Southampton is a bustling, youthful city, full of opportunities for shopping, chilling, and exploring, as well as a few superb spas to spend some quality time in. The city is packed with options for a great day or stay, from retail therapy on one of the most popular shopping cities in the UK to parks, galleries and museums to while away a few ambling hours.
Culture vultures should waste no time in travelling to this south coast city; it boasts concert halls and venues, three art galleries and two theatres.
The 800 year old Bargate Monument is right in the centre of and the gallery has been recently refurbished - it's now a contemporary art gallery and where you'll find the arts organisation A Space.
The gorgeous parks around Southampton give it a reputation as one of the greenest cities in the south; if you fancy some greenery there are actually seven of them to choose from, originally common land but converted into elegant parks in the 19th century for the well-to-do Hampshire folk to wander...perfect when the weather co-operates in the 21st century too!
- For relaxation and calm, complete with acres of countryside and a golf course, the Macdonald Botley Park Hotel Spa is perfect for an overnight stay or a spa day. Spa treatments are provided by Decleor and the Vital Spa has a full range of massage, body and facial treatments. Relax in the top notch hydrotherapy suite or ramp the energy up a bit for a gym session, a swim in the 15m swimming pool or even a game of squash...
- The best western chilworth manor hotel is also great for a country-style break, as it/"s set in 12 acres of landscaped grounds on the outskirts of Southampton.The spa; also known as theclub@chilworth-manor - is situated close by and beauty treatments are all [comfort zone] eco-cosmetic treatments designed to look after the environment as well as you. Water babies will love the 16m pool and gym bunnies are sure to appreciate the air conditioned gym with Nautilus equipment.
- The macdonald elmers court hotel and resort spa is perfectly relaxing and benefits from some gorgeous views of the solent. it/"s not too far from the New Forest and has its own oasis of beauty in the Vital Spa with over 50 treatments to choose from. Spa brands include Decleor, Jessica and Bare Escentuals, and you can also have a swim indoors - or in the outdoor heated pool in summer time.
- The Apollo Hotel Spa in Basingstoke is home to the Horizons Spa, blessed with a pretty waterfall feature and bridge. Choose from Elemis, OPI and Bio Oil beauty treatments. Book a longer stay if you want to explore Southampton and the Hampshire countryside - as well as having a good pamper session...
- The Spa in the Forest is found at the New Park Manor Hotel; Bath House Spa. New Park is one of a few hotels set right in the depths of the beautiful New Forest, and likes to give authentic spa experience is with heat, water, and relaxation as well as mud (fango therapy)aromatherapy and massage.
Southampton seems to have its very own Restaurant Quarter - dishing up everything from pub grub and curry to fine dining. Oxford Street, which is within walking distance of the marina and the city centre, is the place to be when you're feeling peckish, and all over the town there's a wide variety of food on offer from American diners, to Thai restaurants, Greek tavernas, Italian and Indian eateries.
- For a restaurant that's popular with the locals, try Mango; a lively Thai restaurant which offers 'Thai Tapas' a delicious selection of spicy snacks along with delicious main courses and side dishes including the ubiquitous red and green curry. A real Oriental feel is enhanced by the carvings and bamboo blinds infuse the place with some Eastern ambience.
Address: 27 Portswood Road, Southampton, Hampshire SO17 2ES
Tel: 023 8067 8877
- If you have a bit of cash to splash, spend it wisely in the Olivetree on Oxford Street. With a reputation as one of Southampton's finest, it's elegant and stylish and the dishes reflect seasonal produce, fresh ingredients and a British and Mediterranean influence. They bake bread on the premises so that's another recommendation, and there's a regularly-changing chalk board featuring seasonal specials too.
Address: 29 Oxford Street, Southampton SO14 3DJ
Tel: 023 8034 3333
- La Regata is a restaurant with a truly continental theme on the Town quay. Celebrating all things Spanish, it overlooks the waterfront and specialises in delicious fish and shellfish dishes alongside a great selection of tapas and an a la carte menu.
Address: Town Quay, Southampton SO14 2ET
Tel: 023 8022 3456
- Oxfords Bar Restaurant is one of the Southampton Old Guard, found in the Restaurant Quarter on Oxford Street. It's a classy establishment with a tastefully decorated interior combining white walls and polished wood and the menu is not to be sniffed at with its typically British style and a hint of Continental and Mediterranean about it.
Address: 35-36 Oxford Street, Southampton, Hampshire SO15 3DS
Tel: 023 8022 4444
- For another slice of Southampton history, try a meal at the La Margharita which has been part of the landscape of Southampton for almost 40 years. These days, it has prime position at Town Quay and diners can make the most of some lovely views over the water, while still being just a short walk from the city. The restaurant has recently been updated and now the lively bar is more separate from the restaurant.
Address: Unit 1, Town Quay, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 2AQ
Tel: 023 8033 3390
- Banana Wharf bar and restaurant is a bit different, right where it's all happening in the centre of Ocean Village. The menu somehow manages to combine tropical and oriental dishes as well as offering a great selection of seafood, pizza and pasta, and the Banana Bar is perfect for dinner; with a huge drinks menu, heated and covered patio, trendy decor and mood lighting.
Address: Ocean Village, Southampton SO14 3JF
Tel: (0)23 8033 8866
- If you want a slice of Japanese food action, the newest place to try is Zen, Southampton's first Japanese bar and restaurant. Zen likes to give traditional Japanese food a stylish and contemporary twist, giving the menu an authentic flavour and a variety of twists of Japanese cuisine. The drinks menu also has a taste of Japan, with Japanese beers, spirits and a special Sake list.
Address: 42 High Street, Southampton SO14 2NS
Tel: 023 8023 3399
- Tiger Lilly is just a little bit different, a real fusion food restaurant with a menu that blends the best of Indian and Chinese cuisine. This exclusive must-try restaurant is to be found above the Buddha Lounge; there are a la Carte and buffet menus to choose from, all offering unusual and absolutely delicious takes on both cuisines.
Address: Unit 3, 3 Winchester Street, Southampton SO15 2EL
Tel: 023 8036 6344
If you've got an image of Southampton in your head as a funky, cosmopolitan town with an enviable nightlife...well you're probably not too far off the mark. Plenty of pubs and bars complement the restaurants for relaxed drinking; clubs cater for all tastes and there's live entertainment all over the city from music to comedy and theatre.
- Young, funky clubbers should head for a large night out at Junk on London Road which has themed music nights more or less every night of the week. From the Indie and dub step of student night on Tuesday to Urban, R&B, Hip Hop, Drum and Bass and Techno, you'll find something to suit on one of the two floors. Stylish, the place to be with top DJs, expect a queue and slightly expensive drinks along with a great time.
- One-time winners of Southampton's Best Bar Award, the Orange Rooms is an independent bar and cocktail lounge with a nod to the retro both in decor and music. There's great food too, and it's one of the most popular venues in Southampton with relaxed socialising being the order of the day.
- Oceana is absolutely massive, and a destination venue with several themed rooms spread out across three floors. Whatever your mood, you'll find a room that suits, whether you fancy a bit of a super-chilled Rekjavic Icehouse, fashionable Milan style, or cheesy New York disco. There's always somewhere new to explore, lots of room to strut your funky stuff and even Jongleurs nights on Friday and Saturdays.
- The Edge is Southampton's only gay nightclub, opened in 1995 and refurbished in 2007, now bang up to date and with a bar, restaurant and nightclub that make it the in place to hang out for Southampton's gay community. There are popular student nights on Wednesdays with lovely cheap drinks and look out for karaoke and drag nights as well as cheesy dance music and more.
- Every town has one, and Southampton is not to be left out; the music and atmosphere of the eighties club scene is alive and kicking in Reflex. Popular with an older clientele, it's always fun and the music is, well, predictable, but the DJs rock the whole retro thing and play all the best tunes from the decade that taste bypassed. Be warned...if you try and get in on a Saturday the queues are legendary.
- The Bent Brief, Portswood is a pub for music lovers, dedicated to the live music scene in Southampton. The pub has an informal stage encouraging people to get involved, and an intimate feel as a venue. There are regular jazz and Irish evenings catering for different tastes and the pub has a traditional style.
- The award-winning Hobbit Pub won the accolade of The Best Pub in Southampton in 2007 and its location close to the university makes it another perfect place to experience late night entertainment in a trad-pub setting. Two bars on split levels a massive beer garden, and the legendary Chef Bernie's Caribbean BBQ have made the Hobbit popular with locals, especially students and it's always busy and lively.
- The Waterfront Bar enjoys an excellent location on, you guessed it, the Waterfront. Not far from the city centre, there's plenty of seating outside and the pub does great food with live music as well. The pub's regular live music nights feature bands and solo singers and there's also a Jam Night
There's long been a buzz about the quality of the shopping experience in Southampton, and recent years have seen the city upgrade itself with the addition of the stylish West Quay shopping centre. It joins other the malls and shopping areas in making Southampton a retail place to go.
Bedford Place is the place to go to for an old fashioned shopping atmosphere with some interesting independent shops and boutiques. It's a short stroll out of the city centre but well worth a visit with a great choice of shops, pubs, bars and restaurants.
East Street is full of character, populated with well-loved local stores and eateries. Walk along High Street to nearby Dolphin Lane and you can indulge your fashionista tendencies with upmarket boutiques which are worth discovering.
The influence of the old Victorian High Street is in evidence on Old Northam Road, because it's the 'Antiques Quarter' of the city and is home to some of the most respected antiques and collectors shops in Southampton. You won't be able to resist shops like 'Cobwebs' which sell historical pieces and the antiques and curiosities will keep you amused for ages.
For mall lovers, all the best things are under one roof at the trendy West Quays shopping centre mall with its enviable selection of retail emporia. Choose from over 90 shops including major names like John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, and fashion forward favourites such as French Connection, Coast and Zara. The food terrace is a haven of choice too – with outlets and eateries ranging from Krispy Kreme and Nandos to Yo! Sushi and Hotel Chocolat for foodies.
The Marlands Shopping Centre has over 60 high street favourites to peruse, with two floors covering fashion, accessories and many others, including some independent retailers. There's also a handy food court for when the shopping makes you hungry...
SOUTHAMPTON'S TOP THREE SPAS
- It's not actually in Southampton but it would be remiss not to mention the champneys forest mere health farm in liphook, hampshire. most people have heard of champneys and for good reason. the innovative and excellent health spa is perfect for a recharging break whether it's just a day or a real spa break. the setting is beautiful and you’ll experience spa heaven whether you opt for luxurious beauty treatments or a spot of alternative therapy. there/"s a thalassotherapy pool, a heated outdoor pool on the sun terrace, gym, fitness studios and enough treatment and relaxation rooms to keep you chilled out for weeks!
- Marriott Meon Valley Hotel Spa benefits from all the usual spa goodies as well as 225 acres of beautiful parkland. Indulge yourself at the Health and Beauty Salon, with all the best spa ranges, or you might choose to chill by the pool, in the sauna and steam rooms. If activity is all part of your relaxation, you can head to the gym and work up a sweat...
- For an absolutely stunning hotel with a fabulous spa - the grand harbour spa is everything you’re looking for. the hotel is in a truly iconic building with an eye-catching glass atrium near the southampton waterfront. the setting is fabulous and the spa gives you ample opportunity to make the most of it with skilled spa therapists and scrumptious espa treatments. retire to the relaxation area for a read or a snooze, swim in the pools or wake yourself up with a trip to the technogym fitness suite. men love the spa here too; there/"s a whole range of specially designed treatments for the boys!