So I’ve been living and studying in Southampton for two years now and as part of going into my third year and presenting a Freshers’ radio piece on Southampton, I’ve put together this minute guide about three of my favourite areas; Nightlife, Lifestyle and Shopping. So if you’re a fresher, a local or a stranger I hope this helps you discover the wonderful city that Southampton is :)
Jesters; you know, I’m really not sure if there are any words. Southampton hearsay tells me that its officially the worst night club in the UK. Set underground with a dance floor the size of a kitchen and an amazing outdoor/smoking area, in the two years I’ve been there I’ve seen sex against walls, people vomit and continue dancing and people sitting in their own urine. Rough right?! But amazing. To me, Jesters really is unique. You can turn up in a bodycon and heels, skinnies and converse, fancy dress or tracksuits and be accepted, be allowed entry .. and probably even pull if you wanted to. Its the place in Southampton you go to drink, to dance, to chat, to meet people, to play games. It is just incredible, so much fun and you know what? I think the saying genuinely applies: it really is so so bad, its so so good.
Oceana is a chain of nightclubs around the country. I’d never been to one before Uni before and in Freshers alone I saw Katy B, S Club 3 and 5ive (well 2wo..) perform live. It’s huge and you go to dance, well I go to dance anyway. They have two main dance rooms, one is a giant ‘Ice Box’ where the play slow grooves, R and B (gosh , I feel old) and the like and the other … is a Disco Room; one of the best rooms in the south of England I’m sure of it. An illuminated dance floor, interactive DJs and a whole lot of singing it really is just a great, fun night out. Be cafeful not to ask for a soft drink though, one barman went all Coyote on me once: Hell No, H2O! Nightmare, but a great night.
Do you see a pattern? Bella’s general favourite night club spots are places she can wear jeans, boogie on down and generally have a great time. Reflex is no different, I think its officially an 80s club but it plays old school tunes non stop, with another illuminated floor, a lush VIP area and … poles. Yes, the wonder of poles in night clubs. Making the most average of humans believe they are an Ibiza paid dancer gyrating, shimmying up it; flipping embarrassing, but again, a flipping lot of fun.
When you look at a map of Southampton, the Common is basically the giant green bit in the middle. A wonderful recreation area, with a lake, a park, walkways, skateways, jog routes, carnivals held there; just a really great central area. I’ve been for gorgeous evening walks there, had snow fights, played football in the scorching sun (Southampton gets great weather by the way), eaten far too many ice creams than I care to admit, and ogled at men in rugby training. The Common, I believe as the youngsters say, is where its at.
I’m pretty sure Hamble is a well kept secret for Southamptoners. When I first moved there and googled ‘beach’, this is what came up. Its about a fifteen minute drive from the centre but I’m not really sure if beach is the best way to describe it. Its more like a pebbled shore. But it is kinda cultural, it has ancient ruins of a sort and lots of beautiful walks and a sailing club. A really nice afternoon out if you fancy it.
Gosh, do I really need to tell you about the New Forest? I’ve been going every year since I was born but it was just last year that I took the boyfriend for the first time, and since then we’ve had some great days out there. He was just bewildered that just twenty minutes (I drive fast, okay?!) from the centre are cattle grids, hills, greenery, sunsets and wait for it … wild horses. Nuts right?! More like beautiful. Just go, okay?!
When I say Westquay, I mean just the general Southampton City Centre shopping area. It has all your favourites; Topshop, Urban Outfitters, an amazing Boots, New Look, Zara etc. Other personal highlights include the gorgeous John Lewis I can get lost in for hours as well as the Waterstones/Costa which is great for a chilled cuppa and a read. Westquay is the main centre which is connected to Above Bar Street which has the rest of the shops. Make sure you check out Above Bar around Christmas time for the amazing German market, mulled wine and chocolate smothered loveliness galore!
Ikea, what can I say? I have been known to go just for dinner (meatballs, dahling) then for breakfast the next day, I love it that much. Aside from the great tasting, great costing food, even if you can’t afford/don’t need a thing, its great for a wander around. If you’ve never been, go! Personal favourites are the apartments you can wander around and the marketplace for candles, fake flowers and paintings.
Portswood Charity Shops
Portswood is basically the student area of Southampton where 95% of those in private rented accommodation who are Uni students will live. Whilst its not the most desirable area in the world, the charity shops are cracking. I would say there are perhaps 10 or 11. I find myself casually popping in on my way to the supermarket, or devoting entire afternoons to trawling around picking up tit bits. The fashion is good, the home ware is good, the furniture is extrememly good and as far as charity shop pricings go .. its up there.
So a baby guide. Enjoy Southampton, I most certainly do!