Heading for the coast this summer? If you’re not a bucket and spade sort of person, then there is a seaside city that’s just made for you - particularly if you’re a history buff.

When the invitation to experience Southampton dropped into my inbox courtesy of Visit Southampton (https://visitsouthampton.co.uk) I was a little taken aback - it’s probably a nice enough place, but for a holiday?

A weekend on the Solent still seemed like a tempting idea though, so I packed my weekend bag and headed off down the M27 (the trains, sadly, being on strike).

I was booked to stay at the White Star Hotel (https://www.whitestartavern.co.uk) - a very visible reminder of probably the city’s greatest claim to notoriety as the departure point of the ill-starred RMS Titanic.

The last place on dry land some of the Titanic’s guests ever spent a night, the place has been lovingly restored to its former glory while still paying homage to the history of the building.

Landlady Bridget Vyze and her team took over at the tavern six and a half years ago. The building had been in a sorry state, but Bridget says she could see the potential: “She was like an ancient duchess sat at the end of the bar with her jewellery on,” she says. Bridget and her team took over the place, injected a lot of love and a huge amount of hard work and now she sits proud again, jewels burnished, offering a hearty meal, refreshing drinks and stylish, comfortable chambers for the visitors who stop over on their way to the gargantuan cruise ships that jostle for space at the docks.

Reading Chronicle:

Martin Friesland unlocks the door to one of the city's medieval wine vaults

Waiting in the bar for me is local tour guide (www.seesouthampton.co.uk) and encyclopaedic local historian Martin Brisland, the author of several books about the city and champion of its historical causes. Over the course of the next hour and a half Martin conducts me on a whistle-stop tour, pointing out such historic spots as The Grapes pub where five Titanic crew members stopped off for one last drink before boarding the fated ship. Brothers Alfred, Tom and Bertram Slade were saved from a watery grave by a docks-bound train that cut across their path as they headed for duty, making them too late to board.

Just down the road is the former White Star head office where distraught family members gathered each day in the aftermath of April 15, 1912, to scan the lists of survivors’ names posted on the iron railings. The office is now empty, with an unprepossessing modern bus shelter slapped right outside, which seems a shame.

But it’s not all Titanic - our whistle-stop tour takes in the huge medieval city walls, the story of the French invasion of 1338, the church that survived the Luftwaffe on Goering’s orders, and even a trip to the underground medieval wine vaults.

Southampton appears a little careless about its historic gems: Martin tells me about a campaign in which he became involved to preserve a stretch of wall on which dozens of the three million American soldiers embarking at Southampton to take part in the D-Day landings carved their names. “We have even managed to trace the story of the men whose names are on there,” he says - no mean feat when some of the graffiti merely have a first name, a date and a home state.

Sadly when I go to look at the wall later I struggle to read some of the names, owing to weathering and also because there’s a van parked right in front of it.

Reading Chronicle: Independent shops in The Marlands Shopping Centre

Independent shops in The Marlands Shopping Centre

Undaunted, I head to Lebanese restaurant Biety (https://www.beityrestaurant.co.uk), where a charming young man called Hamza ushers me to a table, hands me a wine list (Lebanon is renowned for its wine I am told, although not being a connoisseur I was unaware. Having now experienced a glass of Blanc De L’Observatoire, I can see where that reputation originates). Hamza then presses on me plates of hoummos, moutaball, tabbouleh and Lebanese bread, followed by a steaming dish of Kafta Khoshkhash - minced lamb meatballs in a fierce tomato and chilli sauce. Divine food, freshly prepared and served in a family-owned restaurant.

I spend the afternoon at the City Museum (https://seacitymuseum.co.uk), wandering through its amazingly evocative display all about the ill-starred liner that seems to dominate the city’s tourist offering. It’s an absorbing display, imaginatively put together.

One bugbear for me, though, having had to bring the car, is Southampton’s asinine pay-to-park system that only allows you to pay for four hours at a time. So you’re either scurrying back to the kerbside every four hours, payment card in hand to top up the machine, or your day out is punctuated by your phone alarm set as a reminder to add more time on the app.

Saturday dawns, and I metaphorically stuff more cash into the parking meter and head off to the Tudor House Museum (https://tudorhouseandgarden.com), where the very welcoming guides hand me a leaflet detailing the history of this 15th-century marvel, a house with an intriguing and chequered history, revisited in its creaking and wonky rooms. Items from its past on display include such diverse pieces as a stuffed dog, a penny farthing and a hot cross bun allegedly from the Mayflower. It’s well-curated and highly absorbing.

Reading Chronicle:

The Tudor House Museum miraculously escaped the Luftwaffe's bombs

Saturday night’s dinner is at Tap and Tandoor (https://tapandtandoor.co.uk/pages/southampton), a lively, welcoming spot well positioned in the Westquay shopping centre among a run of restaurants jostling for your attention.

I’m warmly welcomed by the effervescent Jordan, running front of house on this busy Saturday night. Tap and Tandoor has turned the traditional Saturday night on its head - replacing the beer-then-curry narrative with a beer-and-curry-at-the-same-time concept. It’s spicy tapas served with a range of craft beers, cocktails or other drink of your choice. I opt for a little JD and Coke, and select the chilli chicken with garlic naan and the signature salad of red onion, carrots, cucumber and peppers. Although billed as tapas style I find there’s plenty there, with the contrast between the comfortably warming chicken and the cooling, crisp salad working its magic. Then I’m approached by manager Deepesh, who encourages me to try the butter chicken. Within two minutes it’s appeared, a tempting bowl of thick, rich gravy populated with succulent chicken pieces. As I eat we chat, and he tells me that Tap and Tandoor has been open for four and a half months, and has become popular with Southampton’s curry aficionados who pack onto the tables in large groups to enjoy the amazing food and the ambience of a place that not only boasts a well-stocked bar and incredibly fast service but also shows big-screen sporting events.

The team work hard to make customers feel valued and that they, most importantly, have a good time. “I they leave happy then I’m happy,” Jordan tells me as prepare to leave. Mission accomplished as far as Im concerned.

Sunday brings a change in tempo as I head to God’s House Tower (https://godshousetower.org.uk), a sturdy bulwark against allcomers built on the waterfront in the 13th century. Over the centuries it has been an armoury, a museum and a gaol. Among the displays in what is now a successful music and arts venue are the multimedia Stories Behind the Stones gives a voice to those locked up within its walls. It hosts an eclectic range of exhibitions across the year as well: there is currently a discourse on the pressing issue of climate change seen through the eyes of artist Bijan Moosavi. GHT.2058 is sharp, thought-provoking, unsettling. It runs until August 13th.

The Tower has a busy coffee shop offering locally-sourced fare and space to exhibit and sell the work of local artists.

Reading Chronicle:

Art show: GHT.2058 is at God’s House Tower until August 13

Divine joy for me was the discovery of the little library out the back - filled with books about local history, a fine place to while away some hours with an ethically-sourced coffee and learn more about the history of this fascinating city. I gather a pile and settle into one of the cheerful yellow chairs and lose myself in eyewitness tales from the Titanic. Sadly about 20 minutes in the parking app rears its ugly head so I have to leave to get sufficient internet signal to whack another few hours on the car.

I spend the rest of the day wandering in Southampton’s parks, for me the city’s crowning glory. The seafront consists of the rather scuffylittle Mayflower Park - the rest of the point where land meets sea is owned by Associated British Ports and only passengers and crew are allowed through the security gates.

But the string of parks that fringe the central area - established and cherished by those far-sighted Victorians, and home to monuments celebrating and commemorating the city’s past - offer a fine sweep of recreational greenery, opportunities to walk, picnic, play.

Southampton, it appears, has something to suit everyone.