5 Things to do in Portsmouth

5 Things to do in Portsmouth

Portsmouth is one of the most historical cities in the UK. Some of the buildings here are mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086! It’s also the second-most densely populated city in England, after London.

If you prefer your history a little more recent, some of the scenes from the recent edition of Les Miserables were filmed here - yep, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway have wandered these very streets.

Portsmouth is actually an island, joined to the mainland by a bridge. It’s the home of the Royal Navy, and possibly has one of the greatest ratios for pubs: houses you have ever seen! If you’re exploring it as part of a UK road trip, do NOT drink and drive- the local police are very strict. 

There’s enough happening in Portsmouth to keep you busy for several days, but here are 5 of my favorite things to do to really get a feel for this awesome city. 

5-Go up Portsdown Hill

Portsdown Hill is the big hill behind the city (the one with half a naval boat sat on top.) If you go up here on a clear day, the views are SPECTACULAR! You can see across to the Isle of Wight, many of the pretty harbors in the area and the whole of Portsmouth and Southsea. 

Getting here is best done with a car. If you’re not renting a car, then the second-best view is up Spinnaker Tower, in the centre of Gunwharf Quays. It’s not cheap though!

4-Mary Rose Museum/ Historic Dockyard

If you do ONE thing in Portsmouth, it has to be to visit the Mary Rose museum, which is inside the Historic Dockyard. 

The entire Historic Dockyard is worth a visit and you can easily spend a day there and not see everything. HMS Victory (1765- Nelson’s flagship) is the oldest Naval ship still in commission, HMS Warrior (1859) was the first iron-hulled gunship but my personal favorite is the Mary Rose (1511)- King Henry VIII’s flagship!

This incredible wreck was sunk just outside Portsmouth Harbour in 1545 and lay in the mud for over 400 years before being raised from the seabed. The parts protected by the mud are in incredible condition and it’s amazing to see inside a ship that old.

HMS Warrior in the Historic Dockyard

HMS Warrior in the Historic Dockyard

View from Portsdown Hill

View from Portsdown Hill

3-Boat tour of Portsmouth Harbour

If you buy a ticket to the Historic Dockyard, you also get a boat tour of Portsmouth Harbour, which I highly recommend. 

This tour will take you past many of the Royal Navy vessels which are in port (2/3 of the UK fleet are based here). If you’re really lucky, you’ll see one of our new aircraft carriers, which are spectacular to sail past in a small boat.

The commentary shares much of the history of the area and it’s fascinating to listen to it as you explore the harbour. 

2-Gunwharf quays- restaurants/ shops/ arcade/ bowling

After all that history, it’s time for some fun and relaxation. Gunwharf Quays is the best shopping outlet in the area, with many big-name brands selling stock at discounted prices. It’s also a great place for dinner or a night out - there are plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and even a casino here.

 There’s also a multiscreen cinema and a bowling alley with an arcade (both upstairs)- a great place to leave kids/ husbands who don’t want to shop! 

1-Southsea & Southsea Castle

If you have time, my favorite place in the area is one of the suburbs of Portsmouth- Southsea. This area is full of beautiful houses, quaint streets, quiet cafes and spectacular views over the harbor, the Solent and the English Channel. If you’re looking for a hotel, this is one of the nicer areas of the city to stay in. 

Otherwise, you can easily grab a 10-minute taxi from Gunwharf Quays here for lunch and a wander. Don’t forget to stop into Southsea Castle- one of the most haunted castles on the south coast! 

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