Found on the south coast of England, Portsmouth is unique in that it is the only city in England not to be located on the mainland - the majority of the city is on Portsea Island. The city's history goes back as far as Roman times, and is arguably most well-known for its maritime history. It's home to the world's oldest dry dock, and is notable for the Mary Rose sinking off the coast in 1545 while King Henry VIII watched on from Southsea Castle. The naval base in the city was opened in 1194, and is home to much of the Royal Navy's surface fleet. There is, of course, more to the city.
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Getting to Portsmouth is particularly straightforward from London, with services from London Victoria and London Waterloo operated by Southern and South Western Railway respectively. In addition to this, there are some services from Brighton operated by Southern, and also Cardiff via Bristol Temple Meads operated by Great Western Railway. Portsmouth also takes advantage of its position on the coast, with a number of ferry connections to France and Spain, and also some to the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands.
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Portsmouth is also unique in that it has the only passenger hovercraft service in the world, operating from Southsea to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. For those coming from further afield, the nearest airport is in Southampton, with Gatwick Airport also being within relatively easy reach.
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So, what is there to do in Portsmouth? Well, read on and you can find out.
Arguably the biggest sport in Portsmouth is football, with Portsmouth FC playing their home games at Fratton Park, roughly a five-minute walk east of Fratton station. The club has an interesting history, with one of the more recent highlights being their 2007-08 FA Cup win, which then led them to play the likes of AC Milan and Wolfsburg in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup. The 2007-08 season also saw them win the highest-scoring match in Premier League history when they beat Reading 7-4 at Fratton Park. If you're interested in a stadium tour of Fratton Park, then further information can be found HERE. Rugby union also has a presence in the city, with United Services Portsmouth RFC and the Royal Navy Rugby Union playing their home matches at the United Services Recreation Ground (roughly halfway between Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour stations). Royal Navy Rugby Union take part in the annual Army-Navy rugby match at Twickenham. The United Services Recreation Ground was home to Hampshire County Cricket Club until the year 2000 when they moved to the Rose Bowl in Southampton. Other sports with a presence in the city include hockey and golf.
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Portsmouth has had a long maritime history, with the naval base having been present in the city since 1194. Portsmouth was also one of the key launch points for the D-Day landings in June 1944. At Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, you can find the local site of the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The most notable exhibit is arguably HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. Perhaps the most interesting fact about HMS Victory is that it's the oldest naval vessel still in commission, with 245 years of service as of 2024. Other exhibits include HMS Warrior (the pride of Queen Victoria's fleet) and HMS M.33 (one of only three British warships from World War I still in existence). You can also use the waterbus to head over to Gosport and visit the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower and the Royal Submarine Museum. Just north of the NMRN in Portsmouth is the Mary Rose Museum, where you can see the wreckage of Henry VIII's flagship and learn more about the history of the ship and the people who worked on it. It's also a chance to take a look at Tudor life. Also of note in the docks and just to the south of Portsmouth Harbour station is the 170m Spinnaker Tower, which opened in 2005 and offers stunning views from its three viewing decks. The tower itself can be seen from the Isle of Wight.
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For those who enjoy the theatre, the New Theatre Royal on Guildhall Walk (nearest station is Portsmouth & Southsea) is one of the most well-known, and hosts a number of productions over the course of the year. There are a number of music venues in the city, including the Wedgewood Rooms on Albert Road in Southsea (nearest station is Fratton) and the multi-function Portsmouth Guildhall on Albert Road in Portsmouth (nearest station is Portsmouth & Southsea). In addition to this, the city is a major setting in Gilbert & Sullivan's famous 1870s opera H.M.S. Pinafore. The city has also been a filming location over the years, with a particular focus on the Historic Dockyard. Productions with scenes filmed in Portsmouth include Tomorrow Never Dies and Tom Hooper's version of Les Misérables (based on the famous stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's epic novel). A number of contributors to the culture of the UK in general were born in Portsmouth or spent a considerable amount of time there, including Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and H G Wells. Furthermore, one of the Victorian era's greatest engineers was born in the city - a certain Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
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When visiting a new city, chances are high that one big priority will be finding somewhere to eat. There's quite a variety across Portsmouth and neighbouring Southsea, and we've got a few selections here to showcase what is on offer.
Six Highland Road
Address: 6 Highland Road, Portsmouth PO4 9AH
Found in nearby Southsea, Six Highland Road is a café serving the typical kind of fare one would expect in such an establishment. The menu is simple, but the dishes are well-presented. Breakfast options include Eggs Benedict, a selection of breakfast sandwiches (bacon, sausage, or vegan sausage), and a vegetarian full English (vegan sausage, poached eggs, hash browns, beans, tomato, mushroom, sourdough toast). The lunch section includes a variety of bread-based options (open sandwich, panini, bagel) with a selection of fillings, including the Middle East (smashed falafel, homemade hummus, sweet chilli jam), the Traditional British (locally-sourced ham, red onion chutney, Cheddar cheese), and the Spicy Italian (sliced Italian meats, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese). If you fancy something else, then the pancake stacks can be a good option, with the English Breakfast (bacon and sausage) being one of the choices from there. For those who are in a group, then the sharing boards are a great idea, with these including the charcuterie board (Italian sliced meats, European cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, chutney). If you're in the mood for something a bit more healthy, then there are some salad bowls available..
Lins Thai Café
Address: 78 Elm Grove, Southsea, Portsmouth PO5 1LN
For fans of Thai food, look no further than Lins Thai Café in Southsea. It may look small from the outside, but the variety of dishes on the menu defies that. Options for starters include chicken satay (marinated chicken on sticks with homemade peanut sauce), pork spare ribs, and pak tord (deep-fried vegetables in batter). Available curries include gaeng massaman (rich coconut curry with peanuts, potatoes, and traditional spices), gaeng keowan (rich aromatic curry made with coconut cream, flavoured with lime leaves and peanuts), and gaeng pah (jungle curry - hot & spicy red curry without coconut milk, mixed with Thai herbs and vegetables). If you want a stir-fried dish, then you're covered as well, with options including pat grapao (chillies, lime leaves, Thai basil), prik hang (dried chillies, roasted peanuts, traditional Thai spices), and pat mon hoy (stir-fried vegetables with oyster sauce). Both the curries and the stir-fried dishes come with a choice of extra fillings (vegetables, meat, seafood). There are noodle dishes available as well (all of which contain egg), including the classic pad thai (traditional Thai rice noodles, mixed with beansprouts and roasted peanuts) - as with the curries and stir-fried dishes, the noodle dishes come with a choice of extra fillings, with some slight variations between each option.
Address: 1 King Henry I Street, Portsmouth PO1 2PT
For typical pub grub, why not consider The Fleet in Portsmouth? Found a short walk from Portsmouth & Southsea station, the Fleet is ideally-located if you're in the centre of Portsmouth itself and want something to eat. Starting a meal off with a variety of small plates is something that's become more popular in recent year, and at the Fleet, the available options here include chicken wings in a variety of sauces, scampi (crispy breaded scampi with tartare sauce), and a topped Doritos starter (garlic & herb sauce, jalapeños, tomato salsa, spring onion). There are a wide variety of main courses, including a 10oz smothered rump steak (cheese sauce, button mushrooms, beer-battered onion rings, chips, half a grilled tomato, peas), a 'Vegan Bombay' burger (grilled plant-based soya burgers, Violife Cheeze slices, burger sauce, crushed poppadom, Bombay sauce, topped Doritos, iceberg lettuce, gherkin, chopped onion, chips), and a 'BBQ chicken, bacon, and cheese sauce melt' (served with chips, half a grilled tomato, and peas). To end the meal on a sweet note, why not go for the chocolate brownie (vanilla ice-cream, Belgian chocolate sauce, crumbled chocolate pieces), the loaded sundae (vanilla ice-cream, Belgian chocolate sauce, Lotus Biscoff sauce, marshmallows, Lotus Biscoff crumb), or the sticky toffee sponge pud (topped with Lotus Biscoff crumb, with ice-cream, non-dairy custard, or vanilla non-dairy ice-cream)?
Address: 62 Elm Grove, Portsmouth PO5 1JG
Found in nearby Southsea, Huis is a Belgian-themed bar serving a wide variety of dishes. Interestingly, many of the dishes have a beer matched to them, which is perhaps ideal if you're a beer drinker and want to try something new. Available small plates include Belgian onion soup (onion soup made with HUIS 5 blond beer served with Gruyère-topped sourdough), baked Camembert (cooked with rosemary, topped with figs, honey, and almonds, served with sourdough toasts), and a charcuterie platter (French cheeses, cured meats, salamis, and accompaniments, served with toasted sourdough). There are a number of different croques available, including the classic croque monsieur (grilled sourdough sandwich with Gruyère and cheddar, and pulled honey ham). If you like mussels, then you've got plenty of options to choose from, including the clasic moules marinière (classic garlic butter, white wine, parsley, celery, shallots, garlic). For those who might want something a bit more traditional, then options can include the duck confit (duck confit with Floris Passionfruit beer reduction, Kirsch cherries, potato dauphinoise, and pak choi), the pork belly (pork belly slowly roasted in Lindemans Apple beer, served with stoemp and seasonal vegetables, finished with apple beer and mustard reduction), and a halloumi rosti (seasonal vegetable rosti with butternut squash purée, fried halloumi, parsnip crisps, almonds, honey). For those who enjoy meatballs, there are a number of options here, including tomaat (tomato and HUIS Pilsner) and green curry (green coconut curry, topped with green onion, toasted almonds, and lime). Desserts are based around the classic Belgian waffle, and toppings include a spiced apple waffle (cinnamon ice-cream served with spiced apple compôte and butterscotch), banana-speculoos waffle (speculoos-infused waffle with caramelised banana, speculoos cream, and salted caramel ice-cream), and boozy Eton Mess waffle (strawberries macerated in Cariel vanilla vodka, Braeckmann's vanilla genever chantilly cream, crunchy meringue, raspberry ripple ice-cream, raspberry coulis).
Viet Quan Café
Address: 1 Landport Terrace, Portsmouth PO1 2RG
Found on the western edge of Southsea, Viet Quan is a well-rated restaurant serving Vietnamese cuisine. It's a short walk from Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery, so could be a very viable option if you go on a visit there. Available starters include Vietnamese steamed buns (homemade fluffy steamed bun filled with savoury pork, egg, and Vietnamese sausage), chicken wings (tossed in garlic and seasoned fish sauce), and summer rolls (rice paper filled with vermicelli, salad, fresh herbs, and one of three additional fillings [prawn, grilled pork, or tofu], served with peanut dipping sauce). Small plate dishes include minced beef in chilli & lemongrass (pan-fried and garnished with mint leaves & coriander, served with sesame seed crackers), chargrilled pork skewers (sliced seasoned pork skewers topped with peanut and crispy shallot), and salt & pepper tofu (crispy fried tofu in garlic and shallot). For noodles and baguess, your choices include the Vietnamese classic bánh mì (homemade baguette, pickled carrot and daikon radish, pâté, cucumber, coriander, spring onion), noodle soup (aromatic broth served with white flat noodles, bean sprouts, red onion, herbs), and stir-fried vermicelli with mixed vegetables), and chargrilled pork vermicelli (served with vermicelli, pickled carrot and daikon radish, salad, herbs, optional roasted peanuts, homemade fish sauce). A number of options in the preceding section offer a choice of additional fillings, with vegetarian and vegan options also available. Rice-based dishes are also available, including curry (slow-cooked with onion, potato and carrot, with additional fillings of chicken, prawn, or a vegetarian option - can also be served with a warm baguette instead of rice), chicken, chilli and lemongrass, and roast duck breast (served with pickled carrot and daikon).
Address: 104 St Pauls Roads, Southsea, Portsmouth
If you want something perhaps a bit different, then maybe Leilamezze's Lebanese cuisine will be of interest. Found on St Paul's Road, it's also on the edge of the University of Portsmouth's main campus. Starting a Lebanese meal usually involves a series of cold and hot mezze dishes, all of which are served with flatbread, and many of which are suitable for vegetarians/vegans - several of the mezze dishes are also gluten-free. Available mezze dishes include humus (creamy chickpea purée blended with lemon and tahini), arrayes and cheese (seasoned mincemeat served in a flatbread), and tabbouleh salad (chopped parsley, diced tomato, and bulgur with a citrus kick). The BBQ grills and mains section includes 'shish taouk' (garlic chicken breast pieces served with house garlic sauce), 'kofta kebab' (herby mincemeat skewers served with house tahini sauce), and a mixed grill (mixed platter of shish taouk, lamb shish, kofta kebab, and lamb chop). If you fancy something that's perhaps a bit lighter, the wraps can be a very good shout - these include the meat shawarma wrap (lamb with parsley, salad, and house tahini sauce), the vegan shawarma wrap (seitan with parsely, tomato, pickles, and house tahini sauce), and the chicken & halloumi wrap (garlic chicken and grilled halloumi with salad).
Address: Unit R02, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth PO1 3TZ
A short walk from Portsmouth Harbour station and the Spinnaker Tower lies the Gunwharf Quays shopping complex, built on the site of the former HM Gunwharf, which has history dating back to 1706. One of the establishments in Gunwharf Quays is The Alchemist, a popular chain of bars renowned for their cocktails, with a particular focus on the theatrics of how they're made and presented. It's truly a sight to behold. The Alchemist doesn't just serve drinks, though - they also have a well-crafted food menu if you wish to spend more time there. If you want some nibbles to start your meal off, then this can include salt & pepper edamame beans or chorizo & cheddar doughballs with your choice of cheese level. Starters themselves include pan-fried gyoza with a sweet chilli dip (choose from chicken or vegetable - if you buy this dish, then the Alchemist's charity partner Foodinate will provide a hot meal to someone in need), Cubano pork bon bons (Cuban spiced pulled pork, pickled red onion, apple sauce), and salt 'n' pepper squid with miso mayo. There are sharing platters available as well, including duck pancakes with the usual trimmings. Available main courses include steak (teriyaki glaze, crispy oyster mushrooms, green sauce, and choice of three additional sauces), crispy curried fish (seasonal fish, coconut curry sauce, herb oil, snap peas, samphire, crispy noodles, jasmine rice), and smoking boards with a choice of four different fillings (served with slaw, guacamole, sour cream, cheese melt, grilled peppers & onion, cola glaze, tortillas). To finish the meal on a sweet note, why not consider the chocolate cookie s'mores (soft warm cookies, vanilla gelato, torched marshmallow, freeze-dried raspberries, warm chocolate sauce), the passionfruit pancakes (pancakes, passionfruit, toffee crispies, lemon curd, burnt white chocolate, miso butterscotch, passionfruit cream), or the next-level chocolate brownie (vanilla gelato, miso caramel, chocolate togarashi snap - this dessert also has a plant-based version available)?
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If you fancy getting some shopping done while in Portsmouth, then the two best options here would be to go to Gunwharf Quays near the docks or Cascades Shopping Centre in the centre of the city. The famous novelist Charles Dickens was born in the city, and the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum on Old Commercial Road to the north of the city centre is a great way to learn more about the history of the writer. A statue of Dickens can also be found near Portsmouth Guildhall. If you would like to take in some of the local green space, then Victoria Park is next door to Portsmouth & Southsea station. The park itself is undergoing a restoration project over the next few years, with focuses on the community, the heritage, and the environment. If you don't mind going a little further afield, then Southsea Common is well worth a look, with it incorporating the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. In addition to these, there is also Milton Common on the eastern edge of Portsea Island. Just to the east of Southsea Common is Southsea Model Village, which is a lovely little attraction for all the family.
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Maximise your Portsmouth experience by extending your stay in this historic city. Whether you're drawn to its maritime heritage, cultural sites, or scenic beauty, Portsmouth provides diverse accommodation options for every preference and budget. Uncover the ideal place to unwind and rejuvenate for another day of exploration.
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