Things to do in Portsmouth

things to do in portsmouth

Looking for things to do in Portsmouth today, this week or during the holidays?  Great news, you are in the right place as we have all of the best attractions and events to keep you and your family entertained.

The guide is broken down into easy to use sections which provide useful information and links to pages with more details or direct to attractions and event websites for easy booking.

So sit back, grab your favourite drink and lets find something new for you to enjoy with or without the kids!

Things to do in Portsmouth

Portsmouth, is the UK’s only island city and is separated from mainland England by a narrow river with just 3 roads allowing entry to the city. The M275 takes you into the centre of the city, the A2030 Eastern Road into Southsea, and the A3 is the central road through the city.

portchester portsmouth roman fortPortsmouth’s early life began as a Roman Fort which you are still able to visit today at Portchester Castle. Just as today, life for the Romans and the Saxon’s back then revolved around the sea, and I am sure they would be amazed that the little fishing village would grow into a major military town which would go from strength to strength and become ‘The’ naval base of one of the greatest empires in history.

As the centuries passed, Portsmouth became home to some of England’s best writers being the birthplace of Charles Dickens and home away from home of Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and Peter Sellers.

What to do in Portsmouth

At the west of the city lies the Harbour and Historic Dockyard, whilst in the east you will find the nature reserve of Farlington Marshes and Langstone Harbour. Looking north your gaze is drawn to Portsdown Hill and looking south you will find Southsea where you will find attractions to visit such as Southsea Castle, the D-Day Museum, which includes the Overlord Embroidery, and of course the Royal Marines museum. Lastly but worth a visit in its own right is the magical Isle of Wight which lies a short distance across the sea.

Harbour and Historic Dockyard

portsmouth historic dockyardPortsmouth’s history is rich and varied, its harbour has witnessed some of the most momentous occasions of England’s maritime and wartime past, etched forever in the history and spectacle that is today’s tourist trail. From its emergence in Tudor England, Portsmouth has been at the centre of the Royal Navy’s control of the seas. Although strategic fortifications have stood from the founding of the fort built during the Roman era, Portsmouth cemented its place in history during the Tudor times when it became the seat of the Royal Navy and has remained so for over five hundred years. On the 6th of June 1944, Portsmouth added to its illustrious naval history with the launch of Operation Overlord to begin the end of WWII.

HMS Warrior canons

Portsmouth is steeped in Naval History and home to some of the worlds most famous war ships, including Lord Nelsons Flag ship HMS Victory, the first ever iron clad warship, the HMS Warrior and the ill fated Mary Rose. All of these ships can be found in the Historic Dockyard which is actually one of the top ten heritage attractions in the UK and definitely a recommended stop on your itinerary.

If you are looking for a little underwater adventure, just a short ferry ride away in Gosport you will find the Submarine museum and the home of HMS Alliance. All four of these ships, submarine included, are available to tour.

The more modern naval ships can be viewed by boat by taking one of the harbour tours that start at several locations across the city.

What’s on in Portsmouth

For those who decide to stay within the City walls and would like to do something under cover there is a wealth of other historic venues including the Natural History Museum, City Museum, Royal Marines Museum, Charles Dickens’ House, Southsea Castle and the D Day Museum with t’s centrepiece, the OverLord Tapestry.

Blue reef aquarium

Blue Reef Aquarium PortsmouthThe Blue reef aquarium offers an underwater adventure which is perfect for rainy days.  Here you will find an amazing octopus with blue blood and three hearts, ray fish, sharks including black tip reef sharks and much much more in the 40 different displays.

There is no need to get wet in this attraction as you make your way under, over and around the displays seeing reef fish, loggerhead turtles, crabs, lobsters and the colourful coral.

Facilities include a shop and cafe and they cater for parties and special occasions.

Address: Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO5 3PB, England
Contact: 023 9287 5222;
Prices: adults £10; children £7.75; Family (2 adults + 2 children) £33.50; Seniors and Students £9; Under 3s Free
Opening times:  April through October, Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 (last admission).  November through March, Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 (last admission).  Closed on Christmas Day.

Attractions that are close by include The Model village, Clarence Parade with its Funfair, The Spinnaker Tower which is Portsmouth’s tallest building with fantastic views, a 9 hole Pitch and Put on the beach front, Millennium Walk, South Parade Pier and the Historic naval Dockyard which is home to the Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory and the HMS Warrior.

Parks and tours

North Portland parkThere are numerous parks within the city Victoria Park, Canoe Lake, Southsea Common, Milton Park, and Bransbury Park, with Staunton Country Park and Queen Elizabeth Country Park a short drive away.

The Renaissance Trail is a self-guided, historic tour, which will take you from Spur Redoubt in Old Portsmouth to the gateway of the Historic Dockyard.

The Nelson Trail is a great way to see all of parts of Portsmouth which have links to Vice Admiral Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar.

Of course as you would expect with a waterfront city we also have numerous beaches ranging along the length of the city.

The Millennium Promenade

The Millennium PromenadeOver 6km long, The Millennium Promenade can be found on both sides of Portsmouth Harbour, if you have time it is well worth the walk as you will pass some of Portsmouth’s most famous landmarks and attractions. Each place of interest is easy to find on the Promenade as they are marked by information boards and into the very pavement itself, making it easy to see all of the historic spots without the need of a guide. However, seeing is only the beginning, to get the most out of your visit, we would recommend the audio guides that are available in the local Portsmouth Tourist Information Centre.

Shopping in Portsmouth

If you are looking for a little retail therapy during your visit to Portsmouth you will find plenty of choice at Gunwharfs Outlet, Southsea Shopping centre and Cascades Shopping Centre.

Outside the city, only a short drive away on the M27 to the west is another outlet-park, Whitely village.

The main area for a night out is Gunwharf Quays where you can find the Spinnaker tower, over 20 bars and restaurants, Cinema, Bowling Complex, Casino, along with a large underground car park. There are lots of other places to go including Port Solent Marina just outside the city.

Days out in Portsmouth

Just outside of the city only a short drive away there is still plenty to do.

Portchester Castle

Portchester CastlePortchester Castle, which we mentioned earlier in the guide, was home to the original Roman fort and lies to the west of Portsmouth, This is a well preserved and historic castle that allows visitors a peek into 2000 year’s of Britain’s history.

If you head out of the city along the A3 you come to Staunton Country Park. The park has 1000 acres of beautiful landscaped parkland, a huge glasshouse, ornamental lake, a play area, farm and the Golden jubilee maze for the kids to have fun in.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park

Queen Elizabeth Country Park which has 1400 acres of open access woodland can be found a little further along the A3 and is the county of Hampshire’s biggest country Park. With over 20 miles of tracks for horse riders, cyclists and walkers it is the most elevated area in the South Downs.

Only a short distance across the water is the Isle of Weight, there are several means of travelling across the water. As a foot passenger you could use the Hovercraft or if you would prefer to take your car to explore a little further there are regular ferries leaving throughout the day.