Welcome to Southampton, a vibrant city located on the south coast of England in Hampshire that boasts a wealth of culture, history and beauty.
Nestled approximately 75 miles southwest of London, Southampton is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.
Fun fact – Southampton is also home to the longest stretch of medieval walls in England and sits as the departure point for the ill-fated Titanic’s maiden voyage.
Walking around Southampton you’ll quickly notice the rich history and cultural heritage that’s evident in many of the landmarks, museums, and galleries here. From the medieval walls that encircle the old town to the Tudor House and Garden, there are plenty of opportunities to step back in time and explore the city’s past.
It is also a thriving arts and cultural scene, with a number of festivals, events, and performances taking place throughout the year. The Mayflower Theatre, which is one of the largest theatres outside of London, regularly hosts West End productions and other high-profile shows that scream out to be seen.
Southampton’s location on the south coast of England means you’ll have easy access to some of the country’s most beautiful natural landscapes, including The New Forest National Park, which is just a short drive away.
Plus its location on the coast means it has a lively waterfront area, with a marina, cruise ship terminal, and plenty of opportunities for watersports and sailing if that’s your vibe!
In this post, we will dive into the top 20 things to do in Southampton and the best places to see, so you can make the most of your visit to this unique and exciting city.
Brief History Of Southampton, Hampshire
Southampton has a long and fascinating history that dates back over 2,000 years. It was originally settled by the Romans, who established a port in the area to trade with other parts of the empire.
Over time, Southampton grew in importance as a port city, with ships departing from its docks to destinations all over the world.
Throughout the centuries, Southampton played a key role in several significant historical events. During the medieval period, the city was heavily fortified to defend against attacks from invading armies. It was also a departure point for ships carrying soldiers to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, which was a major English victory in the Hundred Years’ War.
In more recent times, Southampton was the departure point for the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912. The ship was built in the city’s docks and set sail from Southampton on its journey across the Atlantic. The Titanic’s tragic sinking just a few days later had a profound impact on the city and its residents.
Today, visitors can explore Southampton’s rich history through its many landmarks and museums. The medieval walls that surround the old town provide a glimpse into the city’s past, while the SeaCity Museum tells the story of the Titanic and its connection to Southampton.
Ready to discover the many things to do in Southampton? Let’s get to it…
Top 20 Things To Do In Southampton
1. Visit the SeaCity Museum
What is it? The SeaCity Museum is an interactive museum that tells the story of Southampton’s maritime heritage, including its connections to the Titanic and other famous ships. It features a range of exhibits and displays, as well as hands-on activities and immersive experiences.
Why visit? The museum is one of the must-see attractions in Southampton for anyone interested in this city’s history and culture. It offers a fascinating insight into the city’s past, and the interactive exhibits make it a fun and engaging experience for visitors of all ages.
Opening hours: The SeaCity Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Entrance cost: £10 for adults, £8 for concessions, and £6 for children aged 5-16.
2. Explore the Tudor House and Garden
What is it? The Tudor House and Garden is a restored 15th-century house and garden that provides a glimpse into Southampton’s past. The house has been carefully preserved to showcase its original features, and the garden is a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city.
Why visit? The Tudor House and Garden is a fascinating attraction that allows visitors to step back in time and experience life in a bygone era. The house is filled with period furnishings and artefacts, while the garden is a beautiful and peaceful retreat – a must-see sight in Southampton.
Opening hours: The Tudor House and Garden is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Entrance cost: £6.50 for adults, £5.50 for concessions, and £4.50 for children aged 5-16.
3. Take a walk along the medieval walls
What is it? The medieval walls are a series of fortifications that surround the old town of Southampton. They were originally built in the 14th century to defend the city against attack, and they have been carefully preserved over the years.
Why visit? The medieval walls are a unique and impressive feature of Southampton’s history, and taking a walk along them offers stunning views of the city and its surroundings. It’s a great way to get some exercise while also learning about the city’s past.
Opening hours: The walls are accessible 24/7, although some sections may be closed for maintenance at certain times.
4. See the ruins of Netley Abbey
What is it? The ruins of Netley Abbey are the remains of a Cistercian monastery that was founded in the 13th century. The ruins are situated in a picturesque location on the banks of the River Hamble, and they offer a fascinating insight into the history of the area.
Why visit? The ruins of Netley Abbey are a peaceful and atmospheric attraction that are perfect for history lovers and anyone looking for a scenic walk. The ruins are set in beautiful surroundings and there are plenty of opportunities for photography and picnics.
Opening hours: The ruins are open daily from 10am to 6pm (summer) or 4pm (winter).
Entrance cost: £7.20 for adults, £6.50 for concessions, and £4.30 for children aged 5-17.
5. Visit the Solent Sky Museum
What is it? The Solent Sky Museum is a museum dedicated to aviation history, particularly the aircraft that were designed and built in the Solent area. The museum has a range of exhibits, including vintage aircraft, engines, and other aviation-related artefacts.
Why visit? The Solent Sky Museum is a must-visit attraction for aviation enthusiasts, as well as anyone interested in Southampton’s industrial heritage. The exhibits are well-presented and informative, and the museum offers a great day out for families and one of the top things to do in Southampton with kids
Opening hours: The Solent Sky Museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm.
Entrance cost: £9 for adults, £8 for seniors, and £6 for children aged 5-16.
Whilst you’re here, why not check out these other popular cities close to Southampton
- Best things to do in Portsmouth
- Best things to do in Torquay, Cornwall
- Best things to do in Bristol
- Best things to do in Newquay, Cornwall
6. Go to the Southampton City Art Gallery
What is it? The Southampton City Art Gallery is a gallery that showcases a range of art, including paintings, sculpture, and photography. The gallery has a collection of over 5,000 works, including pieces by famous artists such as Auguste Rodin and Francis Bacon.
Why visit? The Southampton City Art Gallery is a must-see attraction for art lovers, with a range of works that span centuries and styles. The gallery also hosts a range of temporary exhibitions and events, making it a dynamic and engaging cultural hub.
Opening hours: The Southampton City Art Gallery is open daily from 10am to 3pm.
Entrance cost: Free
7. See the Bargate monument
What is it? A Southampton highlight – the Bargate monument is a Grade I listed building that was originally built in the 12th century as the main entrance to the city. It has since been used for a range of purposes, including as a prison and a museum.
Why visit? The Bargate monument is one of Southampton’s most iconic landmarks, and it is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the city. The building is steeped in history and offers a fascinating glimpse into Southampton’s past.
Opening hours: The Bargate monument is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Entrance cost: Free
8. Go shopping at Westquay
What is it? Westquay is a large shopping centre located in the heart of Southampton. It has a range of stores, including high-street brands, designer boutiques, and department stores.
Why visit? Westquay is a great place to go shopping, with plenty of options to suit all tastes and budgets. The centre also has a range of restaurants and cafes, making it a great place to relax and unwind after a day of shopping.
Opening hours: Westquay is open Monday-Saturday from 9am to 8pm, and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.
Entrance cost: Free to enter, but prices for individual stores vary.
9. Enjoy a show at the Mayflower Theatre
What is it? The Mayflower Theatre is a large theatre located in the heart of Southampton. It hosts a range of productions throughout the year, including West End shows, musicals, and plays.
Why visit? The Mayflower Theatre is a must-visit attraction for anyone who loves the theatre. The venue is well-known for its high-quality productions and impressive shows, and it has been a staple of Southampton’s cultural scene for over 90 years.
Opening hours: The Mayflower Theatre is open on performance days only, with shows usually starting at 7.30pm.
Entrance cost: Prices for shows vary.
10. Take a boat trip around the port
What is it? There are a variety of boat trips available in Southampton, which offer visitors the chance to explore the city from a different perspective. Some trips focus on the history of the port, while others offer a chance to spot wildlife or enjoy the sunset over the water.
Why visit? If you’re looking for one of the best Southampton experiences, then taking a boat trip around these magical waters is a unique and memorable way to experience this place. It’s a great way to relax and unwind, while also learning more about the city and its surroundings.
Opening hours: Boat trips operate at different times throughout the day and evening, depending on the operator and the type of trip.
Website: Varies depending on operator.
Entrance cost: Varies depending on operator and type of trip.
11. See the Holy Rood Church
What is it? The Holy Rood Church is a historic church located in the heart of Southampton’s Old Town. It dates back to the 14th century and is known for its impressive architecture and intricate carvings.
Why visit? The Holy Rood Church is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in architecture and history. The church is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Southampton, and the carvings and decorations are truly breathtaking.
Opening hours: The Holy Rood Church is open Monday-Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
Entrance cost: Free
12. Visit the Southampton Common
What is it? The Southampton Common is a large park located in the heart of the city. It covers over 300 acres and features a range of facilities, including sports pitches, play areas, and ponds.
Why visit? The Southampton Common is a great place to go for a walk, have a picnic, or enjoy some outdoor activities. It’s a peaceful and relaxing oasis in the heart of the city, and it’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Opening hours: The Southampton Common is open daily from 7am to 8pm (summer) or 5pm (winter).
13. Go to the New Forest Wildlife Park
What is it? The New Forest Wildlife Park is a wildlife park located just outside Southampton. It features a range of animals, including wolves, otters, and deer, and there are also plenty of opportunities for hands-on experiences and feeding sessions.
Why visit? The New Forest Wildlife Park is a great day out for families and anyone interested in wildlife. The park offers a range of educational experiences and opportunities to see animals up close, and there are also plenty of places to eat and relax.
Opening hours: The New Forest Wildlife Park is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm.
Entrance cost: £16.25 for adults, £12.25 for children aged 3-16, and free for children under 3.
14. Explore the St. Mary’s Stadium
What is it? St. Mary’s Stadium is the home of Southampton Football Club. It has a seating capacity of over 32,000 and has been the venue for a range of high-profile matches, including Premier League and FA Cup games.
Why visit? Even if you’re not a football fan, visiting St. Mary’s Stadium is a great experience. The stadium is a state-of-the-art facility that offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of professional football, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the history and culture of the club.
Opening hours: Tours of the stadium operate on selected dates and times throughout the year.
Entrance cost: Prices for tours vary.
15. Take a trip to Beaulieu Palace House and Gardens
What is it? Beaulieu Palace House and Gardens is a stately home located in the New Forest, just a short drive from Southampton. The house dates back to the 13th century and is set in stunning grounds that feature a range of gardens, including a Victorian kitchen garden and a rose garden.
Why visit? Beaulieu Palace House and Gardens is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in history, architecture, and gardens. The house is full of treasures and artefacts from throughout the centuries, and the gardens are a peaceful and beautiful oasis.
Opening hours: Beaulieu Palace House and Gardens is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm.
Entrance cost: £19.50 for adults, £9.50 for children aged 5-16, and free for children under 5.
16. Walk around the Ocean Village Marina
What is it? Ocean Village Marina is a stylish marina located in the heart of Southampton. It features a range of luxury apartments, shops, and restaurants, as well as a large marina that is home to a variety of boats and yachts.
Why visit? Walking around the Ocean Village Marina is a great way to experience the luxury and glamour of Southampton’s waterfront. The area is full of beautiful boats and yachts, and there are plenty of opportunities to shop, dine, and relax.
Opening hours: N/A
17. See the City Walls (God’s House Tower)
What is it? The City Walls of Southampton are a series of medieval walls and fortifications that were built to protect the city. God’s House Tower is one of the best-preserved parts of the walls, and it now houses a museum and art gallery.
Why visit? Seeing the City Walls is a must-do activity for anyone interested in history and architecture. The walls are an impressive feat of medieval engineering, and God’s House Tower is a great place to learn more about the history of the walls and the city.
Opening hours: God’s House Tower is open Wednesday-Saturday from 10am to 3pm.
Entrance cost: Free
18. Take a guided walking tour of the Old Town
What is it? There are a variety of guided walking tours available in Southampton, which offer visitors the chance to explore the city and learn about its history and culture. Some tours focus on specific themes, such as food or architecture, while others provide a general overview of the city and the Old Town.
Why visit? Taking a guided walking tour is a great way to get a deeper understanding of Southampton and its history. The tours are led by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, and there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions and interact with other visitors.
Opening hours: Varies depending on the operator.
Website: Varies depending on the operator.
Entrance cost: Prices for tours vary.
Top 19 Things To Do In Southampton;
- Visit the SeaCity Museum
- Explore the Tudor House and Garden
- Take a walk along the medieval walls
- See the ruins of Netley Abbey
- Visit the Solent Sky Museum
- Go to the Southampton City Art Gallery
- See the Bargate monument
- Go shopping at Westquay
- Enjoy a show at the Mayflower Theatre
- Take a boat trip around the port
- See the Holy Rood Church
- Visit the Southampton Common
- Go to the New Forest Wildlife Park
- Explore the St. Mary’s Stadium
- Take a trip to Beaulieu Palace House and Gardens
- Walk around the Ocean Village Marina
- See the City Walls (God’s House Tower)
- Take a guided walking tour of the Old Town
Top 4 Things To Do Near Southampton:
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – This naval museum and heritage site is located just 20 miles from Southampton and is home to a range of historic ships, including HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.
- Beaulieu National Motor Museum – This fascinating museum is located in the nearby New Forest and features a huge collection of vintage and classic cars, as well as motorcycles and other vehicles.
- Winchester Cathedral – Located just 12 miles from Southampton, Winchester Cathedral is a stunning example of medieval architecture and is home to a range of treasures and artefacts.
- Stonehenge – This prehistoric monument is located around 30 miles from Southampton and is one of the most famous and mysterious landmarks in the world.
How can I spend a day in Southampton?
There are plenty of things to do in Southampton that can be enjoyed in a day. Some top attractions include visiting the SeaCity Museum, exploring the Old Town, taking a walk in the Southampton Common, and going shopping at Westquay. You can also enjoy a show at the Mayflower Theatre, take a boat trip around the port, or see the Holy Rood Church.
Is Southampton worth visiting?
Yes, Southampton is definitely worth visiting. The city has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a vibrant culture. There are plenty of things to see and do in Southampton, from visiting museums and galleries to exploring the beautiful parks and waterfront areas.
What are things Southampton is famous for?
Southampton is famous for a range of things, including its role as a major port city, its connections to the Titanic and other historic ships, and its world-class university. The city is also known for its beautiful parks and waterfront areas, its historic architecture, and its vibrant cultural scene.
Is Southampton good for a holiday?
Yes, Southampton is a great place for a holiday. There are plenty of things to see and do in the city, as well as nearby attractions like the New Forest and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The city has a range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hotels to luxury apartments, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes.
What day is market day in Southampton?
The general market day in Southampton is on a Saturday, with stalls located on Above Bar Street, Below Bar Street, and East Street. There are also a range of other markets throughout the week, including a farmers market on Sundays and a vintage market on the first Saturday of each month.
Does Southampton have a beach?
While Southampton does have a waterfront area, it does not have a beach in the traditional sense. However, there are plenty of beaches located within a short drive of the city, including Bournemouth Beach and Calshot Beach.