Famed for its maritime heritage, the waterfront city of Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, is a great day trip or weekend city break destination for a touch of nautical history. It was also the birthplace of author Charles Dickens, so expect its prominent literary heritage to appear on your Portsmouth itinerary, too. The city also has a modern side, however, with a great cluster of museums and galleries, live music venues, buzzing nightlife, amazing shopping, and a lively football stadium, to name a few.
What to see and do in Portsmouth
- Emirates Spinnaker Tower: Portsmouth's skyline is pretty much defined by the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, a striking 170 metre-high building on Gunwharf Quays with two huge white arcs resembling billowing sails. Views from the top span over the Isle of Wight and the South Downs, and there are various observation decks, including one with a glass floor (eek!) and another roofless 'Crow's Nest' in the open air. Tickets are 10% cheaper if you book online at least 24 hours before you go (£9.90 online, £11 on the day), so it's best to plan ahead.
- Gunwharf Quays: Located right on the waterfront, Gunwharf Quays is one of the best shopping destinations in town and is home to over 90 outlet stores offering great discounts on many well known brands. There are also a ton of restaurants and cafes, a cinema, bowling alley, art gallery, nightclub, and casino, sorting any necessary rainy day entertainment.
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard: Another waterfront attraction is the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home to Lord Nelson's Battle of Trafalgar warship HMS Victory, Henry VIII's 16th century warship, the Mary Rose, and its connecting museum, and the World War Two submarine HMS Alliance. The 'Any Three Attractions' ticket provides a good value way to see a variety of the Dockyard's offerings (£32).
- Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum: A trip to Portsmouth wouldn't be complete without learning about one of its most famous residents. The Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum is located in the modest house where this great writer was born, and includes furnishings and decorations re-created in the Regency style of his parents' generation. There is also a shop selling his best works, biographies, and souvenirs. Admission costs £4.20.
- Fratton Park football stadium: If footy is your thing, why not head to Fratton Park, the home of Portsmouth FC (known fondly as Pompey)? Take a guided tour of the stadium for a behind-the-scenes peek at the team's home turf (£10).
Getting to Portsmouth
Portsmouth is centrally located on the south coast of England and is well connected by rail, road, and ferry links.
If you're driving, the city is only an hour from London, and about an hour and 45 minutes from Oxford. It's best to leave your car in the car park just off the M275 and use the Park and Ride service to get into the city, costing £4 per day. Buses and coaches also provide easy access to the city, and connect Portsmouth to much of the UK.
If you're coming from further afield or fancy a day trip out of Portsmouth, there are also international ferry links to France, Spain, and the Channel Islands, as well as UK links to the Isle of Wight, Gosport, and Hayling Island.