Explore what the maritime port has to offer following the Uefa Women's Euro 2022
Belfast’s maritime history will be for ever linked to Southampton due to the engineering feat that was the White Star Line’s Titanic, when the spectacular liner — built in Belfast — embarked on its maiden voyage from the English port.
The link between both cities will once again be strengthened when Southampton welcomes another Northern Ireland export next month, when it cheers on the arrival of Kenny Shiels’ side for the Uefa 2022 Women’s Euros next month.
The city is hosting three Northern Ireland fixtures at St Mary’s Stadium — the home of Southampton FC and has a spectator capacity of more than 32,000: Norway v Northern Ireland on Thursday 7, Austria v Northern Ireland on July 11 and NI v England four days later on July 15.
A taste of what football fans can expect came recently when Southampton hosted the Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 roadshow — an exciting event full of music, fitness and of course, football.
Yet Southampton has so much to offer football fans once end of the match whistle goes. In fact, visitors will be spoilt for choice in terms of things to see and do. Combining maritime and aviation history with a thriving arts scene, some great hotels and a host of lively restaurants and buzzing bars there’s plenty to pack in on a visit to Southampton.
Visitors from Belfast will appreciate that as cities go, it’s charmingly compact and exploring by foot is easy with most of its attractions within walking distance.
Southampton is home of the iconic Spitfire, and the Solent Sky aviation museum — which also exhibits a total of 20 aircraft — is the place to learn all about this iconic aircraft and other highlights from the golden age of aviation.
Historic tales can be enjoyed on one of the award-winning See Southampton Hidden History guided walk tours, which depart from the ‘Lions’ on the north side of the Bargate at 10.30am and 1.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays and cost £7. These walks are a great opportunity to explore Southampton’s medieval past, including visits to a number of the old wine vaults.
Also recommended is a visit to the Tudor House — considered one of Southampton’s most important historic building.
When large swathes of the city were bombed during the Second World War, this timber-framed property, built in the late 15th century, remarkably remained intact. Its extensive displays offer visitors a peek into the past and its café is a great place to take a break from sightseeing for a pit-stop cake or sandwich overlooking the Tudor knot garden.
For more of an artistic fix, Southampton’s City Art Gallery has a collection that spans eight centuries with paintings by Monet, Gainsborough and Paula Rego. Elsewhere, God’s House Tower (GHT), a 13th century gatehouse located in part of Southampton’s medieval city wall and fortifications, offers an artistic spin on the city’s history — both past and living — through a revolving programme of exhibitions and art inspired events and talks. Its roof offers stunning views of the city and harbour too.
Southampton’s also perfect for foodies, with a wealth of dining and drinking venues available for all tastes.
One great option, which is set in the historic majestic Royal Pier in Southampton, the award winning Kuti’s Brasserie has been an institution in the world of Indian fine dining since 1986. It offers authentic Indian Cuisine using the highest possible quality fresh ingredients. Including salt marsh Welsh lamb, free-range chicken, and farm fresh Himalayan salt-aged beef, there is also a good selection of seafood as well as vegetable dishes.
Bar and restaurant Gin and Olive offers a choice of hundreds of gins as well as a great choice of cocktails, beer, cider, wine, prosecco and non alcoholic alternatives. There is also a wide selection of bar and table snacks, sharing boards, starters, steaks, burgers, mains sides and desserts. The venue also caters for vegan, vegetarians and gluten-free diets and has a nut free kitchen.
Back to football, as part of the celebrations surrounding the tournament, on match days, Southampton is hosting a series of free fun-filled Fan Festivals.
From midday until just before kick-off, the events will feature live music, roaming performers, football activities, food and drink and space to chill out with fellow fans across several the city-centre locations including Houndwell Park, Palmerston Park and Above Bar Street.
Meanwhile, SeaCity Museum is staging a new exhibition exploring the history of women’s football in Southampton, which goes back at least to the First World War, when teams were formed by women workers in the local factories. Visitors to the museum from Northern Ireland can also learn about Southampton’s fascinating maritime heritage including an interactive look into the devastating impact the sinking of the Titanic had on the port and its people.
A poignant museum exhibit is the permanent Titanic exhibition which tells the fascinating story of its tragic sinking in 1912, and of the impact it had on the city — more than 500 households lost a family member. Its disaster room describes the sequence of events from the time it struck the iceberg, to its sinking and the rescue of the passengers by the Carpathia.
Through a fascinating 1:25 scale, interactive model of the ship, visitors are given an insight into the lives of the crew aboard the Titanic, many of whom were Southampton residents.
Plus, it’s free to download Titanic Trail is the ideal starting point for visitors to the city. The 75-minute walking tour and map features key locations in and around the city and port providing a fascinating backstory to the ship. Adult tickets cost £9.50.
To enjoy the sights of Southampton off-land, hop on board the Steamship Shieldhall, the largest working steamship in Britain. As a member of the National Historic Fleet, the ship serves as a tribute to Britain’s maritime heritage.
Operated by a team of dedicated volunteers, visitors can experience the golden age of steam by booking on an excursion or visiting her in Southampton.
As part of your Shieldhall experience, see the impressive engine room with its original steam engines at work and the bridge, with its traditional instruments and gleaming brasswork; admire the ship’s steam assisted steering gear (similar to that used on Titanic); talk to the Captain and our crew and listen to the commentary as we pass the sights of Southampton Water and the Solent.
There are great options for hotels as well including the playful, affordable, and stylish, The Moxy. Designed to give guests everything they want and nothing they don’t. With a nod to Southampton’s maritime legacy the hotel has a quirky ship-theme. Aimed at adults who want to hit the town, it’s centrally located so ideal for making the most of the city’s many restaurants and bars.
Plus, its in-house cocktail bar makes for an ideal pre or post night out drink. In fact, boldly breaking the rules of a conventional hotel stay — check-in is done at the Bar.
Not compromising on style at an affordable price point, so that guests can save on space and splurge on experiences, The Moxy — created for the young at heart — features small but smart bedrooms and vibrant social spaces. For more information, visit www.moxyhotels.com
Football fans here can fly direct to Southampton from George Best Belfast City Airport, a route that operates twice daily between Sunday — Friday, with a single rotation on Saturdays.
Flights start from as little as £78.99 for a single flight with all reservations including as standard 15kg of hold baggage and 10kg of hand baggage. For the best fares, book direct at www.easternairways.com.
For further information, please visit www.visitsouthampton.co.uk