Things to do

Things to do in Southampton

 

Lepe beach

On a glorious spring day last year, we did two things of note. We looked at the sky. Then we gazed at the sea.

Soaring above, we spotted the unmistakable shape of a Spitfire as it made a special flypast to mark the 80th anniversary of the iconic plane's first flight. Later on, we stood near the spot where, 105 years ago, RMS Titanic slipped her moorings and set sail on her ill-fated maiden voyage.

My family and I had travelled to Southampton on that day in March - and watched history come to life.

Inspired by the Spitfire's commemorative flight, we headed to Solent Sky, the aviation museum, where we marvelled at the story of how the plane which won the Battle of Britain was built and tested in the city, flying for the first time from nearby Eastleigh Aerodrome on March 5, 1936.

But it was the tale of the Titanic that really captured my daughters' imagination - and the day turned into a pilgrimage to discover more about the liner which sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912. Tragically, 549 Sotonians perished with the vessel. So we set off on our own voyage of discovery, beginning at Dock Gate Four to see the Titanic memorial stone.

From there, we headed to Ocean Village to visit South Western House. This ornate building was the hotel where many of the first class passengers stayed on the eve of the sailing.

Just north of Above Bar in the city stands two memorials - one to the Titanic engineers and the second dedicated to the musicians who carried on playing their instruments on deck to keep up spirits as she sank.

Our pilgrimage ended at SeaCity Museum - unveiled exactly 100 years after Titanic sailed from Southampton - to view the exhibition chronicling the incredible story of the most infamous of liners.

Bargate Southampton The Old Pier entrance The Juniper Berry

 

History and culture buffs are spoilt for choice in this city, which boasts England's third longest stretch of medieval town walling. Less than a mile from the heart of Southampton you'll find timber-framed Tudor House and Garden, in St Michael's Square, its most important historic building, dating back more than 800 years.

Southampton City Art Gallery is internationally-renowned and features regular major exhibitions, ranging from paintings and sculptures to photography and films. The city is also known as the shopping capital of the south coast, with two indoor centres, an IKEA store, a retail park and a host of boutique shops.

 The jewel in its shopping crown is Westquay with more than 100 stores spread over three levels. As well as big name brands such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, the centre offers a range of eateries including Wagamama and Ed's Easy Diner. Nearby, the retail park houses Next Home, Boots and JD Sports, while Marlands shopping centre features a number of specialist outlets and The Disney Store - a popular haunt for families of all ages.

Family park

Westquay

For boutique shopping, pop along to Bedford Place, a short stroll from the city centre. This spot retains an old-fashioned charm and features up-market stores and a throng of bars, pubs, restaurants and coffee shops.

Southampton also offers families the ideal springboard for a trip to the Isle of Wight. Red Funnel operates dozens of sailings a day, with the car ferry docking at East Cowes and the high-speed service taking passengers to West Cowes in around 25 minutes. Meanwhile, SS Shieldhall - the largest working steamship in the UK - runs a number of water tours, including an excursion to Cowes for the spectacular fireworks display which caps the yachting centre's annual sailing festival.

Red Funnel ferry

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