Southampton is located along the south coast of England and is 69 miles away from the capital of London, which is located northeast of the city. Southampton is the largest city in the English county of Hampshire and is a thriving port and university city home to a busy harbor and the University of Southampton and Solent University, as well as an array of other businesses. During Southampton cruises, you’ll find a city full of arts and culture, shopping, and world-class cuisine.
Southampton sailings often embark from the city and sail around Northern Europe and even across the Atlantic Ocean to Florida. For Southampton cruises that depart from the city, you can find European cruises to Iceland and Ireland, Scandinavia and Russia, and the Norwegian Fjords, just to name a few.
Southampton is home to 14th century medieval walls that consist of the longest unbroken city wall in Great Britain. When walking by the walls, some good stopping points are Mayflower Park, adjacent to the Mayflower Memorial to the Pilgrim Fathers; Wool House, which is a warehouse that dates back to the 14th century; and God’s House Tower, which was a hospital built in the 12th century that was dedicated to St. Julian. If you want some more Medieval history and views, head to St. Michael’s Church, which was built in the 11th century and features medieval architecture as well as Norman relics.
Located in St. Michael’s Square in Southampton, the Tudor House is a late 15th century home that was built for a wealthy merchant family. You can learn more about how that family and others lived during the Victorian and Edwardian eras by touring the house, which is now a museum featuring rooms that reflect that time period. You’ll also see museum-worthy artifacts, such as medieval archaeological objects, Victorian jewelry, and other exhibitions about local history.
Another historic home to visit in Southampton is the Medieval Merchant’s House on French Street. This one is even older than the Tudor House and was built in 1290. Not only is this townhouse historic, it is also one of the only examples of this type of home from that era. Touring it gives you a chance to learn more about how wealthy families lived in the 13th century.
Great Britain has a long and vast maritime history, and learning about it in the port of Southampton is a fitting place to do so. The SeaCity Museum has exhibitions about its history, with tales of immigration to and from the port, the Titanic and its connection to Southampton, and more.
If you want to learn even more about the Titanic, spend some time on the Titanic Trail in Southampton, a clearly marked trail through the city that details the history leading up to the Titanic’s ill-fated journey across the Atlantic from Southampton. You’ll see the Titanic Engineers’ Memorial, the Titanic Musicians’ Memorial, and other sites about the ship.
The history of the ships of Southampton’s past doesn’t just stop with the Titanic. You can also visit SS Shieldhall, one of the largest surviving steamships that still work. SS Shieldhall is part of Britain’s National Historic Fleet and has been fully restored. Originally built in 1954, it’s a fun ship to see and imagine when it was sailing the ocean.
Learn about Southampton’s famous residents and visitors in its Old Town area. You can walk in the same places where William the Conqueror, Henry V, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen did. Another top site to see in Old Town is Bargate, which serves as the entrance to the Old Town and features a medieval design built in Norman times.
One of the most iconic excursions to go on from Southampton cruises is a visit to Stonehenge. Famous for its Neolithic engineering as well as its mysteriousness, Stonehenge features a stone circle that was built from massive stones weighing as much as 25 tons that had to have been transported incredibly long distances using only the simple tools they had in the past. It’s an incredible experience to walk around the circle and imagine a former civilization constructing it thousands of years ago.
While visiting Stonehenge, you’ll likely want to visit Salisbury, the medieval cathedral city in which Stonehenge is located. Salisbury has pretty architecture along cobblestoned streets. A top sight to see in Salisbury is the 13th century Salisbury Cathedral, which is home to an original copy of the Magna Carta.
Book lovers will enjoy a visit to Winchester, a small cathedral city where Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral. Other sites to see there include Winchester Palace, the Great Hall that has a replica of King Arthur’s round table, the Peninsula Barracks dating back to the 18th century which house military museums, and the water mill at Winchester City Mill.
Nearby Southampton is the village of Netley, which is home to Netley Abbey. This incredible abbey is in ruins now, but is still astounding to see since the remains date back to 1239. The village of Netley itself is also lovely to walk around while there.
If you love cars, you won’t want to miss the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu during your time in Southampton. The museum is located 14 miles southwest of Southampton and is all about the history of the automobile. It even features famous movie vehicles such as the flying car from Harry Potter and James Bond vehicles. In addition, you’ll get to tour the on-site house and gardens, which is the former Great Gatehouse of Beaulieu Abbey built in the 1200s.
If you get more excited by airplanes than cars or ships, go to Solent Sky, a museum dedicated to Southampton’s aviation heritage. While there you can see models and photographs as well as 19 historic aircrafts. You’ll also learn more about how Southampton played a role in the advancement of air travel due to its experimental and development work in the aviation field during the early to mid 20th century.
There are many places to eat near Southampton cruise port. For a quintessential English dining experience, look for menus with the following items: Bakewell pudding, a dessert with a pastry base that has an almond filling and is topped with jam and icing; spotted dick, another dessert pudding that has currants and raisins in it; Cornish pastry, a savory pastry that has a crusty pastry exterior and is filled with meat and vegetables; Lancashire hotpot, a stew made with lamb and potatoes; fish and chips, with fish battered and deep fried and the chips actually being fries; and curry, since England is known for its Indian and Bangladeshi food, particularly chicken tikka masala.
If you’re an early riser, you might want to consider savoring England’s iconic traditional breakfast of bacon, sausage, fried eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, black pudding, a roasted tomato, and toast.
Afternoon tea is also a popular way to get a taste of England. A traditional English tea usually has scones with jam, butter, clotted cream, and tea. A couple of the best places to get tea during your Southampton cruise port of call are at Grand Café, which offers two different types of afternoon tea, and Elsie’s Tea Room, which has a vintage feel.
Much of Southampton’s history is tied to its harbor. It is known for being the embarkation port of the Titanic and as one of the departure ports for D-Day during World War II. Its architecture also provides insight into its earlier history as you’ll see a number of ancient buildings left over from the medieval ages.
As for culture, Southampton is one of the best places in southern England to find arts and music. Southampton has internationally renowned art galleries including what many consider to be the best publicly owned art collection in the United Kingdom outside of London at the Southampton City Art Gallery.
Southampton is home to the Mayflower Theatre, which is the largest theater in the south region of England and features popular Broadway shows, ballet, and operas.
Music abounds in Southampton, which boasts a variety of clubs and live music venues. O2 Guildhall Southampton is the premier venue in Southampton for major shows, such as nationally touring acts. Some other excellent venues for catching a show include the Engine Rooms for live music, the Brook in Portswood for a more intimate concert-going experience, Joiners in St. Marys for rock and roll or punk music, and Turner Sims Concert Hall, which often has classical and jazz music concerts.
Southampton has an extensive public transportation system that goes all around the city and neighboring destinations, making it especially convenient for travelers to explore before embarking on one of the Southampton sailings that regularly depart the port. Your options for getting around the city include the bus system, which connects the city center with the suburbs and other nearby cities and towns. There are also trains that travel to nearby cities, as well as Southampton Airport. Coaches are available for hire, with one of the most popular rides being to London.
Since Southampton is such a large city, it probably comes as no surprise that visitors arriving on Southampton cruises have many different options for where to shop. However, here are a couple of the most popular places to do so:
Westquay is located right in Southampton’s city center and has over 100 stores. The multi-level shopping center offers many popular brands and is one of the premier shopping destinations on the south coast of England.
If you head east of Southampton’s Old Town area, you’ll come to Princess Alexandra Dock, which has been turned into a fabulously modern shopping center called Ocean Village. You’ll find designer boutiques and upscale restaurants in a fun setting right next to the harbor.
Cruisers embarking on Southampton sailings or spending the day in the city on a port of call will likely want to have some cash on hand. Southampton businesses accept the British Pound currency, similar to the rest of England.
Tipping is customary in England, though it might not be as much as you’re used to in the U.S. The customary tip amount in England is 10% to 15%. If dining out, be sure to double-check your bill before leaving a tip, since a service charge is sometimes already added, particularly if you’re dining in a large group. In regards to other food service businesses, you’re generally not expected to leave a tip for fast food or self-serve meals.