With a tremendous maritime past, it is no wonder the many draws of Southampton are related to the sea and its effect on the city. For those planning a visit to this jewel on the English South Coast, we look at the finest attractions, restaurants, and off-the-beaten-path ideas for your holiday. Calling itself the “cruise capital of Europe”, the city sees a steady traffic of visitors set to embark on cruises with destinations all over Europe and the world. Sadly, Southampton has the unique honour of being the port that bid farewell to the ill-destined Titanic over a century ago.
For those thinking about a cottage holiday in Hampshire, a voyage to Southampton is more than necessary. The coastal city has so much to offer and explore, and is ready to welcome you aboard.
Here are some highlights:
Based at the heart of Southampton, the SeaCity Museum showcases the connection of the city to the sea. It retells the stories of the Titanic and other seaworthy tales. The museum offers a number of interactive exhibitions and galleries. Starting in March, the museum will feature a special exhibition retelling Southampton’s cruise history. Port Out Southampton Home will offer a look into the golden age of cruising from the 1920s through to the 1950s. There will be displays of artefacts from the Mauretania, Queen Mary and the QE2.
The museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm.
One of the premier attractions in Southampton is the SS Shieldhall. It is the oldest passenger cargo steamship still active in Europe, and based in Southampton – and has a new-look sailing programme for 2016. There will be 2-hour dock cruises of Southampton, music cruises, trips to Poole and the Bournemouth Air Show, America’s Cup Yacht Racing cruising, Hampshire Food Festival trips and specialist interest cruises with guest speakers and commentators on board. The cruise programme is set to run from early June until mid-September.
“After our most successful sailing season ever in 2015, we’ve designed our 2016 cruise programme to offer something for everyone,” said Shieldhall HLF Project Manager Graham Mackenzie. “We will be offering commentary on board, so our guests can learn about the history of the docks and the sights and sounds of Southampton Water and the Solent.”
Guests on Shieldhall get a lot more than a conventional cruise along Southampton water. The ship is manned and run entirely by volunteers, who actively encourage visits to the Engine and Boiler Rooms and also the Bridge.
“We know that the highlights of a visit to Shieldhall include the interaction with our team of volunteers, and the ‘access all areas’ mentality we have on board,” said Shieldhall Marketing Director Nigel Philpott. “Whether it is meeting the Captain on the Bridge or the Chief Engineer in the Engine Room, visitors will soon understand that our team love nothing more than to explain their role in keeping Shieldhall steaming.”
The interior of Southampton also offers a number of attractions for those seeking a “drier” account of the city. Tucked behind ancient stone walls, the Old Town offers nearly 100 listed buildings, amongst them medieval churches and centuries-old wine cellars. It also includes the Tudor House & Garden – a timber-framed house that is considered the city’s most significant historical building.
It includes a number of locally significant artefacts. It endeavours to demonstrate life on the South Coast for the last 800 years. Its collection includes The Southampton Book of Hours, a classic penny farthing, and a finely etched steel casket known as the Nuremberg Casket.
A highlight of any visit to the area would be the Old Town Walk. With guides embedded in ground panels, the walk takes visitors on a historical tour of the city. It includes many of the ancient churches and landmarks in the Old Town.
If looking for objects of a more modern nature, the Southampton City Art Gallery has grown into one of the best received galleries in the south of England. The gallery offers the visiting public more than six centuries of European art. This year, to celebrate the Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, an exhibition dedicated to sport is on display.
A bit of nosh
One highlight in Southampton’s ever-growing culinary scene, Mango offers delicious, authentic Thai food.
Opened in 2007, this beach-bar style eatery is known for its vibrant atmosphere and innovative menu. It combines traditional Thai food in a Spanish tapas-style atmosphere. It quickly grew in popularity, and there are now three in Southampton. The newest, by the city’s Ocean Village marina, is a great spot for just drinks too, with a late night whiskey bar and inspired cocktail menu.
The original Mango Thai in Portswood’s Boho student area has become renowned on the South Coast for its intimate charm and vibrant atmosphere. The family-run tapas bar has since opened two more in the city. The second on Above Bar Street is located footsteps from the Guildhall and Mayflower Theatre, making it ideal if you are looking for a pre- or post-event drink or meal. The most recently opened is a short walk from Ocean Village marina and Oxford Street.
With a number of unique menu items to choose from, the restaurant’s kitchens are open seven days a week from midday, with good lunch deals and 4 for 3 on Thai Tapas until 5pm. They also offer live music nights across the three venues. Check the website for up-to-date listings.
Main Image Credit: Pimlico Badger (flickr.com)