- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Travel to Southampton
The port of Southampton lies on a peninsula between the mouths of the Rivers Test and Itchen and boasts one of the world's best natural harbors. Until the 1930s, it was England's largest port dealing in trans-Atlantic passenger travel, and giant liners like the Queen Mary were built in local shipyards while hundreds of thousands of emigrants departed the country on ships sailing from here, including the Titanic.
While much of the city suffered during WWII, it has preserved a number of old buildings, including parts of the medieval town walls and two Tudor houses with their characteristic black and white half-timbering. There are excellent shopping facilities both in and around the city, and it's a good base for visits to the New Forest and the Isle of Wight. It's also home to many great cultural events, including the annual Southampton International Film Festival.
Tourist Attractions in Southampton
The best views of Southampton's 14th century medieval walls - the third longest unbroken stretch of city wall in Britain - are obtained from the Western Esplanade, also the site of Wind Whistle Tower. The only remaining medieval church in Southampton is St Michael's on Castle Way. Dating from 1070, the church contains Norman relics and a font made of Tournai marble. Follow the walls south to Mayflower Park, which lies opposite the Mayflower Memorial to the Pilgrim Fathers, and Wool House, a 14th century warehouse.
Also nearby is the God's House Tower on Winkle Street, a 12th century hospital dedicated to St Julian. Guided walking tours of the old walls and medieval vaults are available.
Tudor House and Garden
The magnificent Tudor house in St Michael's Square was built in the late 15th century for a wealthy merchant family. Now a museum, it displays exhibits from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, as well as periodic exhibitions encompassing over 900 years of local history. Visitors can use free audio guides while enjoying the reconstructed kitchens and numerous artifacts, including Georgian and Victorian jewelry, and archaeological finds from the medieval and Tudor periods.
Another classic old home to visit is Medieval Merchant's House in French Street, a 13th century townhouse filled with period furniture and wall hangings.
SeaCity Museum tells the story of the people of Southampton and their connection to Britain's rich maritime history, including the stories of those who departed from (or arrived in) the port over the centuries and Southampton's Titanic Story.
The 1930s art deco Civic Centre that houses this fascinating museum is also home to the city's Art Gallery with its interesting selection of old masters and English artists from 1750 to the present, as well as a valuable collection of ceramics.
East of Southampton's old town, Princess Alexandra Dock has been transformed into a modern leisure and shopping center. Smart yachts are moored in the harbor in front of Canute's Pavilion with its designer boutiques, gourmet restaurants, cinemas (including one for art-house and foreign-language films), boat trips, sailing facilities, and great views of the cruise ships moored in the Eastern Docks.
SS Shieldhall is a heritage steamship and part of Britain's National Historic Fleet. The largest surviving working steamship of her type in Europe, this historic vessel - built in 1954 as one of the Clyde sludge boats - has been fully restored and provides a working example of the machinery typical of the great ships that plied the world's oceans between the 1870s and 1960s.
In addition to educational and sightseeing outings, the ship regularly appears in the Southampton Maritime Festival, a two-day heritage event that brings together a host of activities, displays, and attractions, including historic vessels, vehicles and fly-overs by vintage aircraft.
Solent Sky Museum
The Solent Sky Museum uses a fantastic collection of models and photographs, as well as 18 magnificent flying machines, to tell the story of Southampton's aviation heritage. The region is famous for its experimental and development work between 1908 and the late 1960s, the most famous being the Spitfire. Showpieces of the exhibition are the huge Sandringham flying boat, and the Supermarine racing seaplane (the predecessor of the Spitfire) that won the Schneider Trophy in the early 1930s.
Just to the south of the city center, Southampton's Old Town has many unique locations associated with famous residents and visitors including William the Conqueror, Henry V, William Shakespeare, the Pilgrim Fathers, Isaac Watts and Jane Austen.
Originally built as the main gateway to the medieval city, 800 year old Bargate marks the entrance to the Old Town. Numerous plaques have been laid from Bargate down to the waterside to commemorate key events from the early Roman settlement to the opening of the National Oceanography Centre.