A coastal city spread across Portsea Island on the UK's southern coast, Portsmouth is a beautiful city that holds major significance in UK’s maritime history and is home to many museums. Also known as Pompey (not to be confused with Pompeii) to the locals, the city is rich with heritage as one of the most significant ports of the British empire while also offering some of the most unique experiences in the UK. Of course, with a rich past comes a list of things to do in Portsmouth.
Being in Portsmouth is a beautiful experience with so many local attractions, be it beaches, museums, or the occasional navy ship transiting, there’s always something to keep you occupied.
Best things to do in Portsmouth
Would be rather fun if we could just hop on one of his majesty's ships and take a tour of the city right? Sadly, those ships are out of reach unless you are a good and bold swimmer. Don’t worry, we have you covered with some of the best things to do in Portsmouth.
Soar on the Spinnaker Tower
Is it the Burj Khalifa? Is it the sail of a gigantic ship? No, it’s Portsmouth's very own Spinnaker Tower. With a design selected by the local populace, the tower stands tall at 170 m, resembles the Burj Khalifa and is designed in the shape of a wind sail for a ship. You could say, it’s Pompey’s mast, and is truly a spectacular tribute to the city’s history. With observation decks located at the top of the tower, it is the perfect place to begin your list of things to do in Portsmouth. Located in the harbor area, you can get panoramic views of the city of Portsmouth and the sea-faring vessels in the distance.
To Arms at Southsea castle
One of the free things to do in Portsmouth, Southsea castle was King Henry VIII’s response for safeguarding the country from foreign invaders. Unfortunately, King Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose was sunk outside the castle just as it was completed. The castle is exquisitely designed and features artillery, guns, platforms and even a tunnel to defend the moat. Enjoy the panoramic views from the top of the castle keep, free of charge from March to October. Southsea castle is closed on the occasion of any weddings (yes, you can even book the castle for your wedding) or events that may be taking place inside.
Portsmouth Historic dockyard
Remember King Henry VIII’s Mary Rose? Salvaged from the waters, the ship now rests in a UFO style museum at the Historic dockyard, where one can take insights into Tudor life as well as view the warship itself. So what makes the historic dockyard such an important point on things to do in Portsmouth? Other than the Mary Rose, the waters of the Historic dockyard is home to HMS Warrior and the legendary HMS Victory. Unlike the Mary Rose, you can resonate with the sailor within you and step on-board the Warrior which was the first armored battleship of the UK or our personal pick, the HMS Victory. Both the ships are refurbished as museums and provide a unique experience.
The dockyard is also home to His Majesty’s naval base and is somewhat open to the public where you can be awe-struck at the massive modern ships of the Royal Navy while also getting photo-worthy views of the Spinnaker tower. The dockyard is truly one of the best things to do in Portsmouth.
Take a Dive at the Blue Reef Aquarium
The ocean is the most uncharted territory on planet Earth and its inhabitants are shrouded in mystery. Welcome to the Blue Reef Aquarium, where you can have your experience of the hidden underwater world without getting wet. The Aquarium's main attraction is the massive central tank that contains an entire reef housing hundreds of colorful fishes (or as we call them, fishies!!!). You can get up-close and spot the sea-bed life thanks to underwater tunnels. If you get warm, the aquarium also offers a play area and splash pools.
Shopaholic’s inbound at Gunwharf Quays
So far, we have ascended to the skies, dived under the water, and sailed on historical ships. It’s time to plunder, as we head to the shopping portion of things to do in Portsmouth. A chic outlet out on the waterfront is a one-stop solution for your shopping needs. Don’t worry, it’ll be easy on the pocket. After all, it is a prime spot for the locals as well, so you can count on it being lively till late night. If you are tired of all the discounted shopping, you can recharge at the numerous restaurants. Make sure to occupy an outdoor table so you can feast your eyes (pun intended) at the yachts and ships dotting the horizon.
The D-Day Story
The only museum of its kind, the D-Day museum offers a deep insight into the Normandy landings by allied forces in 1944 which helped turn the tide of the war against Nazi Germany. The museum offers personal accounts and stories of those who were part of D-Day from a civilian and military point of view. The museum is open throughout the week and makes for an informative and motivating factor in the many things to do in Portsmouth.
Boat tours: Hoist the sails!
With so much sea-faring history, it only makes sense to head out on a boat and connect with the soul of the city’s heritage. Portsmouth boat tours are the solution! Charter from the various outlets available and de-toxic and bond over a boating experience with family and friends. Our personal recommendation is the hovercraft experience. Grab a flight (yes, fly) above the water in Portsmouth’s hovercrafts and gain one of the most unique boating experiences ever.
Charles Dickens birthplace Museum
One of the most iconic British authors, Charles Dickens was born in the city of Portsmouth. Makes you wonder about those Oliver Twist and David Copperfield books does it not? The Birthplace Museum is the house where Charles Dickens was born (we wonder what gave it away). The house features a regency era styled interior and memorabilia belonging to Dickens himself. Certain rooms also feature displays on both Dickens and the city of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Museum & Art Gallery
Add another place to the free things to do in Portsmouth, the Portsmouth Museum & Art Gallery. Recounting the story of the city’s inhabitants and the city itself, the museum displays memorabilia in relation to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as how the city life changed throughout the generations. Featuring a diverse art collection spread over eras and styles, the museum is a must for your list of things to do in Portsmouth.
For our last item on things to do in Portsmouth, it’s time for adrenaline and fun, and a visit to an amusement park is just the right fit. Clarence pier houses one of the largest amusement parks along the southern coast of the UK. With roller coasters, arcades, places to eat (feasting has to be amusement right?) and rides, it makes for an eventful and fun day for all.
Looking back, it seems as if the things to do in Portsmouth is a rollercoaster by itself. Explore the skies, diving underwater, time traveling from old to modern era boats, exploring museums to amusement parks, Portsmouth is a city where people can find something to enjoy regardless of their taste. Of course if you wish to go clubbing in Portsmouth, we have you covered as well. And as sailors say, “Fair winds and following seas!!!”.
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