Southampton is a large city in the county of Hampshire. Although it does not often come up in guide books about the UK, the city has a lot to offer to those who are interested in (Marine) history, the Titanic and ports. In this article we have put together a list of the best attractions in Southampton and ranked them into a list of the 10 best things to do in Southampton.
SeaCity Museum Southampton
The SeaCity Museum opened in 2012 to mark the centenary of the iconic RMS Titanic’s departure from the city. The museum has two permanent exhibitions, one dedicated to the mighty Titanic and the other to showcase the importance of Southampton to the world.
One of the main areas of the SeaCity Museum is dedicated to telling the story of the tremendous impact the sinking of the Titanic had on the city, with much of the crew members being from Southampton. You will find a 1:25 scale interactive model of the ship and a unique collection showcasing the history of the travellers in and out of the port over 200,000 years, starting from the earliest settlers. The newest addition exhibits the city’s rich and diverse maritime, local history, archaeology and archive collections. The Museum also houses vast learning opportunities for all ages, inclusive of special tours and purpose-built rooms.
There will also be special events, such as talks and workshops, a must explore for any history enthusiast. It is a must visit to understand Southampaton and explore the rich history it has to offer.
Tudor House and Garden
The Tudor House & Garden is Southampton’s first museum, opened in 1912. It is located opposite St. Michael’s Square, in Southampton’s Old Town. This historic monument serves as a museum and one of the most important tourist attractions. The Tudor House & Garden kept evolving throughout the ages, from being part of a Norman domestic dwelling, to a home for influential members of Southampton society, until it became one of the city’s worst slum areas. Due to its historic value, a local philanthropist renovated it and brought it to its current state. The garden, an extension of the house itself, was re-planned by an influential garden designer and now houses plants that would have been found during the Tudor period. It also showcases ornamental garden features from the Tudor period.
It is most definitely worth a visit, for a jump back in time and to explore various artifacts from a lifetime ago. Private group and educational tours can also be arranged, for all ages. It is hard to imagine how life would have been in the 1500, but this house offers an insight into this through exhibits, activities and interactive technology.
Best things to do in Southampton - Solent Sky
Solent Sky is the aviation museum of Southampton. It showcases the history of aviation in Southampton, the Solent area and Hampshire. Sea planes take a center stage here, specially the Supermarine aircraft company based in Southampton and the Schneider Trophy seaplane races. The Schneider Trophy Air Race was the fastest and most dangerous sport in history, and you can learn how these golden planes reached speeds of over 400 mph. The Solent region was also the center of aviation research and development between 1910 and 1960, which means a lot of important aircrafts have been manufactured as well as ridden here. At Solent Sky, you will be able to engage in the history of some of the world’s greatest fighter planes. Ever been curious to see a flying boat? Southampton was home to the largest flying boat operation in the world, you will be able to climb aboard and experience the whole thrill. Sit in cockpits, see the world’s only jet-fighter-flying boat, and experience some “interactive” exhibits.
Southampton City Art Gallery
The Southampton City Art Gallery is housed in an exemplary 1930s municipal architecture building. It is a place to experience, feel and learn from. The gallery’s collection covers six centuries of European art history and you can witness over 5,300 works of fine art collection. The Southampton City Art Gallery also aims at involving people of all ages who want to appreciate or learn to better appreciate art. The educational service works closely with famous professional visual artists to bring the best to its students. The exhibitions vary from contemporary art to historic exhibitions with frequent collaborations with leading artists and arts institutions. The permanent exhibitions star the complete series of works by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones on the Story of Perseus, a haunting series of oil paintings showcasing greek mythology and the Main hall hosts internationally recognized pieces ranging from landscape, portraits to love. The museum itself is a soothing place to visit even if you’re not an art enthusiast.
Southanpton attractions - Southampton Town Walls
Southampton’s growing prosperity as a trading center led to conflict with France, which then required fortification and an adequate defense system. The works on these walls began in the 1360s with the entire town being closed off by a 2 km long stone wall comprising 29 towers and eight gates within the next few decades. The gatehouses were sometimes used as important civic facilities, till, in the 10th century, the walls became recognized as a significant historical feature. The walls are now a nice attraction to visit, and a good place to rekindle with some history and the importance of Southampton throughout history.
Medieval Merchant's House
This is literally a Medieval Merchant’s House from the late-13th-century building which has been restored. The house has sophisticated features such as an undercroft to store wine at a constant temperature, and a first-story bedchamber that projects out into the street to add additional space. The plan is narrow and the whole house is built to a medieval right-angle. The building holds architectural importance as it is the only building of its type that has managed to survive and retain its original materials and structures. It is interesting to see and experience the simplicity of the building, and also allows visitors to realize the things people gave importance to back in the day. The walls, for example, have been built of Bembridge and Purbeck stone with a timber frontage. The house also showcases a medieval shop front, where the owner would have been running his business.
Best things to do in Southampton - Bargate
The Bargate was constructed as part of Southampton town walls and was used as the main gateway to the city. It is entirely made of stone and flint and has been standing since 1180. Large towers were added and extensions created throughout the centuries, with it gaining more and more importance in the town. The room above the gate itself also went through several important uses, used as the city’s guildhall till the 1770s. Even though demolition was also discussed as a possibility, it was soon established that it held too great a value. The upper room even served as The Bargate Monument Gallery, with 42 exhibitions featuring the work of over 250 artists. Make sure to check out the 11 Heraldic Shields on the north side of the Bargate.
God's House Tower
Where art and heritage is concerned, Southampton never fails. The God’s House Tower is a 13th century gatehouse leading to the old town of Southampton. It originally served as the gatehouse leading to marshlands outside the town. It has served as the town gaol and housed the Museum of Archaeology back in the day. It is now an arts and heritage venue and is a Grade I listed building and a scheduled ancient monument. It continues to host to contemporary art shows and important works from prestigious South Coast collections. You can still see the remains of a mural stairway, double portcullis, and windows.
John Hansard Gallery
The John Hansard Gallery is a contemporary visual art gallery and is part of the University of Southampton. It was built in 1959 with the intention of housing the tidal model of Solent. It is now one of the UK’s leading contemporary art galleries and boasts about developing, engaging and presenting art from extraordinary artists from all over the world. They’re also a dynamic part of Southampton life. It brings to focus current affairs through exhibitions and hosts various events and temporary exhibitions. It is a must see for any art enthusiast. For those who are not, visit it so you can engage in one of Southampton’s most notable edifices, and be exposed to some great art.
Go to the beach in Southampton
Art and history is great, but if you visit Southampton, the beach is definitely on your mind. Located in the south coast of Britain, Southampton offers a blend of old towns and a cosmopolitan town center. While in Southampton, you can also visit famous, breathtaking beaches like Calshot Beach, just over half an hour’s drive from the center of Southampton and has a mile-long stretch of shingle. You can also engage in numerous watersports here, ideal for the whole family. About 35miles out of Southampton you will find the award-winning Blue Flag Alum Chime beach, mainly catered to families and young ones, with also a huge, pirate-themed adventure playground. Between Dorset and Hampshire you will find Highcliffe Beach, known as one of the best in the region. This beach is popular with both families and surfers, with grassy sand dunes creating a wonderful background. Southsea beach located in Portsmouth is also one not to miss, a popular spot for sunbathing since the early 19th century. Ideal for families with children or whoever wants to soak up magnificent views of the Isle of Wight and The Solent. Tanners Lane, the closest beach of these, is quiet and picturesque, perfect to escape the city.