Southampton has been a settlement since Roman and Saxon times, in Roman times the town was known as Clausentum. The Roman ruins are situated in a suburb called Bitterne Manor. In Saxon times the town was known as Hamwic. Its privileged position on England's south coast made it Britain's premier trading post. The town became walled in the medieval era, and some remnants of these defences remain throughout the city, most notably the Bargate in the middle of the city centre. Southampton was devastated by bombing during the Second World War, meaning that much of the city and its heritage was destroyed. As such the town and its architecture has quite a modern feel to it.
Southampton has grown rapidly in the past 30 years, becoming one of the 20 largest cities in England. The two universities (Solent University and the University of Southampton) mean that there is a large student population.
Southampton has its own international airport, located a short distance outside the city in Eastleigh. It receives flights from elsewhere in the UK, as well as Austria, the Channel Islands, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. Most of these flights are operated by the airline Flybe.
The alternative is to use another nearby airport and travel on to Southampton by rail, car or bus. The most convenient are:
- London Heathrow Airport is the UK's largest airport, and Europe's primary international hub. It is about 60 miles drive from Southampton via the M4 (westbound), M25 (anti-clockwise) and the M3 (southbound). There is a RailAir coach service to Woking station, where mainline trains to Southampton can be boarded.
- London Gatwick Airport is the UK's third largest airport. It is about 80 miles drive from Southampton via the M23 (northbound), M25 (clockwise) and M3 (southbound) motorways. Monday to Saturday there is an hourly direct train service to Southampton from a rail station in the airport terminal complex, taking just under two hours; on Sundays at least one transfer is necessary resulting in travel times between 2 and 2.5 hours.
- Bournemouth Airport is 30 miles west of Southampton along the M27 and A31.
Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Southampton's main station is Southampton Central, on the north-west edge of the city centre. The station has entrances from Blechynden Terrace (north side) and the Western Esplanade (south side), with both providing equal access to concourse and all platforms. From the station, it is a short walk to the city centre, or you can use the free CityLink bus service, which runs every 15–30 minutes during the day and up to about 8pm. The CityLink bus runs from the station via the WestQuay shopping centre to Town Quay, where the catamaran to the Isle of Wight and the ferry to Hythe depart.
South West Trains run regular (at least one an hour) services to Southampton from London Waterloo via Winchester and Basingstoke as well as from Portsmouth and the towns between them along the south coast. Many of these trains continue beyond Southampton to Bournemouth and Weymouth via the New Forest. Megatrain is a new budget ticket option available up to four times a day on South West Trains' services between London and Southampton. If booked some time in advance, tickets can be as cheap as £1 one way, but they are more restricted than the regular tickets, and can only be purchased online via the Megatrain website or by phone.
Local rail connections to nearby towns are described at Three Rivers Rail
Train times can be found on National Rail or by calling 08457 48 49 50 from anywhere in the UK.
Car parking is relatively easy with many pay and display sites in the city centre. There are also a number of car parks free up to two hours, and if you're willing to park a little further out you can find free on-street parking.
During the period of the Boat Show there is a Park and Ride scheme operating from Junction 1 of the M271 motorway with frequent buses to the show entrance.
There is also a Park and Ride for ticket holders to Southampton Football Club matches. This is easily found and well signposted from Junction 8 of the M27. For more information on either of the Park and Ride schemes see National Park and Ride Directory
A free bus service runs every 15 minutes between Southampton Central Station and Town Quay via the city centre.
There are a number of Southampton based taxi companies providing long distance transfers from major airports, towns, bus and rail stations to Southampton. West Quay Cars, Jewels Airport Transfers, Soton Taxi, Southampton Airport Transfer Taxi, Southampton Taxi Co, London Drivers and New Forest Taxi provide online taxi booking facility.
- Taxi Fare
- taxi price Southampton to London - £105. The total journey is 81 miles and will take approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes.
- taxi price Southampton to Heathrow Airport - £85. The total journey is 70 miles and will take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- taxi price Southampton to Gatwick Airport - £110. The total journey is 88 miles and will take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
- taxi price Southampton to Luton Airport - £120. The total journey is 95 miles and will take approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Southampton is a busy port city, and as such has numerous sea links to countries across the world, however the port is mainly used for freight (particularly containers) and cruises. There are no international ferry services (these call in Portsmouth about 20 miles to the east), however regular vehicle and passenger ferries operate to Cowes on the nearby Isle of Wight and the village of Hythe across the water. Southampton is also the port of embarkation for Cunard, offering transatlantic service to New York City on board the Queen Mary 2. Cunard also serves other destinations.
My Journey is a website funded by the Department of Transport as a hub for travel information in and around Southampton.
The Southampton Buses Android app features public transport journey planning across all bus and rail operators in the city.
Southampton City Centre is fairly spread out along a North-South axis, however it is easily possible to walk from the popular Bedford Place student area on the Northern fringe of the central area to the waterfront, much of the route being pedestrianised.
Southampton has a few dedicated cycle routes; they are not particularly well linked but cyclists should not have a problem navigating the city centre. The city centre itself is mostly flat; Hampshire tends to undulate.
Southampton has a good network of bus services, with some principal services operating as often as every ten minutes during the day. Most of the services radiate out from the city centre but there are also some cross-city routes. Some services also extend to settlements outside the city.
Southampton's main station is Southampton Central, on the north-west edge of the city centre. Southampton Central, Southampton Airport Parkway and Eastleigh are all served by regular trains on the South West mainline. Other stations in Southampton receive only less-regular stopping services, these stations are, Redbridge, Millbrook, St Denys, Swaythling, Bitterne, Woolston, Sholing.
- The Bargate - a medieval gatehouse sat slap bang in the middle of the shopping centre. The top floor is now a Heritage Visitor Centre
- The Central Parks - established in the 19th century and listed Grade II on English Heritage's Register of Historic Parks, they benefited in 2001 from a £4.5m Heritage Lottery grant
- The yearly Southampton Boat Show
- Art galleries
- City Art Gallery contains some 3,500 works of art covering six centuries.
- Millais Gallery contains the work of up and coming artists and designers.
- The Bargate Monument Gallery - The Bargate has been refurbished and given a new lease of life as a contemporary art gallery and home to the arts organisation A Space.
- The John Hansard Gallery was created in 1980 at the University of Southampton to combine the University's fine art and special photographic collection. Widely regarded as one of the best places in the country to see contemporary visual art, the gallery also hosts seminars, talks and workshops.
- SeaCity Museum, Havelock Rd. Daily 10am-5pm. Opened in 2012 to replace the old Maritime Museum, SeaCity contains two main galleries: the first telling the history of Southampton through artefacts and interactive displays; the second dedicated to the voyage and sinking of SS Titanic and the Southampton residents who served as crew and passengers. A third space is used for temporary exhibitions, and there is also a cafe and shop. Adult £8.50.
- The Museum of Archaeology. Home to one of the most outstanding archaeology collections in England and traces the history of the city from its origins as a Roman town to the age of empire under Victoria. The building - God's House Tower - is in itself noteworthy as the first purpose-built artillery fortification in England.
- Medieval Merchants House, 58 French Street, SO14 2AT, ☎ +44 2380 221503. One of the earliest surviving merchant's houses in England. It has been restored to its mid-14th century appearance and replica furnishings provide an insight into medieval life. adults £4.00, children £2.40, concessions £3.60.
- Tudor House and Garden, Bugle St. Daily 10am-5pm. Built in 1495 for Sir John Dawtry, the Controller of Customs in Southampton. Adult £4.75.
- Solent Sky (Hall of Aviation), Albert Road South, Southampton, SO14 3FR (near Ocean Village), ☎ +44 2380 635830. Daily 10am-5pm. The museum is dedicated to telling the incredible story of aviation in the Solent area. Exhibits include a Sandringham flying boat (which visitors can enter) and a Spitfire as well as Schneider Trophy racing seaplanes. Adult £6.50.
- Calshot Castle, Calshot Road, Calshot, SO45 1BR (20 miles south of Southampton), ☎ +44 2380 892023. An artillery fort, built by Henry VIII. adults £3.00, children £2.10, concessions £2.10.
- For up to the minute information on what to do in Southampton, visit the city's Events & What's On calendar.
- Visit one of the many Theatres.
- The Mayflower is the largest theatre in southern England, offering blockbusting West End musicals as well as ballet and operatic productions.
- The Nuffield Theatre , based on the university campus, hosts performances from Shakespeare to contemporary drama.
- the Turner Sims Concert Hall is a medium-sized venue owned by the University of Southampton, which sees frequent performances by internationally-renowned classical, jazz and world music artists.
- Southampton Guildhall offers a multipurpose venue, mostly featuring touring comedy and rock acts, but also classical concerts and civic functions.
- Odeon cinema at Leisureworld
- Cineworld Cinema at Ocean Village has a wide choice of films.
- The Harbour Lights Picture House overlooking the Ocean Village Marina, which shows independent and European films.
- See live music at the Brook, the Talking Heads and the Joiners.
- Take a walk on Southampton Common - 326 acres of grass and woodland, including an Urban Wildlife Centre, paddling pool, play area and fishing lake. Very busy during summer months, and a popular afternoon hang out for students.
- Walk the walls - follow the signposted original course of the historic town walls, gatehouses and towers, which are among the most complete in England. Around half of the original one mile circuit still survives, including the famous Bargate.
- Watch a football match - Southampton F.C. of the Barclays Premier League, the top division in England, play at the St Mary's Stadium, which is only a 15 minute walk from the city centre. The derby matches with neighbouring Portsmouth F.C. have plenty of fire.
- Watch a cricket match - Hampshire County Cricket Club play at the Ageas Bowl (formally the Rose Bowl) in West End, on the north-eastern fringes of Southampton. As well as domestic matches, the ground also regularly hosts international fixtures.
- Take a ride on the Hythe Ferry from Town Quay to Hythe Pier, viewing the shipping in the docks.
- There are a large number of sailing schools based in and around Southampton, particularly on The Hamble. Most if not all offer courses based around the Royal Yachting Association's certificates. A start sailing weekend costs in the region of £200 for two nights and two days sailing.
Southampton sells itself as the shopping capital of the South Coast and the West Quay shopping centre does nothing to dispel you of that opinion. John Lewis and Marks And Spencer are the major draws, but there are 97 other shops happy to separate you from your hard-earned cash. An extension to this popular shopping centre will open in 2016 and includes a 10 screen 4k Cinema, up to 20 extra restaurants and a public square.
The Marlands is a smaller shopping centre constructed to a PostModern design in 1991. The rent is lower than West Quay and hence the retailers are less salubrious.Retailers include Route One, CEX and The Disney Store.
For more shopping, Above Bar Street is the main pedestrian thoroughfare joining the shopping centres to each other with even more retailers, large and small. You won't be surprised to find that the same stores as are on most British high streets such as TK Maxx, HMV,Topshop and Primark have made this their home. Above Bar Street is also the home of special shopping events. The German Market runs in December, and the area around the Bargate has the Farmer's Market on the second Saturday of each month.
Immediately to the east through either the independent side streets of Hannover Street or East Street is a large Debenhams department store.
A short walk to the north of Southampton's main city centre are Bedford Place and London Road. By day and night, the bars, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants are a hive of activity.
South East of the city centre, Oxford Street hosts independent boutiques, salons, bars and restaurants and maintains a more historic feel.
There are two main areas for eating out in Southampton; the first is Oxford Street (towards Ocean Village) and the second is around Bedford Place (just North of the city).
Oxford Street has a selection of higher class (and therefore more expensive) restaurants.
- White Star. English/Traditional
- Kutis. Indian
- Pilgrim House. Chinese
- La Regata. If you are looking for sea-side eating with a touch of history. Spanish tapas restaurant situated in a Georgian-style building directly adjoined to the 14th century walls, is a good choice and has views overlooking the historic Harbour House, the ferry terminal and Hythe.
The choice in Bedford Place is rather more varied; ranging from Moroccan and Mexican (Cantina Mexican) at the Southern end of the road through student style curry houses and a Chinese to some late night kebab and chip shops. In terms of value for money the Pride Of India is one of best Indians in the city, but most of the restaurants are good value, if not exactly awe-inspiring taste-wise.
Walking distance from Bedford Place is the area of town that used to be known as Hungry Hill; Commercial Road where the existence of the Mayflower Theatre has meant a thriving trade for various restaurants in pre- and post-theatre eating. Again the choice is varied although generally the quality to cost ratio is not as high as it might otherwise be; although Buon Gusto (Italian) and Cafe Pattaya (Thai) are particularly recommended.
There are obviously the usual range of fast food chains spread throughout the city; formerly Burger King and McDonalds faced each other across the Bargate like petulant children with the gate itself acting like a peace-making mother, but McDonalds gave up the fight and fled to the West Quay shopping centre in which you can also find a large selection of 'sit-down' restaurants like Pizza Hut, Nando's, Pizza Express, Yo Sushi!, Wagamama and Cafe Rouge. Furthermore, there are many takeaways in Southampton that do delivery and allow you to pick up the food yourself. Typical meals range from £7-£15. Check with your hotel/hostel if they allow food orders.
As is to be expected of a large port with two universities, there are a lot of places to drink in Southampton. The city centre features two pubs dating from Tudor times, the Red Lion in High Street in particular is steeped in history.
Portswood is the drinking area of choice for students at the University, so keep away from places like The Hobbit, Clowns and Jesters ("Jesters"), The Gordon Arms and The Mitre if you want to avoid students. While The Hobbit can be studenty, it is definitely worth a look as it is a quirky pub with a massive beer garden and live music every night of the week. The Shooting Star (previously known as Kolebka) is a relaxed jazz bar with live music every Friday night. For those looking for a more alternative atmosphere, there is also The Dungeon Nightclub, with cheap drinks, friendly staff and customers with a varied spectrum of music from metal/industrial on Saturdays to 'cheese', indie and general rock music.
The Talking Heads, further up on Portswood Road, contains a mix of students and locals and provides a good selection of live music. Further up the road, The Brook is a dedicated venue for bands.
The Polygon (also referred to as "Bedford Place") is where most of the clubs and bars in the city lie, such as "Junk" (A club featuring modern dance music), "Orange Rooms" (A club/bar with a wider variety of music) and "Pop World" (A retro themed nightclub).
The Marina area has a good (albeit expensive) selection of seafront bars.
The Red Lion in High Street dates back to Tudor times and is a must-see. It's usually fairly quiet as well. For those looking for something more lively, The Platform Tavern nearby on the waterfront is an excellent bet as it features live jazz and blues music and a superb selection of local real ales.
The Angel located next to one of the central parks is an excellent 'local' type pub in the city centre featuring a free drinks quiz and friendly landlord. The Royal Oak nearby is also an excellent pub featuring regular live music, karaoke and quiz nights as well as drinks promotions, it is also very friendly although it can be a bit studenty.
The city centre also has the usual spattering of chain pubs, including Slug & Lettuce, two Wetherspoon's, Walkabout, Bar Risa and Que Pasa.
Outside of the city centre are the usual local pubs, some of which are excellent and others which are best avoided. The Park Inn in Shirley and the Wellington Arms and Waterloo Arms in Freemantle all have an excellent range of real ales while the Richmond Inn in Portswood is a great traditional pub with a vintage till and real ales. Nearby and next to St Denys railway station are two more excellent pubs, the Junction Inn and South Western Arms. The Rockstone in Bevois Valley is brilliant: it has a great selection of beers, whiskys and rums, and the selection of food is vast, ever-changing and of impeccable quality.
- Gay Southampton (Online Guide), ☎ +44 845 388 6328. An online guide to the bars, clubs and saunas in Southampton. Comprehensive What's On listings.
Whatever your budget you will be able to find somewhere to lay your head in Southampton. At the top end of the scale the De Vere Grand Harbour is the only 5 star hotel in the city and an exceptional piece of architecture.
3 star hotels are much easier to come by, the Jurys Inn has recently opened in the middle of a city centre roundabout, the Novotel , Travelodge , Holiday Inn and Hotel Ibis are all perfectly adequate for providing a night's sleep.
If you feel the need for a less generic hotel experience, The Dolphin hotel and The Star are both on the High Street in traditional coaching inn buildings and will make you feel less like you're just a commodity.
If you're on the cheap, or feel like a more personal stay, then there are plenty of bed and breakfasts; most cluster around the bottom end of Hill Lane which is close to the train station. Simply wander out from the station's main exit (if you see Toys 'r' Us opposite you're on the wrong exit) and take the path by the left side of the HSBC office block. Hill Lane leads up the small hill from the traffic lights. Keep going up the hill until you find one worth staying at; don't forget to check the side streets too.
Tourist Information will almost certainly be able to find you somewhere to stay if you're stuck (023 8083 3333).
- Southampton Park Hotel, Cumberland Place, Southampton, Hampshire, SO15 2WY, ☎ +44 23 80343343. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 11am. £40-£60 pppn.
- Hilton Southampton, Bracken Place, Chilworth, Southampton, SO16 3RB, ☎ +44 23 8070 2700, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 24 Hour Service. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 11am. The hotel is two miles from Southampton International Airport.
Levels of crime in Southampton are similar to other UK cities. Hampshire Constabulary's figures for 2009/10 show fewer incidents of recorded crime in Southampton than in 2008/09. There is a strong police presence in the city centre at night time, especially around the clubs and pubs. A Night Bus Service is available to allow people to get home safely.
Advice on keeping safe in Southampton can be found on the Safer Southampton website.
- Samaritans, 11 College Place, London Road, SO15 2FE, ☎ 0845 7 90 90 90 (extra charge number).
- No Limits, 24a Bernard Street, SO14 3AY, ☎ +44 23 8022 4224. is an Information, Advice and Counselling service for young people in Southampton aged 13–25.
- The New Forest is perfect for a walk in the countryside and is one of the nicest rural retreats in England.
- Salisbury is a historic city and its cathedral boasts the tallest spire in England
- Winchester is a nearby ancient cathedral city and the former capital of England, with lots to see.
- Portsmouth is Hampshire's second city and has a proud naval heritage, as well as the £21 million Spinnaker Tower, offering great views of the South Coast
- Bournemouth in the neighbouring county of Dorset, is famous for its golden sandy beach and is perfect for a seaside getaway, as well as shopping and the nightlife.
- Isle of Wight