Southampton is a lively, modern city with a strong connection to the sea. It’s been a major seaport for the UK for centuries and is still known as the cruise ship capital of Europe. Away from the quays, it has plenty of places to shop, eat, and party, as well as a fascinating history to explore. There are even quite a few parks where you can relax and get a breath of fresh air.

    The best of what Southampton has to offer is clustered around the cruise terminals and quays, where the Itchen and Test rivers meet. It may be the oldest part of the city, dating back to around the Norman Conquest of 1066, but it remains the most exciting. We’ve picked out some of the highlights to help direct your exploration, so you can make the most of your time here.

    What are the best things to do in Southampton?



    Explore the Old Town

    • History
    • Photo

    The grand historical Bargate was once the main entrance into the old walled city of Southampton. A smart place to start your exploration, book your hotel near the Southampton Central train station, a short 15-minute walk away. As you head into town from the gate along High Street, you’ll find plenty of cafés where you can get your morning refresher. After that, check out the old city walls and medieval vaults, as well as historical highlights like the medieval St. Michael’s Church.

    Location: High St, Southampton SO14 2DJ, UK


    photo by Pimlico Badger (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Tudor House & Garden

    The history of home life in Southampton

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    During your exploration of Southampton Old Town, you should definitely take the time to stop at the Tudor House. The beautiful, carefully restored property near St. Michael’s Church shows the history of home life in Southampton from the 14th century, though some parts of the house and grounds date from even earlier. The Tudor House contains an extensive collection of interesting household artefacts, including decorated glass panes. The ornamental gardens are fantastic, and you can enjoy the view with a cream tea from the onsite café.

    Location: Bugle St, Southampton SO14 2AD, UK

    Open: Monday - Thursday from 10 am to 3 pm, Saturday - Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (closed on Fridays)

    Phone: +44 (0)23 8083 4242


    photo by Peter Trimming (CC BY 2.0) modified


    SeaCity Museum

    Discover Southampton's long maritime history

    • History

    As one of the UK’s major ports for hundreds of years, Southampton naturally has a long history with the sea and seafaring. The SeaCity Museum has two permanent exhibitions – one’s dedicated to the city’s role as the gateway between the UK and the rest of the world, while the other tells the story of the Titanic and the ill-fated liner’s close association with Southampton. It’s virtually impossible to miss the museum thanks to the massive clock tower on the neighbouring civic centre, which is roughly the same height as the Titanic’s funnels used to be.

    Location: Havelock Rd, Southampton SO14 7FY, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)23 8083 3007


    photo by Hahnchen (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    The Titanic Trail

    See the many memorials to those lost at sea

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Southampton has a very strong connection with the RMS Titanic. Built in Belfast and based in Liverpool, she departed on her maiden passenger cruise from Southampton, with a lot of locals among the crew. Many memorials were built following the sinking, for everyone from the postal workers to the musicians. You can explore much of Southampton by connecting these, as well as period buildings like the local office of the White Star Line and the preferred pub of the doomed crew. The route takes about 1 hour 15 minutes to walk and starts from the Civic Centre, where you can pick up maps and guides.

    Location: Civic Centre, Southampton SO14 7LY, UK


    Southampton Water Activities Centre

    Get in the maritime mood

    • Photo
    • Adventure

    For those who like a bit of action and adventure in their visit, Southampton has a good choice of water sports to choose from. Under the guidance of experienced coaches, you can try your hand at windsurfing, sailing, rowing, and stand-up paddle boarding. While all the equipment you need is provided, it’s worth remembering that the water around the UK is extremely cold in winter.

    Location: Floating Bridge Road, Southampton SO14 3FL, UK

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm (open till 9 pm Tuesday - Thursday from May to September)

    Phone: +44 (0)23 8091 5753



    The heart of the retail hub in Southampton

    • Shoppers

    The Westquay shopping centre spans an incredible 800,000 square feet, containing well over 100 stores. It’s actually split into two connected malls, both just north of Old Town. Westquay North contains large John Lewis and Marks & Spencer department stores while Westquay South is home to a greater choice of restaurants and a cinema. If you've come on a shopping trip, then browse the hotels situated close to the shopping centre. If you can’t find what you want here, there are plenty of other shopping opportunities nearby, including Marlands Shopping Centre and the West Quay Retail Park.

    Location: Harbour Parade, Southampton SO15 1QF, UK

    Open: Monday - Saturday from 9 am from 11 pm, Sunday from 11 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)23 8023 6789


    Ocean Village

    Luxury shopping and dining

    • Shoppers
    • Photo
    • Food
    • Luxury

    Ocean Village is a modern leisure and shopping centre built around a pleasure boat marina. As you’d expect, it has quite a luxurious air, with many high-class restaurants and boutiques to choose from. The area also has two cinemas; one for modern blockbusters while the other shows arthouse and foreign films. Boat trips around the area depart from the marina and the Solent Sky aviation museum is worth checking out.


    photo by Geni (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Oxford Street

    A lot of choice in a compact area

    • Food

    Having been one of the main gateways into the country for centuries, Southampton’s dining scene is understandably eclectic, ranging from modern British bites to flavours from far and wide, including authentic Nepalese, Indian and Korean flavours. Oxford Street (no, not the famous one in London) is an excellent place to start. Only about 850ft in length, it’s all but lined with restaurants and bars, many of them spilling out onto the street. Standouts include The White Star Tavern, The Oxford Brasserie, and Olive Tree. Visit on the first Saturday of every month for the Oxford Street Farmers’ Market, and the chance to try tasty local ingredients.

    Location: Oxford Street, Southampton


    The Mayflower

    Visit one of the largest theatres in the South

    • Nightlife

    Despite being built in 1928, The Mayflower is still among the biggest theatres in the south of England. The auditorium seats well over 1,500 people for West End musicals, plays, dance performances, operas, ballets and comedy shows. As well as the onsite restaurant, there are plenty of places to eat and have a drink nearby, and the theatre is helpfully just a 10-minute walk north of Southampton Central train station.

    Location: 22-26 Commercial Rd, Southampton SO15 1GE, UK

    Open: Monday - Saturday from 11 am to 7.30 pm, Sunday from 1 hour before show

    Phone: +44 (0)23 8071 1811


    Bedford Place

    From chilled-out cocktail lounges to high-energy clubs

    • Nightlife

    On top of being the cruise capital of Europe, Southampton is a university city, so it naturally has a very lively nightlife. The best bars and clubs can be found along and around Bedford Place. Reserve your stay at one of the hotels near Watts Park for a short walk to the bars. Those who want a bit of class aim for Orange Rooms for their swanky cocktail lounge. Nearby Popworld plays retro pop hits while those looking for underground electro-house aim for Junk. The area is packed with hot venues, so just explore and see what takes your fancy.

    Location: Bedford Place, Southampton

    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.

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