Located along England’s South Coast is the historic port city of Southampton. If you board one of the many fine cruise lines, you may stop in this historical port to visit the beautiful Hampshire countryside.
Today, we came for a day trip visit. Every year, Southampton has over 4 million visitors flock to this harbor city in South England. However, I would not consider this city esthetically beautiful, but well worth the visit for its museums and cultural attractions in the old town.
If you are wondering what to do in Southampton, here are some of the things I’d recommend you visit in and around the city:
Tudor House and Garden
The Tudor House is a great place to learn the Tudor history of Southampton, one of the most historic buildings in England. The city has turned the Tudor House and Garden into a lovely museum. The Tudor House was built in the late 15th century. The site offers visitors a unique insight into the lives and times of the residents through the years.
For another dive into the history of Southampton, visit the nearby Merchant’s House that is preserved and furnished in the period, as it would have been in the Middle Ages.
- Admission: Adults £4.75
- Hours: Only Open on Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 – 16:00
The Bargate was constructed in the 12the century, during Norman times, as part of the fortified city wall and was the main entrance to the old town of Southampton. This is a great place to take that Instagram photo!
Southhampton City Walls
From the port entrance, you can walk through the medieval city walls of Southampton surrounding the old town. The walls were built to protect the city from attacks from the sea. Check out the arcades that formed the entrance to warehouses where wine barrels were kept. Take a walk along the top of the walls overlooking the beach, where one could have seen sea bathing in the 18th century.
- Guided Tours: You can take a guided tour starting at Bargate on the weekend. If you want a self-guided walk, stop at The Tudor House and pick up a leaflet.
Standing tall on High Street since 1320 is the iconic Holyrood Church. This church has survived invasions of murderous raids and the bombing of WWII and is a notable landmark in Southampton’s historic old town.
St Michael’s Church
Founded in 1070, St Michael’s Church is Southampton’s oldest building still in use. Inside, you’ll find an abundance of interesting features, including the Norman tower, an unusual black marble front, and a sculpture of St Michael by Josefina de Vasconcellos.
Mayflower Pilgrims’ Memorial
Did you know that the Pilgrims that set sail to North America in 1620 did so from Southampton, not Plymouth? Today, you can find a monument erected in 1913 in memory of the Mayflower voyage.
The Watergate Ruin
After the French Raid in 1338, the Westgate was built. As passengers and sailors set sail on the Mayflower, they passed through the Westgate on their way to America in 1620. The Westgate provided security from the city’s Old Town commercial part.
Titanic Story at SeaCity Museum
One of my favorite museums to visit was SeaCity Museum, offering an insight into the mysterious and fascinating stories of the Titanic.
Although the ship was built in Belfast, the Titanic sailed for its maiden voyage from Southampton in 1912. The majority of the crew on board the vessel was made up of local workers.
Here you get an insight into the ship’s landscape, the passengers, and why this ship sank when it was believed to be “unsinkable.”
There are many interactive exhibits, such as the Disaster room, where the 1930s inquiry into the Titanic’s loss is replayed. An exhibition of Port Out Southampton Home (until June 2017) evokes the romance of the golden age of cruising from the 1920s to the 1950s.
- Hours: Mon-Sun. 10:00 – 17:00
- Admission: Adult £9.50
Shop West Quay
If you like to get in a bit of shopping, visiting the West Quay Shopping Center is one of the best places for name brands and loads of dining options. In addition, the shopping center is a great place to take a break from sightseeing!
Southampton City Art Gallery
Southampton City Art Gallery is an excellent stop to see over 5000 works in eight periods. Most of the collection is British and modern art from the 20th century.
- Hours: Mon. – Fri. 10:00 – 15:00, Sat. 10:00 – 17:00, Closed on Sunday
- Admission: FREE
Hares of Hampshire
Hare of Hampshire is a public art event spread throughout the Hampshire province of England. You will find colorfully decorated Hare sculptures beautifully created by various artists throughout Southampton streets. A local business had to sponsor each Hare. The artist will illustrate the Hare with the sponsor’s type of service or the city’s historical culture.
Solent Sky Museum
Southampton was the home to the first flying boats and where the Spitfire was built. Solent Sky Museum captures the rich aviation history.
- Hours: Tue.-Sat. 10:00 – 17:00, Sun. 12:00 – 17:00, Closed on Monday
- Admission: Adults £10
National Motor Museum
The National Motor Museum in Beaulieu is one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to automobiles. The exhibition includes a collection of original James Bond vehicles and other famous movie cars. Over 250 vehicles are on display, and historical information on the design and make of the cars.
- Hours: Daily 10:00 – 17:00
- Admission: Adult £23.00
Themed Walking Tours
The old city center of Southampton is very compact, so it’s easy to see on foot. You can plan your route or take a guided tour, for example, with See Southampton Walking Tours.
- Times: 10:30 and 13:30
- Cost: Adult £7.00 (children free)
- If you are fascinated with the Titanic, try exploring the Titanic Trail map (pdf)
- Self-Guided Walking Tours can be found here.
Places to Eat
Whether you’re staying in Southampton for a night, a weekend, or longer, you’re sure to be looking for the best places to eat while you’re there. Here are a few options for lunch and dinner:
Southampton is a must-see city along England’s coast, with historical sites, engaging museums to explore, and fun activities on the water.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.