Gateway to the World: Southampton
Southampton really is the gateway to the world, with more cruise holidays setting sail from the Hampshire port than from any other in the UK. The port receives much acclaim thanks to its convenient location for British travellers, but there is far more to Southampton than just ships. In the first of our ‘Gateway to the World’ blog series, we wanted to show you why spending an extra day or two in Southampton is the perfect way to start your holiday.
WHAT TO DO
West Quay Shopping Centre is home to over 100 shops and a whole floor of dining. All high-street brands are represented, so the centre is the perfect place to pick up anything you forgot to pack. From bikinis and currency, to emergency Calpol for the kids; the only thing you won’t find here is your passport, so make sure that’s the first thing you pack!
Learn the story of Southampton, its people and its connection to the sea, with a visit to the SeaCity Museum. A must for cruise enthusiasts, the museum’s exhibitions include Southampton’s Titanic Story; a fascinating insight into the lives of crew and passengers aboard the fated ship. A 1:25 scale interactive model appeals to visitors of all ages. Other exhibitions include historic collections telling the tale of Southampton port through the decades, along with constantly changing programmes at The Pavilion, teaching you something new each time you visit.
SeaCity Museum is open 10am to 5pm, 7 days a week (including bank holidays). Admission costs £8.50 for adults and £6 for children (5-16 years). Under 5’s are free.
Named after Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 (also known as the QE2), the self-guided QE2 Mile walk runs through the heart of the city, taking visitors from the Cenotaph to the Waterfront at Town Quay. Along the way you will cross through Southampton’s famous parks, cultural quarters, shopping centres, waterfronts and Old Town. Historical highlights of the walk include the Cenotaph, Titanic Memorial, Holyrood Church and the Bargate; once the main entrance to the city.
A map of the walk, and others around Southampton can be found on the Discover Southampton website.
Southampton’s close proximity to the New Forest opens up a whole world of ways to spend a day and New Forest Wildlife Park is the perfect place for the kids to expend some pre-holiday excitement! Grey wolves, Eurasian Lynx, deer, and smaller mammals join a variety of owl species to make up the animal contingency, with keeper talks, feeding sessions and up-close viewings entrancing kid’s throughout the day. The Go Wild adventure playground has zip lines, climbing ropes, swings and spider nets for older children, while Mini Go Wild entertains under 6’s with sand pits, diggers, slides and swings.
Head to Woodlands Bakehouse for coffee, cake, ice cream, and other treats, before picking up a souvenir at the gift shop; cuddly toys make a great travel companion and photo buddy once your holiday begins!
WHAT TO EAT
Simons at Oxfords
Southampton’s Oxford Street is the hub of the city’s food and drink scene, and nowhere is this best represented than at Simons at Oxfords. The restaurant opens for lunch and dinner, offering excellent value set menus for both, along with more varied options on the dinner menu. British classics with a gourmet edge are the order of the day, with a smattering of Mediterranean flavours and fresh seafood starting your holiday off early.
An evening at Simons at Oxfords is a must if your Southampton stopover falls on a Friday; live music and signature ‘Champagne Friday’s’ offers make it the perfect place to raise a toast to the start of your holiday.
WHERE TO SLEEP
The Pig – in the Wall
Set within Southampton’s medieval city walls is a whitewashed Georgian building known at The Pig – in the Wall. Start your holiday in style in one of the hotel’s 12 cosy rooms, each featuring huge comfy beds, Victorian fireplaces, roll-top baths, retro-radios and a ‘larder’ jam-packed with snacks. An Edwardian parlour completes this quintessentially British endeavour and the result is a charming way to spend an evening. Help yourself to pastries, cold meats and eggs in the morning, before sampling lunch at The Deli; charcuterie boards, homemade scotch eggs, sausage rolls and salads setting you up for the day.
Evenings at The Pig – in the Wall are best spent one way and one way only; at The Pig Restaurant. Hop in the hotel’s Land Rover for the free 20 minute trip to sister hotel, The Pig, at Brockenhurst in the New Forest. The Pig’s ethos centres on the gardener, forager and chef, who between them grow and find the food for the chef’s ’25-mile menu’. Anything that can’t be found in the restaurant’s garden and grounds is sourced locally, and garden to plate is The Pig’s trademark. You’ll struggle to find a fresher feast!
Find out more about what Cruises from Southampton are available.
The Montague Arms Hotel
This 17th-century country house hotel is located in the beautiful area of Beaulieu, in the heart of the New Forest. Plush rooms, log fires and extensive gardens convince you that you’re a million miles away from the city when in reality The Montague Arms Hotel is just a 30-minute drive from Southampton.
Dinner at the hotel is a must, with The Terrace Restaurant voted “Hampshire Restaurant of the Year” by Which? Good Food Guide. Michelin starred head chef Matthew Tomkinson focuses solely on free-range, organic ingredients, and vegetables and herbs picked from the restaurant’s own ‘kitchen garden’.