Undoubtedly the busiest port in the UK, Southampton welcomes two million cruise passengers each year. While regarded as a gateway to the world, England’s major port city does have some intriguing sites of its own, including inspirational art galleries and museums, as well as a fascinating maritime heritage, having welcomed visits from the world’s most iconic ocean liners, including the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Titanic. And football fans let’s not forget it has a famous Premier League football club.
Why cruise Southampton
The UK’s premier cruise port Southampton is regarded as the gateway to the world, with cruise lines embarking and disembarking from here for no-fly cruises to destination around the globe. Southampton also features as a port of call on British Isles and UK cruises, so passengers can stop off in the city and explore its world-class attractions in a day.
What to see and do in Southampton
Delving into Southampton’s maritime heritage, one of the major highlights of the SeaCity Museum and its centrepiece is the model of the Titanic, which gives visitors a closer look at the intricate layout of the historic vessel. The museum also focuses on the lives and times of the people in the city and their relationship with the sea. Those with a keen interest in the history of the Titanic should also pay a visit to the Titanic Engineers’ Memorial, which pays tribute to the engineers who lost their lives aboard the ill-fated ship.
Southampton City Art Gallery
Situated in the heart of Southampton’s Civic Centre on Commercial Road, the Southampton City Art Gallery has one of the finest collections of art in the UK outside of London. It comprises an extensive collection of more than 5,000 artworks spanning eight centuries, tracing the history of European art from the Renaissance to the present through paintings, sculpture, drawings, photography and film.
While much is known of Southampton’s maritime heritage and legacy, many will not know of the city’s important role in the advancement of aviation until they visit this museum. There are more than 20 airframes from the golden age of aviation on display, including the legendary Supermarine Spitfire, considered the world’s greatest fighting aircraft.
While Southampton was badly damaged by two Second World War air raids, the city’s medieval town walls thankfully survived and is one of the most complete and well-preserved in the country. Begin your tour of the old town at Bargate, the medieval entrance and work your way down the mile-long stretch, passing medieval wine vaults, medieval churches and fine Georgian houses as you go. You can then enjoy views from the Mayflower Park’s waterfront, from where ocean liners make their way to and from the Western Docks.
Tudor House and Garden
History buffs should pay a visit to the Tudor House and Garden, located in the heart of Southampton’s old town. Facing St Michael’s Square, the timber-framed building was built in the late 15th Century, while King John’s Palace, the adjacent Norman house accessible from Tudor House Garden, dates back a further 300 years.
If you have more time, it’s worth venturing further afield as there are several historic attractions outside of Southampton that are well-worth a visit (and to which cruise lines often offer excursions). These include the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, located just an hour’s drive away and considered one of the many wonders of the world, and Salisbury Cathedral, home to the original Magna Carta manuscript and boasting the tallest spire in Britain. You could also head to the capital, London, which is roughly an hour and a half away by train.
Need to know when travelling to Southampton
Getting around in Southampton
Southampton has four cruise terminals. The Ocean and QEII terminals lie in the Eastern Docks, while the City and Mayflower terminals are in the Western Docks. The City and Ocean terminals are roughly 10 minutes' walk to the southern edge of Southampton's old town, or a 20-minute walk to the Westquay Shopping Centre. The QEII and Mayflower terminals are further away (around a 20 and 30-minute walk away, respectively). If you’re docked at one of these terminals, either take the shuttle bus or hop in a taxi. Once in the city, most of Southampton’s top attractions are in walking distance.
When to go to Southampton
The best time to visit Southampton is between May and October when the weather is warm. If you’re a football fan, try and tie in your visit when there’s a game on at St Mary’s.
Southampton uses the pound sterling.
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