If you’re looking for unmissable museums, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are blessed with many! And what better way to discover the history and heritage of a place than by visiting museums?
Full of collections, artifacts and interactive exhibits, museums bring a destination to life with poignant stories of historical events, tragedies, joys and wonders. If you are after fascinating displays and family-friendly activities, then we have the museums for you…
How does more than 800 years of history under one roof sound? Known as Southampton’s most important historic building, Tudor House and Gardens is at the heart of the Old Town. This unique and atmospheric house offers a chance to explore the lives and times of its residents through the years, and of Southampton itself.
Just around the corner you’ll find God’s House Tower! This is an arts and heritage venue that tells the past story of the city and the building. Fun fact: it used to be a prison! Don’t miss the rooftop views across the city!
Found in the Civic Centre, Southampton City Art Gallery holds one of the finest collections of art in the south of England, spanning eight centuries. Why not visit and trace the history of European art from the Renaissance to the present? Not to mention, there’s British twentieth century and contemporary art too.
If you’re fascinated by the story of the Titanic, The SeaCity Museum is a must-visit! Here, Southampton’s RMS Titanic story is told through immersive displays and interactive experiences. You can also follow 200,000 years of Southampton’s history, from Roman traders to Saxon settlers, to WWII and the introduction of the docks.
The Brickworks Museum is a testament to the industrial heritage of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, with exhibits that showcase the brick-making process from start to finish. Learn the brick-making techniques and see the historic machinery used in the process. You can even try your hand at making your own bricks!
Who doesn’t love a living history museum that transports visitors back in time. The year is 878 AD at Winchester 878 AD, the time of the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great. Witness live demonstrations of crafts and skills from this period! See the reconstructed Saxon buildings and immerse yourself in the life of an Anglo-Saxon person for the day!
Military history enthusiasts will love Winchester’s Military Museums, home to five different museums that cover the history of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. You can see a wide range of exhibits, including historic weapons, vehicles and uniforms. Not to mention, you can gain a deeper understanding of the military history of the UK.
Unravel the rich history of the iconic medieval Winchester Cathedral, dating back over 900 years. Why not take a guided tour? Marvel at the intricate carvings and stained-glass windows. Plus, wander through a building echoing with fascinating stories and legends of the past.
Literature lovers rejoice. Those who love museums that were once real living homes of prominent people will love the charming cottage, Jane Austen’s House. Once home to the iconic author, it’s now a museum that celebrates her life and world. So, why not explore the rooms where Jane Austen wrote some of her most famous novels? With the original manuscripts and personal items, you’ll be intrigued to get to know the woman behind the stories!
Jane Austen fans will be happy to know you can also visit the home of her brother. The beautiful estate of Chawton House houses a museum dedicated to the history of women’s literature, with exhibits that showcase the work of female writers from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
Gilbert White’s House is a fascinating museum that celebrates the life and work of naturalist Gilbert White. This 18th-century house, where White lived and worked, includes exhibits that showcase his contributions to the field of natural history.
Head to Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield, where you can transport back to the Iron Age and Roman times. Experience life in the past by interacting with the farm’s animals and trying your hand at traditional farming techniques.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is another destination for military history enthusiasts, with interactive exhibits and attractions that cover the history of the Royal Navy. See historic ships up close, including the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose! Plus you can now dive into the untold story in a new immersive 4D cinema experience, Dive the Mary Rose 4D.
For those who love medieval castles, Portchester Castle’s exhibition in the keep brings the history of the best-preserved Roman ‘Saxon Shore’ fort and Portchester village to life, with excavated finds on display. If you’re wanting to explore more forts on the same day, Fort Nelson is home to a vast collection of artillery and weapons from across the world, including a range of cannons and guns from various historical periods.
The D-Day Story (main image) tells the story of the D-Day landings in Normandy during World War II, with exhibits that include real artifacts from the battle, as well as interactive displays that bring the history to life. This is an absolute must-visit if you’re interested in the military history of the UK.
Isle of Wight Museums
If you’re visiting the Isle of Wight, Dinosaur Isle Museum is a must-see; dedicated to the island’s rich fossil heritage, with exhibits that showcase the unique dinosaur species that once roamed the area. You can even touch real dinosaur bones and fossils!
Basingstoke and Stockbridge
Milestones Museum in Basingstoke is a Living History Museum that showcases life in Hampshire during the Victorian era. Walk the streets as they once were, see and climb aboard vintage vehicles, interact with costumed characters, visit a 1940s sweet shop and play penny arcade games at Milestones Museum Pier.
For military enthusiasts, The Army Flying Museum in Stockbridge displays the history of the British Army Aviation and showcases some of the most significant aircraft used in military operations. Pretend you are onboard a vintage aircraft, follow the many family trails and visit the cafe as it overlooks an active airfield!
The world-famous National Motor Museum at Beaulieu houses 285 vehicles spanning many years from the early motor carriages and classic automobiles to high speed F1 cars and modern rally cars
For a mix of nature and history, Bucklers Hard located on the edge of Beaulieu river, offer visitors a chance to experience Hampshire’s maritime heritage, packed with 18th Century artefacts, models and historical stories. As you can see, there are an abundance of museums in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to choose from. So, we hope you’re excited to discover all their unique wonders. And above all, we hope you have fun too! Remember to follow us on Instagram, Facebook & TikTok to stay up to date with all the latest!