It is at the head of the sheltered inlet known as Southampton Water, where the Rivers Test and Itchen meet, and uniquely receives a double tide each day, first via the Solent and two hours later via Spithead.
There was a Roman town named Clausentum in what is now the Bitterne area. Later, one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon towns was established here with the name Hamwih, and it is this that has developed into the present day city.
Southampton is one of the places claimed to be the site of Canute`s famous rebuke to his absurdly sycophantic courtiers.
Richard I left for the Crusades from here in 1189; Henry V marshalled his army here in 1414, prior to his victory at Agincourt; Philip II landed here on his way to marry Mary I at Winchester; and the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in the "Mayflower" in 1620.
Formerly known as just Hampton, and giving its name to the county of Hampshire, it received its prefix "South" to distinguish it from Northampton.
Southampton was badly hit by bombing during the Second World War, but an impressive amount of the mediaeval town remains.
There are long stretches of the mediaeval town wall, including several towers and the impressive town gate known as Bargate, one of the finest in England.
Other historic buildings include God`s House Tower, including the archaeological museum; the Marchant`s House; the Tudor House Museum; and the Wool House, which now houses a maritime museum. All these date from the mediaeval period, while the houses known as Canute`s Palace and King John`s Palace are Norman.
Southampton has for many years been an important seaport, and it was from here that the giant ocean going liners, such as the "Queen Mary" and "Queen Elizabeth", sailed for America. Today, there are still passenger ferries to the Isle of Wight, and much container traffic.
St. Michael`s Church has arches dating back to the Norman period, and the remains of Holy Rood Church house a Merchant Navy memorial.
The prominent Guildhall was built in the 1930s. Its clock chimes, on the hour, the first few notes of "O God our help in ages past", written by a local man, Isaac Watts.
Southampton is blessed with many acres of parks, including the giant Southampton Common, which comes right into the City Centre.
People born in Southampton include Darren Anderton, England footballer; Charlie Dimmock, TV gardener; Benny Hill, comedian; John Jellicoe, Admiral; Howard Jones, singer; John Everett Millais, painter; Ken Russell, film director; Nicholas Udall, playwright; and Isaac Watts, prolific hymnwriter.
Blue Badge Guide Colin Crosby is available to lead Guided Walks around Southampton for groups.