Guide to Southampton
Southampton, a port city on the south coast of England is where in 1912, the Titanic cast off from the city’s dock on its ill-fated maiden voyage to New York. The city is still an active port that handles more than 1.5 million passengers a year as well as a thriving university city with an international reputation.
Did you know
1) The Mayflower, the ship that took the first British pilgrims to America, departed from Southampton in August 1620. It had to call in at Plymouth for urgent repairs and didn’t leave for America until 16 September. Both cities now lay claim to the historic voyage.
2) Southampton has one of the oldest city walls, going back to 1914, erected to protect it against attack.
Bargate part of the original city wall.
3) The original fish finger – a fish stick covered in breadcrumbs – was taste-tested in Southampton in the 1950s. People were offered either cod or herring fingers and cod was the clear favourite.
4) Jane Austen lived in Southampton between 1806 and 1809. The Austen family’s house was in Upper Bugle Street a site now occupied by a pub.
5) Southampton was named “fittest city in the UK” in 2006 by Men’s Fitness magazine. The results were based on incidence of heart disease, gym membership and the amount of junk food and alcohol consumed.
6) Southampton development the iconic World War II fighter aircraft the Spitfire. The prototype Spitfire first flew from Southampton Airport in 1936.
7) Craig David, one of the UK’s best-known singers and producers, was born and raised in Southampton. One of his songs, Johnny, was inspired by his memories of being bullied at school.
8) Another famous musician who grew up in the city is Coldplay’s drummer Will Champion. With a personal fortune estimated at £52 million he hasn’t done badly for himself.
9) Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is a professor at the University of Southampton
10) Southampton has one of the busiest ports in the UK and is nicknamed the cruise capital of England
Places to visit
The SeaCity Museum is the place to go to find out about the relationship between Southampton and the doomed liner Titanic. The ties between the port and the giant ship were so tight that more than 5000 Southampton households lost at least one family member when it sank in 1912. The exhibits at SeaCity give visitors a sense of what the city was like at the time and there’s a model of the liner itself showing its incredibly intricate design.
If you’ve seen the movie Dunkirk, you’ll know just how much the British revere the Spitfire. You can get up close to one of these iconic aircraft at the Solent Sky Museum, an institution that also tells the story of Spitfire designer R.J Mitchell. There are more than 20 aircraft on display including a Short Sandringham, one of the giant flying boats that used to transport passengers from Southampton to every corner of the world.
If you love football – and the Premier League in particular – you’ll want to take a tour of Southampton FC’s stadium.
Billed as Southampton’s most important historic building, the Tudor House offers a glimpse of more than 800 years of history. The black-and-white timber framed building was built in the late 15th century and it’s packed with artifacts ranging from a prayer book from 1480 to a Penny Farthing bicycle and a sedan chair used to transport wealthy people around town.
800 year old Tudor House
What and where to eat
Like most British cities Southampton has food to suit every taste and budget. If you want to push the boat out – an English expression that means doing something a bit special - try Quay Fifteen, a fine dining restaurant at the Shamrock Quay marina, where you can eat well whilst admiring some very expensive boats.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to fine dining, try It’s a Pizza Thing. The pizzas are made in a wood-fired oven in a truck parked outside of the South Western Arms pub. Our tip: buy a pizza (or a chocolate calzone) and take it into the pub to enjoy with a pint of local beer.
Most students run on coffee and there is no shortage of good cafes in Southampton. One favourite is The Art House, an organic café at 178 Above Bar Street that doubles as a music venue and an art gallery. It’s a non-profit organisation staffed mainly by volunteers and offers a friendly vibe as well as some seriously good coffee.
Those with a sweet tooth need to visit Sprinkles Gelato, which has two outlets in Southampton. Sprinkles has been serving the city’s best ice cream and handmade desserts since 2012 and there’s a 10 per cent discount for students who produce a student card.
Things to do
Southampton’s connection with the sea runs deep and there are plenty of ways to get in on the action. If you want to try your hand at sailing the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) runs introductory sailing and windsurfing courses at the Southampton Water Activities Centre. If you get a taste for it, you can visit the Southampton Boat Show and day-dream about the boat you’ll buy once you’re rich.
A hard day’s sailing should be topped off with a nice cold beer. Southampton’s big student population means there are plenty of great student pubs ranging from The Hobbit – whose giant beer garden is decorated with Lord of the Rings graffiti – and Talking Heads, a pub and intimate music venue.
Want to keep the party going? The Junk Club bills itself as the South Coast’s home of underground dance music and has won the best small club category at the DJ Mag Awards on several occasions. There are two compact rooms, a high-tech sound system and a roster of DJs playing house, techno and disco.
Where to shop
West Quay is a multi-storey mall that is home to more than 100 shops as well as cafes, restaurants and bars. The up market British department store John Lewis has a big outlet and you’ll also find an Apple Store as well as Brit fashion favourites such as Jack Wills and Russell & Bromley.
If you want something more quirky check out Beatnik Emporium at 202 Above Bar Street. It’s rammed with racks of vintage and retro clothing and the prices are reasonable. Musicians should visit The Guitar Store on Commercial Road. It has a vast range of guitars, amplifiers and effects pedals and a repair service for damaged instruments.