Surprisingly superb Southampton

Not to be confused with the Southampton of the Hamptons in NYC. This is the English version which also comes the English weather… which we 100% lucked out on … with a heatwave! So full disclaimer this trip was definitely made better by the sun but even so, it was not a bad substitute for a mini break abroad!

However cute, I am not really a fan of chocolate box villages, I love a city break but given a choice, holidays for me, mean pina coladas, infinity pools and champers by the sea. However still being in a pandemic, travel this year feels harder – the fear of track and trace, test on return and ever changing rules abroad and here. (How was it easier to travel last year unvaccinated?!) So I conceded and asked could I really embrace the U.K. for a summer holiday? It seemed so…

Southampton, a random choice (as one of my team pointed out… ‘hardly known as a holiday destination!’ 🤣) And now post holiday one of my travel insta friends said, ‘You have turned Southampton into a destination of choice! How have you done that??!!’ LOL which must mean living my best life might help others like me – seeking that sunshine vibe but stuck on our big ole island. So I hope it does as I truly felt like I had a break from work and had been away. The only thing I can’t help with is the weather.

The sunny Solent

So on to the trip …

Travel

No Covid forms, apps to show, tests to arrange … just jumped on a train from London direct to Southampton! Took an hour! We brought our own bubbles to make it feel more like a flight!

On arrival the station is very central and everything is in walking distance. However with luggage we hopped in an Uber. Took 5-10 minutes to the hotel and only cost a fiver. So far UK 1 – Abroad 0!


Hotel

I had whittled it down to 3 choices. Each were very lovely for their own purposes but I am sharing should you need options. First up: The Pig. The famous hotel group are renowned for their small, cosy, luxurious, cottage feel and this one is the smallest of their litter! But for us, it felt more like a winter romantic hotel. They do have a good deli lunch, if you still fancy a visit.

The Pig Hotel

Next up, The Moxy, which had a shared work space vibe. Located next door to the shopping centre, it was our wet weather option. Fun and funky. More of a base than a destination hotel. But much cheaper than where we ended up choosing.

The Moxy Hotel

Being a birthday week (for me) and possibly our only summer holiday we splashed for the Harbour Hotel and Spa … and did not regret it for a second.

The Harbour Hotel and Spa

Build like a big ship, homage to the this sailing port and set on the marina, it had all the holiday feels. Really reminded me of Gibraltar and staying at the Sunborne last year.

The rooms were super clean and fresh and came with free gin and sherry!!! (This is a perk this hotel group have having stayed at the Brighton one before). Oh and some binoculars! (For use, not keeps!)

We chose a marina view and every morning it felt like waking up abroad as the sun rose over the marina.

Room with a view

The hotel rooftop – Harbar

No surprises why I also chose this hotel… their rooftop, yes of course it had a rooftop! Not just a rooftop but a terrace, indoor rooftop bar and then restaurant! I worked my way through them all! Really was like a holiday! The fact the temperature climbed to 30 degrees definitely helped enjoy them to the max. As did the staff. Impeccable in their kindness and professionalism. From the rooftop staff to the front desk. (Shout out to Ilona and Meg who were especially awesome)

Harbar rooftop terrace

The terrace which you can book doesn’t have as much of a view as the other rooftop, at the other end. But it’s is all about the vibe, a pizza oven, botanical pop up and the cocktail menu! The pure colada cocktail is a game changer. No creamy 500 calories cocktail, nope… but it tastes like it is! I know!! Thanks to Victor – the master of mixology for this.

Pure Colada

The indoor bar / lounge is definitely not second prize. It’s full of quirky sofas, signs and views that leads out to both rooftops and on the weekend hosts a DJ.

Then further along is the restaurant, where breakfast is also served. (Yes I was able to have breakfast every day on a rooftop!) It’s quite small so do book your breaki. But it is out their patio doors that leads to the back rooftop. You can’t book this as it’s notoriously windy. But this is where you want to be for sunset drinks over the marina or just a morning coffee! Holy moly hello holiday vibes. (The only thing missing was a rooftop pool!!) For more on the Har Bar click here.

Back rooftop terrace

Eating out

Harbar

So aside drinks and breakfast at the rooftop we also did lunch and dinner – both delicious and fully recommend!

Starter at Har bar!

The Jetty

The Jetty

Located on the ground floor of the hotel, The Jetty is separately owned and managed and you can tell. I found it a little precious. The staff just weren’t quite as nice or fun but all still highly accommodating and professional. I would fully recommend this place for its seafood – it is amazing.

Starter at the Jetty

The restaurant is set at the back over looking the marina and is perfect for a sunset dinner. Due to the same wind as above on the rooftop eating outside is tricky to predict but the option is there is the weather allows. The indoor restaurant was bright and airy and it actually didn’t matter if you were inside (and I am an alfresco addict!) it really felt we were abroad here.

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine

Just 2 minute walk along on the marina is Jasmine. This is Asian fine dining at its best. The staff were so attentive and accommodating (also were so helpful as am GF). The setting could have been anywhere abroad as we sat outside for dinner with the marina back drop.

Blue Jasmine

La Regata

Regatta

About a 10-15 walk away opposite the Red Funnel Ferry was a great Spanish tapas restaurant. I had asked to be outside but actually that turned out to be just a few tables on the road so we moved inside by the huge bay windows. We felt like we were in Spain! There was even a palm tree! Food was great. So much so we kept ordering more and more!!

Regatta

Next door was Ennios Italian restaurant which had great reviews, also was a hotel and was voted in the top 10 best Italian in the U.K. We didn’t eat there as would have been more a winter formal (white linen table cloths) and mostly indoor but sharing for those who love Italian food!

Drinks

The Pig hotel

So aside the 3 hotels we went to for drinks: Moxy, The Pig and Harbar there’s a range of bars and even a couple of other rooftops!

Revolution

Funky flamingo and Revolution both have rooftops and the former was definitely a destination of choice in Southampton. The bar inside was full of neon and fun! Read more here.

Funky Flamingo

Banana Wharf

Also at Ocean Village opposite the Harbour hotel this was a vibrant fun easy going bar and restaurant. Seemed a great place for kids or a cheaper brunch than at the hotel. I naturally had to have the banana colada being at a Banana Bar!

Social spritz

Social spritz

This is a pop up in the city walls which has all the summer feels and a very Insta friendly cocktail menus. Yes I had to order the watermelon Cosmo and it wasn’t just a gimmick… was delicious! There’s some Insta created spots here but it is weather dependant … however you can always stumble to the shops opposite if it rains! Yes shopping is renowned here so if all else failed you can get lost shopping!

Mile high & Orange rooms

So these are two separate bars but under one owner. The Orange Rooms are quirky 70 style bar, with a garden and and apres ski bar.

Orange rooms

But if you are missing flying then their Mile High bar is definitely worth a whirl! It’s a fun fizz fulled flight! It’s not fully developed yet and just a few of small changes could make it really amazing. But it was still worth going.

The areas are split to plane seats, lounge and bar. But named 1st, business and economy which is a bit misleading as it’s only in 1st you get the plane seats- which is why you would come. (Unless a big group) The staff are in character and even have a humorous safety video, announcements throughout, flying related cocktails and a cocktail passport. And as we booked 1st class we got an eye mask pack! The windows have funny cloud pics behind – ET was my favourite. The booking is for 2 hours which would have been a bit too long but you can leave earlier.

Mile High Bat – window seat!

Piecaraamba

Calling all comic book nerds. This place is insane. A coffee shop with a Star Wars themed loo and a naughty step (yes I was put there!)


Now whilst my holidays are usually full of bubbles and beaches, dinner and dancing this was a different trip and so we embraced our adultness and got cultural and would fully recommend them all:

Museums

Titanic museum (confusingly called Sea City Scape museum)

Up at the top of Southampton this was a must to see but don’t be fooled if online it says sold out. They close online bookings each day but there’s usually space to walk in but do call if you don’t want a wasted trip. Whilst the Titanic sailed from Belfast before its demise it actually started in Southampton -as do many cruise ships today. Recreation of the cabins, menus, salvaged object and interactive morse code to try it was well worth going. Sadly I couldn’t find Leo! 😜

Solent Sky Museum

If you like planes then this place is a little gold mine. The staff are so knowledgeable and you will end up staying way longer than expected. Especially when you are allowed to sit in a cockpit of an old fighter plane. Discovering what 1st class looked like just 60 years ago was a reality check of how fast the world is changing too. Awesome little find.

First class!

Beaulieu

Whilst this was not in Southampton it was too close not to go when we both had it down as a bucket list for years. It was a 30 min in an Uber if you aren’t driving and I’d recommend prebooking your return. Beaulie is a village and perfect for a pub lunch but its known for its car museum. Full of old cars and famous film cars. Yes even Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was there tho a few years ago I had the privilege of being in Chitty, on a motorway for work! That caused some looks!!

SOE museum

There’s a monorail, old houses, kids play area and canteen (limited food and no alcohol.) If you were doing a family day trip I’d suggest bringing a picnic. But for me it was the SOE museum which is why I wanted to go. Being a war geek and this area being my specialist subject it had been remiss of me to not have gone before. Beaulieu was part of the training for agents that were dropped into Europe during the Second World War. This was incredible piece of history to see.


Isle of Wight

Lastly, no summer holiday would be complete without a dip in the sea (or a pool!). One of the main reasons I had booked this destination was to get across to the Isle of Wight on my birthday to go to a magical looking rooftop and restaurant, The Hut.

Downstairs is the beautiful restaurant that reminded me of a beach club abroad and then above was the rooftop (and a rooftop shop!). It did not disappoint. In fact it excelled in its setting, staff and sea views. And then yes, I was able to swim in the sea! Happy me.

For more on getting across to IOW and about The Hut, click here.

Hope Southampton is as superb for you as it was me! 🧡 As always drop me a DM on insta if you need any more info! xxx

Travel extra tip: If you are looking for another easy trip from London then check out Folkestone.