Southampton's Amazingly 'Hidden' Treasures

Southampton is home to both the ugly and the sublime
Southampton is home to both the ugly and the sublime | © Jim Champion / Flickr
Sarah Jones

Southampton is simultaneously considered one of the least appealing places to live in the UK and a beautiful, lost city, known for the Titanic. Southampton is home to both the ugly and the sublime, for those who are brave enough to explore its murky depths. We find out the hidden treasures you should check out when next in town.

West Quay

1. Beatnik Emporium


Beatnik Emporium

Brighton will most likely be your number one stop-off point along the South Coast if you are looking for vintage or alternative clothing, but citizens of Southampton, or ‘Sotonians’, can easily get their fix at Beatnik Emporium. A quirky little shop just across the road from Southampton Guildhall, Beatnik offers customers the chance to buy or hire a variety of wacky fancy dress clothing and wonderful retro pieces. Even for those not looking to spend money, the funky music and the friendly staff keep you coming back for more and there are many hidden treasures to be found amongst the boxes of badges and the piles of novelty glasses. The haphazard, fancy dress aspect means that the Mr Benn theme is never far from your mind as you explore this time capsule of a shop. Beatnik is a veritable emporium and our first stop-off on the Southampton treasure trail.

Beatnik Emporium, 202 Above Bar Street, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 7DW, UK, 023 8063 3428

2. Sula’s Greek Taverna

Sula’s Greek Taverna

There are lots of great places to eat in Southampton, but there is only one Sula’s. Promising a ‘taste of the med’ and home to ‘the mighty gyros’, Sula’s Greek Taverna is on a mission to bring fresh and authentic Greek street food to the people of Southampton, in a convivial setting and for an extremely affordable price. Situated in Portswood, where the charity shops almost outnumber the students, Sula’s is one of Southampton’s most sought after ‘hidden’ gems and a definite stop-off point for the hungry treasure seeker. For those who enjoy a side order of competition with their Souvlaki, Sula’s have also recently introduced the Spartan Challenge. Chow down on five mighty gyros over five days and you will receive discounts for life.

Sula’s Greek Taverna, 116 Portswood Road, Southampton, Hampshire, UK, 023 8055 2425

3. The University Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden, University

The University Botanical Garden

Highfield Campus is a real treasure in itself, complete with streams and wildlife and the ‘Lover’s Lane’ passage which leads onto Avenue campus and the Common. However, tucked away behind the sports hall is a botanical garden, so well hidden that students are often surprised to discover its existence despite walking past it every day. Entering the gate which marks the transition between the bustling student’s union and the calm, wild woodland for the first time is like stumbling across Narnia and once inside the garden, which dates back to the Second World War, the bustle of West Quay seems worlds away.

Southampton University Botanical Gardens, University Rd, Southampton, UK, 023 8059 5000

4. Tooti’s Gelato Bar


Tooti’s Gelato Bar

Sprinkles Gelato may well dominate the Soton ice cream scene, but Tooti’s Gelato Bar in Bedford Place wins the coveted title of ‘hidden treasure’. From ‘White Chocolate and Raspberry Waffles’ to ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly Sundae’s’, a trip to Tootis will satisfy the fussiest sweet tooth, but what makes this place really special are the retro games consoles which run along the back wall, allowing younger customers to experience Crash Bandicoot for the first time and older ice cream enthusiasts to relive countless childhood memories. Go for the Peach Melba Knickerbocker glory, stay for the GameCube.

Tooti’s Gelato Bar, 6 Bedford Place, Southampton, UK, 023 8063 4196

5. The Phoenix Cinema Club

Cinema, University

The Phoenix Cinema Club

One of Britain’s oldest independent film societies (the first performance took place in 1925), The Phoenix won the prestigious Film Society of the Year at the National Film Theatre in 1995 and currently has around 200 members. Films are shown every Wednesday in the Union Cinema and vary greatly in subject matter and language. The society took great pride in showing rare Polish classic Ewa chce spac (1958 – ‘Eva Wants to Sleep’) last season, and screened David Lean’s original four-hour epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on Valentine’s Day 2015. Aside from the fact that the films are expertly chosen, the society is especially charming as it holds a vote at the end of each screening, allowing audience member’s to rate the film and write a comment. The results of these votes are presented in a graph which appears on the screen next week, along with a handful of the best audience comments. If the film itself is not tempting, the thought of seeing your comment make an appearance will keep you coming back time and time again.

The Phoenix Cinema, Union Films, Southampton University Students Union, University Road, Southampton, UK, 0870 765 0763

Boulangerie Victor Hugo

Like Tooti’s and Sula’s, Boulangerie Victor Hugo does not take pride of place in the city centre but is a few minutes’ walk from the Bargate, for those willing to find it. This authentic French boulangerie reminds Sotonians that the home of the croissant is just a short plane ride away (Southampton airport offers flights to a dozen destinations across France) and is the only place in town where you can pick up a perfect baguette. The boulangerie stocks a variety of traditional pastries and quiches and French is also on the menu, satisfying linguists and gourmands alike. Bon appétit.

6. Peter Rhodes Books

Peter Rhodes Books

If you stroll a little too far down Portswood Road and keep your eyes peeled, you will discover the wonderful world of Peter Rhodes Books. Not only do they stock a range of rare and antique books, the kind people at Peter Rhodes serve drinks and provide free Wi-Fi so that customers can peruse the vast and varied collection of works on display in a relaxed atmosphere. There are tables and comfy chairs, and the staff is extremely knowledgeable. A bonus hidden treasure-within-a-treasure is the French Language Café which takes place on Thursdays at 11:00.
Bonus: you can sell your books here as well.

Peter Rhodes Books, 21 Portswood Road, Southampton, UK, 023 8039 9003
By Sarah Jones

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