20 Things To Do In Portsmouth

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Portsmouth is a vibrant waterfront city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is situated close to Southampton and the South Downs National Park and across from the Isle of Wight (just a 45-minute boat ride away). Portsea Island is home to much of Portsmouth, making it the only island city in the UK.

Portsmouth is perhaps best known as one of the three locations of Her Majesty’s Naval Base. In fact, two-thirds of the Royal NAVY’s fleets can be found at the Portsmouth base. As well as its naval background and role in WWII, Portsmouth is also known as the birthplace of writer Charles Dickens, best known for novels such as Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Bleak House and A Christmas Carol. A fantastic place to visit for a weekend, head to the beach, explore the harbour and discover an array of museums; there are plenty of things to do in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth, England

20 Things To Do In Portsmouth

1- Head Up the Spinnaker Tower

things to do in portsmouth skyline with Emirates tower dominating the skyline
The soaring Spinnaker Tower dominates the skyline and seeing the view from the tower is one of the top things to do in Portsmouth today.

A quick glimpse at the Portsmouth waterfront and it might momentarily have you thinking you’re in Dubai.

The Spinnaker Tower is 170 m (558 ft) high and was built in 2001.

Head up Spinnaker Tower to enjoy panoramic views of the newly developed harbour.

The residents of Portsmouth were able to vote on which design they wanted, and the current tower received 60% of the votes.

The tower strikingly represents the city’s maritime and yachting history.

A general admission ticket to the Spinnaker Tower will set you back £13.95 with children going for £10.50.

If you feel brave, try the 100m (328 ft) abseil down the side of this iconic city landmark.

Spinnaker Tower is at Portsmouth PO1 3TT, United Kingdom.

2- Shop Till You Drop at Gunwharf Quays

free things to to in portsmouth divers monument surrounded by buildings
The divers monument in Portsmouth Harbour is a landmark that speaks to the city’s past.

If you fancy a spot of shopping while you’re out and about in Portsmouth, then a trip to Gunwharf Quays is the place for you.

Home to over 90 stores offering outlet prices, it’s the perfect place to get some bargains.

You may not think too much history can be associated with a modern shopping centre, however, the site of Gunwharf Quays used to be home to HM Gunwharf, a facility where canons and ammunition were stored ready for use on land or by the navy.

You’ll find Gunwharf Quays right behind the Spinnaker Tower on the southwest of Portsea Island.

Gunwharf Quays is at Portsmouth PO1 3TZ, United Kingdom.

3- Wander Around the Historic Dockyard

things to do in portsmouth harbour aerial view
There are plenty of fun things to do in Portsmouth harbour.

The Historic Dockyard is home to the Mary Rose Museum, the HMS Victory and the HMS Warrior.

The Historic Dockyard is home to Her Majesty’s Naval Base and is open to the public.

Just walking around the dockyard is mightily impressive and imposing. Huge naval ships flank the harbour, as well as an array of museums.

It’s also a great place to get a good view of the Spinnaker Tower.

For more ideas around England read:

4- Explore Fort Nelson

Fort Nelson, a Victorian fort, houses a great collection of national artillery and cannons, as well as underground tunnels, a national museum and impressive ramparts.

Fort Nelson is the perfect activity to keep the whole family entertained.

The fort was built during the 1860s overlooking Portsmouth and was originally constructed to protect against possible French invasions, however, it was never used for this purpose.

Fort Nelson did however play a role in both World Wars as the troops used the fort while waiting to be deployed.

It should be noted that Fort Nelson is only open between the 1st April 2022 and 21st December 2022 from Wednesday to Sunday.

Entry to Fort Nelson is free.

Fort Nelson is on Portsdown Hill Rd, Portchester, Fareham PO17 6AN, United Kingdom.

5- Visit the Mary Rose Museum

things to do in portsmouth this weekend Mary Rose Museum
Learning about history at the Mary Rose Museum is one of the things to do in Portsmouth harbour.

The spaceship-style Mary Rose Museum is located at the aforementioned Historic Dockyard.

Named after its main subject, the Mary Rose Museum provides a detailed insight into Tudor life as well as a view of the Mary Rose warship that was part of King Henry VIII’s fleet.

On 19 July 1545, the Mary Rose famously sank in the waters between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Onboard this enormous ship were around 500 men and only 35 survived the sinking which happened in just a couple of minutes.

Tickets to the museum are £24 for adults and £19 for children.

Mary Rose Museum is at Main Rd, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3PY, United Kingdom.

6- Step Aboard the HMS Victory & HMS Warrior

unusual things to do in portsmouth HMS Victory
Exploring the HMS Victory is one of the top things to do in Portsmouth harbour.

After learning about the history of the Mary Rose, hop aboard the HMS Victory or the HMS Warrior, or both if you’re feeling in a nautical mood.

The HMS Victory is perhaps the most famous of the Royal Navy’s warships.

The HMS Victory led a crew as the flagship vessel during Britain’s defeat of at the Battle of Trafalgar of France and Spain in 1805.

The slightly lesser-known HMS Warrior was in fact Britain’s first armoured battleship.

The HMS Warrior was restored and returned to Portsmouth in 1987 and now serves as a visitor attraction and museum.

It costs £24 for an adult to hop aboard just one of these vessels. Or you can purchase a £34 ticket that allows you to go into the Mary Rose Museum, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.

HMS Victory is at Main Rd, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ, United Kingdom.

7- Watch a Portsmouth F.C Game at Fratton Park

Portsmouth F.C. may not be in the bigwig Premier League, in fact, they are way down in 11th place in League One; however, a trip to Fratton Park will leave you feeling nostalgic for good old local football.

The club was founded in 1898 and many describe the stadium as still having its old charm and electric atmosphere despite their lower league level.

Fratton Park is at Frogmore Rd, Southsea, Portsmouth, Southsea PO4 8RA, United Kingdom.

8- Enjoy Hours of Fun at Clarence Pier

Clarence Pier extends not outwards into the sea but along the south coast of Portsea Island and houses one of the largest amusements parks on the south coast of England.

There is a myriad of activities to keep you entertained for hours, including rollercoasters, rides, arcades and lots of excellent places for food and drink.

So, get those tokens ready and enjoy hours of childlike fun.

Clarence Pier is at Southsea, Portsmouth, Southsea PO5 3AA, United Kingdom.

9- Relax on Southsea Beach

fun things to do in portsmouth Southsea pastel beach huts
One of the fun things to do in Portsmouth with kids is to spend the day at Southsea Beach.

The Southsea beach is a fabulous four-mile (6.4km) long beach that stretches from Old Portsmouth to Eastney.

During the early 19th century, Southsea beach became a popular and highly fashionable destination for wealthy Victorian city dwellers to come and escape the hustle and bustle of London.

The beach today is popular among visitors to Portsmouth, where beachgoers can enjoy the shingle beach and the views out to the Isle of Wight.

10- Take a Boat Ride at Canoe Lake

Set just behind Southsea Beach is Canoe Lake and well, you guessed it, this lake is the perfect spot to enjoy a canoe ride.

The canoe rides are more like pedal boat rides, but are still a popular activity, especially for children.

Canoe lake dates back to 1886 and has a children’s play area, zip wire and water play area in addition to the lake.

Canoe Lake is at Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, Hampshire, PO4 9RG.

11- Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum

things to do in portsmouth uk Charles Dickens black and white sketch
Did you know that Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth? That makes visiting his birthplace museum one of the things to do in Portsmouth for literature buffs.

The world-renowned writer Charles Dickens was born in Landport, Portsmouth on 7 February 1812.

The small, terraced house where Dickens was born has been restored to reflect the décor of Dicken’s era.

Each month on the second and fourth Saturday at 3 pm, The Dickens Fellowship will provide readings of Dicken’s work, which adds a nice touch to your museum visit.

Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum is at 393 Old Commercial Rd, Portsmouth PO1 4QL, United Kingdom.

12- Explore Portchester Castle

things to do in portsmouth today Portchester Castle
As a seafaring city, exploring Portchester Castle is one of the interesting things to do in Portsmouth.

A trip to a historic naval city is arguably not complete without a visit to a castle.

Portchester Castle overlooks the Portsmouth Harbour and is a relatively well-preserved castle.

The square-shaped fort was built by the Romans and the castle was built in one corner of the fort after the Norman Conquest in the 3rd century AD.

During the wars with France in the 18th and 19th centuries, and from 1665, Portchester was used to house foreign prisoners.

It costs £7.90 for adults and £4.70 for children to enter Portchester Castle and opening hours are usually between 10 am and 4 pm.

Portchester Castle is at Church Ln, Portchester, Fareham PO16 9QW, United Kingdom.

13- Dive Into the Diving Museum

For all things scuba diving, head to the diving museum where you will find the best collection of diving equipment in Europe.

From old equipment to contemporary gear, military diving to sport diving you will learn about diving.

On display is a JIM suit, an atmospheric diving suit invented in 1969 that looks like an astronaut’s suit with a metal body and a large perspex viewing dome.

It might be a quirky choice for a museum, but I bet you’ll have never visited anywhere like it.

What better place than Portsmouth is there to discover all things scuba diving?

The Diving Museum is at No. 2 Battery, Stokes Bay Rd, Gosport PO12 2QU, United Kingdom.

14- Take a Tour of Portsmouth Harbour

With so much nautical history and plentiful activities to enjoy in Portsmouth, why not see it all from the waters on a Portsmouth Harbour tour.

Portsmouth Boat Trips provide 40 to 50-minute tours of the harbour which depart and arrive from either Gunwharf Quays or the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Portsmouth Boat Trips knowledgeable staff provide an informative tour for those onboard and it’s a great experience to cruise up close and personal with these colossal ships.

Tickets for the harbour tour vary but are around £10 for adults and £6 for children.

15- Visit the D-Day Story Museum

The D-Day Story Museum in Portsmouth is the only museum of its kind, solely dedicated to the 1944 Normandy Landings.

D-Day resulted in over 150,000 troops landing on five Normandy beaches which eventually resulted in the Germans admitting defeat.

A trip to the D-Day Story Museum allows you to delve deeper into the personal stories and accounts of those who were involved in the D-Day landings.

The museum is open throughout the week from 10 am to 5 pm with tickets costing £13.50 for adults and £6.75 for students and children.

D-Day Story Museum is at Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, Portsmouth PO5 3NT, United Kingdom.

16- Admire the Views From Portsdown Hill

best things to do in portsmouth an aerial view of historic houses
Looking for the best things to do in Portsmouth? Check out our list of the top 20.

If you are looking for views of Portsmouth, then Portsdown Hill is the place to go to look out onto the city, the harbour and across to the Isle of Wight.

There are several paths at the hill to explore and in spring the wildflowers are in bloom, adding a picturesque quality to the view.

There is ample free parking at Portsdown Hill as well as public transport access to the top of the hill.

17- Cumberland House Natural History Museum

Portsmouth’s natural history museum, Cumberland House, is first and foremost a free attraction to visit.

The museum opens from 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and there is plenty to see and do there.

At certain times during the year, there is a beehive that fills with bees, as well as a butterfly house and an A-Z of natural history.

Cumberland House is located just behind Canoe Lake and the Southsea beach.

Cumberland House Natural History Museum is at Cumberland House Natural History Museum, Eastern Parade, Portsmouth PO4 9RF.

18- Take a Trip to No Man’s Land

Built around 150 years ago, the fort was historically used as a cannon loaded sea fort but has also been the location of a luxury hotel and today you can even host a wedding party or corporate getaways on the tiny fort island.

Stay for just the day or visit for 24 or 48 hours.

Due to the current pandemic, this tiny island is still under strict measures but, hopefully soon, you’ll be able to visit No Man’s Land.

No Man’s Land is a small, circular sea fort in the Solent in between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

In 1972 the former Clarence and Victoria Barracks was turned into the Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery.

This Grade II-listed building has a variety of exhibitions and collections.

Discover the history of the UK’s only island city, learn about Portsmouth’s footballing history and discover many fantastic art collections.

The Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery is a great way to while away an hour or two and what’s more it’s absolutely free of charge.

Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery is at Museum Rd, Portsmouth PO1 2LJ.

20- Take a Stroll Down Albert Road

Albert Road is a hubbub of quirk, charm and atmosphere, with an array of cafes, independent shops and restaurants to poke your noses into and enjoy.

At the heart of Albert Road lies the Kings Theatre which hosts a number of comedy acts such as Alan Carr and Romesh Ranganathan as well as live orchestras and musical theatre concerts.

There are lots of exciting things to do in Portsmouth to keep you entertained for a long weekend. From the futuristic Spinnaker Tower to the historical HMS Victory Portsmouth has it all.

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!