Southampton is a port city on England's South East coast. It was the departure point for many trans-Atlantic crossings, perhaps most famously including the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.
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 and become 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.
By planeSouthampton Airport (SOU) is an 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 (LHR) 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. National Express offers scheduled bus service from the Central Bus Station at Heathrow, between Terminals 2 and 3, to the Southampton Coach Station.
- London Gatwick Airport (LGW) is the UK's third largest airport. It is about 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 2 hours; on Sundays at least one transfer is necessary resulting in travel times between 2 and 2½ hours.
- Stansted (STN) and Luton (LTN), both north of London, have a good range of budget flights but are harder to reach from Southampton: you either have to crawl around on the congested M25, or take a train into London then out again.
- Bournemouth Airport (BOH) is west of Southampton along the M27 and A31. It only a has a few holiday flights to the Med.
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 Western Railway 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.
Southern Railway run services via a longer and slower route from London Victoria, but have the advantage of serving London Gatwick airport on the way.
CrossCountry run longer distance services from the north of England via Birmingham and Reading.
First Great Western runs services from Cardiff, Bristol and Bath via Salisbury.
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.
The M3 links Southampton with the M25 and London. The M27 leads west towards Bournemouth and the West Country, and east along the coast towards Brighton and the rest of the south of England.
Car parking is relatively easy with many pay-and-display sites in the city centre. There are also car parks that are free up to 2 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
Megabus run a twice daily bus service from London Victoria Coach Station to Southampton from £1.50 for the cost of a single ticket.
National Express also run a regular coach service direct to/from the Southampton Coach Station from/to London Victoria Coach Station as well as from/to the Heathrow Airport Central Bus Station. Ticket prices may be as low as £20 for a scheduled return.
The Quayconnect bus service costing £1 runs every 15 minutes between Southampton Central Station and Town Quay via the city centre. This service is free for National Rail, National Express and Red Funnel ticket holders, as well as Senior Citizen bus pass holders.
Southampton-based taxi companies providing long distance transfers from major airports, towns, bus and rail stations to Southampton: ATS Taxis, 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 sea links to countries around 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 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 is mostly flat; Hampshire tends to undulate.
Sustrans Cycle Map
By busSouthampton has a good network of bus services, with some principal services operating as often as every 7 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. Buses accept cash (also giving change) and contactless card payment.
By trainSouthampton'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, and Sholing.
BargateA medieval gatehouse, built about 1180 and extended in 1320, now sits slap bang in the middle of the shopping centre. The top floor is now a Heritage Visitor Centre. The Bargate is also the beginning of the original Old Town Walk (pdf); see Do below.
Central ParksEstablished 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.
Southampton Boat ShowAn annual boating show.
phone: +44 23 8083 4536address: Commercial Road, SO14 7LPContains some 3,500 works of art covering six centuries.
Showcase GalleryContains the work of up and coming artists and designers.
The Bargate Monument GalleryThe Bargate has been refurbished and given a new lease of life as a contemporary art gallery and home to the arts organisation A Space.
phone: +44 23 8059 2158address: Studio 144, 142-144 Above Bar Street, SO14 7DUWas 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.
phone: +44 23 8083 3007address: Civic Centre, Havelock Rd., SO14 7FYOpened in 2012, SeaCity contains two main galleries: the first telling the history of Southampton through artifacts 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. The museum is on the west facing side of the building with the entrance directly beneath the clock tower.
phone: +44 2380 221503address: 58 French Street, SO14 2ATOne 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.
phone: +44 23 8083 4242address: Bugle St., SO14 2ADBuilt in 1495 for Sir John Dawtry, the Controller of Customs in Southampton.
phone: +44 2380 635830address: Albert Road South, SO14 3FRThe museum is dedicated to telling the incredible story of aviation in the Solent area. Exhibits include a Sandringham flying boat (which visitors can enter), a Spitfire, and Schneider Trophy racing seaplanes.
phone: +44 2380 892023address: Calshot Road, Calshot, SO45 1BRAn artillery fort, built by Henry VIII.
- 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 MayflowerThe largest theatre in southern England, offering blockbusting West End musicals, and ballet and operatic productions.
The Nuffield TheatreBased on the university campus, hosts performances from Shakespeare to contemporary drama.
phone: +44 23 8059 5151address: University of Southampton, SO17 1BJA medium-sized venue owned by the University of Southampton, which hosts frequent performances by internationally-renowned classical, jazz and world music artists.
Southampton GuildhallA 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.
Cinema de LuxA multplex cinema in the new Westquay South complex.
- Walk the Old Town Walls - follow the signposted original course (pdf) of the historic old town walls, gatehouses and towers, which are among the most complete in England. They were built in stages over 300 years, the first being Bargate and Eastgate dating from 1290. The western walls were not built until after the French raid of 1338, when Edward III ordered that walls be built to 'close the town'. Around half of the original one mile circuit still survives, including the famous Bargate at Bargate Street and High Street.
- Take a walk on Southampton Common - 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.
- 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.
- Watch football at Southampton FC, "The Saints". They play in the Premier League, the top tier of football in England. Their ground St Mary's Stadium (Britannia Rd SO14 5FP) is on the west bank of the river, one mile east of the city centre.
- Watch cricket at . This is home to Hampshire County Cricket Club, one of the 18 "First Class Counties", the top tier of English cricket. County matches normally last 3-4 days. The Ageas Bowl (formerly called the Rose Bowl) also frequently hosts international or "Test Matches", lasting up to five days. The stadium is on the northeast edge of the city, use Jcn 7 of M27.
address: Harbour Parade, SO15 1QFJohn Lewis and Marks & 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, Westquay South, opened in 2016-2017 and includes a 10-screen 4k Cinema, up to 20 extra restaurants and a public square.
address: Civic Centre Rd, Hants, SO14 7SJA 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.
- 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.
Southeast 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.
address: 28 Oxford St, SO14 3DJEnglish/traditional
La RegataIf 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 is 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 acting like a peace-making mother, but McDonalds gave up the fight and fled to the Westquay 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. Further up on Porstwood 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 Talking Heads, located in The Polygon, contains a mix of students and locals and provides a good selection of live music.
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. For those looking for a more alternative atmosphere, there is also The Firehouse Nightclub, with cheap drinks, friendly staff and customers with a varied spectrum of music from metal/industrial, indie and general rock music.
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, including plenty of vegan options, ever-changing and of impeccable quality.
There is a useful directory of the local pubs and bars which includes maps to find the pub and a few featured pubs as well.
address: 21 Portswood Rd, SO17 2ESOne of a number of micropubs in Southampton. Formerly a bookshop, a full bookshelf remains from its previous existence, tba is small and friendly. The beers are changed regularly. Apart from bar snacks there is no food available, however customers can bring in their own food from a nearby takeaway. Staff will most likely give you a napkin and possibly cutlery. St Denys train station is a short walk away and buses to the city centre go right by this pub. There are several bike stands outside too
phone: +44 23 8058 4477address: 14 Broadway, Portswood Road, SO17 2WEThe Crafty Fox opened in the summer of 2018 in the former Costa Coffee shop (and HSBC bank before that). A microbrewery with a good selection of beers and other drinks available, There is a coffee and tea hatch facing Portswood Road; food available too. Relaxed and friendly, free wifi. Well worth a visit.
Whatever your budget you will be able to find somewhere to lay your head in Southampton. At the top end of the scale the Southampton Harbour Hotel which opened in 2017 is the only 5-star hotel in the city.
In the level below that the Hilton Southampton provides 4-star luxury in a pleasant environment, you can expect comfortable and stylish guestrooms. the other 4 star option is the De Vere Grand Harbour hotel.
3-star hotels are much easier to come by, the Jurys Inn sits 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. 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).
address: Cumberland Place, SO15 2WY
phone: +44 23 8070 2700address: Bracken Place, Chilworth, SO16 3RB
Levels of crime in Southampton are similar to other UK cities. 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. Pollution levels can get rather high particularly when one of the larger cruise ships is in harbor.
Samaritansphone: 0845 7 90 90 90 (extra charge number)address: 11 College Place, London Road, SO15 2FE
phone: +44 23 8022 4224address: 24a Bernard Street, SO14 3AYAn 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, and 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, shopping and the nightlife.
- Isle of Wight
- Villages of the borough of Eastleigh