There are several museums in the city centre, especially around the "Old Town" area. The museums include the Tudor House Museum, Medieval Merchant's House and the Maritime Museum.
The main shopping district of the city is centred on Above Bar Street (part of which is pedestrianised), London Road, High Street and East Street.
There are several indoor shopping centres in the area, namely Westquay, The Marlands Shopping Centre, Bargate and EaSTreet. As an attempt to ensure the whole city centre is not dominated by chain stores, the city council have designated East Street a "speciality shopping" district. West Quay retail park, not to be confused with the similarly named shopping centre, is also located in the city centre. The Marlands Shopping Centre was opened on 5 September 1991. In 2005–2006 the centre was revamped by adding an improved entrance at Above Bar Street and a new information desk. The shopping centre formerly featured a series of fountains but these had to be put out of service due to health and safety reasons in late 2005. Matalan shut its shop on 28 May 2014.
On 12 February 2009, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA opened its 18th British store, on West Quay Road.
East Street Shopping Centre, branded EaSTreet, was Southampton's earliest indoor shopping centre. The centre was built at the eastern end of East Street and blocked off the street itself as it was built over the top of it.
The centre was constructed in the 1970s and due to its location – outside the main city centre shopping district – was never commercially successful. As well as the shopping centre, the development included a large office tower, rooftop car park and the Royal Oak pub. The centre was originally anchored by Comet Electrical and Courts furniture store, however the demise of this chain in the late 1980s/early 90s left mainly independent shops and empty units in the centre. A Tandy electronics store (Later T2 Retail) was part of the centre until the early 21st century but again, this store chain no longer exists and the vacated unit remained empty. One of the longest established shops in the centre was Teville's music shop which was one of the only musical instrument shops in the city (after the brief arrival and swift demise of nearby SoundControl. The other music shop is Beckett's on Commercial Road, near Central Station). The final sole occupant of East Street Shopping Centre was a SCRATCH outlet (a Southampton-based charity) until they relocated in 2012. The centre remained empty but was still open to the public who could use the car park facilities and the various access points.
In November 2012, Arcadian Estates were granted permission by Southampton City Council to demolish East Street Shopping Centre as part of a £30 million redevelopment. In mid 2013, the centre was closed to the public and demolition began in October 2013. The original revelopment was for a new Morrisons foodstore and an open pedestrian thoroughfare re-linking St Mary's back to the city centre. However, in late 2014, De Stefano Property Group, the landowners of the demolished site, went into administration and Morrisons announced in March 2015 they were closing loss making stores on the back of poor trading results. Finally in June 2015, Morrisons officially confirmed they would not be building a new store on this site. It was also reported other firms have put in offers to build here as a result of Morrison's withdrawal.
The Bargate Shopping Centre, named after Southampton's prominent Bargate landmark, was opened in 1989. The centre focused on being a collection of specialist outlets rather than a mainstream shopping centre, and boasted a number of technology-related stores, a nail salon, a photographic studio and a Sega Park arcade.
It was set out over two levels and to a very simple design of a single mall leading to an atrium although there was an internet cafe on the lower ground floor of the atrium. Also off this atrium is the largest unit in the centre, originally occupied by The Reject Shop and then the Sega Park arcade from 1996 until closure. The Bargate Centre also contained a multi-storey car park.
Unlike a lot of shopping centres from this era, the Bargate Centre never had a major refurbishment.
While it lacked the mainstream popularity of the nearby Westquay and The Mall Southampton shopping centres, the Bargate Centre was popular with teenagers due to the alternative fashion stores and Sega Park.
A local newspaper reported in 2009 that the Bargate Centre was to be demolished, along with the nearby Debenhams store. The Bargate Centre site would be converted into a covered street, with a new Debenhams store incorporated into it, and the existing Debenhams store would be replaced with a residential tower block. However, these plans were later scrapped and the Debenhams store underwent a multimillion-pound revamp in 2011.
In January 2013, all traders inside the Bargate Centre were given notice to leave their premises by BNP Paribas Real Estate, who are attempting to sell the complex. BNP Paribas Real Estate were appointed by the Receivers for Parkridge (Bargate) Ltd, the company who bought the Bargate Centre in 2009. Parkridge (Bargate) Ltd were liquidated in late 2011 after running up major losses. BNP Paribas Real Estate stated that the complex had remained open at a "significant loss" for months and closure was required to stem these losses. They also stated some tenants were not being charged any rent for their premises. By mid-April 2013, all remaining tenants had vacated their premises. The Bargate Centre and its multi storey car park finally closed on 10 June 2013. However, in 2015, the multi-storey car park was re-opened for use under the management of National Car Parks.
On 26 September 2014, the Daily Echo newspaper reported on a developer's proposal to demolish the Bargate Centre building and replace it with a new street containing shops and flats. However this proposal remained on hold due to an impasse between the developer and the American investment consortium who owned the complex at the time. However, on 28 July 2015, it was revealed that the same consortium had gone into receivership and that a new company called Bargate Ltd has acquired control of the building. They were reported to be considering a mixed-use redevelopment of the land however these plans were at a very early stage. A public consultation on the future of the site began in September 2015 and a redevelopment plan was revealed on 19 May 2016.
On 11 January 2017, The Daily Echo newspaper reported that Southampton City Council's Planning Committee had approved plans to demolish the Bargate Centre. The plan is to replace it with a "pedestrianised street" as part of a larger redevelopment in the surrounding area.
The Marlands Shopping Centre was opened on 5 September 1991. At the time, it was the largest shopping centre in Southampton and the first significant shopping centre in the city (East Street Shopping Centre being well out of the way of the main shopping district hence never being very successful and the Bargate Centre being much smaller), however it is now dwarfed by Westquay, which opened in 2000.
The Marlands Shopping Centre was constructed to an extremely PostModern design, which was described at the time of opening by one critic as looking like "something made of Lego". The Centre was built on the site of Southampton's bus station (the city is now without such a facility), a popular rose garden and some terraced housing. Some of the facades of the houses were retained and form an interesting part of the centre's atrium.
The centre is laid out across two levels, with escalators connecting them at the North West entrance and escalators and glass lifts connecting them in the atrium, at the South of the centre. Unlike most of its contemporaries, the Marlands Shopping Centre does not contain a car park of any kind – the designated car park for the centre is accessed by going through Southampton's unusual ASDA supermarket which is on a slope – you go in on the ground floor and come out on the tenth floor – and across a bridge.
The West Quay Retail Park is an out-of-town style retail park, but located within the city centre. It includes a number of large warehouse-style stores, currently occupied by Toys "R" Us, Mothercare, Argos, Tesco, IKEA and Staples among others. The retail park also has a small food section, occupied by McDonald's and T.G.I. Friday's, and is also the location of Southampton's geothermal power plant.
This shopping centre has an area of 800,000 square feet (70,000 m2) of retail space (74,000 m²) and contains around a hundred shops, including major retailers such as, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Zara, Schuh, Waterstone's, Benetton Bank, Apple, and many more top brand names.
It is situated in the centre of the city, close to the docks, with entrances on the main High Street (Above Bar Street), on Portland Terrace, through Waterstone's and through John Lewis. There is also a built in multi storey car park with an entrance into the centre along with a 3 tier car park beneath. Building work began in 1997 as the former Daily Echo building, two large office blocks (Arundel Towers) and Pirelli Cable Works were demolished to make way for the centre. The centre was opened on 28 September 2000.
Southampton Central railway station is located in the north west of the city centre area, with the old Southampton Terminus in the south east. There is also a new coach station on the West Quay retail park, a short walk from the railway station. Ferry services operate along Southampton Water to Hythe and Cowes.
There are two main termini for bus services. As the biggest operator, First uses stops around Pound Tree Road, and occupies a lot of space there. This leaves the other terminal of Westquay available for other operators. Uni-link passes Westquay in both directions (except the U2 which terminates at the Civic Centre), and Wilts & Dorset drop passengers off there, terminating at a series of bus stands along the road. Once back in service, buses turn round and pick up passengers at Westquay again. Certain Bluestar services also do this, while others stop at Bargate and some loop round Westquay, stopping between Bargate and Pound tree Road. Brijan Tours services also stop at Bargate.