Up the hill from the station is the bustling city centre with streets of shops, restaurants and offices. Turning left takes you to the entertainment heart of the city, with the Mayflower Theatre (big shows), O2 Guildhall (big bands and comedians), and the tranquil hideaway that is the City Art Gallery – great for a cup of tea and a moment of quiet contemplation when the shopping and sightseeing have worn you out. Turning right onto Above Bar street takes you into the shopping heart of the city, which borders Palmerston Park – a very good place for a picnic rustled together from goodies found on your way, especially if you visit on a Friday or Saturday in the spring, summer and autumn, when the city centre market is on.
If you fancy catching the next Radiohead or Ed Sheeran before they become big, you should trot over to The Joiner’s Arms in St Mary’s, a 200 capacity music pub that’s been wowing discerning music fans with new discoveries since 1968 – and yes, both Radiohead and Ed have played there in the past.
Southampton is also the gateway to The New Forest. Book cheap train tickets for the 13 minute ride out to Brockenhurst and you’ll find yourself slap in the middle of this glorious greenery before you know it, with miles of trails to walk as well as the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and the wonderfully-preserved shipbuilding village of Bucklers Hard easy to reach by bus.