Are you wondering about the best things to do in Southampton? I love visiting Southampton because of its historic attractions and it is a known cruise port here in the UK. Southampton, the county’s largest city, is a historic port where many of the biggest cruise ships in the world continue to dock. One such ship, the Titanic, set out on its tragic maiden voyage from Southampton. The city also has a history in aviation as the 1930s saw the construction of the Spitfire fighter plane there.
In the Second World War, Southampton served as the launchpad for the D-Day landings. Earlier, German bombing campaigns severely damaged Southampton due to its importance as a commercial port.
There are still fascinating remnants of the old town, such as the formidable Bargate, extensive pieces of the 13th-century walls, and the regal Tudor House and garden.
Explore the best things to do in Southampton here. If you are interested, you may also read the 4 Ways How to Get from London to Southampton. You may also want to know more about The Best Cruise Destinations Around the World to know which cruise goes to Southampton.
Best Things to do in Southampton (Hampshire, UK)
Southampton’s Old Town, which is located just south of the city center, is home to a number of distinctive locations frequented by notable locals and tourists. The Pilgrim Fathers, Henry V, William Shakespeare, William the Conqueror, Isaac Watts, and Jane Austen are a few of these.
The 800-year-old Bargate, which serves as the entrance to the Old Town and hosts temporary art exhibits and events, was initially constructed as the primary gateway to the medieval city. To commemorate significant events, including the early Roman settlement and the opening of the National Oceanography Centre, numerous plaques have been erected from Bargate all the way down to the water’s edge.
A century later, Bargate was flanked by two potent drum towers and given arrow loops, giving it its current appearance.
The south side of the gate was significantly altered at that time and now features a row of four lancet windows above five Gothic arches.
A statue of King George III dressed in Roman garb that dates to 1809 and took the place of a wooden carving of Queen Anne, who ruled at the beginning of the 18th century, is located in a niche above the main portal.
Southampton Solent University makes short-term exhibits at the gate.
2. SeaCity Museum
In 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s departure from Southampton, this multimillion-dollar museum opened. The remodelled wing of the Civic Center complex where SeaCity is located formerly housed the police station and magistrates court.
Including the tales of those who departed from (or arrived in) the port over the centuries, SeaCity Museum tells the tale of the residents of Southampton and their part in Britain’s rich maritime history.
The one-ton replica of the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary, which operated between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York until 1967, is a sight to behold. The “Titanic Story,” which tells the tale from the perspective of the crew, many of whom were based in Southampton, offers a novel perspective on the most notorious maritime catastrophe in history.
You can view reenactments from the court case investigating the sinking and hear audio testimonies from survivors.
This fascinating museum is located in the Civic Centre, an Art Deco building from the 1930s, which also houses the Southampton City Art Gallery. You’ll find a fascinating collection of about 3,500 works here, including works by English artists and old masters from 1750 to the present, as well as a priceless collection of ceramics. Facilities for shopping and eating are available.
3. Solent Sky Museum
Solent Sky tells the history of Southampton’s aviation heritage through a fantastic collection of models, images, and magnificent aircraft. The beloved Spitfire fighter plane was created by the aviation manufacturer Supermarine in Southampton during the early 20th century.
This business received praise for its accomplishments in the Schneider Trophy, a seaplane competition held between 1913 and 1931. The foundation of this aviation museum is the race and the history of the Supermarine name.
Along with the Supermarine S.6, which won the Schneider trophy in 1929, there is a Spitfire F.24. A de Havilland Vampire, a Slingsby Grasshopper training glider, a Short Sandringham flying boat, and a Folland Gnat are just a few examples of the other British-made equipment available.
The museum also houses jet and propeller engines made by Rolls-Royce, Bristol, Napier, and Alvis.
4. Tudor House and Garden
When it opened to the public in 1912, this elegant 15th-century home on Bugle Street in St. Michael’s Square became the city’s first museum. You can learn about the inhabitants who have lived and worked here over the centuries inside the half-timbered Tudor House and Garden, which was renovated during a nine-year closure up until 2011.
The building once housed artist studios, a bonnet manufacturer, dye-works, and a bookbinder. However, by the 19th century, it had become a notorious slum, full of unsanitary, dilapidated homes with little access to running water.
With the aid of multimedia exhibits and objects in glass cases, you can retrace every stage of the history of the structure.
King John’s Palace, a Norman residence from the 12th century located in the Renaissance-style garden, also has a stately Georgian wing that is rented out for events. It is now a museum with items from the Victorian and Edwardian periods on display, as well as reoccurring exhibits covering more than 900 years of local history.
Visitors can enjoy the recreated kitchens, numerous artefacts, including Georgian and Victorian jewellery, as well as archaeological discoveries from the medieval and Tudor eras by using the free audio guides.
There is a store and café on the property, and guests can take part in frequent events and educational opportunities. You may want to check their website for more details.
5. Medieval Merchant’s House
The Medieval Merchant’s House in French Street, only a short stroll from the city centre, is another charming old house worth visiting. A little outside of Southampton’s city centre is the English Heritage property known as The Medieval Merchant’s House.
Aquitaine-trading merchant John Fortin erected the half-timbered house in 1290, and after centuries of changes, damage from the Second World War revealed its Medieval origins.
The city council quickly acquired it and gave it a 14th-century makeover.
Wine would have been stored in the vaulted undercroft beneath the building, which maintains a constant cool temperature throughout the year, and goods like that would have been sold out of the open shop front on the porch.
Highlights of a visit include perusing collections of antique furniture and wall hangings as well as distinctive architectural features that provide a fascinating look into the lifestyle of a privileged family in the 13th century.
You can explore the bed chambers on the first floor, which are furnished with replicas of medieval furniture made of wood that still bears the maker’s marks from many centuries ago.
6. Titanic Heritage Trail
Did you know that Southampton has a strong connection to the most famous ship in history, the Titanic? It was the first port it left before it sank after hitting that iceberg on its way to New York City, and it was the last port it visited before it sank.
I was a big fan of the movie box office hit – Titanic, featuring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet. From then on, I have watched and read various books, films and documentaries about the Titanic.
In order to remember the tragic voyage that began in Southampton, numerous memorials and memorial sites have been built and dedicated to the ship as well as the overall tragedy. These sites can be found all over the city.
In order to guarantee that you see all of them, Southampton has its very own Titanic Trail, which is a very easy path to stroll over the course of about an hour.
It is a leisurely stroll to the memorials themselves, beginning at the Civic Center and ending there.
Along the way, you will have the opportunity to stop at a number of locations that are significant in relation to the Titanic. There are approximately thirteen locations to visit in total, one of which is the Titanic Engineers’ Memorial located in East Park. The ship’s sinking took the lives of 35 engineers, and this monument is made of bronze and granite to honor their memory. The monument was built in memory of those engineers.
The following is a list that provides an overview of the 13 locations that can be visited along the Titanic Heritage Trail.
- Titanic Postal Workers’ Memorial
This memorial is for the two British Sea Post officers and their three American coworkers, who all died when the ship sank. Harland & Wolff gave the plaque a spare propeller that was used to make it. This memorial used to be in the main post office in Southampton, but it was moved to the first floor of the south block of the Civic Centre, to the right of the doors to the Council Chamber.
- Titanic Musicians’ Memorial
This is a copy of the memorial that was here before the Second World War, but was destroyed. It shows a sad woman and the Titanic sinking, and the first few bars of “Nearer, my God to thee” is written on it in music. On the memorial, all of the names of the musicians on the ship are written, including the name of the band leader, Wallace Hartley.
- Engineer Officers’ Memorial
The memorial was dedicated in 1914. It is made of Aberdeen granite and is topped by a seven-foot-tall angel. It is a tribute to the engineering officers who died on the Titanic. Thomas Andrews, the ship’s chief designer at Harland & Wolff, is on the list, as are Archibald Frost and Robert Knight, who were both parts of a guaranteed group that was sent on the Titanic’s first trip.
- Titanic Crew Memorial
This memorial, which was initially a drinking fountain, was unveiled in 1915 and was constructed out of Portland Stone by local stonemasons named Garret and Haysom. It is a memorial to the stewards, sailors, and firemen who were aboard the ship at the time of the tragedy and was funded by subscriptions from friends and family of the crew.
- Former Sailors’ Home
In 1909, this structure first opened its doors to the public as a sailors’ home, with the purpose of providing temporary lodging for sailors while they were in port. Before the ship set sail, this was the home of several members of the crew of the Titanic, the vast majority of whom were lost at sea.
- The Grapes Public House
This pub dates back to the 1850s and was a favourite among sailors, is famous for the fact that several members of the crew of the Titanic, including the three Slade brothers, stayed here for an excessive amount of time on the morning of the ship’s departure. They arrived at the dock just as the ship was about to leave, but they were not allowed to board the Titanic because it was already sailing.
- Terminus Railway Station
Terminus was the railway station that was located closest to the docks in 1912. The original main station building, which was constructed in 1839–1840 and was designed by Sir William Tite for the London and Southampton Railway, has been converted into a casino. A roofed area occupies the former location of the station’s platforms and can be found at the building’s rear.
- South Western House
This building served as the first-class hotel in 1912, and it was there that some of the wealthier passengers on the Titanic spent their final night before the ship sank. Among these were Thomas Andrews and J. Bruce Ismay, who served as the president of White Star Line.
- Canute Chambers
When the White Star Line arrived in Southampton in 1912, this building served as its headquarters. A memorial plaque has been placed at the location where concerned family members came to wait for word about their loved ones after the Titanic sank. After being telegraphed to the offices, the names of those who had made it out of the disaster were written on boards and affixed to the railings.
- Ocean Dock and Dock Gate 4 Memorial
On April 10, 1912, the Titanic sailed away from Ocean Dock, which was formerly known as White Star Dock. Those who passed away as a result of the disaster are honoured with a small plaque that can be found just inside the security gate for Dock Gate 4.
- Former Dock’s Branch Post Office
This building, which was constructed at the turn of the 20th century and has since been converted into apartments, was originally home to the Docks’ Post Office and Telegraph Office. Prior to being loaded onto the ship, the mail for the Titanic was sorted through in this location.
- SeaCity Museum
The people of Southampton, their fascinating lives, and the city’s long-standing connection with the sea are the subjects of the narratives housed within SeaCity Museum.
- Gatti Memorial
A table made of oak bears a plaque in remembrance of those who worked in the restaurant and were tragically killed (including ‘Luigi’ Gatti, who was in charge of all the restaurants that were located on the ship).
7. Southampton Town Walls and Old Town
The old town of Southampton is shielded by some of the most well-preserved and comprehensive Medieval defences in the country. These date back to the 10th century when the city of Southampton was moved to its current location.
The town of Southampton was attacked by the French in 1338, and as a response, later in the same century, the defences were revamped with a two-kilometre curtain that was broken up by eight gates and reinforced with 29 towers.
A walking circuit consisting of Bargate Street, Back of the Walls, Town Quay, and the Western Esplanade that is one kilometre in length has been preserved on the north and west sides.
You can scale portions of the structure to get views over the old town and the New Forest, and there are panels that explain the architecture as well as some of the events that took place at these locations.
8. New Forest National Park
One of the most well-known national parks in the United Kingdom is located less than sixteen kilometers (less than ten miles) away from Southampton. You can get there by car or by taking the ferry to Hythe.
The park is home to some of the largest unenclosed tracts of pasture, heathland, and woodland that can be found anywhere in the southeast of England.
The terrain is relatively flat and ideal for cycling thanks to a network of wide paths that are clearly marked and rental stations located in neighboring communities such as Brockenhurst and Burley.
It is possible to see roe, fallow, and red deer in the New Forest if you keep a low profile and remain quiet as you walk through the ancient beech glades there.
The semi-feral New Forest Ponies that live out on the heaths are descended from equines that lived in this area prior to the last ice age, which occurred 500,000 years ago.
Read more about the New Forest National Park.
9. Calshot Castle
Calshot Castle was built as one of Henry VIII’s coastal defenses to guard the entrance to Southampton Water, and it is situated at the end of Calshot Spit. Searchlights, roof-mounted guns, and shell storage were added to the castle in 1913 when Calshot became one of the Royal Navy’s first seaplane bases.
Calshot Castle now has a basement, a barracks room on the first floor, a gun room on the second floor, and a roof with stunning views of The Solent. Additionally, the castle’s more contemporary spaces contain exhibits showcasing Calshot Spit’s seaplane history. A family trip to the beach would be enhanced by the selection of informational books, trinkets, and ice cream available in the castle store.
10. Holyrood Church
One of the original five churches serving Southampton, England’s ancient walled town, was called Holyrood Church (or Holy Rood Church). The church, which was built in 1320, was destroyed by enemy bombing during the November 1940 Blitz. The church’s structure was dedicated in 1957 as a monument to the merchant navy’s sailors.
Only the tower in the southwest corner, the chancel in the east, and significant portions of the north walls remain of the church after it was completely destroyed during the blitz. The church’s central area was completely destroyed, and both the wooden spire and the large west window were lost.
The remains now serve as a memorial to the merchant mariners who lost their lives during World War II. One of Southampton’s many historical sites is an old medieval church. The annual Merchant Navy Day memorial service takes place there. Within the church ruins, there is a sound post with an audio commentary next to the memorial to the Titanic Crew Members.
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