well Restaurant at Copythorne.
Apartments and Self-Catering
For those wanting to stay a little longer or perhaps thinking of relocating to the area, fully serviced hotel apartments, such as Pimm's or Town or Country, provide your own space, with the option of self-catering. Self-catering accommodation is also available at Riverside Park, Hamble, which has touring pitches and luxury self-catering lodges.
Of course, not everyone wants to stay in a hotel or guest house and for those who want to spend their nights under canvas or in a motorhome, New Forest camp sites like Holland Parks are ideally located for anyone visiting Southampton. There are ten very well equipped sites in the forest, all within easy reach of Southampton and the local beaches. Call Southampton Tourist Board for information.
Staying in Southampton can cost as much or as little as you want to pay for it. Starting at £16 per person for bed and breakfast accommodation, to over £300 for a suite in a waterfront hotel, there is something to suit everyone.
Whether you decide to stay in or out of town, on the waterfront or in the heart of the city center, in a tent or in a luxury hotel, you will find an excellent choice of accommodation for your visit to Southampton. If you require any assistance in choosing somewhere to stay, Destination Southampton offers a free booking service.
Revolution is not a word readily associated with Southampton, a city more famous for its maritime tradition and the mercurial talents of its football hero, Matthew Le Tissier. But over the past decade a quiet revolution has taken place in Southampton's leisure industry, with the emergence of giant complexes such as WestQuay, Ocean Village, Leisure World, the Marlands Centre and the Bargate Shopping Centre. In their wake they have caused an explosion of new bars, pubs and restaurants, as major chains have moved in to feed and water the hundreds of thousands of visitors flocking to the new centers.
Dining in Diversity
At the heart of Southampton's leisure complexes are restaurants that offer an astonishing variety of choice. In Ocean Village alone, along with a prime waterfront view, you have the choice of Spanish tapas at Los Marinos, French cuisine at Café Sur la Mer and tex-mex at Mustang Sally's, not forgetting traditional English fish and chips at Henry Ramsden's.
This type of diversification can be found across the city. You can take Italian at Piccolo Mondo in Windsor Terrace, sample Mediterranean flavors at the Olive Tree in Oxford Street or grab a pizza at the nearby Pizza Express. Alternatively, you can choose Chinese at Ocean Dragon on Above Bar Street or experience Indian food at restaurants throughout the city, such as Spice of India on Commercial Street.
Pick a Theme
Themed restaurants have taken off in recent years. The Chicago Rock Café on Vincents Walk offers classic hits to enjoy with your steak or burger. Or there is the American themed TGI Friday's on Harbour Parade or the yachting themed Around The World at Town Quay.
If you are just after a coffee and a sandwich, try Café Soleil on the High Street or Del Marco on Above Bar Street. Or if it's a chip butty and a tin of mushy peas you crave, take a walk up Bedford Place, which is crammed with fast food outlets.
The biggest development in the city's bar and pub scene in recent years has been the rise of the pre-club bar. As Southampton's club scene has grown, with clubs such as Ikon & Diva at Leisure World and The Rhino Club in Waterloo Terrace attracting top name DJs, stylish pre-club bars have emerged, offering smart, modern surroundings and a soundtrack of house, garage and funk. These include The Lizard Lounge in Bedford Place and Bar Risa (with comedy club Jongleurs upstairs) and Bar Med on the High Street. Most of these bars have strict dress codes; smart casual dress is compulsory, jeans and trainers are forbidden. The Chain Gang
Many major chains have opened up pubs in the city in the past few years. Yates's now have a Wine Lodge on Above Bar Street and the Firkin brewery have a Ferryman and Firkin on the High Street, next door to one of the Walkabout chains' Australian themed pubs. In addition, the Just So brewery has opened a Tavern in the Town on Above Bar Street and from the JD Wetherspoons chain there is the Giddy Bridge on London Road.
Southampton's gay scene has also expanded in recent years. Popular gay pubs include Smugglers on Bernard Street, The Victoria Inn in St Mary's and Voltz on Above Bar Street. Arguably the best of all is The Edge on Compton Walk.
Despite this explosion of new bars, as a university and college town Southampton still has plenty of long established student institutions. These include Bedfords and The Ostrich in Bedford Place, The Mitre in Portswood and The Hobbit in Bevois Valley.
If you enjoy watching a band as you drink, several pubs in the city offer live entertainment. The best of these are The Brook and Talking Heads on Portswood Road, which have named acts and acoustic/Irish music respectively, and The Joiners Arms in St Mary's Street, which features up and coming bands.
Finally, it is worth remembering that many of Southampton's best pubs can be found in the countryside villages a few miles out of the city centre. For some pleasant scenery with your beer, try the Bishopstoke River Inn just outside Eastleigh, the Old George in Fairoak or the famous Jolly Sailor on the River Hamble.