6 great reasons to visit Southampton in 2017

Lights fantastic: The Luminate Parade at Westquay to celebrate the opening of restaurants at the new

Lights fantastic: The Luminate Parade at Westquay to celebrate the opening of restaurants at the new development - Credit: www.onlocationevents.co.uk

This city by the sea has so much to entice visitors. Whether you’re planning a day trip or have a whole weekend to spare, Viv Micklefield throws the spotlight on some of Southampton’s newest attractions

Culture vultures love its arts scene, history buffs lap-up its ancient monuments, sports fans adore its super-sized stadiums and world-class water attractions, whilst this really is a city in which to shop ‘til you drop, or to eat ‘til you feel you could pop. And Southampton continues to surprise.

1. Street art

Southampton’s City Art Gallery attracts world class exhibitions, and the glitzy new cultural quarter alongside Guildhall Square is almost nearing completion with NST Nuffield Southampton Theatre’s first production in its new home scheduled for the autumn. However, blink and you might miss another new kid on the block. The K6 Gallery (k6gallery.com) has to be one of the region’s smallest, yet most perfectly formed exhibition spaces. Squeezed within a pair of Grade II listed phone boxes (and taking its name from the original Royal Mail model number), K6 sits in the shadow of the city’s medieval walls on Castle Way.

With a year-long exhibition programme that features a diverse range of art forms, local talent has recently been celebrated as part of British Art Show Fringe and until April 22 the latest installation includes two specially commissioned poems by artist Amy Lloyd. As the gallery remains open 24/7, unless otherwise stated in exhibition listings, there’s no excuse not to take a peek.

2. All aboard

Southampton Sailing Week (southamptonsailingweek.co.uk) is the latest addition to the South Coast sailing calendar and takes place between May 24-29. With the aim of enticing experienced sailors and those who have never been on the Solent before to get out on the water, among the highlights is a chance to enjoy a cruise on SS Shieldhall, Britain’s largest working steamship (ss-shieldhall.co.uk).

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As a member of the National Historic Fleet, this throwback to the golden age of steam has just had a £1.4million overhaul. So as well as reliving the heat of the engine room and admiring the ship’s steam assisted steering gear (similar to that used on the Titanic), there’s the re-fitted saloon to relax in, and the newly recreated sailor’s cabin decked out 1950s style. Thanks to Shieldhall’s crew of volunteers, cruises embark regularly from the Old Eastern Docks from May until mid-September. Adult tickets start from £20.

3. Cheers!

Following the sell-out success of last autumn’s Vaults and Vino tours, SeeSouthampton guides (seesouthampton.co.uk) are again joining forces with the city’s award winning Dancing Man Brewery (dancingmanbrewery.co.uk). After meeting at St Michael’s Square, the eagle-eyed will be challenged to spot number 94 High Street, where behind a locked door, an iron staircase spirals into Southampton’s subterranean 13th century world. With the stone walls awash with stories of unscrupulous French wine traders, more tales reveal the vaults use as shops, and World War Two air raid shelters.

Back above ground, a wine tasting is held in The Dancing Man’s skilfully converted Wool House on Town Quay. Tickets for over 18s cost £19.95 and this month’s Vaults, Vino and Valentines event starts at 7pm on Tuesday February 14. If beer is your preferred tipple then the brand new Beer and Barrels tour and tasting, featuring six of Southampton’s most famous pubs, and a glass or two of Dancing Man’s own brew is on Monday March 13.

4. Hunger busters

Bringing a taste of the Med to Europe’s ‘cruise capital’, Bacaro (bacarosouthampton.com) in Ocean Village has Italian tapas echoing a Venetian ‘bacari’ where good food, wine, and company is considered the recipe of a life lived well. Owner Lucy wows diners with chicetti, small plates washed down with organic wine.

Overlooking the marina in Shamrock Quay, Cove (visitcove.com) has a chic, nautical themed bar and restaurant serving contemporary cuisine. Alternatively, if you like food served with a dollop of social responsibility, Jamie Oliver’s latest 15 restaurant has opened a few doors down.

Finally, WestQuay Watermark is an £85million dining and leisure development launched in December offers more well-known eateries, a Showcase Cinema de Lux and The Esplanade, a new focal point for live events.

5. Keep on runnin’

With an established half marathon already in the diary, if you fancy stretching your legs a bit further, it’s time to up the training for a new event that’s running alongside: the Southampton Marathon (abpsouthamptonhalf.co.uk) on Sunday April 23.

The predominantly flat route takes-in the coast, the city and its parks with some breath-taking views of some of Southampton’s most famous landmarks, making this is an ideal race for seasoned pros looking for a fast time and also for those making their debut.

Entries are now open and anyone already signed-up for the half marathon can convert to the longer distance. A mile fun run for children and adults, and a 10k race taking place on the same day, promises to make this a fantastic festival of running for all ages. Marathon runners will set-off from Guildhall Square at 9am, with athletes for the half marathon and the 10k race following them at 10am and 10:45am respectively.

6. In the groove

The biggest bouncy castle in the world, stunning street food and a line-up of music across four stages, headlined by the likes of Primal Scream and Duran Duran (with the Chuckle Brothers thrown in for good measure), were the winning ingredients for last year’s Common People Festival (southampton.commonpeople.net) held on Southampton Common.

The good news is that this relatively new event is set to return on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday May 27-28.

Artists are still to be confirmed at the time of going to press, but organisers promise “a bonkers bank holiday bonanza with brilliant family entertainment, delicious food and a line up guaranteed to knock your socks off”.

Day, weekend and VIP festival tickets are on sale, making this another chance to ride one of the many waves of Southampton’s current success.

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