The historic port town of Southampton, located on England’s south coast, claims title of Cruise Capital of Northern Europe. Situated in the county of Hampshire, Southampton is 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of London and 19 miles (30 kilometers) northwest of Portsmouth.
Southampton has been a major British port for hundreds of years seeing its fair share of glory and tribulations. The Port of Southampton was officially established in 1838, the year the first regular steamship service crossed the Atlantic.
Even though Southampton is mostly a turnaround port, plan to spend some time in the City of Southampton. The concentration of museums celebrating maritime roots and prosperous medieval past, are centered in Old Town. Modern conveniences like outdoor markets, shopping malls, parks, recreation activities, restaurants and pubs are also available.
Most of the sites are within a 15-minute walk to City Center from the cruise ship. Transportation is readily available at the port.
Visitors will want to explore Old Town and the museums that help tell its story. Simply walk the streets and experience the charming town.
The QE2 Mile is a popular walking path that runs through the heart of the city from the Cenotaph (war memorial built in 1919) down to the waterfront at Town Quay. Along the path are points of interest, especially historic buildings and fortifications. The road, recently renamed the QE2 Mile, was renamed in honor of Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth II cruise liner, which called Southampton home for nearly 40 years.
In the heart of City Center is Bargate monument, which is 800 years old. Bargate was the main entry point of the fortified walled city dating back to medieval days. Remains of the old wall remain among modern city dwellings.
The Medieval Merchant’s House, built in 1290 by trader John Fortin, is a restored home of a prosperous trader.
Tudor House and Westgate Hall formerly known as Tudor Merchants Hall is a restored timber framed house and hall that have played host to icons of the past like Henry V and pilgrims bound to America on the Mayflower.
Museum of Archeology, God’s House Tower, located near the waterfront, this museum has artifacts and information about the town’s medieval past.
Maritime Museum is located in the former Wool House, which was built in 1417 to warehouse wool for trade. On permanent exhibit is the story of the Titanic’s crew. Look for carvings that were etched in the wall from French prisoners that were held in the building during In the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1912, the RMS Titanic sailed from Southampton. In honor of the people who lost their lives at sea is a memorial in East Park.
Founded in 1017, St. Michael’s Church is the oldest building still in use in the city. Inside is country’s oldest brass lectern dating from around 1350.
A number of shore excursions around the region are available. Popular trips include:
Day trips to Stonehenge and Salisbury. Cruisers visit the prehistoric monument and then spend time in the medieval city of Salisbury. Salisbury Cathedral is a highlight as well as the historic market square.
A visit to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight allows visitors to explore the home of Queen Victoria and her family.
An almost 2 hour transfer each way to the World Heritage City of Bath to visit the ancient Roman City, which is a 2,000-year-old spa town built around Britain’s only hot mineral springs.
Windsor Castle is a popular shore excursion. One of the principal official residences of the British monarchy, Windsor Castle is the site of the State Apartments, St. George’s Hall and St George’s Chapel. The tour includes a stop in Windsor town for shopping and sightseeing. The transfer time from Southampton is 90 minutes each way.
In addition to the Do Not Miss highlights in Southampton and the shore excursions listed above cruisers might take advantage of the following tours that are a 30-minute car or coach ride to:
Winchester is a 20-minute drive north from Southampton. Plan to visit the 900-year-old Winchester Cathedral and the Great Hall (the only remaining part of Winchester Castle) and King Arthur’s Round Table.
Portsmouth is less than 20 miles southeast of Southampton. From here, visit the birthplace of famous writer Charles Dickens, Gunwharf Quays or the Royal Marines Museum.
New Forest National Park is 20.5 miles from Southampton. The grounds of this park date back to 1079 when they were used for hunting by the William the Conqueror.