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Places to Go: Southampton

Places to Go: Southampton

Southampton is a city that’s not particularly well known for tourism in the UK, but it’s got some sights that are well worth seeing. It’s a large port city, close to the Solent stretch of water. There are lots of things to do there, for all the family – from shopping to watching football, there’s something for everyone.


It’s on the south coast of England, at the top of the Solent. It can easily be reached by car and public transport – it’s only an hour away from London by train, with a pleasant journey through the English countryside.


The city is really influenced by its maritime (boating) history and seafaring adventurers. From the train or the road, you can see the massive cruise and cargo ship port. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one of the most famous cruise ships ever – the Queen Mary 2, formerly the largest cruise ship in the world. Its home port used to be Southampton, like many other massive cruiseliners, so the city has a lot of pride in this boat!


Another famous ship sailing from Southampton was, of course, the Titanic. This ill-fated vessel sailed on its first (or maiden) voyage from the city before stopping at Cherbourg, France, and Ireland, before eventually sinking in the middle of the ocean. The 1997 film starts the romantic tale in the Southampton dockyards of 1912, a bustling place with people of many different ages, ethnicities and classes, all excited to board the pioneering new vessel.


So, if you’re interested in the Titanic, you can pay a visit to the memorial, which lists the names of the engineers who died in the sinking. This isn’t too far from the city centre shops, so it’s worth having a little look if you’re in the area. If the story of the ship really fascinates you, then spend a day at SeaCity Museum, also conveniently in the centre! The exhibition “Southampton’s Titanic Story” shows visitors some artefacts found after the sinking, and allows you to explore the lives of some of those who died. What’s often forgotten about the sinking is how it affected the families of those left behind – much of the staff lived in Southampton, so nowhere else in the world is the disaster felt so harshly by the people. The museum also features information about other ships and voyages, an exhibition appropriately called the “Gateway to the World”, showing how Southampton was once the most important place in the UK for global travel and adventure.


The city also has a lot of medieval walls - the longest stretch in Britain, in fact. These guarded the old city centre from invaders like the French. Within these old walls, you’ll find West Quay shopping centre, a big shopping destination for much of the South Coast. After a long day’s exploration in the city centre, the Mayflower Theatre is just a stone’s throw away. You can see some of the UK’s finest touring theatre shows there, if you want to be entertained in the setting of a stunning art deco auditorium.


Southampton is close to the city of Portsmouth, a large military port also steeped in boating history. It’s home to the Tudor ship the Mary Rose and Nelson’s war vessel the HMS Victory, which lived up to its name by winning the Battle of Trafalgar. West of Southampton is the New Forest, a natural park filled with ponies, miles of clear heathland, and pretty little streams. Here you’ll find the Beaulieu Motor Museum, one of the largest in the UK, and the Rufus Stone, which marks the site of where King William II was shot by an arrow, and died.


In such a handy place, you’d be silly not to take advantage of all Southampton has to offer this winter.

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