Southampton has been a settlement since Roman (then called Clausentum) and Saxon times (then called Hamwic). The Roman ruins are in a suburb called Bitterne Manor. In Saxon times, the town's privileged position, on England's south coast, made it Britain's premier trading post. The town became walled in the Middle Ages, and some remnants of these defences remain throughout the city, most notably the Bargate in the middle of the city centre.
Because Southampton was devastated by bombing during the Second World War, much of the city and its heritage was destroyed. That is why the town and its architecture are so modern.
Southampton has grown rapidly in the past 30 years, becoming one of the twenty largest cities in England. The two universities (Solent University and University of Southampton) give it a large student population in term time.
Southampton is serviced by Southampton International Airport , located a short distance outside the city in Eastleigh. It is a relatively small airport, and only flights to the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland depart here.
From the airport, bus U1C goes to the centre for £2 (£1 for those under 16); a day pass is £3.50.
The alternative is to use one of the London airports and travel on to Southampton by rail, car or bus:
Wikitravel has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Southampton's main station is Southampton Central, on the north-west edge of the city centre. The station has entrances from Blechynden Terrace (north side) and the Western Esplanade (south side), with both providing equal access to concourse and all platforms. From the station, it is a short walk to the city centre, or you can use the free CityLink bus service, which runs every 15-30 minutes during the day and up to about 8pm. The CityLink bus runs from the station via the WestQuay shopping centre to Town Quay.
South West Trains  run regular (at least one an hour) services to Southampton from London Waterloo via Winchester and Basingstoke as well as from Portsmouth and further east along the south coast. Many of these trains continue beyond Southampton to Bournemouth and Weymouth via the New Forest.
Southern Railway  run services via a longer and slower route from London Victoria, but have the advantage of serving London Gatwick airport on the way. CrossCountry  run longer distance services from the north of England via Birmingham and Reading.
Megatrain  is a new budget ticket option available up to four times a day on South West Trains' services between London and Southampton. If booked some time in advance, tickets can be as cheap as £1 one way, but they are more restricted than the regular tickets, and can only be purchased online via the Megatrain website or by phone.
Local rail connections to nearby towns are described at Three Rivers Rail
Train times can be found on National Rail  or by calling 08457 48 49 50 from anywhere in the UK.
Car parking is relatively easy with many pay and display places in the city centre. There are a number of free 2hr car parks too, and if you stray a little further away you can find free parking on the streets.
During the period of the Boat Show, there is a Park and Ride scheme operating from Junction 1 of the M271 motorway with frequent buses to the show entrance.
There is also a Park and Ride for ticket holders to Southampton Football Club matches. This is easily found and well signposted from Junction 8 of the M27. For more information on either of the Park and Ride schemes see National Park and Ride Directory 
There are a number of Southampton-based taxi companies providing long distance transfers from major airports, towns, bus and rail stations to Southampton. West Quay Cars , Soton Taxi,, Southampton Airport Transfer Taxi , Southampton Taxi Co  and New Forest Taxi  provide online taxi booking facility.
Southampton is a busy port city, and as such has numerous sea links to countries across the world, however the port is mainly used for freight (particularly containers) and cruises. There are no international ferry services, however regular vehicle and passenger ferries operate to Cowes on the nearby Isle Of Wight and the village of Hythe across the water. Southampton is also the port of embarkation for Cunard, offering transatlantic service to New York City on board the Queen Mary 2. Cunard also serves other destinations.
Southampton City Centre is fairly spread out along a North-South axis, however it is easily possible to walk from the popular Bedford Place student area on the Northern fringe of the central area to the waterfront, much of the route being pedestrianised.
Southampton has a few dedicated cycle routes; they are not particularly well linked but cyclists should not have a problem navigating the city centre. The city centre itself is mostly flat; Hampshire tends to undulate.Sustrans Cycle Map
Southampton has a good network of bus services, with some principal services operating as often as every ten minutes during the day. Most of the services radiate out from the city, but there are also some cross-city routes.
The City Link services operates a free shuttle bus from Central Station to Red Funnel Ferry terminal, with dropoffs at West Quay Shopping Centre and High Street. It operates every 15 min from 7.30am -6.30pm with service every 30 min until 10pm.
Southampton sells itself as the shopping capital of the South Coast and the West Quay shopping centre does nothing to dispel you of that opinion. John Lewis and Marks And Spencer are the major draws, but there are 97 other shops happy to separate you from your hard-earned.
The Bargate shopping centre appealed to a younger clientele than West Quay, providing fashion retailers, computer game stores, Pijin BMX shop and an excellent milkshake shop. It closed on 10 June 2013.
The Marlands is an even more generic shopping centre, if such a thing were possible, although the rent is lower than West Quay and hence the retailers are a little less salubrious.
For more generic shopping, Above Bar Street is the main pedestrial thoroughfare joining the shopping centres to each other therefore has even more retailers, large and small, just don't expect to be surprised that the same stores as are on most British high streets have made this their home.
The more discerning shopper can head towards East Street which is the home of 'Speciality Shopping' (it even says so on the street sign) but even this has very little to surpise a shopper on the hunt for a more interesting shopping experience.
Just don't confuse it with East Street Shopping Centre which is apparently the first shopping centre in Southampton, although it has been left behind by the developments on Above Bar Street and is now tucked away too far from the madding crowd and is looking more than a little tired (and also fast becoming the haunt of teenage groups from the nearby estate).
Above Bar Street is also the home of the German Market which runs in December, and the area around the Bargate has the Farmer's Market on the second Saturday of each month.
Southampton's planners have indicated that they don't want to encourage out-of-town shopping, but that hasn't stopped Eastleigh developing Hedge End Retail Park with its collection of typical out-of-town shops at junction 7 of the M27.
There are plenty of great places to eat with restaurants, cafes, pubs and take aways throughout the city. There are three main areas for eating out in Southampton; the first is Oxford Street (towards Ocean Village) the second is around High Street and third Bedford Place (just North of the city).
Oxford Street is Southampton’s cosmopolitan area with outdoor seating and has a very European feel, especially on a sunny day. There is a good selection of higher end restaurants and pubs. Kutis (Bangladeshi/Indian), La Esquina (Spanish tapas), Olivetree (Modern Mediterranean), Cargo (Modern British), Scoozis (Italian), Bellinis (Italian), Charlie Chans (Chinese) and Pizza Express. Arguably, two of the best restaurants in the street are the Oxford Brasserie (French) and Simon's at Oxfords (Modern British) the two are next door to each other but unconnected. Simon's is also a wine bar and has lots of outdoor seating. There are also several pubs London Hotel (gay), The Grapes, a traditional pub with good selection of beers and good pub grub and White Star Tavern.
Around High Street there are a mixture of restaurants and pubs. At the south end of High Street you will find Kuti's Royal Thai Pier (Thai) this is high end, but does have a buffet option there are great views over the water. Ennio's (Italian) is an up market restaurant, not cheap but with an excellent reputation. The Platform Tavern is a pub serving local beers and good pub food. Coriander Lounge (Indian) has a first class reputation, it is advised to call to book a table. Rancho's (Steak), La Lupa (Italian), Zen (Japanese), King and I (Thai), Royal Wok (Chinese), Georges (Greek), Food Factory (Buffet) and the High Street Cafe. For cheap beer and pub food there is Standing Order, part of the Whetherspoons chain.
In East Street you will find Old Town (Malaysian/Sushi) This doesn't look much from the outside, it is a take away, but they do have a few tables upstairs. It offers excellent sushi along with authentic Malaysian and Chinese food. It is reasonably priced. Subway (fast food sandwiches), Greggs (bakery chain), Frying Station (fish and chips and good kebabs). There are also several independent cafes, if you prefer them to Costa and Starbucks which are throughout the city. Just off East Street you will find Elias (Greek/English) this friendly family restaurant which hasn't changed in decades offers good value meals with large portions.
On Queensway you will find Mikes Fish Bar, this offers eat in and take away and is worth a visit if you want good quality fish and chips. Bitz and Pizza offers cheap take away pizza, there is also Queensway cafe.
The choice in Bedford Place and London Road is varied; ranging from Chinese to Mexican at the Southern end of the road through student style curry houses and a Chinese to some late night kebab and chip shops. In terms of value for money the Pride Of India is one of best value Indians in the city, but most of the restaurants are good value, if not exactly awe-inspiring taste-wise. Coco Rio (Afro-Latino) is more upmarket and is situated in Upper Banister St, worth a visit. The Giddy Bridge on London Road is part of the Whetherspoon chain of pubs and offers cheap beer and meals.
Walking distance from Bedford Place is the area of the city that used to be known as Hungry Hill; Commercial Road where the existence of the Mayflower Theatre has meant a thriving trade for various restaurants in pre- and post-theatre eating. Buon Gusto (Italian) and The Vestry Restaurant and Bar are higher end but both are excellent. The Vestry is an old church and has an interesting interior.
For those looking for something different Turtle Bay (Caribbean) offers a taste of the Caribbean and is in Guildhall Square. Balkh (Afghan) and Afritopia (African) are both in St. Mary's Street.
There are obviously the usual range of fast food chains spread throughout the city; Burger King is next to Bargate. Furthermore, there are many takeaways in Southampton that do delivery and allow you to pick up the food yourself.
As is to be expected of a large port with two universities, there are a lot of places to drink in Southampton.
Portswood is the drinking area of choice for students at the University, so keep away from places like The Hobbit, Clowns and Jesters ("Jesters"), The Gordon Arms and The Mitre if you want to avoid students. While The Hobbit can be studenty, it is definitely worth a look as it is a quirky pub with a massive beer garden and live music every night of the week. The Shooting Star (previously known as Kolebka) is a relaxed Jazz bar with live music every Friday night.
The Polygon is a nice area near the city centre with some good new bars, including Vodka Revolution.
The Marina area has a good (albeit expensive) selection of seafront bars.
The Red Lion in High Street dates back to Tudor times and is a must-see. It is usually fairly quiet as well. For those looking for something more lively, The Platform Tavern nearby on the waterfront is an excellent bet as it features live jazz and blues music and a superb selection of local real ales. Try the Dancing Man opposite the Royal Pier in the old Woolhouse for beers brewed on-site.
The Angel located next to one of the central parks is an excellent 'local' type pub in the city centre featuring a free drinks quiz and friendly landlord. The Royal Oak nearby is also an excellent pub featuring regular live music, karaoke and quiz nights as well as drinks promotions, it is also very friendly although it can be a bit studenty.
The city centre also has the usual spattering of chain pubs, including Slug & Lettuce, two Wetherspoon's andWalkabout.
Outside of the city centre are the usual local pubs, some of which are excellent and others which are best avoided. The Park Inn in Shirley and the Wellington Arms and Waterloo Arms in Freemantle all have an excellent range of real ales while the Richmond Inn in Portswood is a great traditional pub with a vintage till and real ales. Nearby and next to St Denys railway station are two more excellent pubs, the Junction Inn and South Western Arms.
There is a useful directory of the local pubs and bars at  which includes maps to find the pub and a few featured pubs as well.
There is no doubt that whatever your budget you will be able to find somewhere to lay your head in Southampton. A the top end of the scale the De Vere Grand Harbour  is the only 5* hotel in the city and an exceptional piece of architecture.
In the level below that the Hilton  provides 4* luxury in a pleasant environment as well as being easy to get to from the M3.
3* hotels are much easier to come by, the Jurys Inn  has recently opened in the middle of a city centre roundabout, the Novotel , Travelodge , Holiday Inn  and Hotel Ibis  are all perfectly adequate for providing a night's sleep.
If you feel the need for a less generic hotel experience, The Dolphin  hotel and The Star  are both on the High Street in traditional coaching inn buildings and will make you feel less like you're just a commodity.
If you're on the cheap, or feel like a more personal stay, then there are plenty of Bed And Breakfasts; most cluster around the bottom end of Hill Lane which is close to the train station. Simply wander out from the station's main exit (If you see Toys 'r' Us opposite you're on the wrong exit) and take the path by the left side of the HSBC office block. Hill Lane leads up the small hill from the traffic lights. Keep going up the hill until you find one worth staying at; don't forget to check the side streets too.
Tourist Information will almost certainly be able to find you somewhere to stay if you're stuck (+44 23 8083 3333).
Southampton Tourist Information Centre 
Levels of crime in Southampton are similar to other UK cities. Hampshire Constabulary's figures for 2009/10 show fewer incidents of recorded crime in Southampton than in 2008/09. There is a strong police presence in the city centre at night time, especially around the clubs and pubs. A Night Bus Service is available to allow people to get home safely.
Due to football rivalry, wearing a Portsmouth football top can attract unwanted attention.
Advice on keeping safe in Southampton can be found on the Safer Southampton website .
No Limits  is an Information, Advice and Counselling service for young people in Southampton aged 13-25.