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A city on the south coast of England and for a long time, the most important trading post in the country

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Thanks to its prime location on the banks of the English Channel, the port city of Southampton was for a long time the most important trading post in the country. This success has led to it becoming a large, prosperous city, which today ranks among England's biggest.
But Southampton's position has also had negative effects over the years. It has been the scene of many different conflicts, which led to a defensive wall being constructed around the city in the Middle Ages. Later, in the Second World War, the nearby docks transported important military cargo, making the whole of Southampton a prominent target for German bombers. Much of the city was reduced to ruins - but thankfully, several reminders of Southampton's historic past still remain. The most prominent of these is the Civic Centre, the central home of the local council. The building's lofty clock tower is visible from almost anywhere in the city.
Another interesting building is the Red Lion pub, which lies on the main high street. Its story dates all the way back to the 13th century, when several renowned lords conspired to murder King Henry V. Unfortunately for them, the king soon discovered their plot, and put them to trial in this very pub! They were sentenced to death, and executed soon after.
The 2nd World War left precious few other buildings standing, but because of this, the current, rebuilt city of Southampton has a very modern appearance.
Of course, the docks are still here - and the city is still one of the largest ports in the country. Southampton's shores are filled with huge freight ships, and luxury cruise liners - which means that people clearly haven't been put off by the fact that the RMS Titanic set off on its fateful journey from this port a century ago! The SeaCity Museum is opening its doors in April 2012 to commemorate the disaster, and tells the story of the people of Southampton, their fascinating lives and the city’s historic connection with the sea, including Titanic.

A modern day cruiseliner leaving Southampton
Photo Coradia1000
This is just part of a series of large redevelopment projects on Southampton's waterfront. The most notable of these is probably Ocean Village - a marina and leisure complex that features shops, restaurants, and lots of shiny, modern buildings. Future plans include three giant skyscrapers, which will dramatically change the image of the area.
However, in amongst all this new construction work, lies one of the city's oldest buildings, and its major landmark - the Bargate. This Norman fortification was once the main entrance and exit to the city, and is now a grade I-listed monument. It stands right in the middle of Southampton's main High Street, surrounded by shops, bars, and restaurants. Actually, the city often claims to be the "shopping capital of the south coast", and it's difficult to argue. There are many different retail centres, and all the well-known chains are represented.

Photo Coradia1000
But don't worry - Southampton hasn't been completely overtaken by urban sprawl. Its city centre features a series of five green and flowery areas, known together as the "Central Parks". These historic gardens were recently renovated in a 4.5 million project, which ensured their status as one of the local residents' favourite places. Facilities situated here include a skate park, a bandstand, and a children's play area. Sports fans, meanwhile, are able to participate in tennis, basketball, and golf, among others. There is also a wide programme of art and cultural events, staged here throughout the year.
Southampton is still a city that's undergoing a lot of changes. It's come a long way in the last few decades, and the transformation has been incredible - and it's not finished yet.
Visitor Information
Southampton Visitor Information Service, Central Library, Civic Centre, Southampton, SO14 7LW. Tel: 023 8083 3333
SeaCity Museum is open daily, 10am to 5pm (from 11th April 2012). Entry costs around £9 for adults, £6 children. SeaCity Museum, Havelock Road, Southampton, Hampshire, SO14 7FY. Tel: 023 8083 3007

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