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 Portsmouth Cathedral, 12 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 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.
By trainPortsmouth & Southsea station has National Rail trains run frequently from London Waterloo and take between 1 hr 30 min and 1 hr 40 min via Haslemere. Or about 2 hr 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 hr 40 min), Cardiff (3 hr 10 min) via Bath and Bristol; and Southampton (1 hour). There are also direct trains from Gatwick Airport (1 hr 20 min). Alight at Portsmouth & Southsea station for Portsmouth City Centre shopping, Portsmouth Guildhall and a short walk to the seafront.
Alight at for the Historic Dockyard, Gunwharf Quays, the Spinnaker Tower and ferries to the Isle of Wight.
Alight at Fratton station for Fratton Park football stadium.
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. 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.
By carPortsmouth 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. The large majority of residential roads have a 20 mph (~32 km/h) speed limit.
Parking is plentiful 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. 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 Hard. The buses run until the early or late evening depending on the day. There 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.
By busLocal 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.
By boatSince Portsmouth is the 'Waterfront City', there are numerous options for arriving by boat from near and far.
There are ferry services from four ports in Normandy and Brittany.
Brittany Ferries, up to 3 a day, 5 hr 45 min
- Condor Ferries, 1 Sunday service, 5 hr
Brittany Ferries, 1 a day, 3-hr fast service
Brittany Ferries 1 a day, 8 hr 15min overnight
- Brittany Ferries, up to 2 a day, 9 hr overnight or in the daytime
There are services from two ports in northern Spain (the Basque Country and Cantabria.
Brittany Ferries, 'cruise style' 2 a week (W: 24 hr, and Su: 32 hr), 'économie' 1 a week (Tu: 28 hr).
- Brittany Ferries, 3 a week (Tu F Su: 24 hr).
From the Channel Islands
There are services from the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.
Condor Ferries, 1 a day, 6hr 30min
- Condor Ferries, 1 a day, 10hr 30min
From the Isle of WightThe Isle of Wight is under 60 min by ferry or 10 min by hovercraft.
Wightlink, ever 30 mins, journey time 35 mins
- Wightlink, every 30 mins, journey time 15 min
- Hovertravel, every 30 mins, journey time 15 min.
From GosportThe Gosport Ferry runs every 7 min at peak times and every 15 min at other times until midnight for £3.30 return.
From Hayling IslandThe Hayling Ferry is a foot and cyclist ferry from Ferry Point on Hayling Island to Eastney that typically runs hourly for £5.50 return.
By planeThe nearest airport is Southampton Airport (SOU), around 20 mi (32 km) from Portsmouth in Eastleigh. Over 47 European and domestic 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.
By busSeveral bus companies operate within Portsmouth and the surrounding areas: Firstgroup and Stagecoach
A day travel ticket can be bought for £4.50 for FirstBus only. 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.Uber operates in the city.
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 DockyardLocated in the naval base, the Historic Dockyard has a number of historic ships including the Mary Rose, HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. 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.
phone: +44 23 9285 7520address: Gunwharf QuaysThis 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.
Southsea CastleBuilt 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 World War II. Contains a rather random selection of cannon that have ended up in the collection of Portsmouth city council over the years.
Southsea Seafront4 miles of seafront promenade backed by gorgeous green spaces and gardens.
phone: +44 7825 558231address: Lumps Fort, Eastney Esplanade, PO4 9RU
Southsea Rose gardenInside the 19th-century Lumps Fort.
phone: +44 23 9282 3300address: High St, PO1 2HHA Romanesque Anglican cathedral in the old town.
phone: +44 23 9282 6170address: Bishop Crispian Way, PO1 3HQA Catholic cathedral in the city centre.
Royal Garrison Churchphone: +44 23 9237 8291address: PO1 2NJA partly roofless English Heritage property. Only occasionally open to the public.
phone: +44 23 9281 9385address: SouthseaCovers 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.
phone: +44 23 9287 5222address: Clarence Esplanade, SouthseaTake an undersea safari at the aquarium on the seafront.
Charles Dickens Birthplace Museumaddress: 393 Old Commercial RdThe famous writer Charles Dickens was born in this modest house in 1812.
Cumberland House Natural History Museumphone: +44 23 9281 5276address: Eastern Parade, PO4 9RFA fairly limited collection.
address: Museum Rd, PO1 2LJHome of the Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes exhibition "A Study in Sherlock".
phone: +44 23 9237 8291address: Church Road, Portchester, PO16 9QWAbout 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 a 10-min walk north.
Portsdown HillOffers 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 NelsonSits just on Portsdown Hill and is free of charge to visit.
phone: +44 23 9282 8112address: Southsea, PO5 3AERelax on the 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 look for the chain in the pavement.
Clarence PierA small fairground close to the Hoverport with rides and amusement arcades.
address: Southsea, PO5 3NTListen to live music here every Sunday in the summer.
address: Fratton Park, Frogmore Rd, PO4 8RAPortsmouth FC play soccer in League 1, the third tier of English football.
Portsmouth Rugby Football Clubphone: +44 23 9266 0610address: Norway Road, PO3 5EP
- 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 CentreUsual high street names, but has Miss Selfridge, Topshop, H&M, New Look and Primark next to one another.
Gunwharf QuaysOutlet 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 CentreA variety of small specialist shops, boutiques, art shops, delis, home furnishings. Also Debenhams and Knight & Lee.
Albert RoadA good bet for smaller (independent) shops, second-hand goods and antiques.
The American Barphone: +44 23 9281 1585address: 58 White Hart RdOld Portsmouth. Modern European cuisine. Also great but you can drop a lot of money in this place, which has great service!
Bangkokphone: +44 23 9242 9922address: 64 Albert RoadA 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 Housephone: +44 23 9282 8382address: 88 Albert RoadChinese takeaway.
phone: +44 23 9275 5944address: 87 Elm Grove, SouthseaFrench/modern European. Wonderful wine selection food and atmosphere.
Sur La Merphone: +44 23 9287 6678address: 69 Palmerston RoadFrench.
phone: +44 23 9281 7278address: Gunwharf QuaysItalian.
- 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 Brasserriephone: +44 23 9282 1661address: Albert RoadVery 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 Takeawayphone: +44 23 9282 4720address: 234 Fratton RoadProbably 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.
- 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 Deco. Friendly rock and alternative, sometimes metal bar.
phone: +44 23 9283 2333address: Vernon Buildings, PO1 3TYA traditional pub in a historic building, within a modern setting. Great ales and food.
phone: +44 23 9288 2244address: Gunwharf Rd, PO1 3TPA place for a big night out - with 8 different bars, a club and restaurant in the same building!
phone: +44 23 9282 1567address: 2 Bath Square, PO1 2JLA pub with a good view of harbour entrance and restaurant upstairs.
phone: +44 23 9287 0543address: 1 Bath Square, PO1 2JLAlso has amazing views of the harbour in action and a good restaurant.
Bed and Breakfast at No3phone: +44 23 9234 9929address: 3 Bellevue TerraceWithin walking distance of local attractions.
Florence House Hotel and Somerset House Hotelphone: +44 23 9275 1666address: 2 Malvern RoadThe city's only boutique accommodation just back from the seafront, these upmarket hotels are in easy reach of everything.
phone: +44 23 9264 0000address: Winston Churchill AvenueAlso good, near the Portsmouth & Southsea train station.
Pembroke Park Hotelphone: +44 23 9229 6817address: 1 Bellevue Terrace, SouthseaMinutes from the old town and the seafront. Portsmouth and Southsea are within easy walking distance.
phone: +44 23 9282 2466A 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!)
phone: +44 23 9287 6156With 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.
phone: +44 23 9283 2495address: 4 Florence RdIn Southsea. Not easy to get to but is cheap and friendly.
Spitbank FortThe lighthouse has been refurbished and has accommodation.
Holiday Inn Express Portsmouth - Gunwharf Quaysphone: +44 23 9289 4240address: The Plaza, Gunwharf Quays
phone: +44 23 9282 6971address: 65 Festing Rd, SouthseaPrivately 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.
phone: 0871 984 6208 (high cost)address: Kingston Crescent, North EndThe Portsmouth hotel is within easy reach of the Continental ferry port and the Isle of Wight ferry. Conveniently located very close to the centre of this historic naval city, with the thriving shopping and leisure centre and Gunwharf Quays all nearby.
phone: 0871 559 1841 (high cost)address: Copnor Road, HilseaThe Portsmouth Hilsea hotel is a great base for fitness fanatics with Hillsea Lido, the rugby club and fitness centres within jogging distance. There's also a great running track along the water.
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.
- 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, on 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
- Brighton - One direct train per hour takes 80 minutes to this buzzy resort.