Hampshire (/ˈhæmpʃər/, i/ˈhæmpʃɪər/; abbreviated Hants, archaically known as the County of Southampton) is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, the former capital city of England. Hampshire is the most populous ceremonial county in the United Kingdom (excluding the metropolitan counties) with almost half of the county’s population living within the South Hampshire conurbation which includes the cities ofSouthampton and Portsmouth. The larger South Hampshire metropolitan area has a population of 1,547,000. Hampshire is notable for housing the birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force. It is bordered by Dorset to the west, Wiltshire to the north-west, Berkshire to the north, Surrey to the north-east, and West Sussex to the east. The southern boundary is the coastline of the English Channel and the Solent, facing the Isle of Wight.
Hampshire is the largest county in South East England and remains the third largest shire county in the United Kingdom despite losing more land than any other English county in all contemporary boundary changes. At its greatest size in 1890, Hampshire was the fifth largest county in England. It now has an overall area of 3,700 square kilometres (1,400 sq mi), and measures about 86 kilometres (53 mi) east–west and 76 kilometres (47 mi) north–south.
Hampshire’s tourist attractions include many seaside resorts and two national parks: the New Forest and the South Downs (together covering some 45% of the county). Hampshire has a long maritime history and two of Europe’s largest ports, Portsmouth and Southampton, lie on its coast. The county is famed as home of such writers as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, as well as the birthplace of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel