Top 10 things to do in Southampton for cruise visitors

Top 10 things to do in Southampton

Southampton is one of those cities on England’s South Coast that’s easy to overlook. Heavily bombed in the war, it’s not the most picturesque of places, but as one of Europe’s major cruise ports, millions of cruise visitors pass through every year. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Southampton offers museums and cultural attractions as well as an interesting old town with medieval walls and houses.

The port is gateway to the beautiful Hampshire countryside and the New Forest with many places of interest that can easily be visited in a day. So if you are visiting Southampton on a cruise, here are some of the things I’d recommend you visit in and around the city. You may also like to read my article on Top 10 places and things to eat in Southampton.

Top 10 things to do in Southampton

1 Walk Southampton’s old city walls

Just a short distance from the port you can walk the medieval city walls of Southampton that encircle the old town and were built to preserve the town from attack from the sea. You can still see the arcades that formed the entrance to warehouses where wine barrels were stored and walk along the top of the walls that would have overlooked the beach, a fashionable spot for sea bathing in the 18th century. At weekends there are guided tours of the wall starting at Bargate or pick up a self-guided walk leaflet from The Tudor House.

Southampton City Walls Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walk Southampton’s Old City Walls

2 Step back in time at The Tudor House

In the old quarter of Southampton, a short walk from the cruise port is the recently restored Tudor House, dating back to the 15th century. An audio guide takes you through the rooms to uncover the history of Southampton over the centuries.

The Tudor House in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Tudor House in Southampton

There’s a pretty Tudor knot garden, views over the city walls, a kitchen laid out with food that the Tudors would have enjoyed and a glass-sided cafe overlooking the garden. For another dive into the history of Southampton, visit the nearby Merchant’s House that is furnished and preserved, as it would have been in the Middle Ages.

Getting there: Walking 10 min from cruise terminal. Adults £4.75 Children £3.75, Family ticket £13.50

The Tudor House in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Tudor House in Southampton

3 Shop till you drop

If you enjoy shopping for international brands you’ll find them all in one place in the West Quay shopping mall in the center of Southampton. The major stores are John Lewis and Marks and Spencer with a wide range of fashion, lifestyle and technology stores as well as plenty of cafes and restaurants. If you’re looking for designer names at bargain prices you’ll find them in at Gunwharf Quays outlet shopping center near Portsmouth Harbour, which can be reached by train from Southampton, close to the other attractions of Portsmouth.

West Quay Shopping Centre Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

West Quay Shopping Centre

4 Nautical connections at SeaCity Museum

The SeaCity Museum explores Southampton’s connection with the sea over the centuries, with travellers from all over the world passing through the port. In 1912 the Titanic set sail from Southampton with most of its crew coming from the city. A poignant street map on the floor marks each person lost with a red dot, over 500 people from the city alone.

SeaCity Museum in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

SeaCity Museum in Southampton

There are many interactive exhibits such as the Disaster room where the 1930s enquiry into the Titanic’s loss is replayed. An exhibition of Port Out Southampton Home (until June 2017) evokes the romance of the golden age of cruising from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Getting there: Walking 20 mins, Taxi 10 mins from the cruise terminal. Free shuttle bus from the terminal to SeaCity museum running 1 per hour. Adults £8.50 Family £25 Open daily 10am-5pm

SeaCity Museum in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

SeaCity Museum in Southampton

5 The Southampton City Art Gallery

Next to the SeaCity museum is the Southampton City Art Gallery in the light and airy space above the public library. Under the high arched ceiling of the main gallery you’ll find everything from contemporary and twentieth century art to old masters and impressionists such as Monet.

Southampton City Art Gallery Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Southampton City Art Gallery

The side galleries hold regularly changing exhibitions and look out for the wood panelled gallery with a series of Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones showing the Perseus story from classical mythology.

Getting there: Walking 20 mins, Taxi 10 mins from the cruise terminal. Free shuttle bus from the terminal to SeaCity museum running 1 per hour. Free entrance although a donation is appreciated. Closed Sundays.

Southampton City Art Gallery Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Southampton City Art Gallery

Read my article on Top 10 places and things to eat in Southampton for cruise visitors

6 Beaulieu Motor Museum, Palace House and Abbey

Put together a national motor museum, 13th century Cistercian abbey and stately home of the Montagu family set beside a lake, and you have the ingredients for a fun packed day out for all ages and interests. The Beaulieu motor museum is the big draw, housing over 250 vehicles from motoring history but the house is also beautiful with a lived in feel and interesting displays in the Victorian kitchens.

Beaulieu Motor Museum Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Beaulieu Motor Museum

Wander through the orchards and gardens, or get around on the high-level monorail or the open top vintage bus. If you have time, drive 10 minutes further to Buckler’s Hard, an 18th century village where ships for Nelson’s navy were built.

Getting There from Southampton: Taxi 30 mins, or Beaulieu can be booked as a cruise excursion. Entrance Adults £24, children age 5-17 £12, family ticket £64 with discounts if you book in advance.

Beaulieu Motor Museum Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Beaulieu Motor Museum

7 The Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth

At Portsmouth Historic Dockyard you can visit some of Britain’s most historic ships including Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and the Tudor warship Mary Rose. Around the waterfront are plenty of pubs and cafes for a bite to eat. The harbor scene is dominated by the 170 metre tall Emirates Spinnaker Tower, for views over the harbor from the skywalk and cafe in the clouds. A short walk away is the designer shopping outlet at Gunwharf Quays and one stop further on the train you’ll find the trendy area of Southsea with boutique stores and independent eateries.

Getting There from Southampton: taxi 30 mins, train 1 hr with 2 per hour.

Portsmouth Harbour Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Portsmouth Harbour

8 A taste of rural Hampshire in Romsey

For a flavour of rural Hampshire life visit the pretty market town of Romsey, gateway to the Test valley. Behind the tourist office is the medieval King John’s House which brings to life 750 years of history in Romsey, with a pretty garden and tea shop. Nearby is the imposing medieval Romsey Abbey containing beautiful religious art and treasures. You can join the long distance walking path, the Test Way following the River Test, past nature reserves and Broadlands, the home of the late Lord Mountbatten. Finish your day with an ice cream at Sundae’s Child or a traditional afternoon tea in one of the many cafes.

Getting There from Southampton: Bus 30 mins, 2 per hour. Taxi 25 mins. Train 30 mins, 2-3 per hour.

The Market Town of Romsey Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Market Town of Romsey

9 England’s ancient capital of Winchester

Once King Alfred’s capital, the small cathedral city of Winchester is a quintessentially English place to visit. At its heart is the ancient Winchester cathedral where Jane Austen is buried and farmer’s markets are held at weekends. Stroll along the river to see a working water mill at Winchester City Mill and the ruins of Winchester Palace, home of the Bishops of Winchester. Further up the hill is the Great Hall with a replica of King Arthur’s round table and the 18th century Peninsula Barracks with several military museums. With plenty of pubs and cafes, Winchester is a great day out for all ages.

Getting There from Southampton: Taxi 30 mins, Bus 1 hour with 2-3 per hour. Train 20 mins with 2-3 per hr.

Winchester Cathedral Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Winchester Cathedral

10 Salisbury and Stonehenge

Stonehenge is one of the best-known pre-historic monuments in Europe, featuring in many a selfie moment. The stone circle is a masterpiece of Neolithic engineering built from stones transported long distances using only simple tools, yet no-one knows for sure why it was built. Start at the new visitor center with exhibitions and Neolithic style houses, and then walk around the stone circle (but not inside it). Your visit is easily combined with a visit to the cathedral city of Salisbury, with elegant houses inside the cathedral close such as Arundells, the home of British Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Read about my visit to Stonehenge.

Getting There from Southampton: Train Southampton to Salisbury 30 mins, 2-3 times an hour, then bus from Salisbury station to Stonehenge 30 mins, 2 per hour. Salisbury and Stonehenge are typically offered together as a cruise excursion.

You may also like to read my article on Top 10 places and things to eat in Southampton for cruise visitors

Stonehenge Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com


Guide Prices if you want to arrange your own cruise excursions

Taxis are available at the Southampton cruise port terminal and prices are agreed with each driver but typically a 2-3 hour return trip to attractions within 30 mins drive is £80-100. Train fares for a return ticket to places mentioned are from £5-12 return depending on distance and time of day. Bus tickets are generally a little cheaper than train but may take longer.

More information to plan your visit to Southampton

More information for visitors is available from the Discover Southampton Website and the Visit Hampshire website.

Note: I originally wrote this article for a cruise website but it was never published and has since closed so I am republishing it here, hoping that it will give some useful tips and advice for cruise visitors to Southampton.

More locations in the South of England:

A Weekend in Eastbourne – with cliff walks & fresh air
A summer day cycling in Dorset on the Jurassic Coast
Sunrise at Stonehenge – inside the stone circle

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Top 10 things to do in Southampton

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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  • Reply
    February 2, 2017 at 4:08 am

    Excellent topic! The problem with cruise stops is that sometimes the curious passengers don’t have enough time to see everything in a fascinating port town. The SeaCity Museum, including the town’s connection with the Titanic, would have been my first visit 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      February 2, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      @Hels I also enjoyed the SeaCity Museum – I had no idea that Southampton had such close connections with the Titanic

      • Reply
        Debbie Davison
        September 8, 2017 at 6:27 pm

        The City was devastated by the sinking of the Titanic as most of the engineers and crew working below decks were from the City of Southampton.
        Many families in Southampton have a link to a family member lost on the Titanic, and there is a map at Sea City Museum that shows the old streets of the City with dots representing houses where someone died on the Titanic. The map is smothered with dots!!
        There were many families left without a husband/father, and the City took a long time to recover.
        It was a very sad day for Southampton the day Titanic sunk, probably more so than any other city :'(

        • Reply
          Heather Cowper
          September 12, 2017 at 2:00 pm

          @Debbie Yes, I think the connections of the Titanic with Southampton are not really well known

  • Reply
    February 3, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Try out More than a tour UK a local New Forest tour company set up by locals. Peddles and Paddles, WW2 tours in the forest. Rib rides. 3 Forest town visits, Foto tours and lots more. http://www.morethanatour.com already operating off the port. Take a look and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      February 3, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      @Kevin Thanks for that tip – sounds like a good way to see the area

  • Reply
    Emma le teace
    April 21, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    I’m glad shopping is on here! I don’t live ok far from Southampton but I always make sure I do some shopping when I visit…

    Lovely place 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 21, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      @Emma Great place to visit and a few nice shops too!

  • Reply
    September 2, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Our cruise ship leaves from Southampton but we are staying for 3 days in Southampton. I am glad to come across your blog. It is very helpful. It will be our first time in the UK and we are looking forward to our holiday. Your blog has helped me in my planning for our trip.
    thank you

  • Reply
    Lewis Nunn
    November 9, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Heather! I was interested to see you’re talking more about cruising now! Thought this article might be of interest; https://theluxurytraveller.net/top-7-cruise-myths/ 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      November 9, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      @Lewis Yes, I normally take one or two cruises each year and thoroughly enjoy them

  • Reply
    Yaggi Boom
    November 14, 2017 at 7:16 am

    Where is your ice rink? Seriously why hasn’t Southampton bothered to attract visitors with an international sized arena like most other major cities around the UK have. The city has this prime position, huge national and international student population, and cruise ships coming and going with thousands of visitors…..and not one developer believes an ice rink and arena could viable? Thats missing the biggest chance to make a packet I’ver ever heard.

    If you think cruise passengers don’t ice skate then here’s something to change you mind. I was on Arcadia and sailed from Sydney back to Southampton. It was a half world cruise and took my skates with me. I found rinks in Brisbane, Manila, Hong Kong, Tianjin, Busan, Osaka, Honolulu and San Fransisco. My fellow passenger envied me because I was getting healthy exercise and seeing the cities as I travelled around them, Do it Southampton, best decision you could ever make.

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