Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > England > South East England > Hampshire > Portsmouth
- For other places with the same name, see Portsmouth (disambiguation).
Portsmouth (pronounced "ports-muth" and nicknamed "Pompey") is a large city in the county of Hampshire, on the south coast of England. Portsmouth plays a major role in British history, especially naval history. Its rich heritage offers a variety of attractions, including the Historical Dockyard, which houses some of the most historical warships in the world – HMS Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship used at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and the Mary Rose, a Tudor-era warship. Portsmouth has two cathedrals, including the Romanesque-style Portsmouth Cathedral, twelve museums, most of which are free, and two theatres. The City offers excellent shopping facilities in the Gunwharf Quays complex, home to a variety of designer stores including Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Barbour, as well as the striking 557 ft landmark Spinnaker Tower, which offers excellent views of the Solent and City.
Portsmouth is also known for its literary history, as the birthplace of Charles Dickens, the famous Victorian era novelist, and the pioneering engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Other famous figures to have lived here are HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling. The city is well served by three musical venues, The Wedgewood Rooms, Guildhall and Pyramids, which regularly host major musical and comedy acts.
The majority of the city of Portsmouth lies on Portsea Island, though it is separated from the mainland only by a roughly 30 m wide stretch of sea water, so is perhaps more accurately thought of as a peninsula. Historically, Portsmouth has long been an important naval port and builds on its rich heritage with memorials, museums, trails and the fascinating Historic Dockyard. It has four miles of seafront, including pebbled beaches. It is a university city, home to the University of Portsmouth, and has a large multicultural student population.
Portsmouth has a population of 200,000 people and is the most densely populated city in the UK, outside of certain parts of London. The entire Portsmouth Urban Area is home to more than 442,000 people.
National Rail trains run frequently from Waterloo Station in London and take between 1 h 30 min and 1 h 40 min via Haslemere, or about 2 h 10 min via Winchester (you may arrive earlier by taking a later train via Haslemere than going via Winchester). A cheap day single is about £33. Other major services include Brighton (1 h 40 min), Cardiff (3 h 10 min) via Bath and Bristol; and Southampton (1 hour). There are also direct trains from Gatwick Airport (1 h 20 min).
Alight at Portsmouth Harbour station for the Historic Dockyard, Gunwharf Quays, the Spinnaker Tower and ferries to the Isle of Wight. Alight at Portsmouth & Southsea station for Portsmouth City Centre shopping, Portsmouth Guildhall and a short walk to the seafront. Alight at Fratton station for Fratton Park football stadium. Hilsea station is situated in the north east of the city - it's sited to serve the local industrial estates and most visitors would have no reason to alight here unless they are visiting Portsmouth Rugby Club. Note that some trains do not stop at this station.
When departing by train those unfamiliar with the stations can easily miss them even when only a few feet away. Portsmouth Harbour is behind the bus station at The Hard. Portsmouth & Southsea is easily found at the bottom of Commercial Road if you look out for the railway bridge just south of the building. Fratton can be found to the east of the road bridge at the bottom of Fratton Road and north of the roundabout between Victoria Road North and Goldsmith Avenue. The less frequented Hilsea Station is underneath the road bridge at Norway Road and Cosham station is on the Cosham High Street.
Portsmouth is easily accessible by car via the M275 via the M27 and A27. From London, take the A3 or M3 south. As Portsmouth is an island city, routes in and out are limited, and so congestion can be a problem, especially during rush hour. Be advised that the large majority of residential roads have a 20mph speed limit.
Parking is plentiful both on street (about £1/hr) and in pay-and-display car parks. The city centre and Gunwharf Quays both have multi-storey car parks, and Southsea has on-street parking. Note that some roads have a time limit on parking for non-residents and these limits are enforceable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Portsmouth has a Park & Ride scheme allowing parking for a reasonable cost and free bus travel to the city centre and the The Hard. The buses run until the early or late evening depending on the day. Note that their is no access for cars from the Park & Ride car parks into the city proper - only buses are permitted to leave the car parks in this direction - this is to avoid residential roads being used as rat runs by cars entering the city.
If you stroll a little away from the city centre and tourist hot spots (sometimes just around the corner in Southsea), parking can be found for free or in time-limited bays.
Motorcycles can park without a residents permit and within the marked bays. Gunwharf Quays also has a dedicated motorcycle bay in the underground car park.
If you're visiting the University, you can obtain day car passes from University House. However, the car parks are very busy during term-time.
Local bus routes stretch as far afield as Havant and Southampton. Day passes can be bought for £3.70 which allow unlimited travel in the Portsmouth City area or £4.80 for the whole of Hampshire.
National Express travels into the Hard (few hundred yards from harbour and historic dockyard) with links to many of the country's major cities.
There are ferry services from four ports in France and Bilbao in Spain.
- Brittany Ferries, up to 2 a day, 9 h
- Condor Ferries, 1 Sunday service, 5 h
- Brittany Ferries, up to 2 a day, h (Mar-Nov only)
- Brittany Ferries, 3 a day, 5 h 45 min (year-round service)
- Brittany Ferries, 1 a day, 3h 30 min (summer-only fast service F-Su)
There are services to the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.
The Isle of Wight is under 60 min by ferry or 10 min by hovercraft.
- Wightlink, half-hourly during day, 35 minutes
- Wightlink, half-hourly during day, 15 min
- Hovertravel. The hovercraft trip takes 15 minutes from Southsea seafront. Take the HOVER bus from the Portsmouth & Southsea train station to the ferry Terminal.
The ferry to Gosport (for Submarine and Explosion museums) runs every 7 min at peak times and every 15 min at other times until midnight for £3.30 return.
The nearest airport is Southampton Airport, around 20 mi from Portsmouth in Eastleigh. Over 47 European destinations are served from here. From the airport it is simple to get to Portsmouth by train, traveling from Southampton Airport Parkway and changing at either Southampton Central or Eastleigh.
A day travel ticket can be bought for £3.60 (£2.40 concessions). It is also possible to travel between the harbour and the city centre using the train. It is a compact, flat city however, and nowhere is a very long walk. There are two local minicab companies - City Wide Taxis (90+ vehicles) and Aquacars (700+ vehicles) that can be prebooked and many actual taxis that can be flagged down in the street or found and taxi ranks scattered around the city. As of February 2016, Uber now operates in the city as well.
At night, if you can find an elevated position you can navigate via the chain of blue lights along the sea-front, to the south.
Here are some of the local names for the areas which may be useful for people visiting
- The Hard is the area around Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Gunwharf Quays and Portsmouth Harbour Train and Bus Stations.
- Old Portsmouth/Sallyport/Spice Island, the area around the Anglican Cathedral Square and Round Tower, Camber Dock and along the sea walls.
- Southsea, the area next to the sea at the Southern end of the island and it stretches further north to include Southsea Town Centre (Palmerston, Elm, Marmion and Albert Roads).
- Commercial Road, the city centre, and the main shopping and market street, home of Cascades shopping mall.
- Fratton, the area north of Southsea and east of Commercial Road (really useful only if you are attending a football match at Fratton Park or changing trains at Fratton Station)
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Located in the naval base, the Historic Dockyard has a number of historic ships including the Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior 1860. In the Historic Dockyard is also Royal Naval Museum and Action Stations - an interactive look at the navy of today. There is a great old pub outside of Dockyard called the Ship Anson, worth a try. Portsmouth Visitor Information Centre can be found adjacent to the visitor entrance of the Dockyard.
- Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays, ☏ . Daily 10AM-6PM (until 10PM Sa and every day during Jul and Aug). This striking and highly-visible £21 million landmark tower rises some 170 m above the redeveloping harbour of Portsmouth, symbolising the wind filling a spinnaker sail. Visitors can use the tower to view from 3 levels: at 100 m, 105 m and 115 m. A high-speed internal lift takes you to the top. Adult £7, child £5.50, concessions £6.20.
- Southsea Castle. Built in 1544, the Castle was part of a series of fortifications constructed by Henry VIII around England's coasts to protect the country from invaders. Heavily modified due to being in use until the end of WW2. Contains a rather random selection of cannon that have ended up in the collection of Portsmouth city council over the years.
- Southsea Seafront - 4 miles of seafront promenade backed by gorgeous green spaces and gardens.
- Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 10AM-5PM (except Dec 24-26). Covers the history of the Royal Marines. The Museum is in what was one of the most stately Officers' Messes in England, built in the 1860s with beautiful ceilings, huge paintings and a grand staircase. Adult £9.
- Cathedrals. Portsmouth has two cathedrals, the Romanesque-style Portsmouth Cathedral (St Thomas') in Old Portsmouth (Anglican) and St John's in the City Centre (Catholic).
- D-Day Museum. Daily (except 24-26 Dec) Apr-Oct 10AM-5.30PM; Nov-Mar 10AM-5PM.
- Blue Reef Aquarium, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, ☏ . Daily except 25 Dec 10AM-6PM (Nov-Mar until 5PM). Take an undersea safari at the aquarium on the seafront. Adult £9.75.
- Southsea model village (seafront)
- Southsea Rose garden - Inside the 19th century Lumps Fort
- Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, 393 Old Commercial Rd. Daily from mid Apr-Dec 10AM-5:30PM. The famous writer Charles Dickens was born in this modest house in 1812.
- Cumberland House Natural History Museum. A fairly limited collection. Free.
- City Museum & Records Office. Home of the new Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes exhibition "A Study in Sherlock".
- Royal Garrison Church, a partly roofless English Heritage property. Only occasionally open to the public.
- Relax on Southsea Common with a picnic or barbecue. See this guide for where they are permitted.
- Follow the Renaissance Trail around the Millennium Promenade, a self-guided walk with information along the way, just look out for the chain in the pavement.
- Clarence Pier - A small fairground close to the Hoverport with rides and amusement arcades.
- Listen to live music at The Bandstand every Sunday in the summer.
- Watch Portsmouth F.C. play League 2 football at Fratton Park.
- The annual Victorious Music Festival has been running since 2012 with big name acts such as Ray Davies headlining and up to 80,000 people attending.
If you like a bit of nightlife, there are four parts of town you should visit;
- Gunwharf Quays is a great place to eat and drink (over 20 bars & restaurants, many with waterfront views) but can be a little pricey
- Albert Road has a fair few student pubs, wine bars and cafe-bars, not to mention the numerous Indian restaurants.
- The lesser known but nicer area of Southsea is Palmerston Road - some bars and good restaurants.
- Guildhall Walk, where you will find bars such as Walkabout, Yates and Wetherspoons, and clubs Route 66 and Babylon. Strictly for 18-30s.
- Liquid & Envy is also close to the Guildhall (just across from Portsmouth & Southsea station).
- Portsmouth City Centre (Commercial Road & Cascades) - Usual high street names, but with Miss Selfridge, Topshop, H&M, New Look and Primark literally right next to one another, it is a shopping paradise.
- Gunwharf Quays - Outlet centre, with shops like M&S, Cadburys, Claire's, GAP. Some of the prices are cheaper than the high streets, but likewise some are similar or more expensive so shopping around is a good idea.
- Southsea Town Centre - A variety of small specialist shops, boutiques, art shops, delis, home furnishings. Also Debenhams and Knight & Lee.
- Albert Road - A good bet for smaller (independent) shops, second-hand goods and antiques.
Portsmouth has hundreds of restaurants catering to all tastes. Towards Fareham, the marina Port Solent offers a variety of restaurants in a pleasant environment with a multiplex movie theatre nearby, and ample (free) onsite parking.
- The American Bar, 58 White Hart Rd, ☏ . Old Portsmouth. Modern European cuisine. Also great but you can drop a lot of money in this place, which has great service!
- Bangkok, 64 Albert Road, ☏ . A nice Thai place where you can take your own drink
- Mozzarella Joes, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, +44 23 9229 5004. A relatively new restaurant right on the pebbles, with the most amazing views of the Solent. Great for a cold glass of wine, stonebaked pizza and pasta.
- Regal House, 88 Albert Road, ☏ . Chinese takeaway.
- Rosie's Vineyard, 87 Elm Grove, Southsea, ☏ . French/modern European. Wonderful wine selection food and atmosphere.
- Sur La Mer, 69 Palmerston Road, ☏ . French.
- Strada, Gunwharf Quays, ☏ . Italian.
- The Tenth Hole Tea Room, (next to mini-golf course), +44 23 9283 0009. Great for light lunch but the highlight is the amazing home-made cakes.
Best places for curry: Portsmouth offers a variety of Indian restaurants thanks to its prominent Asian community. The best places are Albert road where the curries are cheap as there is a restaurant literally every couple of shops, and Palmerston road which is more expensive.
- The Bombay Brasserrie, Albert Road, ☏ . Very popular curry house that offers very good value for money and that lets you bring your own drinks. Arrive early.
Best Indian takeaway:
- The Indian Ocean Takeaway, 234 Fratton Road, ☏ . Probably the longest serving curry outlet in Portsmouth, established in the early 1980s by the current owner/chef. The quality of the food is of the highest quality and their curries are also priced very reasonably.
As to be expected from an historic port town, and a current university city, there is an abundance of drinking establishments in Portsmouth, from traditional pubs to chic and trendy waterfront bars. The bars and clubs along Guildhall Walk are a popular spot but despite heavy police presence, a certain degree of vigilance is advised to ensure you have a fun and safe night out.
- The Fat Fox, albert road. nice relaxed atmosphere, beer garden, traditional English pub menu.
- The Wine Vaults, Albert Road. Good cask ales and great atmosphere arrive early if you want a seat.
- Hole in the Wall, on or near Castle Road, off Elm Grove. Small pub with a 'traditional' feel, and real ales.
- Slug & Lettuce. Friendly and well priced contemporary bar on Palmerston Road.
- The Honest Politician, Elm Grove. A pub with pool tables and a relaxed atmosphere, and always a rocking soundtrack.
- The White Horse A pub with a relaxed atmosphere along Southsea Terrace.
- The Registry. A student pub near the Student Union with fairly cheap beer and food. Not a place for a quiet drink.
- The Old Customs House is a traditional pub in a historic building, within a modern setting. Great ales and food.
- Tiger Tiger is the ultimate place for a big night out - with 8 different bars, a club and restaurant in the same building!
- The Still & West, Bath Square. A pub with a good view of harbour entrance and restaurant upstairs
- The Spice Island Inn also has amazing views of the harbour in action and a good restaurant.
Accommodation in Portsmouth can be browsed online via the official VisitPortsmouth website  and the Visitor Info Centre can make bookings/check availability on your behalf: +44 23 9282 6722.
- Bed and Breakfast at No3, ☏ . 3 Bellevue Terrace. Located within walking distance of local attractions.
- Florence House Hotel and Somerset House Hotel, 2 Malvern Road, ☏ . The city's only boutique accommodation just back from the seafront, these upmarket hotels are in easy reach of everything.
- Ibis Portsmouth Centre, ☏ . Winston Churchill Avenue. Also good, near the Portsmouth & Southsea train station.
- Pembroke Park Hotel, ☏ . 1 Bellevue Terrace, Southsea. Located only minutes from the old town and the seafront, both Portsmouth & Southsea are within easy walking distance.
- Queen's Hotel, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A must for Mr. Bean fans - this was where the episode Mr. Bean in Room 426 was set. (Whatever you do, don't eat tainted oysters or lock yourself out of your room!)
- Sandringham Hotel, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. With views over the seafront common the excellent location offers great views at cheap rates. If you're on a budget and need a clean and comfortable room, look no further.
- Southsea Backpackers, 4 Florence Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In Southsea. Not easy to get to but is cheap and friendly.
- Spitbank Fort. The lighthouse has been refurbished and has accommodation.
- Holiday Inn Express Portsmouth - Gunwharf Quays, The Plaza, Gunwharf Quays, ☏ .
- Westfield Hall Hotel, 65 Festing Rd, Southsea, ☏ . Privately owned, it has been stylishly redesigned to ensure comfort and enjoyment. It aims to be the best 3 star hotel in Portsmouth, offering warm hospitality, fine food and accommodation at prices that represent value for money.
As with most other large English cities, there can be a problem with violence around the city centre at weekends, around pub and club closing times (around 11PM and 2AM), but with a little common sense, the risk is minor.
The main place to avoid is Somerstown, the highrise council estate near the city centre, especially after dark. Buckland situated to the north of the city centre should also be avoided at night.
Nothing should be left on display in vehicles and it's sensible to park your car in a Park Marque scheme facility (ask at the Visitor Info Centre +44 23 9282 6722).
Due to football rivalry, wearing a Southampton football top may cause some problems in the city. In fact, anything with red and white vertical stripes (Southampton's colours) is probably a bad idea.
- 1 Portchester Castle, Church Road, Portchester, PO16 9QW, ☏ . About 5 miles from Portsmouth is one of the best preserved Roman fortifications in Northern Europe. The castle's keep was built in Norman times (largely from recycled Roman brick) and extensive late Roman structures remain although ruinous. The castle is well sign posted, and served by regular buses, Portchester rail station is only a 10 min walk north. adults £5.00, children £3.00, concessions £4.50.
- Portsdown Hill offers amazing views across Portsmouth and the South Downs. Just to the rear (north) of Portsmouth, it is a world away with countryside walks and traditional pubs.
- The Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson sits just on Portsdown Hill and is free of charge to visit.
- Gosport shares the harbour with Portsmouth and can be reached by a short ferry ride from by Portsmouth Harbour station. Home of Explosion: Museum of Naval Firepower and the Royal Naval Submarine Museum.
- Winchester, the former English capital, is a beautiful city worth a visit. Excellent restaurants, interesting shops and the famous cathedral.
- Chichester housing a lovely city centre and impressive cathedral
- Emsworth this small fishing town is a nice retreat year round, but the food festival in the first week of September is a real treat, not to be missed if you are in the area.
- New Forest just the other side of Southampton is one of the nicest rural getaways in England.
- Southampton is the largest city in Hampshire and West Quay is the South's premier shopping centre.
- Isle of Wight