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Southampton has been a major seaport for more than 1000 years when the port, called Clausentum, was on the opposite bank of the Itchen. The Normans landed there under the command of William the Conquerer. Richard the Lionheart left for the Crusades from Southampton as did literally millions of troops during the two World Wars. And, it is the port from which "The Mayflower" set sail for America. The Mayflower Memorial commemorates their depature from the old West Quay, now a public park. Famous Cruise Liners such as the QE2 are still regular visitors to the city and its docks.

Foreign trade made Southampton great, but it was prone to attack, particularly by the French. So, in medieval times, the town was encircled by a high circuit wall with massive gateways. The 'Bargate' at the northern entrance to the old town, is still Southampton's most famous landmark. It sits at the point where the medieval town meets modern Southampton: home of the shopper, with the pedestrianized 'Above Bar' and enclosed 'Marlands' and 'Bargate' Shopping Centres. The area is surrounded on the eastern side by numerous public parks. The interior of the Bargate houses occasional historical exhibitions, but the building is best known as a good starting point to 'walk the walls'.

Southampton retains the third most complete circuit of town walls in the whole country and a highly informative sign-posted walk has been set out around its complete circuit, much of it high up on the ramparts themselves. Visit the guardtowers, the ruins of the castle, the West Gate, the remains of the old friary and God's House Tower where the local Archaeological Museum is housed (free entry). It has a fascinating collection of artifacts, particularly from the old Saxon settlement, north of the town, and Southampton's medieval trading days. Nearby is the so-called 'Canute's Palace,' one of a number of rare Norman Houses and other fascinating buildings to be seen further into the old town. There are medieval undercrofts hidden away beneath several buildings, but these are only open to visitors on guided tours (ask at the Leisure and Visitor Centre in Civic Centre Road).

Other more noticable buildings include: the fully restored Medieval Merchant's House, toured with lively personal stereo commentary; the Maritime Museum in the old Wool House (free entry), and notable for its Titanic exhibition; and the beautiful Tudor House, another (free) museum with idyllic garden and ruined Norman House. Opposite stands the city's main church, St. Michael's. Southampton was the first place in the country to be granted City-Status without having a cathedral. St. Michael's is a fine medieval church with many treasures, including the oldest eagle lectern in the country. It was saved, during the blitz, from the burning church of Holyrood in the High Street. The latter is now a ruin: a permanent memorial to members of the Merchant Navy lost at sea. It is loved by children for its little quarter-jacks who still ring the bells every quarter of an hour. The High Street is an excellent area in which to find good food and drink and there are several historic pubs to explore: the Star, the Dolphin and the Red Lion. The latter features in Shakespeare's Henry V as the scene of the trial of would-be Royal assassins.

Today the city's principal attraction are its more modern arts and leisure facilities. Southampton has no less than seven art galleries and five theatres and concert halls. There are three bowling alleys and three multi-screen cinemas. Some of these establishments are part of major leisure complexes like 'Leisure World' near the West Quay Retail Park and 'Ocean Village' off Canute Road, near Southampton's 'Hall of Aviation'. Both are slightly out of the main city centre, but have extensive dedicated parking. Ocean Village is a very attractive waterfront development around a four hundred and fifty berth marina. It sports all-weather shopping including factory outlets, excellent restaurants and cafes with pavement (and waterfront) seating, two cinema complexes and the 'Way Out West' Family Entertainment Centre (Arcades, Bowling, Pool, Casino, etc), as well as curios such as an Old Light Ship.

Southampton is, of course, the Yachting Centre of Britain and it is naturally highly geared up to cater for all water-sports and sailing enthusiasts. Shamrock Quay is a particularly popular and picturesque port of call. The city often plays host to many of the World's biggest maritime events, such as the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. The Year 2000 will see the famous Tall Ships extravaganza visit Southampton and, of course, there is always the annual Southampton Boat Show, the largest afloat in Europe. Also popular is the Southampton Balloon and Flower Festival. The City's other great sports are, of course, football (soccer) and cricket. Southampton is home to both Southampton Football Club and the Hampshire County Cricket Club: major teams in the country who regularly play at their home grounds. There are several Sports Centres and Swimming Pools around the city, as well as a (Artificial) Ski Centre and a Municipal Golf Course.

A marvellous centre of communications, whether by air, land or sea, Southampton makes an ideal place from which to explore the natural beauty of the New Forest, the beaches of the Hampshire and Dorset Coast or the nearby historic cities of Winchester and Salisbury.

Related Links
Welcome to the City of Southampton (UK) Southampton City Council's Website.
Southampton: A Visitor's Guide From Southampton City Council.
Southampton - Attractions and Places to Visit From Hampshire County Council's Hantsweb.
University of Southampton Teaching and Learning in the City, with details of the local area
Southampton Airport Details from the BAA.
Saints Web The Official Website of Southampton Football Club.

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