Southampton is a maritime city and major port, its life intimately bound up with the sea. It’s a staging post for cruises and ferries, but it’s worth more than just a stopover for its mediaeval walls, boat-watching and SeaCity museum. The hotel scene is somewhat functional, but the gastronome’s favourite, Pig in the Wall, and the sporting Hilton at the Ageas Bowl, are destinations in their own right.
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Southampton's best hotels
Officially a small hotel, the Elizabeth House has the personal service and intimacy of a large B&B, albeit one with modern hotel fittings and some extras (like a bar and bistro) bolted on. It fills two handsome adjoining houses with 27 bedrooms and a long, light-bathed breakfast room; outside are sweeping lawns and ample parking, where you can leave your car while you cruise (for a fee).
This boutique hotel/Italian restaurant combo is housed in an attractive red-brick shipping warehouse, one of only a handful left in Southampton. The only heritage downside is the lack of a lift: the harbourside location is a positive boon, with the Isle of Wight ferries right on the doorstep. Well-specced rooms are decorated with a touch of theatre, and the swanky bathrooms are kitted out with robes and L’Occitane toiletries.
This eye-catching glass ziggurat on the waterfront is a Southampton landmark; inside, its four-star surrounds are more conservative (and a little tired in places), with conventional business-hotel rooms (think desk consoles, yachty photos and squashy headboards). There’s a Marco Pierre White steakhouse, pool and spa, but the best things about the Grand are its harbourside location, hard by the City Cruise terminal, and breakfast in the great glass atrium.
The Ageas Bowl is the rather stunning home of Hampshire cricket, and also host to concerts by the likes of Little Mix. Deluxe bedrooms built into the stands have balconies overlooking the action (or the golf course), and attractive contemporary decor. It’s a drive from town, but transfers are easily arranged, or you could just stay ‘home’ and chill on a heated stone lounger at the swanky new spa.
One of the foodie-favourite Pig properties, this shabby-chic hotel and restaurant inhabits a lovely Georgian house built into Southampton’s medieval walls. It’s a glossy-magazine pick, with artlessly eclectic decor (barleytwist bedposts and claw-foot bathtubs) and warmly personal service. The deli restaurant offers local goodies hot and cold, plenty of them porcine. Southampton’s only true boutique hotel, this one is a little bit special if your wallet’s up to it.
If you want to combine a visit to Southampton with some New Forest charm, this Fuller’s pub will tick your boxes. It’s right on the edge of the national park, all country-style cosiness, with thatched roof, open fires, real ales and seasonal food. Rooms are nicely stylish in contrast. It’s across the river from Southampton – no distance as the seagull flies but eight miles by human transport, but cruise park-and-ride is nearby.
Of Southampton’s many chain hotels, this is one of the newest, most conveniently located and best reviewed. It’s purpose-built, modern and tricked out in Premier Inns’ usual purple regalia, with AC, standard restaurant, paid-for parking and digital check-in screens. The location is great for boat departures, not to mention shopping at the Westquay centre next door.
This family-run guesthouse wins plenty of repeat visitors with its tip-top service and faultless facilities: every last detail is considered, down to flannels and a fan. In shades of white and oatmeal, with ladder-back beds, the rooms have a Shaker feel, and the breakfast room is cheery in cherry red and pine. Just out of the town centre, with good local restaurants nearby.
One of Southampton’s best dining pubs, this characterful corner venue is now in the hands of the Fuller’s chain, which sells itself on its stylish bedrooms. And, indeed, done out in teal and brown, with monsoon showers, luxe linen and mini-bars, the berths are pretty classy. The location on nightlife spot Oxford Street (the White Star itself has pavement tables) makes for a bit of street noise, but earplugs are provided.