Once one of Britain’s most vital ports, today this city is the gateway into centuries of Norman, Tudor and Victorian history and the rich ecology of Hampshire.
For centuries, Southampton’s busy port was a forest of ship’s masts and rigging, alive with the chatter of seaman and merchants. Today, this city in southern England resonates with the footsteps of visitors who come to explore its museums, galleries, gardens and well-preserved architectural heritage. Southampton is situated next to the New Forest, a natural wonder that draws travelers and nature lovers from around the world.
In the city’s heart, enjoy an ice cream at Queens Park and admire the park’s artwork and military memorial. A little further north in Riverside Park, join a game of soccer or just bring some bread to feed the ducks by the River Itchen.
A little further south, near the Isle of Wight, spend a few hours at Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway. Admire the floral displays across the site’s 200 acres (81 hectares) of gardens then ride the charming steam train across the colorful landscape.
Back in the city center, browse almost 4,000 works spanning several centuries at Southampton City Art Gallery. A major highlight is a collection of drawings, known as the Perseus series, which tell a story based on Greek myths.
Learn about Southampton’s Norman, Tudor and Victorian history in the Old City Walls. Take a self-guided tour from the arched entrance at Bargate. Marvel at old wine vaults, medieval churches and a spa frequented by the likes of Jane Austen. Be sure to visit Tudor House and Garden, which dates back more than 800 years and holds a fascinating collection of antiques. Then, take to the skies at the Solent Sky Museum, which houses a World War II Spitfire among its collection of vintage aircraft.
Reserve a ticket for a show at the historic Mayflower Theatre, which first opened in 1928. Enjoy a post-show dinner at one of the restaurants along Commercial Road.
Southampton lies just under 2 hours’ drive or train ride to the southwest of London, making it the perfect port of call for daytrips or longer visits.