Designated as the cruise capital of Britain, Southampton is a large dynamic city and an ideal base from which to explore the coastal areas of Hampshire.

Port of Southampton at Night

Due to its extensive natural deepwater harbour, the sea has always dominated the history and heritage of Southampton. The Romans established a fortified port here. The Saxons created an important town and the Normans later fortified it to create the port of Southampton. It is still one of Britain's leading commercial seaports today, serving transatlantic liners, cruise ships, ferries and hovercraft. In fact some of the world's largest and greatest vessels have docked here, including The Queen Mary, the QEII and the ill-fated Titanic.

Southampton was awarded city status in 1964. With its thriving commercial, industrial and university sectors, it has grown greatly in importance since. Although it is without a cathedral, the large 19th-century church of St Mary's (near the city college) provides an excellent stand-in.

Heavily bombed during Second World War, much of the old town was lost to the Luftwaffe. Although, a few medieval buildings still remain, including part of the told own walls and a several fine Tudor and Georgian houses. Jane Austen, once lived in what is now the Old Town area, from 1807 to 1809. A walking trail, which runs through this historic quarter, has been dedicated to her name. The Jane Austen trail and other related leaflets are available from the Visitor Information Point in the main library.

You can discover more about the city’s fascinating history at the SeaCity Museum. Other sites worth visiting are the partial medieval walls, with its towers and gatehouses and the Tudor House.

Southampton has a long and important maritime and aviation heritage. The Mayflower column outside the West Gate commemorates the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed from Southampton in 1620. A sculpture in East Park is dedicated to the crew of the Titanic.

The waterfront was the proving grounds for many of the first flying boats. It was also here that local resident, RJ Mitchell, designed the famous WWII Spitfire, which took its maiden flight from what is now Southampton airport.

The port and docks have expanded over the centuries into a modern passenger and container port. The Royal Pier, once England's largest pleasure pier, is now in constant use for car ferries to the Isle of White and Europe.

The city enjoys a vibrant year-round cultural life, with contemporary civic buildings, theatres, museums and art galleries. At the heart of the city is a splendid shopping venue, with hundreds of popular high street retailers. There are two indoor shopping centres an impressive retail park, several markets and many boutique outlets, that cater for a wide range of tastes. For the more adventurous there are a number of self-guided trails of the city's historic areas and bracing boat trips on the River Solent.

East ParkThe city is blessed with more that 1000 acres of green open spaces, including several award winning parks. It also boasts excellent sports and leisure facilities, including several major sporting venues, leisure centres and swimming pools.

Southampton also plays host to a diverse calendar of festivals and events each year, from large national and international events to smaller community events.

Next Page >> Places to Visit in Southampton

Map of Southampton


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