Things to do in Southampton for free

Must-see free Southampton sights

When it comes down to it, Southampton is as thriving today as it has been for centuries, although there’s a fair few modern additions to make it a more contemporary visit. Those looking for historic charm will find oodles of it on various historic self-guided walks, such as through the Old Town or following in the footsteps of Jane Austen, while memorials and plaques dotted around the city help to piece together the rich heritage of the city. Bringing things up to date is the ginormous West Quay Shopping Centre, ideal for window shopping and free samples, while the Southampton City Art Gallery focuses on contemporary art.

  1. The Titanic Trail
  2. Southampton City Art Gallery
  3. East Park
  4. Southampton Old Town
  5. West Quay Shopping Centre
  6. Waterfront ambles
  7. The Jane Austen trail

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Rough Guides

1. The Titanic Trail

The Titanic Trail is spread across the city centre and makes for a historic walk. Through a series of plaques, memorials and buildings, the trail tells the stories of those who perished on the Titanic when it sank in 1912 (Southampton is where it departed from). Start off at the Titanic Postal Workers’ Memorial in the Civic Centre, the Titanic Crew Memorial in the Old Town and round it off at the Gatti Memorial which commemorates the restaurant workers on board.

Best for : Self-guided walking tours.

While you’re there: Don’t miss Canute Chambers, which was where relatives checked for updates of survivors.

2. Southampton City Art Gallery

Add a splash of colour into your visit to Southampton at their City Art Gallery. With a range of contemporary art and historic displays, as well as an interesting selection of temporary exhibitions, all are totally free to visit and is a great way to spend part of the day. There’s over 5000 works on display spanning Renaissance to British twentieth-century art.Looking at cheap holidays to Southampton? This is a city that keeps on giving with its free attractions, from contemporary art galleries to Victorian gardens.

Best for: Contemporary British art.

While you’re there: The Foyer’s works focus on local and upcoming artists.

3. East Park

East Park is one of Southampton’s best green spaces, with a Victorian heritage of trees, shrubs and rose beds. There are also some more recent additions, like a Rockery and a circular mosaic. Perhaps the highlight of East Park is its pergola, which makes for a particularly pleasant stroll through in spring and summer when the purple wisteria is in full bloom. It makes for a quiet escape from the urban buzz of the city centre.

Best for: Peaceful parks.

While you’re there: It’s also home to the Titanic Engineers Memorial.

4. Southampton Old Town

The majority of Southampton’s historic charm can be experienced in the Old Town. As you walk down the cobbled streets, you can appreciate its Medieval town walls, check out timber-framed buildings and merchants’ houses as you walk down the cobbled streets, all with the help of a free downloadable guide.

Best for: Historical listed buildings.

While you’re there: Consider booking onto a guided walk; although it’s £3 for adults, under 16s go free.

5. West Quay Shopping Centre

While you may find it hard not to shop til’ you drop, the West Quay Shopping Centre makes for prime window shopping. The humongous, multi-level shopping also boasts a food court, cinema, bowling alley and escape room; if you’re adamant about sticking to a budget, though, then once you’ve finished wandering around the shops, head out the exit which brings you onto a bustling and historic high street.

Best for: Window shopping.

While you’re there: Some restaurants and shops offer free samples; indulge yourself!

6. Waterfront ambles

Thanks to its picture-perfect coastal setting, Southampton makes for a fine amble along the waterfront. From Canute Road, you can wander through Queen’s Park first before heading down onto the Town Quay and take a peek at the range of sailing yachts and luxury boats moored in the marina, as well as the ferry and cruise ship terminals.

Best for:Sea views.

While you’re there: Don’t miss the Pilgrims Fathers Memorial, which commemorates where the Mayflower ship set off from Southampton Quay in 1620.

7. The Jane Austen trail

One of England’s literary legends, Jane Austen, lived in Southampton for three years, as well as other parts of Hampshire. You can ‘retrace’ her steps on a self-guided heritage walk that takes in eight spots associated with her, commemorated with plaques. Start off at the Theatre Royal, where Austen watched two plays, before ending the route at The Dolphin Hotel, where it’s believed her brother took her to a dance for her 18th birthday in 1793.

Best for: Literary trails.

While you’re there: The Long Rooms and Hot Baths, also on the route, is a spot where the Austen family were often invited to.

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