Nestled on the coastline in the south of England, Portsmouth is one of the gorgeous, sea-faring, cities to visit in England. Mainly perched on Portsea Island, it’s the kind of place that’s got something for everyone. There are so many of the best things to do in Portsmouth dotted all around the city.
We’ve always loved our visits to the coastline here; and regularly stop off in Portsmouth before taking the ferry over to the Isle of Wight (which is stunning, by the way).
So, to help you get the most out of your trip to Portsmouth, I wanted to jot down some of our favourite places to visit whilst you’re there. You’re going to have an amazing time.
1.) HMS Victory
Visiting HMS Victory is easily one of the most iconic and best things to do in Portsmouth when you arrive. You see, this legendary ship was amazingly restored to its original configuration for all of us to explore today.
To give you some context; way back when, HMS Victory was the famous flagship of Lord Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar. Which we’ve all heard about right? You might have even spotted Nelson’s Column whilst in London.
Dating back to the 1700s, it’s officially the world’s oldest navy ship that’s still technically commissioned. Once onboard, you can take a gander through the decks and learn more about Nelson and the Spanish Armada.
Afterwards, don’t forget to pay a visit to the National Museum of the Royal Navy where you’ll find classic keepsakes of Nelson. Have a glimpse of his final voyage by visiting the ship and the museum.
To save money, grab these Historic Dockland tickets that’ll get you right into the deep of all the epic attractions here. Plus, you’ll get entry to the Dive the Mary Rose 4D experience.
2.) Mary Rose Museum
Just a few minutes’ stroll from Portsmouth Harbour, the Mary Rose Museum is a brand new building that’s so epic to see.
To give you some context, the Mary Rose, which is part of Henry VIII’s fleet, was lifted from the Solent’s bottom and is now displayed at the Mary Rose Museum. Visiting is one the best things to do in Portsmouth if you want to explore the city’s naval history.
Not only that, several other artefacts from the wreck, aside from the hull, are displayed in the museum for visitors to check out. Remembering more than 350 people who died in the wreck, the display will give viewers a picture of what historic naval life was like.
Just make sure to book these Mary Rose Museum tickets in advance. This way, you’ll avoid any of those pesky queues that can form.
3.) Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and harbour
To know more about British naval history, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a place you have to stop.
Here, the famous vessels can be found, specifically the HMS Victory (which I just mentioned) and HMS M33. Once here, you’ll be able to take a gander around the Explosion Museum of Naval Warfare and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum are also located nearby. So, don’t miss the chance to visit them, too!
There are several activities held in the area during special dates, so check out their site before planning your trip if you want to know what to expect from your visit to Portsmouth.
4.) HMS Warrior
Now, I know! I’m detailing lots of ships and naval history for your visit to Portsmouth. But there are so many epic and best things to do in Portsmouth if you love the history of British shores. It really is incredible to learn so much more about sailing, exploration and so much more.
Considered one of the first iron-hulled warships in the world, HMS Warrior is now a floating museum which visitors can visit and explore. This is considered one of the best-equipped and biggest vessels of its type during its time, but now, it is a fun and knowledgeable place where all the family can visit.
Alongside HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, too, is HMS M33. This was built in 1915 and was also restored for visitors to see and learn all about.
5.) D-Day Story
Want to learn more about World War II and D-Day? Then you have to get yourself over to the D-Day Story.
Not too far from Southsea Beach, the remarkable D-Day Story contains vehicles and weaponry used during the invasion of France’s Normandy coastline in 1944. Be sure to spot all the weaponry and vehicles used during the invasion, and the battle’s sights and sounds can also be experienced in this place.
Oh, and don’t forget to see the Overload Embroidery at the museum. This tapestry depicts the invasion that happened in 1944.
Just be sure to book these tickets before you go and avoid those weekend queues!
Afterwards, and on a sunny day, take a stroll over to Southsea Beach and stop by South Parade Pier for some classic fish and chips (Deep Blue Fish and Chips is our favourite) or a ride at the fairground.
6.) Gunwharf Quays
Had enough of all the museums in Portsmouth? Then get yourself over to Gunwharf Quays.
You see, Gunwharf Quays is now a shopping area that has plenty of designer outlets inside. Just be sure to pack your pocket-money, I’m pretty sure you’ll be grabbing a few bargains.
When it comes to food and drinks, the Belgian bar and kitchen in Gunwharf Quays will not disappoint.
There even is a 60-strong selection of bottled and draught beers which drinkers will surely enjoy. Aside from drinks, a must-try is the flammeküche and a bucket of modules.
You might even spot the Vulcan Building (dating back to the 1800s), too.
Best of all, Gunwharf Quays is right next to Portsmouth Harbour Train Station. This all makes it nice and easy to pop in if you’re travelling by train.
7.) National Museum of the Royal Navy
For a deeper knowledge of British naval history, come visit the National Museum of the Royal Navy where you will be able to read deeply about the 300 years of British naval history.
There are two edifices here which are linked by a glass atrium. The first one is No. 11 Storehouse which is about the Age of Sail, and the second one, No. 10 Storehouse, emphasizes the navy during the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s well worth a visit and one of the best things to do in Portsmouth as you explore the city’s history.
Afterwards, if you’ve got time, head over to the Guildhall area (just by Portsmouth and Southsea’s train station. Here, you’ll find lots of bars, restaurants and the New Theatre Royal for a show if you’re sticking around for a few days.
8.) Portsmouth Cathedral
The Cathedral of St. Thomas of Canterbury (or Portsmouth Cathedral for short) is a stunning place to see as you visit Portsmouth.
Honouring the Royal Navy, the choir’s south side aisle was dedicated to it.
Don’t forget to see some of the Medieval remnants of the cathedral within the font beneath the tower. It’s well worth seeing.
Some other famous spots you might want to visit are the Royal Garrison Church and the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St. John the Evangelist (see the picture, below) if you’re fancying a wander around the religious history of Portsmouth.
Aside from these religious landmarks, you can also check out the place where the murder of the Duke of Buckingham took place; grizzly, I know! Plus, the historic 10 High Street, Buckingham House.
9.) Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum
All about Charles Dickens and his family, The Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum is right in the heart of the city. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the best things to do in Portsmouth if you’re something of a bookworm.
Here, you’ll find the family’s Regency furniture, and Dickens’ novel copies, deathbeds, and manuscripts. It’s all so surreal to see.
Born in 1812, Charles Dickens was a brilliant writer. In this place, you can go on tours of the favourite Portsmouth haunts of Dickens. Of course, you can leave with a few books, too! Just not the first edition!
10.) Spinnaker Tower
One of the most iconic structures in Portsmouth is the Spinnaker Tower. It towers over Portsmouth at around 560 feet above the Solent and is located on the waterfront at Gunwharf Quays.
It’s well worth a trip to experience the Spinnaker Tower. Just be sure, to grab your ticket in advance. Now, to get to the top, you will need this Spinnaker Tower ticket that’ll get you inside to see the views.
Be brave enough to walk on the Sky Walk, which is glass-floored, to experience seeing the city’s amazing panoramic view. You can be braver and try abseiling which will let you use ropes to go down the tower’s exterior.
It’s well worth it.
11.) Royal Garrison Church
Being the place where King Charles II and Princess Catherine of Braganza’s wedding ceremony was held in 1662, the Royal Garrison Church is one epic place to see in Portsmouth when you visit.
Although the roof of the nave has never been replaced after the firebomb raid in 1941, the church stays beautiful and iconic for us all to enjoy to this day.
The stained-glass windows in the church show the more recent history of the place, but the tour guides will tell you about its 800-year history, starting from the time it was a medieval hospital.