10 Best Things to do in Portsmouth (UK)

Are you looking for the best things to do in Portsmouth? I have been to Portsmouth with my husband and friends to explore various historical sites and attractions in this British seaside town. Portsmouth, one of the oldest seaside cities in Britain, or Pompey to the locals, combines its rich history with a burgeoning food, drink, and nightlife scenes. At the height of the British Empire, Portsea Island, a thumb of Hampshire jutting into the Solent, was one of the top naval ports in the world and is still the main Royal Navy base in the United Kingdom.

A tour of the dockyard from Les Misérables, which features four historic ships, including Henry VIII’s disastrous flagship, the Mary Rose, and a number of excellent museums, is a must-do on any trip.

Portsmouth has a lot to offer in addition to its maritime heritage, including modern art galleries, ancient pubs on cobblestone streets, and football fans who are so fervent that they must be seen to be believed.

I have included Portsmouth in another article about the Beautiful and Best Seaside Towns in the UK, learn more about Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Best Things to do in Portsmouth (UK)

1. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which is home to some of the most well-known vessels in the nation, is a representation of the city’s naval significance. Portsmouth has been inextricably linked to the ocean ever since its heyday as a trading port in the Middle Ages. In this complex, real ships and museums shed light on the rich maritime history of the city and the country, visitors can explore the ships of kings and admirals and learn about them.

If you are interested in knowing more about this historical dockyard, I wrote a complete guide to visit the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I encourage you to read it to know more about various attractions within the complex.

HMS Warrior at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Best things to do in Portsmouth: Visit HMS Warrior at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

The fearsome iron-hulled ship HMS Warrior, which was constructed sometime around 1859, is one of the oldest vessels in the dockyard. The moment this magnificent 40-gun frigate was launched, rival navies all over the world were frozen with fear. It was renovated in the 1980s and is now a stunning maritime museum that is a part of The National Museum of the Royal Navy.

HMS Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Best things to do in Portsmouth: Visit HMS Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

You can retrace Lord Nelson and his crew’s steps on HMS Victory by going to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This exquisitely preserved flagship provides insight into what it was like to serve as an officer or crewman during the Napoleonic Wars. HMS M.33, the sole survivor of the British Gallipoli campaign in World War I, is also docked here.

The HMS Victory is arguably the most well-known warship in the Royal Navy. As the flagship ship during Britain’s 1805 victory over France and Spain at the Battle of Trafalgar, the HMS Victory commanded a crew.

The Mary Rose Tudor Warship
Best Things to Do in Portsmouth: Visit the Mary Rose Tudor Warship

Here, you can also see the Mary Rose Museum. The Mary Rose Museum, which bears its subject’s name, offers a thorough look at Tudor culture and a view of the Mary Rose warship, which was a part of King Henry VIII‘s fleet.

The Mary Rose is infamous for sinking on July 19, 1545, in the waters off Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. There were about 500 men aboard this enormous ship, and only 35 of them managed to survive the sinking, which took place in a matter of minutes.

Here are some related tours from the GetYourGuide website, you can book the Historic Dockyard Ultimate Explorer ticket (you can see up to 10 attractions) or the HMS Victory Day Ticket or the Mary Rose Day ticket only.

Read more: Best British War Museums and Memorials to Visit in the UK

2. Spinnaker Tower

If you only take a fleeting glance at the waterfront in Portsmouth, you might be fooled into thinking that you’re in Dubai.

Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth
Best things to do in Portsmouth: Visit Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth

This iconic observation tower is two and a half times as tall as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, standing at 170 meters tall. The Spinnaker Tower was designed to resemble a sail in order to pay homage to the city’s long history of seafaring. It was originally known as the Portsmouth Millennium Tower, and it is the centerpiece of Portsmouth’s revitalization. Its three panoramic decks offer breathtaking views of the sea and southern England.

It is highly recommended that you go to the Spinnaker Tower if you are interested in attending comedy and music nights. It gives you the opportunity to watch some of the funniest comedians in the area and to let loose and dance the night away in a setting that is unlike any other.

You can buy a ticket for general admission from the GetYourGuide website to the Spinnaker Tower will set you back £13.95, while tickets for children are priced at £10.50. If you are feeling brave, you can abseil down the side of this famous landmark in the city for 100 meters.

3. The D-Day Story Museum

The D-Day Story Museum is the only museum in the world that is entirely devoted to the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. The D-Day Museum tells the personal stories that lie behind this momentous historical event, from the perspective of both civilians and members of the armed forces.

D-Day Museum in Portsmouth
Best Things to do in Portsmouth: Visit the D-Day Museum
Wintonian, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Over 150,000 soldiers landed on five different beaches in Normandy as part of D-Day, which eventually led to the Germans admitting defeat and ending the war. In addition, it is the location of the Overlord Embroidery, which is an enormous depiction that is stitched together over 83 meters long and serves as a memorial to all of the people who participated in the landings.

Once you have arrived at this location, one of the first things you should do is search for the pencil that Lieutenant Commander John Harmer used to sign the order establishing Force G. This pencil was the impetus for the invasion.

This piece, which is being exhibited for the very first time, exemplifies the museum’s mission of showing all the moving parts of the largest seaborne invasion in the annals of human history. The landing craft tanks provide a good illustration of how challenging it was to transport military equipment onto the beaches of France.

You can book your ticket to the D-Day Museum via the GetYourGuide website.

4. Portsmouth Museum Art Gallery

The Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery is the museum of and for the people of Portsmouth, and it features a wide variety of engaging and thought-provoking exhibits.

Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery in Portsmouth UK
Best Things to do in Portsmouth: Visit the Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery
Editor5807, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reconstructions of a bedchamber from the 17th century, a kitchen used by dockyard workers in 1871, a Victorian parlor, a kitchen from the 1930s, and a living room from the 1950s can be found in the exhibit titled “The Story of Portsmouth,” which allows visitors to learn about the evolution of domestic life over the course of several centuries.

The next part of the story is titled “Portsmouth at Play,” and it takes place on the beach, in the movie theater, on the football field, and on the dance floor. The Fine and Decorative Art Gallery is home to an extensive collection of artwork that dates all the way back to the 17th century and continues right up to the present day.

5. Charles Dicken’s Birthplace Museum

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, in case you were unaware of that fact. Because of this, going to the museum that is housed in his birthplace is something that fans of literature should do while they are in Portsmouth.

Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth
Best Things to do in Portsmouth: Visit the Charles Dicken’s Birthplace museum Austriantraveler, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It is highly recommended that tourists pay a trip to the modest terraced house in which the well-known author Charles Dickens was born in the year 1812. The home in which Charles Dickens spent a brief period of time has been meticulously restored and outfitted to reflect the tastes of the middle class during Dickens’ era.

Although Charles’s parents’ actual belongings have been dispersed for a very long time now, the furniture, ceramics, glass, household objects, and decorations faithfully recreate the Regency style that they would have favored. This style was popular during the late 18th century and early 19th century.

The bedroom where Charles was born is one of the three rooms that are furnished. The other two rooms are the parlor and the dining room. A display on Charles Dickens and Portsmouth can be found in the exhibition room, along with a small collection of memorabilia.

This includes the couch on which he passed away at his home in Kent, as well as the snuff box, inkwell, and paper knife that belonged to him. These are all moving reminders of an author who is revered for his prodigious talents and prolific output.

6. Southsea Castle

King Henry VIII had a series of fortifications built along England’s coasts, including Southsea Castle, beginning in 1544. The purpose of these fortifications was to protect England from foreign invasion.

Southsea Castle Portsmouth
Best Things to Do in Portsmouth: Visit thee Southsea Castle

Henry VIII had just about finished the work when he stood inside to watch his flagship, the Mary Rose, tragically sink during the Battle of the Solent against the French in July 1545. The battle took place in the Solent.

Nearly a century and a half later, during the English Civil War, parliamentarian forces successfully took control of the castle for the first and only time in its entire history.

The fortifications of Southsea Castle have been beefed up over the course of several centuries in order to ensure that the castle can continue to guard Portsmouth. The moat of the castle was protected by a tunnel that was constructed in the 19th century.

Visitors are still able to go down into the tunnel and get a glimpse of how the castle would have been protected from attackers. The Isle of Wight and the Solent can be seen in their entirety from the vantage point of the keep’s artillery, gun platforms, and panoramic views.

7. Royal Navy Submarine Museum

On the Gosport side of Portsmouth Harbour, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum can be found in close proximity to the shore establishment of the vessel HMS Dolphin. It is an important attraction that tells the story of the English Royal Navy’s submarine service and how it operated below the surface of the water.

The museum is home to a number of submarines that hold a significant place in our country’s history and have a distinguished record of service in the military. As the only World War II-era submarine still in existence in the United Kingdom, HMS Alliance serves as a memorial to the 5,300 British submariners who were killed while serving their country.

The forward torpedo store is the first stop on a tour of the Alliance. After passing through the accommodation space, the next stop is the control room. Here, the various navigational systems, including the operational periscopes, are on display. The tour then continues on through the galley and onto the engine room, which is considered to be the heart of the submarine. The tour then comes to an end in the aft torpedo compartment, where you can see how crew members would escape in the event of an emergency.

In addition to HMS Alliance, Holland I, and X24, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum is home to thousands of photographs, documents, ship plans, and artifacts. HMS Alliance serves as the museum’s centerpiece. Holland I and X24 are also on display.

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum can be found in Gosport on the grounds of what was formerly HMS Dolphin, which served as the headquarters of the Submarine Service for one hundred years. The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard provides its guests with a free waterbus service that transports them across the harbor.

Exploring the decks and corridors of HMS Alliance, as well as making use of the ship’s operational telescopes to look out over Portsmouth Harbour, is open to the public. In addition, you will have the opportunity to view other notable submarines such as the Holland I and the X24, as well as photographs, artifacts, documents, and ship plans from prehistoric times.

8. Portsmouth Cathedral

The oldest piece of architecture at Portsmouth Cathedral is a chapel that was built in the 12th century and is dedicated to Thomas Becket, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury before he was murdered.

Portsmouth Cathedral
Best Things to Do in Portsmouth: Visit the Portsmouth Cathedral

During the English Civil War, which began in 1642, almost the entire structure was destroyed; the only parts that were spared were the Early English Gothic transept and choir.

A monument to George Villiers, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, who was killed by an army officer at the Greyhound Pub in Portsmouth in 1628, can be found in the chancel. Villiers was gunned down at the pub. The impressive octagonal cupola and lantern (for shipping) were installed on top of the church in 1703. Additional extensions to the nave were made in the 1930s after the Portsmouth diocese was established and the church was elevated to the status of a cathedral following these events.

9. Portchester Castle

One of the fascinating things to do in Portsmouth, which is best known as a port city, is to investigate the history of Portchester Castle. A trip to a historic naval city is, without a doubt, missing something important if it does not include a stop at a castle.

Portchester Castle in Portsmouth
Best Things to do in Portsmouth: Visit the Portchester Castle

It is estimated that the fortifications at Portchester Castle date back almost one thousand years. Portchester Castle is a historical monument that allows visitors to explore the fortifications. You’ll notice that despite its age, this castle is still in a surprisingly good condition compared to the ruins of its contemporaries. This is because this castle was built with superior materials. The layout of the towers in this castle is undoubtedly one of the most captivating features it possesses.

The Portchester Castle is an impressively well-preserved structure that sits atop a hill overlooking Portsmouth Harbour.

Due to the fact that the medieval castle was constructed on top of pre-existing Roman defenses that utilized this design, D-shaped towers can be found all along the exterior wall. The Romans constructed the fort in the shape of a square, and the Normans added the castle to one of the square’s corners sometime in the third century AD after they conquered the area.

Portchester was used to house foreign prisoners beginning in 1665 and continuing through the wars with France that occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries. The entrance fee to Portchester Castle is £7.90 for adults and £4.70 for children, and the castle is open to the public between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm on most days.

10. Titchfield Abbey

Titchfield Abbey dates back to the 13th century and is a relic that provides valuable insight into the monastic life of the time. This abbey was specifically focused on scholarly pursuits, so it provides a unique perspective on the monastic life of the time. The extensive library at the abbey is evidence of the community’s commitment to education. According to the catalogue that has been preserved, the library once housed more than 200 volumes of books.

Titchfield Abbey in Portsmouth
Best things to do in Portsmouth: Visit the Titchfield Abbey

When you pay a visit, you will have the opportunity to explore the ruins of the medieval abbey as well as the remnants of the mansion that was built around the area in the 16th century after the abbey was closed down. A few miles to the west of the Catisfield town center, you’ll find the abbey in Catisfield.

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10 Best Things to do in Portsmouth (UK)

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