Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated 120 kilometres (75 mi) south-west of London and 30 kilometres (19 mi) north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest. It lies at the northernmost point of Southampton Water at the confluence of the River Test and River Itchen, with the River Hamble joining to the south of the urban area. The local authority is Southampton City Council, which is a unitary authority.
The city represents the core of the Greater Southampton region, and the city itself has an estimated population of 239,700 Southampton combines with Portsmouth to form a single metropolitan area; with a population of over a million this makes the region one of the United Kingdom's most populous metropolitan areas. The city's name is sometimes abbreviated in writing to "So'ton" or "Soton", and a resident of Southampton is called a Sotonian.
Significant employers in Southampton include the University of Southampton, Southampton Airport, the Ford Transit factory, Ordnance Survey, BBC South, the NHS, ABP and Carnival. Southampton is noted for its association with the RMS Titanic, the Spitfire and more recently a number of the largest cruise ships in the world.
The city is home to the longest surviving stretch of medieval walls in England, as well as a number of museums such as Tudor House Museum, recently re-opened on 30 July 2011 after undergoing extensive restoration and improvement, Southampton Maritime Museum, God's House Tower, an archaeology museum about the citys heritage and located in one of the tower walls, the Medieval Merchant's House and Solent Sky, which focuses on aviation. A new museum is set to open in April 2012 in the centre of the city. The Sea City musuem is located in the west wing of the civic centre, formerly occupied by Hampshire Constabulary and the Magistrates' Court, and focuses on Southampton's trading history and on the RMS Titanic. The museum received half a million pounds from the National Lottery in addition to interest from numerous private investors and is budgeted at £28 million.
The annual Southampton Boat Show is held in September each year, with over 600 exhibitors present.It runs for just over a week at Mayflower Park on the city's waterfront, where it has been held since 1968. The Boat Show itself is the climax of Sea City, which runs from April to September each year to celebrate Southampton's links with the sea.
In July 2007, the Daily Echo quoted a survey which described Southampton one of the best places to live in the UK for single people aged 18 to 30. This was owing to its "low cost of living, wide array of bars and clubs and cheap transport". Women voted it second best behind London, while men rated it as seventh.
The Mayflower Theatre
The largest theatre in the city is the 2,300 capacity Mayflower Theatre (formerly known as the Gaumont), which, as the largest theatre in Southern England, has hosted West End shows such as Les Misérables, The Rocky Horror Show and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as regular visits from Welsh National Opera and English National Ballet. There is also the Nuffield Theatre based at the University of Southampton's Highfield campus, which provides a venue for the Nuffield Theatre Company, touring companies, and local performing societies such as Southampton Operatic Society, the Maskers and the University Players.
There are many innovative art galleries in the city. The City Art Gallery at the Civic Centre is one of the best known and houses several permanent and travelling exhibitions, however the Millais Gallery at Southampton Solent University, the John Hansard Gallery at Southampton University as well as smaller galleries including the Art House in Above Bar Street provide a different view. The city's Bargate is also an art gallery run by the arts organisation "a space". A space also run the Art Vaults project, which creatively uses several of Southampton's medieval vaults, halls and cellars as venues for contemporary art installations. In August 2009, work began on a significant project to create an Arts Quarter in the city centre, on land adjacent to the Guildhall.
Southampton has two large live music venues, the Mayflower Theatre (formerly the Gaumont Theatre) and the Guildhall. The Guildhall has seen concerts from a wide range of popular artists including Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Delirious? Manic Street Preachers, The Killers, The Kaiser Chiefs and Amy Winehouse. It also hosts classical concerts presented by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, City of Southampton Orchestra, Southampton Concert Orchestra, Southampton Philharmonic Choir and Southampton Choral Society.
The city also has several smaller music venues, including the Brook,The Talking Heads,The Soul Cellar, The Joiners and Turner Sims Concert Hall, located at the University of Southampton Highfield campus, as well as smaller "club circuit" venues like Hampton's and Lennon's, and a number of public houses including the Platform tavern, the Dolphin, the Blue Keys and many others. The Joiners has played host to such acts as Oasis, Radiohead, Green Day, Suede, PJ Harvey, the Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay, the Verve, the Libertines and Franz Ferdinand, while Hampton's and Lennon's have hosted early appearances by Kate Nash, Scouting for Girls and Band of Skulls.
The city is home or birthplace to a growing number of contemporary musicians such as R'n'B soulstar Craig David, Coldplay drummer Will Champion, former Holloways singer Rob Skipper and alternative rock bands Band of Skulls, the Delays and Thomas Tantrum as well as 1980s popstar Howard Jones. Born in Southampton but now living in Canberra is renowned singer/songwriter Michael Catterall.
Southampton's tradition of luxury cruising began in 1840
Many of the world's largest cruise ships can regularly be seen in Southampton Water, including record-breaking vessels from Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation & plc. The latter has headquarters in Southampton, with its brands including Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises and Cunard Line.
The city has a particular connection to Cunard Line and their fleet of ships. This was particularly evident on 11 November 2008 when the Cunard Liner RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 departed the city for the final time amid a spectacular fireworks display after a full day of celebrations. Cunard ships are regularly launched in the city, for example Queen Victoria was named by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in December 2007, and the Queen named the Queen Elizabeth in the city during October 2011.
Southampton is subdivided into council wards, suburbs, constituencies, ecclesiastical parishes, and other less formal areas.
Southampton is named the 'Green City' as it is graced with green spaces and parks. The largest green space is the 148 hectare Southampton Common, parts of which are used to host the annual summer festivals, circuses and fun fairs. The Common includes Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre on the former site of Southampton Zoo, a swimming pool and several lakes and ponds.
There are council estates such as those in the Weston, Thornhill and Townhill Park districts. Overall, the city is ranked 96th most deprived out of all 354 Local Authorities in England.
During the 2006/07 financial year, 1,267 residential dwellings were built in the city—the highest number for 15 years. Over 94 per cent of these properties were flats.
There are 16 Electoral Wards in Southampton, each consisting of longer-established neighbourhoods (see below).
There are also settlements outside the city boundaries that are sometimes considered suburbs of Southampton, including Chartwell Green, Chilworth, Nursling, Rownhams, Totton and West End. Additionally, the villages of Marchwood, Ashurst and Hedge End may be considered exurbs of Southampton.