Discover Historic Portsmouth

Portsmouth is steeped in history, its main historical importance being the harbour. Portsmouth harbour has been the home of Britain’s Navy since the Medieval times. The narrow entrance and the forts surrounding it meant it was virtually impregnable to attack from the sea. Not only is Portsmouth home to the Royal Navy, but also offers channel crossing routes to France and Spain and a route across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. 

If you’ve only ever passed through Portsmouth on your way to one of the ferry ports but not stopped off, then now’s the time to do so. There’s so much more to Portsmouth than the Navy and ferry ports, it’s a great place to spend a day out and just a 20 minute drive from Wallops Wood. 

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
First and foremost, the Historic Dockyard, adjacent to the Naval base, is well worth a day out in itself. From HMS Warrior to the Victory, the Mary Rose Museum to Action Stations for the kids, there’s something for everyone. Your ticket also includes entry to the Submarine Museum in Gosport. It’ll take more than a day to get around it all! There are also harbour boat trips you can take from the Dockyard. Find out more…

HMS Victory at the Historic Dockyard
HMS Victory at the Historic Dockyard

Old Portsmouth
The most historic part of Portsmouth is Old Portsmouth, with some magnificent Georgian buildings. It’s worth visiting this part of the City just to stroll around some of its beautiful streets. You can include a stop off to visit the Cathedral, an important part of Portsmouth’s history, which dates back to 1182. Find out more about the Cathedral…

Southsea
Southsea makes up a large part of Portsea Island, becoming a popular seaside resort in the Victorian times. There’s loads to do in Southsea as part of your day out in Portsmouth. Attractions include Southsea Pier for some fun and entertainment – a must as part of a day out at a British seaside resort! While you’re on the sea front, a stop off at Blue Reef Aquarium to see the amazing sea life is also well worth the visit. Learn about our sea creatures, conservation efforts and wonder at some of the residents of the aquarium which include turtles, crabs, sea horses, stingrays and even some piranhas! Find out more about the Aquarium…

Southsea Castle
Southsea Castle

Southsea Castle
Beyond Southsea’s sea front and pier, there are more historic attractions. Southsea Castle, located at the east end of Clarence Esplanade, was one of a series of forts constructed for King Henry VIII in what was the most ambitious scheme of coastal defence since Roman times. The castle was built in great haste in 1544, prompted by Henry VIII’s fears of a French attack on Portsmouth. Worth a stop off and entry is free. Find out more…

D Day Museum 
Also on Clarence Esplanade, this fascinating museum tells the D Day story through personal accounts of the people who were there. Stories are brought to life through audio-visual presentations alongside historic objects from the museum’s collection. Find out more…

Eastney Engine Houses
These engine houses were built between 1865 and 1904 to accommodate pumps and sewage works that served the growing population of Victorian Portsmouth. Today you can visit the restored buildings and machines within them that showcase the impressive engineering of the Victorian era. Free entry. Find out more…

Charles Dickens Birthplace
Back in central Portsmouth is Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, where you can explore and experience the work of one of England’s most famous writers. There are three furnished rooms you can visit – the parlour, the dining room and the bedroom where Dickens was born. The exhibition room features a display on Charles Dickens and Portsmouth as well as a small collection of memorabilia. Find out more…

Portsmouth Museum & Art Gallery
Portsmouth Museum & Art Gallery

Portsmouth Museum & Art Gallery
Learn about Portsmouth’s heritage, discover the world of Sherlock Holmes, see fascinating works of art, trace the history of Portsmouth FC and lots more. You can also visit their new exhibition, Silver City: 500 Years of Portsmouth’s History, an exciting exhibition showcasing invaluable pieces of civic silver, many of which have never before been on public display. Free entry. Find out more…

Cumberland House Natural History Museum
Portsmouth’s natural history museum has an array of interesting artefacts on display including a butterfly house, an observational beehive, ancient geology and an a-z of natural history. There’s lots to see and learn about and entry is free. Find out more…

Gunwharf Quays
Not a historic monument, although Gunwharf Quays was built on disused Naval land (formerly HM Gunwharf) and is very close to the Historic Dockyard. This was one of several facilities where cannons, ammunition and other armaments were stored, repaired and serviced ready for use on land or at sea. Later known as HMS Vernon, the site closed in 1995 and opened to the public as Gunwharf Quays on 28 February 2001. Now known for its array of shops, cafes, restaurants and nightlife, it’s a popular destination for visitors to Portsmouth. Find out more…

Spinnaker Tower
If you’re visiting Gunwharf, then a stop off up the Spinnaker Tower is a must! This 170m tall tower offers stunning 23 mile views over Portsmouth Harbour, the city, the Solent, the South Downs and the Isle of Wight. The tower also boasts a high speed lift and three sky-high viewing decks. While you’re there you could also treat yourself to ‘High Tea in the Clouds’ and enjoy either a brunch high tea or traditional afternoon high tea. Advance booking is recommended for the tea. Find out more…

Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth
Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth