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Are you thinking of settling down in Southampton or Portsmouth? We’ve got everything you need to know about what life in these two bustling southern cities is like. Find out our take on the best places to go for eating, drinking and shopping in the region, and get the lowdown on the cities’ transport links and top-rated schools.
 

History of Southampton and Portsmouth

The history of both Southampton and Portsmouth revolves around the maritime industry of the area. Southampton has been an important port since medieval times, and Southampton was a key location of the shipbuilding industry. The city experienced massive growth in the Victorian era, with the Southampton Docks Company being formed in 1835.

There was considerable rivalry between the dockyards of Southampton and Portsmouth, and Portsmouth was a major importer of wool, grain, wheat, and wine from Bayonne and Bordeaux.

Both cities were heavily bombed during World War Two, due to their importance as naval bases, which has affected the architecture of both Southampton and Portsmouth.
 

Southampton and Portsmouth’s Culture

Both cities have fantastic cultural offerings for all ages. You’ll find two cathedrals in Portsmouth, as well as more than a dozen museums. The Mary Rose Museum is a must-visit, where you can see the famous ship and artefacts from it, and the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is also a top attraction. There you’ll find several ships on display including the HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Portsmouth is also a thriving hub for the arts. The Hotwalls Studios brings together artists, makers and designers in a historic setting at the Point Battery, and all of the studios have an open-door policy, encouraging visitors and locals to pop in for a chat with the makers and watch them hone their craft.

In Southampton, you’ll find over 3,500 works of art in the City Art Gallery, which was opened in 1939. It’s one of Southampton’s most popular visitor attractions, and sees thousands of art lovers through its doors every month. Southampton’s Cultural Quarter is a bustling district full of galleries, museums and other attractions, including the interactive SeaCity Museum and Studio 144.

Southampton is also a great city for theatre lovers, as it’s home to the Mayflower Theatre, which plays host to a regular rota of ballet, musicals and plays. The Nuffield Southampton Theatre is another great choice for cutting-edge theatre, with a year-round schedule of avant-garde plays, dance and much more.
 

Food and Drink in Southampton and Portsmouth

Everyone enjoys going out for dinner and drinks every now and again, and there’s no shortage of places to choose from in Southampton and Portsmouth. Whether your favourite cuisine is Italian, Indian, Chinese or traditional pub grub, there’s something for everyone in both cities.

In Portsmouth, you’ll find a plethora of well-known names in Gunwharf Quays, whilst Southsea is the place to go for independent eateries. The coffee culture is booming in Portsmouth, with plenty of places to grab a brew to go or sit in and savour the flavours, and you’ll also find lots of quirky cafes for a light bite to eat, particularly in Southsea where you can enjoy a view of the Isle of Wight with your lunch.

Up in Southampton, foodies are spoiled for choice. Amongst the best-rated restaurants on Tripadvisor are 5 Rivers Sports Bar, which serves Punjabi pub grub, Tim’s Bistro for British options, and Smugglers, which is recommended for its Sunday roast dinner.
 

Shopping in Southampton and Portsmouth

Shopaholics will feel at home in either Portsmouth or Southampton, as both cities have a fantastic choice of both independent and chain shops to choose from. In Portsmouth, Gunwharf Quays is a popular shopping destination, with over 90 premium and designer shops offering big discounts, including Coach, Kate Spade and Karl Lagerfeld.

For antiques, vintage stores and unique boutiques, Albert Road is the place to go in Portsmouth. The street is renowned for its eclectic mix of shops, with everything from comic book stores to retro clothing shops lining the street, making it a Portsmouth institution.

Over in Southampton, Westquay is the place to go to shop ‘til you drop, with over 80 shops under one roof. From Accessorize to Zara, it truly offers the A-Z of the best of the British high street. Off the beaten track, Southampton also has a thriving independent shopping scene, with everything from vinyl-packed record shops to specialist chocolate shops.
 

Schools in Southampton

In Southampton, there are:

  • – 10 infant schools
  • – 8 junior schools
  • – 37 primary schools
  • – 12 secondary schools
  • – 7 special and alternative schools
  • – 5 independent schools

 
Again, there are several schools in the city which have been rated by Ofsted as ‘Outstanding’, including St Anne’s Catholic School, an 11-18 girls’ school with a co-educational sixth form. At primary level, highly-rated schools include Bitterne Manor Primary School and Bitterne Park Primary School, as well as Highfield Church of England Primary School and the Sinclair Primary and Nursery School.
 

Schools in Portsmouth

In Portsmouth, there are:

  • – 16 infant schools
  • – 14 junior schools
  • – 23 primary schools
  • – 11 secondary schools
  • – 5 special and alternative schools
  • – 5 independent schools

 
Many of these are high-performing with ‘Outstanding’ ratings from Ofsted. At primary level, this includes Cliffdale Primary School in North End and St John’s Cathedral Catholic Primary School in Landport, and St Edmund’s Catholic School at secondary level.
 

Transport in Southampton and Portsmouth

Transport links are strong in both cities, with Portsmouth and Southampton being well-served by both bus and train routes.

There are three mainline railway stations in Portsmouth: Portsmouth Harbour, Portsmouth & Southsea, which between them cover services to London, Bristol, Cardiff and beyond.

Southampton Central is a bustling train station which is served by South Western Railway, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway and Southern, with frequent trains to London, Weymouth, Poole, Portsmouth, Brighton, Bournemouth and further afield.

Ferry services also run from both cities. From Portsmouth, you can take international ferries to France, Spain and the Channel Islands, as well as local routes to Gosport and the Isle of Wight. Southampton ferries serve Hythe and the Isle of Wight.

Looking to buy a house in Southampton or Portsmouth? First Mortgage can help!

If you need advice on the best areas to purchase property in Southampton or Portsmouth, or you’re simply after a reliable mortgage broker, we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call today to use our complete and comprehensive mortgage service over the phone.

Have a question?

If you need advice for  first-time buying in Southampton or Portsmouth – or if you’re looking for a reliable mortgage broker in Hampshire – don’t hesitate to contact us today.

We’re experts on all things mortgage-related (and our services are always 100% free).

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