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Southampton Travel Guide

About Southampton

Inseparable from its long maritime heritage, the south coast city of Southampton is a buoyant, underrated place to explore.

A large portion of its 4 million-plus annual visitors pass straight through to the port – the destination is self-billed as “the cruise capital of Europe” and hundreds of ships still depart here each year. Most famously, it’s also where the Titanic began its ill-fated voyage more than 100 years ago.

For those making the effort to spend time in Southampton itself, however, there are clear rewards. The timber-framed Tudor House & Garden is the city’s most significant historical construction, which sits in an Old Town that still rests partly behind hefty ancient stone walls. The Old Town has more than 90 listed buildings, from old wine vaults to medieval churches.

On a more contemporary note, the city’s residents have plenty to busy themselves with. The Southampton City Art Gallery is one of the best of its kind in the south, covering six centuries of European art, while the Grade II listed Mayflower Theatre puts on regular high-profile shows. Tying in with Southampton’s nautical legacy, the recently opened SeaCity Museum recounts the tale of the city and its seafaring connections and it includes a special section on the Titanic.

As well as boasting modern retail developments such as the shiny West Quay mall, Southampton also prides itself on its green space. There are several parks within the city, but you don’t have to travel far to reach either the Isle of Wight (20 minutes by ferry) or the bounties of the New Forest.

Visitors can also take to the water on the SS Shieldhall, the largest working steam ship in Britain. The vessel, active from the 1870s onwards, has a number of scheduled sailings and also offers seamanship training courses.

So whether you’re docking or departing, Southampton is a ship-shape city that will keep you busy for a day at least.

Key facts

234,600 (2008)
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Featured Hotels


Mercure Southampton Centre Dolphin Hotel

This large chain hotel has clearly spent a lot of time agonising over the finer details, including individually designed headboards created by artists in each of the 65 rooms. The buildings date from 1790 and 1890, and Jane Austen attended a ball in the hotel's Assembly rooms on her 18th birthday. A hotel with genuine character.

Premier Inn Southampton City Centre

A neat, clean and comfortable budget option well placed for exploring the city. It might not be the most exciting place to stay in Southampton, but if your priorities are location and price then this central Premier Inn can't be beaten.

Jury Inn

Book early to get the best prices at this city centre hotel, which overlooks East Park and is within walking distance of the main rail station. With 270 rooms, Jury Inn is the largest hotel in the city. Plus points include flatscreen TVs and supremely comfortable beds in all rooms, as well as free Wi-Fi.

Novotel Southampton

This hotel has a central location near the main railway station and West Quay shopping centre. It has 121 rooms, including four for disabled guests, and there is a swimming pool with exercise area and a sauna. Wi-Fi access is available. The hotel has a bar and restaurant.

The Mayfair Guest House

Most of Southampton's best budget options are chain hotels, but this neat little guesthouse is a nice exception. Set in an elegant Edwardian building, it owes its excellent reputation to warm service, a cosy lounge area with free Wi-Fi and award-winning breakfasts based on locally sourced ingredients.

Grand Harbour Hotel

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Louvre, this iconic hotel stands out both for its architectural style and for its facilities. Many of the 173 rooms have sea views, there are suites with Jacuzzi baths and double balconies for luxury lovers, and the in-house fitness centre has a state-of-the-art gym and a pool as well as several therapy rooms.