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Living in Southampton
The city of Southampton has a relaxed seaside atmosphere, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a quiet place. It’s a big city with a constant bustle of activity and two universities, Southampton Solent University and University of Southampton.
Where there are student there’s usually a nightlife. A lot of the popular student nightclubs can be found in the area around East Park, and there are three cinemas down the road in the Ocean Village, including the Harbour Lights PIcturehouse. This is a little indie cinema that shows niche and classic films as well as the big blockbusters, which is a great nostalgia kick for those days when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the new sights.
Unsurprisingly, what Southampton has always been and probably always will be famous for is boats. This town really loves boats. Like, A LOT. The Solent - that bit of water that divides the mainland at Southampton from the Isle of Wight, stops all the really big waves from getting to the city. You’ll often see big cruise ships moored up in the docks, and even the Titanic shipped out from here. Sadly, the student budget doesn’t usually allow for a Titanic, but there are other things you can do on the water. The whole area is a haven for nearly every kind of watersport in existence, and for those who prefer to spectate with a bottle of fizz and a sandwich the Skandia Cowes Week happens on the nearby Isle of Wight. This is the world’s biggest international sailing regatta and just to see the amount of boats involved is mind-boggling.
What’s that? You get seasick? Fear not! There are activities here for you too. For starters the shopping round here is very good; the West Quay centre is actually rated as one of the UK’s top ten retail locations, and Bargate has some more unique shops. For the engineering students (or people that just like the idea of flying) there’s also a proud history of aeronautical engineering in Southampton, particularly the famous Spitfire fighter plane, which was designed in the city. We would suggest getting lost in the Southampton Hall of Aviation for a couple of hours.
But there’s no beach! What kind of coastal city doesn’t have a beach?
- Ok we admit it, there’s no beach here, but we knew you’d only get all burnt like a lobster instead of studying anyway. Bournemouth, known for having some of the UK’s best beaches, is only an hour down the coast.
- Ok, but can we tempt you with cute fluffy animals? The New Forest National Park is literally on your doorstep, and its semi-wild native pony has the right of way in the villages. Find a traffic jam, and there’s probably a small adorable horse munching up some nice lady’s garden at the head of it.
- Ok, but there’s a lot of parks where you can do your relaxing instead. Southampton is actually the greenest city in south England because of the sheer amount of parkland it has. Take a picnic blanket and a good book.
It’s raining - what now?
- The Hobbit pub: A student favourite, and we can see why! This proper English pub has live entertainment every night, and sells hobbit cocktails (are they extra large to make us feel tiny?). Bizarrely it also does a Caribbean BBQ. We’re not quite sure why, but we like it.
- Civic Centre: This impressive looking building contains the City Art gallery, known for its impressive collection. Leave about 2hrs to see all of it.
- Mayflower Theatre: This theatre is big enough to house West End shows and big name acts, so keep an eye on their website for what’s coming up.
Read Southampton Reviews
The bars and clubs in Southampton are pretty amazing; The Hobbit and The Edge are probably the best, in my opinion. The main shopping areas are fantastic and there're so many great places to eat (seriously, try Sula's.)
A lot of people describe Southampton as a 'northern city in the south', because of its still-present industrialisation. This is probably why I like it so much, because it reminds me a little bit of home. Like home, it had a golden age but quickly declined, then got bombed to bits during WW2 and rebuilt in hideous 60s concrete style. But if you ignore what it looks like, it's fab. The uni night life is incredibly good, so much to choose from (and CHEAP), the WestQuay shopping centre is great for chain stores (if that's what you like) and Above Bar Street has some more independent shops. Public transport, A++, the unilink buses are brill (and free in 1st year), the trains are well connected, v quick to London/the New Forest/Bournemouth for a day out.
A lovely city, but only if you actually get involved in it and don't view it as a uni place. There's a wonderful arts scene that takes place entirely outside of the uni, but most people don't see it because all the city is to them is a Bermuda Triangle of halls-campus-city centre. You get out what you put in; make the effort, get to know the locals, and you'll stop being another faceless student and you'll actually get a sense of enrichment and achievement from the town. Very well integrated bus system, big shopping centre, wide variety of clubs and pubs (the Shooting Star being a personal favourite), lots of places to eat to suit your budget and it's relatively cheap. Not a bad city, not a great one, but there's enough here to make your home if you engage with it.
Good variety of clubs/nights out. Range of shopping facilities and eating out places. Good transport links with the train station being close to everything. Most things are within walking distance of the halls, housing and university.