The coastal town of Southampton may not be on your radar for your next weekend getaway with the girls, but Hannah Tan-Gillies begs to differ. This laidback yet vibrant city has plenty to offer beyond its already fascinating maritime history.
Where to stay
Ideally located right beside the West Quay Shopping Centre and within walking distance to all the city’s main tourist attractions, the Moxy Hotel served as a perfect base for our weekend away in Southampton. Part of the Marriott Hotel Group, the Moxy offers all the comforts of a Marriott property yet with a vibrant tongue-in-cheek twist. The hotel’s modern interiors pay a stylish, industrial homage to Southampton’s maritime legacy. Check-in is done at the Bar, which is also the ideal spot for a pre-drink. Our bedroom comfortably slept three and featured all the amenities you could ever need.
Where to drink:
Just a 15 minute stroll away, through the Mayflower Park, past a looming MSC Cruise ship, and through a surprisingly tranquil park is Ruby’s at the Grand. Ruby’s is a whimsical underground cocktail bar that exudes retro cool.
Love an Aperol Spritz? We do too, which is why we thoroughly enjoyed our visit The Spritz Social in Southampton. Picture large orange umbrellas, a distinctive beachy atmosphere, and plenty of good vibes.
Where to eat
XOXO, owned by local restaurateur Tom Dyer, gives you the cool sounds and buzzy atmosphere of an all-day club, with a hearty menu that doesn’t fail to impress.
The menu features plenty of seasonal fare, sourced from Southampton’s best local suppliers. We sampled the Potato Stack with Spring Onion, Huevos Rancheros, Roasted Peppers with Red Onion and Fanned Avocado Open Sandwich and topped it off with a Smoothie Bowl. Can brunch get any better than this? We think not.
Located on the bustling Oxford Street, Pam Pam Pizza & Cocktails combines two of our favourite things — pizza and cocktails — and does so with plenty of panache. Another Tom Dyer establishment, Pam Pam offers the same atmosphere as XOXO, albeit with an elevated lounge aesthetic. We sampled the vegan Mushroom and Truffle Pizza, Braised Pig Cheeks, and Chickpea Crackers which are all as delicious as they sound. Paired with a delicious bottle of red from ‘The Guv’Nor’ and we can’t think of a better place to spend the evening in Southampton.
Ottoman Kitchen is one of those places that is ideal for a post-night out meal. This traditional Turkish restaurant, offers Turkish cuisine that doesn’t scrimp on the servings. We sampled the Ottoman Mix Grill, which combined all the restaurant’s best-selling charcoal grill classics. Outside, there is live music too – perfect for dining al fresco.
What to Do
Godfrey Collyer, tour guide, maritime savant, and all-around good guy, is the best person to take you on a tour around Southampton. Godfrey offers a wealth of knowledge and will tell you tales about James Cameron’s Titanic inspirations, basement wine cellars and even Jane Austen’s dislike of the fish market. In fact, he knows so much about Southampton’s history, he even wrote a book about it.
Our party was comprised of two die-hard Titanic fans (the film not the tragedy) and so the Sea City Museum was one of the undeniable highlights of our visit. The museum tells the story of the people of Southampton and their fascinating links with the Titanic. It also offers plenty of interactive elements, miniatures, immersive spaces that really draw you into the history of one of the most famous ships of all time.
Active Nation, located at the Woodmill Activity Centre, is an outdoor activity centre that’s just a quick 15-minute drive away from the city. Here you can do everything from an outdoor obstacle course, canoe water polo, and paddle boarding. We tried the ‘Ready to SUP’ two-hour paddle boarding session, surrounded by lush trees and plenty of wildlife, which added just the right amount of excitement to our Southampton experience.
My two days in Southampton have revealed a new face to this seemingly familiar town, one where a hyper-modern shopping centre can flank centuries-old roman fortifications, or a buzzy restaurant street can sit just minutes away from a tranquil tree-lined park. A city offering many juxtapositions, Southampton — to me — is a destination that still offers plenty of surprises and one that warrants a second look for your late summer travel plans.
Fact box: Hannah’s girl’s weekend to Southampton was organised by Visit Southampton. To organise your own Southampton itinerary, check out visitsouthampton.co.uk. Hannah travelled to Southampton with South Western Railway, which offers quick and direct services from London Waterloo. For more information, visit southwesternrailway.com/