I’m from Southampton on the south coast of the UK, and I’ve lived in the same city my whole life so I like to think I know it pretty well by now. That said, after a while everything just kind of blends together when you’re experiencing the same stuff all the time, so I had to dig deep to find what I really think about my hometown for this post.
Despite spending a lot of time calling my city the “bumhole of the UK” (it is, check a map), I found that actually I live in a really awesome place, and I’m lucky to have been born in a prosperous and diverse city. There’s so much going on and so much nearby that when I really think about it, I’m shocked at how many times in my life I’ve complained about having nothing to do. It’s always been a lie, there’s plenty to do!
So, for anyone thinking about moving to or just visiting Southampton, here are ten things you should know:
We have an abundance of award-winning green space
Our tree-lined paths and green open spaces are perfect for crisp autumn walks. Just in the city centre there are five parks, and a short bus ride from the centre we have the common, boasting some fantastic walks and a nature café. I live about halfway between the parks and the common, which is just ideal. If I get the bus to work I get to enjoy a walk through the parks, and if I cycle I often detour home through the common.
There are a lot of shops
One of the main draws of Southampton is our main shopping centre- West Quay. I’m not really a fan of shopping, but I suppose if you are this is a good place for you. It also has a whole load of restaurants to choose from, which is something I’m far more on board with. We also have an IKEA (where I worked for many years) – useful for household items and general spending of money.
Diversity is everywhere
One my favourite things about Southampton is how diverse it is. We have a huge Polish population, which has at times been something contentious, and I don’t want to get political here so I’ just say that I personally have only benefited from immigration. Over the years I’ve worked with and become friends with people from all over the world, and I regularly frequent the Polish shops that are down the road, and my pantry is full of spices from the International Foods store. As someone who loves cooking, I thoroughly enjoy being able to source some of the more unusual ingredients from shops in my neighbourhood. Every year the population of Southampton is treated to numerous festivals (and so much food!) by our local communities from around the world. It’s really amazing.
The city is drenched in history
If you like history you can walk the Southampton walls, which date back to the middle ages, visiting the Bargate and God’s House Tower along the way. Then we’ve got the Titanic Museum and a bunch of sites around the city commemorating those who lost their lives aboard the Titanic, as that ill fated vessel set sail on her maiden voyage from our port. Southampton has also been a hub of industrial growth for centuries, and was heavily bombed during World War 2. In fact I learnt the other day that three bombs fell on the street where I live, and in one old photo of war wreckage you can actually see our chimneys.
We are surrounded by other fantastic places
If you feel like you want to get out of the city for a bit, you can catch the ferry over to the Isle of Wight, or go in the other direction and explore the New Forest, which is just a short train or bus ride away. If you go a bit further afield there are wonderful sandy beaches at Bournemouth, or you can go an explore nearby Portsmouth. Speaking of which…
Southampton and Portsmouth have an age-old rivalry
It’s just one of those things, like Spingfield and Shelbyville. There are a whole load of theories about how this rivalry actually originated, but nowadays it mostly manifests in football (not that we’ve been in the same league for a while). Or banter down the pub – don’t say you live in Southampton if you’re out drinking in Portsmouth! Just fyi – people from Southampton are scummers and people from Portsmouth and skates *shrug*.
There’s a real mix of old and new
Because the city was so badly bombed during the blitz, we’ve ended up with super varied architecture, with buildings from the 1800’s often attached to buildings from the ’50s and ’60s. Our high street is a proper mixture – with the Bargate from the middle ages stood proudly at one end, and West Quay from the early 2000’s sanwiched between two buildings from the post-war era in the middle. There’s a brand new shopping/residential area being built as we speak right next to the Bargate too, and our cultural quarter at the other end only a year or so old.
The housing is hit-and-miss
Southampton is quite an expensive city to live in, since we’re just about a commutable distance from London. Because of house prices, a huge variance in quality of landlords, and the age of some of our buildings, property tends to be either really good or really bad. Much of the housing just outside the city centre and around the River Itchen is red brick terraces. They’re very beautiful homes as long as they’re maintained well, but if they’re not they can end up cold and damp. The first house we rented was cold and damp and all around bizarre. Our flat was better until the chimney started letting in a whole load of water. Our current house is amazing. All three were built around the same time in the same area. There are also a lot of new-builds to choose from, though these tend to be expensive.
Don’t drive unless you have to
The roads in Southampton are notorious for being congested, we have a ridiculous amount of traffic lights, and our air pollution is at worrying levels. The City Council are investing a lot money into improving the cycle routes around the city, and you can safely get most places on a bike these days. Even if you don’t have your own bike there are yellow bikes dotted around that can be rented very cheaply. I highly recommend cycling as a way to get around. If you’re not a bike person the buses are alright. They all take contactless payment now so you don’t need to worry about having change, and the main routes are fairly frequent, especially if you want to travel around Southampton Uni and the student areas.
There’s a bunch of stuff going on all the time
Having lived here all my life I go through phases where I think my hometown is super dead and boring, but in reality I’m the one being boring. We have a thriving music scene (though some of best venues are struggling due to other factors), and there’s often something going on in Guildhall Square. Every few months or so there’s a Vintage Fair at the Guildhall, West Quay hosts the most mainstream events, and at Christmas we get the German Market (which to be honest I only go to for the beer but hey, it’s good!). Sometimes all it take is to look a bit further and you will something fun going on somewhere in the city, whether you like music, board games, theatre, history… anything really! Even if you’re never planning to move here, I highly recommend popping along some time to check out our vibrant city.
Pin this post: