Portsmouth is well known as Britain’s naval jewel on the South East coast. The island city is home to some of the country’s most revered historical warships, over 60 miles of picturesque coastline, a host of Roman fortifications and an impressive collection of vintage and quirky boutiques.
For many, the biggest pull here is the maritime past and present. However, strip back the layers, and you’ll quickly discover that Portsmouth is one of the most vibrant cities in the UK.
Here we’ve rounded up 6 unmissable experiences in Portsmouth for your perfect weekend getaway:
Discover imposing Victorian defences
Fort Nelson is home to the Royal Armouries and, of course, the big guns! But it is the impressive battlements and underground tunnels where ammunition was stored that impress the most.
Wander around the eye-opening museum and galleries to learn more about our national weaponry, and discover more about the people who have kept our nation safe over the years. While you’re there, check out the 350 super-guns, especially the 25-Pounder Gun/Howitzer and anti-aircraft guns used in our country’s defence during WWII.
Sample local delicacies
Portsmouth is bursting with local eateries, pubs and, of course, the vibrant Viviers Fish Market. Found on Camber Quay, this seafood paradise stocks fresh catch from the day, including various fish and shellfish for the public and trade to enjoy.
The Market first opened its doors in 1985, and its nets have since been cast out to reach London’s famous Billingsgate Fish Market. While the produce on offer reflects the season, the market’s fantastic team of fishermen offer oysters, clams, scallops, crabs and lobsters most days.
For those wanting to sample the market’s culinary delights on the day, why not feast on one of the specialist fish kebabs or treat yourself to freshly cooked crabs or a lobster!
Make your escape!
It’s 1988, and a government medical research facility has fallen silent, and you need to figure out why. The catch? You have 60 minutes on the clock to uncover the dark secrets and history that the scientists never thought would be revealed.
Exciting Escapes is Portsmouth’s top-rated escape room. With six fully immersive and interactive games to choose from spanning the decades, there’s no experience like it as you race against the clock.
With your team, you need to find clues to solve puzzles and riddles before cracking the case wide open. Do you think you have what it takes? Why not plan your escape room experience today?
Wander around Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard
You can’t go to Portsmouth without encountering at least one of the Navy’s impressive warships in the Solent or the Dockyard. But what this city offers is unlike anything else in the UK: over 500 years of naval history all in one place.
There you will discover Henry VIII’s prized warship, the Mary Rose, at the aptly named Mary Rose Museum. After she sank during the Battle of the Solent in 1545, many of her crew were lost to the sea as the king gazed on from nearby Southsea Castle. Nearly 500 years later, in 1982, her remains were raised from the bottom of the Solent in one of the most significant maritime restoration projects ever.
Now you can discover many of the original objects salvaged from the wreck and her impressive hull at the museum. She is the only vessel of her kind on display in the world and gives a remarkable insight into life during the Tudor age.
While you’re down at the Dockyard, make sure you get your fill of all the monumental warships and wartime relics on display. From Nelson’s formidable HMS Victory to one of the last remaining British warships from WWI still in existence, HMS M.33, it’s a real eye-opener down there.
Follow in the steps of literary heroes
Did you know that Portsmouth is the birthplace of groundbreaking Victorian novelist Charles Dickens? The influential writer was born at 1 Mile End Terrace (today known as 393 Old Commercial Road) in 1812, where the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum now stands.
The museum is a celebration of Dicken’s life and works and an honest reflection of what it was like for him growing up in 19th century Portsmouth. His former home is decorated and furnished in the Regency style. It has a collection of his original works as well as his death bed (brought over from his final resting place in Gad’s Hill, near Chatham, Kent.) After your visit, you can enjoy a Dickens-themed walk around his former stomping grounds in the city.
Dickens isn’t the only novelist to grace this beautiful city. Before Arthur Conan Doyle penned the greatest fictional detective of all time, Sherlock Holmes, he set up a GP practice in Southsea in 1882. Shortly after, Doyle wrote his first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, quickly followed by The Sign of Four during his downtime from the practice.
Doyle made Portsmouth his home. He could often be found at the football club, playing bowls and cricket with the locals.
Today you can revisit Doyle’s works and find out more about his life in the city at the Portsmouth City Museum’s “A Study in Sherlock” exhibition. Pop into the Portsmouth Central Library, and you can request to see the fascinating Arthur Conan Doyle Collection of memorabilia too.
Enjoy a spot of retail therapy
Spinnaker Tower is undeniably the best spot in the city to take in the spectacular scenery and look out across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. But in the shadow of this magnificent piece of architecture is the stylish shopping and entertainment complex Gunwharf Quays.
Home to over 90 stores and over 30 restaurants, bars and coffee shops, this is where you’ll get your retail therapy fix! With its buzzing atmosphere and variety of events for all ages throughout the year, there are plenty of reasons to visit this popular destination.
Portsmouth is a vibrant, atmospheric city bursting with culture and an unrivalled history that securely places it on the map. Are you ready for your weekend away in this glorious town? Where will you go first?