Southampton is a city on England’s south coast that is home to the world’s largest cruise ships. As a port city, Southampton is famous mainly for the ships launched from its docks and is best-known for the launch of the RMS Titanic on 10th April 1911. Many of the 1517 people who perished were workers from the area. The equally historic Spitfire, which was used to fight in World War II, was built in the city. Southampton is also strongly associated with the Mayflower, which made its maiden voyage from the city before being forced to return to Plymouth due to bad weather.
The city was heavily destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War. However, it did serve an important role within World War II as it was one of many embarkation points for the D-Day landings. Southampton is an important city to visit for historical things to do and for its art and culture.
Within Southampton are many art galleries and cultural opportunities to explore. The city was heavily developed in 2016 to make it more appealing, with large sections of West Quay and West Quay South reopening to the public. A large public plaza hosts annual events, including ice skating in winter and a broadcast of the Wimbledon tennis tournament in early summer. There are some interesting things to do in Southampton, so here are 20 to get you started.
- 20 Things To Do In Southampton
- 1- Historic Guided Walks
- 2- Treasure Hunt Trail
- 3- Tudor House & Garden
- 4- Solent Sky Museum
- 5- Beaulieu
- 6- SeaCity
- 7- Art Gallery
- 8- Catch a ferry to Hythe
- 9- John Hansard Gallery
- 10- Bargate
- 11- Southampton Common
- 12- Medieval Merchant’s House
- 13- Netley Abbey
- 14- Brickworks Museum
- 15- Titanic Engineers Memorial
- 16- King John’s Palace
- 17- Broadlands Estate
- 18- God’s House Tower
- 19- Hamble Common
- 20- Berth 44 Titanic Ocean Dock
- 20 Things To Do In Southampton
20 Things To Do In Southampton
1- Historic Guided Walks
Like many cities in England, Southampton hosts many historical guided walks.
A small group of Southampton tour guides decided that in 2014 they would start to launch some fresh and exciting new guided tours around the city of Southampton.
Tour lengths and destinations depend on what kind of visitor is taking part, with different walks tailored to locals looking for hidden treasures, visitors to the city, and those from cruise ships who might be there for a shorter time.
See Southampton is one of the most popular tour walks within the area.
They work with local businesses to promote the cities heritage and history and encourage people to visit local establishments and businesses.
One of the most important destinations on many See Southampton walks is visiting the docks where its knowledgeable guides will talk you through the Mayflower and the Speedwell, two of the most important boats to launch from the area.
Tours depart from Bargate on Saturdays and Sundays at 10.30 am. Tickets are £6 per adult and free for children.
2- Treasure Hunt Trail
For something a little more creative and family-friendly, explore the city of Southampton through a treasure trail.
There are numerous treasure trails across the city, however, one of the most popular is the Secret Spy Mission Trail.
A pack is available to download for £9.99 and is entirely self-led.
Spy trails last for 2.5 hours and cover 1.9 miles (3 kilometres) of the city.
The trail follows a circular loop around the city and takes in some of its most famous sights.
To add to the thrill of the hunt, each month, participants who complete the trail and get all of the answers correct to the quiz questions are entered into a prize draw to win £100.
Treasure Hunt Trail begins at Bargate Street, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 2DA.
3- Tudor House & Garden
Described as Southampton’s most important historical building, the Tudor House and Garden should not be missed when visiting this coastal city.
The 15th century Tudor House was built by an unknown architect.
The house embodies more than 800 years of history of the area surrounding it and the residents who called it home.
There are many interactive exhibitions inside the house, making it ideal for a family-friendly day out.
After exploring the home and gardens, stop in the garden view café.
The food served in the café is sourced locally and made fresh each day.
Be sure to admire the roof before you enter.
The roof of the café is made from sedum and wildflowers which insulates the building, adds beauty to the garden and of course, is enjoyed by bees.
Tudor House & Garden is at St Michael’s Square, Bugle Street, Old Town, Southampton, SO14 2AD.
For more ideas around England read:
4- Solent Sky Museum
Solent Sky Museum celebrates and displays collections from the golden age of British aviation and the Hampshire Police and Fire Museum.
More than 20 aircraft are on display within the museum, such as the Supermarine Spitfire, the Short Sandringham Beachcomber plane and the Folland Gnat.
Solent Sky Museum is a must-visit for aviation enthusiasts or those simply interested in history in Southampton.
Solent Sky Museum is at Solent Sky Ltd, Albert Road South, Southampton, S014 3FR.
The stunning village of Beaulieu is just a short drive from the city of Southampton and is worth the excursion for its beauty and the vast number of things to do there.
Cistercian monks founded the village in 1204 on land given to them by King John.
The king had a royal hunting lodge in what is now the village and gave the land to the monks to atone for a previous quarrel with their order.
When visiting the village, head to the motor museum for a fun-filled family day out, or meander down its charming High Street, which is packed with independent shops and tasty eateries.
Beaulieu is at Beaulieu, Hampshire, SO42 7ZN.
SeaCity Museum was built to tell the story of Southampton’s maritime history.
Inside the museum, the stories of the people in the city, their everyday lives and connections to the sea are explored.
The museum has a vast collection of maritime artefacts.
Before the creation of SeaCity, two separate museums, the Maritime Museum and Museum of Archaeology, held most of the city’s maritime exhibits.
SeaCity combines these two areas of history to create an interesting place to visit.
Permanent exhibitions at the museum include a detailed exploration into the Titanic story of the city with a detailed 1:25 scale model of the ill-fated vessel.
There are also exhibitions dedicated to the people who have departed the port for the New World or arrived in Southampton in search of new opportunities.
SeaCity Museum is at Civic Centre, Havelock Road, Southampton, SO14 7FY.
7- Art Gallery
Southampton’s Art Gallery is a must-visit when in the city, not only because this incredible gallery is free to enter, but because of the marvels it houses.
The gallery opened in 1939 and has been attracting art and history lovers alike through its doors since.
The gallery features paintings, sculptures and photography.
On permanent display is The Perseus Stories by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
Arts patron Arthur Balfour commissioned the series of 10 gouache cartoons based on Greek mythology in 1875 to display in his home.
Burne-Jones worked on the series for 10 years, before leaving the collection unfinished due to ill health.
Art Gallery is at Civic Centre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO14 7LY.
8- Catch a ferry to Hythe
Whilst the Port of Southampton remains active with many large shipping containers and cruise ships docking there, there are still ways to take in Southampton Water and bask in its maritime history.
One of the best ways to explore Southampton Water is by ferry, on the short journey across the water to Hythe, a small village on the other side of the estuary.
When you arrive in Hythe, take time to explore the world’s oldest pier train.
The train still runs, so catch the train down the Victorian pier.
There are also numerous cafes, pubs and independent shops.
The ferry departs every half an hour, with the journey lasting roughly 10 minutes.
Hythe Ferry is at Town Quay, Hythe, SO14 2AQ.
9- John Hansard Gallery
The internationally renowned John Hansard Gallery is a must-visit when in Southampton.
The gallery is part of the University of Southampton and therefore plays a key role in encouraging creativity and the arts within the local community.
The gallery hosts critically acclaimed contemporary art exhibitions, many events and research projects.
The gallery opened in 1979 and relocated in 2018 to a more modern and purpose-built arts complex, Studio 144.
After getting your cultural fill, head to nearby La Tavernetta to feast on Italian and Mediterranean delicacies in this cosy wood-panelled brasserie.
John Hansard Gallery is at 142-144 Above Bar Street, Southampton, SO14 7DU.
Bargate is the north entrance to the medieval section of Southampton and where large sections of the medieval walls surrounding Southampton still stand today.
Bargate is a Grade I-listed medieval gatehouse, with a northern entrance built in 1180.
It is constructed from stone and flint. Further additions were made during 1290 when towers were added, with narrow slit windows perfect for archers.
Bargate is at Highstreet, Southampton, SO14 2DJ.
11- Southampton Common
Southampton Common is one of the largest open spaces within the city.
The earliest records of the Common go back to 1228, however, the area’s status as a common goes back much further to 500AD, when Southampton was the town of Hamwic.
Southampton Common covers 365 acres and is filled with woodlands, grasslands, ponds and parkland.
Thanks to its size, the Common is a popular location for local wildlife and larger events in the city.
In 1988 Southampton Common was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Southampton Common is at The Avenue, Southampton, SO15 7NN.
12- Medieval Merchant’s House
Standing on what was once one of the busiest streets of Southampton is Medieval Merchant’s House.
The house, which dates back to the 14th century, has been carefully restored to its former glory by English Heritage.
Inside, the property replicates its 14th-century appearance with replica period-appropriate furniture.
Outside is a small kitchen garden with herbs that would have been typically grown during its heyday flourishing.
In keeping with a historical themed day out, after visiting Medieval Merchant’s House, head to Calshot Castle or Netley Abbey, all of which are within easy travelling distance.
Medieval Merchant’s House is at 58 French Street, Southampton, SO14 0AT.
13- Netley Abbey
Another of English Heritage’s properties within Southampton is the hauntingly beautiful Netley Abbey.
Netley Abbey is close to Southampton Water and is the most complete surviving abbey built by the Cistercian monks within the south of England.
Many of the 13th-century abbey’s walls still stand today.
Following the dissolution of the monasteries, Netley was left abandoned.
For a time during the Tudor period, the abbey’s ruins were turned into a house in keeping with the Tudor style.
Thankfully, in the 19th century, partly due to the inspiration the ruins were creating for Romantic writers and poets, the Tudor additions were removed.
The ivy-clad remains of the abbey are free to visit.
Netley Abbey is at Abbey Hill, Netley, Hampshire, SO31 5FB.
14- Brickworks Museum
Brickworks museum is the only surviving Victorian steam-driven brickworks left in the UK.
A dedicated team of volunteers runs the museum.
The Ashby family founded the brickworks in 1897.
The family took clay from the nearby clay pits of Bursledon and used it in their factory.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the museum is open to the public, with an additional opening once a month on a Sunday where the steam machinery is powered up for the Museum in Steam event.
Brickworks Museum is at Swanwick Lane, Swanick. Bursledon, Southampton, SO31 7GW.
15- Titanic Engineers Memorial
Two years after the disaster, the Titanic Engineers Memorial was unveiled in April 1914.
The monument is dedicated to the engineers aboard the ill-fated ship who lost their lives.
24 engineers, six electrical engineers, two boilermakers, one plumber, one clerk, and the chief engineer officer Joseph Bell all lost their lives.
This is a poignant reminder of the tragedy and the fragility of human life.
Titanic Engineers Memorial is at London Road, Southampton, SO14 0DA.
16- King John’s Palace
Located next to Tudor House is King John’s Palace.
Records dating back more than 800 years show that King John ordered a house to be built in Romsey.
Further records show that the house was gifted to the abbey.
Perhaps the most alluring part of the Palace is its historic gardens, which can be traced back to 1530 during the dissolution of the monasteries.
The garden is filled with plants dating before the 18th century.
Additional features include a Victorian terrace and fountain courtyard.
Stop for afternoon tea in Miss Moody’s Tudor Tea Room following your visit. Here homemade delights are served, with many products being made from locally grown produce.
King John’s Palace is at Church Street, Romsey Haunts, SO51 8BT.
17- Broadlands Estate
Among green parkland just outside of the city is Broadlands Estate.
There has been a house on the estate since the 11th century, where a manor was built as part of Romsey Abbey.
Following the dissolution of the monasteries, Broadlands was sold and went through many owners.
Henry Temple, the first Viscount Palmerston, purchased the house and lands in 1736.
Following his purchase, Temple made many architectural changes to the property.
Architects Lancelot Brown and Henry Holland worked on the house to transform it into its current Palladian style.
Broadlands Estate is at Broadlands, Romsey, SO51 9ZD.
18- God’s House Tower
The tower is in the southeast corner of the old city walls and was once a point of defence.
These days, it serves as an arts and heritage space.
God’s House Tower was one of the earliest forts built specifically to carry cannons.
God’s House Tower is at Town Quay Road, Southampton, SO14 2NY.
19- Hamble Common
Hamble Common is the site of an Iron Age hillfort that lies on a peninsula between Southampton Water and the River Hamble.
In later years, the common was also the site of St Andrew’s Castle, a key device fort built by King Henry VIII.
Today, little evidence of either fort can be seen by the untrained eye; however, the landscape they once occupied makes for a pleasant stroll to escape the bustle of the city.
Look out for coastal birds, including ringed plovers and oystercatchers who nest on the coastal heathland.
Hamble Common is at Hamble-le-Rice, Southampton, SO31 4JD.
20- Berth 44 Titanic Ocean Dock
Berth 44, now called Ocean Dock, is where the White Star Dock once stood.
The three great liners built by Harland and Wolff rested before their voyages in this dock.
On 10th April 1912, the Titanic was tied up to allow locals and workers to see the ship in all her glory before she set sail on her maiden voyage.
The berth is of particular historical significance, not only because of the disaster to befall the ship but also because of the employment boom it brought to the local area during employment hardship within the city.
Berth 44 Titanic Ocean Dock is at Ocean Road, Southampton, SO14 3GF.