When it comes to tourist destinations in the UK, Southampton often gets overlooked.
It doesn’t carry the historic draw of the major cities like London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester, or Birmingham, nor does it have world-famous attractions that other spots like Bristol, Bath, Cambridge, and Oxford do.
And due to it being on the receiving end of heavy bombing raids during the Second World War, it isn’t all that architecturally pretty anymore, being full of modern, identikit buildings.
But dig a little deeper and Southampton has bucketloads of charm, as well as a collection of fascinating and exciting attractions that make it well worth a visit.
And as it is one of the busiest cruise ports in Europe, it offers a great opportunity to explore the history and culture of this vibrant little city before leaving from Southampton on a cruise.
So if you are planning to pack your bags and head off on a cruise from the south coast, or are just looking for a new UK destination to explore, here are some of the best things to do in Southampton’s Old Town.
Tudor House and Garden
One of the oldest buildings remaining in the city, the Tudor House on Bugle Street dates back to the 15th century, and was the first museum in the city when it was founded in 1912.
It stands as a moment frozen in time, letting visitors walk around a house renovated to its original splendor, and get a taste of what 15th century life was like.
The Tudor House has always been a creative hub, full of makers and craftspeople, including milleners, dyers, and bookbinders.
The Garden is also a delight, restored to a Renaissance style, and also includes the remains of an older property, the King John’s Palace which dates back to the 12th century.
The Medieval City Walls
The most obvious and dramatic evidence of Southampton’s medieval past is its city walls, and they are some of the best preserved (and oldest) in the UK!
In parts dating back to the 10th century, the majority of the fortificaions were rebuilt in the 14th century after damage following a French attack.
These days, visitors can walk the walls for almost a mile, around the north and west of the city, taking in the views across the New Forest and learning a little more about the history of the city from the exhibition panels that line the walls.
Southampton’s SeaCity Museum is dedicated to all things nautical, and as you might imagine in such a historic port town has quite the story to tell!
For hundreds of years Southampton was one of the main entry points to England and the UK, and has always welcomed cultural influences from all around the world.
One of the most significant exhibitions at SeaCity is the one that focuses on the city’s most famous ship, the Titanic.
The cruise liner set sail from Southampton in 1912, and the majority of the crew were city residents.
As a result, the disaster weighted heavily on life here, and this is a fascinating exploration of the Titanic story.
If you feel in need of a touch of nature, Southampton’s Old Town boasts a succession of delightful green spaces.
Watts Park, East Park, Palmerston Park, Houndwell Park, and Hoglands Park are all wonderful spots to grab a breath of fresh air and relax surrounded by trees and beautiful flowers.
Originally one of the main gates in the medieval city walls, Bargate is now used as a museum, gallery, and exhibition space.
Its Grade I-listed exterior is still one of the best-preserved examples of Southampton’s centuries-old fortifications, however, and it is a wonderful way to get a better idea of the scale of the medieval battlements.
Southampton City Art Gallery
Situated right next door the SeaCity Museum, the City Art Gallery is a superb space, housing a surprisingly impressive and varied collection, and a must-visit destination for art lovers.
Offering examples of everything from Modern Art to the Old Masters, and everything in between, it is a delightful way to spend an afternoon wandering from Monet to Degas, in a beautiful Art Deco space.
Luciana joined our team as a mum blogger in 2020. A dedicated mum to a lively daughter and a dog, Luna, Luciana brings authenticity and passion to every post. Her expertise in parenting and lifestyle topics offers practical, relatable advice for real-life situations.