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Portsmouth

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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 557 ft (170 m) 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.

Understand

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.

Get in

By train

1 Portsmouth & 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 2 Portsmouth Harbour station for the Historic Dockyard, Gunwharf Quays, the Spinnaker Tower and ferries to the Isle of Wight.

Alight at 3 Fratton station for Fratton Park football stadium.

4 Hilsea station 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 car

Portsmouth 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 bus

Local 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 boat

See also: Ferry routes to Great Britain

Since Portsmouth is the 'Waterfront City', there are numerous options for arriving by boat from near and far.

From France

There are ferry services from four ports in Normandy and Brittany.

  • Caen
    • Brittany Ferries, up to 3 a day, 5 hr 45 min
  • Cherbourg
    • Condor Ferries, 1 Sunday service, 5 hr
    • Brittany Ferries, 1 a day, 3-hr fast service
  • Le Havre
    • Brittany Ferries 1 a day, 8 hr 15min overnight
  • Saint-Malo
    • Brittany Ferries, up to 2 a day, 9 hr overnight or in the daytime

From Spain

There are services from two ports in northern Spain (the Basque Country and Cantabria.

  • Bilbao
    • Brittany Ferries, 'cruise style' 2 a week (W: 24 hr, and Su: 32 hr), 'économie' 1 a week (Tu: 28 hr).
  • Santander
    • 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.

  • Guernsey
    • Condor Ferries, 1 a day, 6hr 30min
  • Jersey
    • Condor Ferries, 1 a day, 10hr 30min

Local services

From the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is under 60 min by ferry or 10 min by hovercraft.

  • Fishbourne
    • Wightlink, ever 30 mins, journey time 35 mins
  • Ryde
    • Wightlink, every 30 mins, journey time 15 min
    • Hovertravel, every 30 mins, journey time 15 min.
From Gosport

The Gosport Ferry runs every 7 min at peak times and every 15 min at other times until midnight for £3.30 return.

From Hayling Island

The 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 plane

The nearest airport is 5 Southampton Airport (SOU IATA), around 20 mi (32 km) from Portsmouth in EastleighOver 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.

Get around

By bus

Several 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)

See

  • 1 Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Located 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. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 2 Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays, ☏ +44 2392 857520. Daily 10AM-6PM (until 10PM Sa and every day during Jul and Aug). This 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. Adult £7, child £5.50, concessions £6.20. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 3 Southsea Castle. Built 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. (updated Feb 2021)
  • Southsea Seafront. 4 miles of seafront promenade backed by gorgeous green spaces and gardens. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 4 Southsea model village, Lumps Fort, Eastney Esplanade, PO4 9RU (seafront), ☏ +44 7825 558231. 10:30AM-5:00PM. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 5 Southsea Rose garden. Inside the 19th-century Lumps Fort. (updated Nov 2017)

Churches

  • 6 Portsmouth Cathedral (The Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury), High St, PO1 2HH, ☏ +44 2392 823300. A Romanesque Anglican cathedral in the old town. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 7 St John's Catholic Cathedral, Bishop Crispian Way, PO1 3HQ, ☏ +44 2392 826170. A Catholic cathedral in the city centre. (updated Nov 2017)
  • Royal Garrison Church (Domus Dei (Hospital of Saint Nicholas and Saint John the Baptist)), PO1 2NJ, ☏ +44 2392 378291. Tu-Sa 11AM-4PM. A partly roofless English Heritage property. Only occasionally open to the public. (updated Nov 2017)

Museums

  • 9 Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, ☏ +44 2392 819385, fax: +44 2392 838420, ✉ info@royalmarinesmuseum.co.uk. Daily 10AM-5PM (except Dec 24-26). Covers 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. Adult £9. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 10 D-Day Museum. Daily (except 24-26 Dec) Apr-Oct 10AM-5:30PM; Nov-Mar 10AM-5PM. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 11 Blue Reef Aquarium, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, ☏ +44 23 9287 5222. Daily except 25 Dec 10AM-6PM (Nov-Mar until 5PM). Take an undersea safari at the aquarium on the seafront. Adult £9.75. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 12 Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, 393 Old Commercial Rd. Daily from mid Apr-Dec 10AM-5:30PM. The famous writer Charles Dickens was born in this modest house in 1812. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 13 Cumberland House Natural History Museum, Eastern Parade, PO4 9RF, ☏ +44 2392 815276. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. A fairly limited collection. Free. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 14 City Museum & Records Office, Museum Rd, PO1 2LJ. Home of the Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes exhibition "A Study in Sherlock". (updated Feb 2021)

Further afield

  • 15 Portchester Castle, Church Road, Portchester, PO16 9QW, ☏ +44 2392 378291. About 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. adults £5.00, children £3.00, concessions £4.50. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 16 Portsdown Hill. Offers 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. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 17 The Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson. Sits just on Portsdown Hill and is free of charge to visit. (updated Nov 2017)

Do

  • 1 Southsea Common, Southsea, PO5 3AE, ☏ +44 2392 828112. Relax on the common with a picnic or barbecue. See this guide for where they are permitted. (updated Nov 2017)
  • Follow the Renaissance Trail around the Millennium Promenade, a self-guided walk with information along the way -- look for the chain in the pavement.
  • 2 Clarence Pier. A small fairground close to the Hoverport with rides and amusement arcades. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 3 The Bandstand, Southsea, PO5 3NT. Listen to live music here every Sunday in the summer. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 4 Portsmouth FC, Fratton Park, Frogmore Rd, PO4 8RA. Portsmouth FC play soccer in League 1, the third tier of English football. (updated Aug 2018)
  • 5 Portsmouth Rugby Football Club, Norway Road, PO3 5EP, ☏ +44 2392 660610. (updated Oct 2018)
  • Victorious Music Festival, Southsea Seafront (2020 venue), ✉ info@victoriousfestival.co.uk. 28-30 August 2020. This annual music festival has been running since 2012 with big name acts such as Ray Davies headlining and up to 80,000 people attending.  

Learn

  • 1 The University of Portsmouth. A modern university with a population of about 20,000 students. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 2 Highbury College. (updated Feb 2021)

Buy

  • 1 Portsmouth City Centre (Commercial Road & Cascades). Usual high street names, but has Miss Selfridge, Topshop, H&M, New Look and Primark next to one another. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 2 Gunwharf Quays. Outlet 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. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 3 Southsea Town Centre. A variety of small specialist shops, boutiques, art shops, delis, home furnishings. Also Debenhams and Knight & Lee. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 4 Albert Road. A good bet for smaller (independent) shops, second-hand goods and antiques. (updated Nov 2017)

Eat

Portsmouth has hundreds of restaurants catering to all tastes. Towards Fareham, the marina Port Solent offers a variety of restaurants in a pleasant environment with a multiplex movie theatre nearby, and ample (free) onsite parking.

  • 1 The American Bar, 58 White Hart Rd, ☏ +44 2392 811585. Old Portsmouth. Modern European cuisine. Also great but you can drop a lot of money in this place, which has great service! (updated Feb 2021)
  • 2 Bangkok, 64 Albert Road, ☏ +44 2392 429922. A nice Thai place where you can take your own drink. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 3 Mozzarella Joes, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, ☏ +44 2392 295004. 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. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 4 Regal House, 88 Albert Road, ☏ +44 2392 828382. Chinese takeaway. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 5 Rosie's Vineyard, 87 Elm Grove, Southsea, ☏ +44 2392 755944. French/modern European. Wonderful wine selection food and atmosphere. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 6 Sur La Mer, 69 Palmerston Road, ☏ +44 2392 876678. French. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 7 Strada, Gunwharf Quays, ☏ +44 2392 817278. Italian. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 8 The Tenth Hole Tea Room (next to mini-golf course), ☏ +44 2392 817278. Great for light lunch but the highlight is the amazing home-made cakes. (updated Feb 2021)

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.

  • 9 The Bombay Brasserrie, Albert Road, ☏ +44 2392 821661. Very popular curry house that offers very good value for money and that lets you bring your own drinks. Arrive early. (updated Feb 2021)

Best Indian takeaway:

  • 10 The Indian Ocean Takeaway, 234 Fratton Road, ☏ +44 2392 824720. Probably 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. (updated Feb 2021)

Drink

  • Guildhall Walk and around the railway station has bars such as Walkabout, Yates and Wetherspoons, and clubs Route 66 and Babylon. The area is well-policed but keep your wits about you.

Southsea

  • Albert Road is main drag, with student pubs, wine bars, cafe-bars and Indian restaurants. Palmerston Road also has several.
  • 1 The Fat Fox, 11-13 Victoria Rd S, Southsea PO5 2SP. Nice relaxed atmosphere, beer garden, traditional English pub menu. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 2 The Wine Vaults, 41-47 Albert Rd, Southsea PO5 2SF. Good cask ales and great atmosphere, arrive early if you want a seat. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 3 Hole in the Wall, 36 Great Southsea St, Southsea PO5 3BY. Small pub with a traditional feel and real ales. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 4 The Honest Politician, 47 Elm Grove, Southsea PO5 1JF. A pub with pool tables and a relaxed atmosphere, and always a rocking soundtrack. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 5 The Deco, 128 Elm Grove, Southsea PO5 1LR. Friendly rock and alternative, sometimes metal bar. (updated Feb 2021)

Gunwharf Quays

  • This area has over 20 bars and restaurants, many with waterfront views.
  • 6 The Old Customs House, Vernon Buildings, PO1 3TY, ☏ +44 2392 832333. A traditional pub in a historic building, within a modern setting. Great ales and food. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 7 Tiger Tiger, Gunwharf Rd, PO1 3TP, ☏ +44 2392 882244. A place for a big night out - with 8 different bars, a club and restaurant in the same building! (updated Nov 2017)

Old Portsmouth

  • 8 The Still & West, 2 Bath Square, PO1 2JL, ☏ +44 2392 821567. A pub with a good view of harbour entrance and restaurant upstairs. (updated Nov 2017)
  • 9 Spice Island Inn, 1 Bath Square, PO1 2JL, ☏ +44 2392 870543. Also has amazing views of the harbour in action and a good restaurant. (updated Nov 2017)

Sleep

Accommodation in Portsmouth can be browsed online via the official VisitPortsmouth website and the Visitor Info Centre can make bookings/check availability on your behalf: +44 2392 826722.

  • 1 Bed and Breakfast at No3, 3 Bellevue Terrace, ☏ +44 2392 349929. Within walking distance of local attractions. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 2 Florence House Hotel and Somerset House Hotel, 2 Malvern Road, ☏ +44 2392 751666. The city's only boutique accommodation just back from the seafront, these upmarket hotels are in easy reach of everything. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 3 Ibis Portsmouth Centre, Winston Churchill Avenue, ☏ +44 2392 640000. Also good, near the Portsmouth & Southsea train station. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 4 Pembroke Park Hotel, 1 Bellevue Terrace, Southsea, ☏ +44 2392 296817. Minutes from the old town and the seafront. Portsmouth and Southsea are within easy walking distance. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 5 Queen's Hotel, ☏ +44 2392 822466, ✉ queenshotelports@aol.com. A 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!) (updated Feb 2021)
  • 6 Sandringham Hotel, ☏ +44 2392 876156, ✉ steve@sandringhamhotelsouthsea.co.uk. With 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. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 7 Southsea Backpackers, 4 Florence Rd, ☏ +44 2392 832495, ✉ bookings@portsmouthbackpackers.co.uk. In Southsea. Not easy to get to but is cheap and friendly. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 8 Spitbank Fort. The lighthouse has been refurbished and has accommodation. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 9 Holiday Inn Express Portsmouth - Gunwharf Quays, The Plaza, Gunwharf Quays, ☏ +44 2392 894240. (updated Feb 2021)
  • 10 Travelodge Portsmouth, Kingston Crescent, North End, ☏ +44 8719 846208 (high cost). The 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. (updated Apr 2019)
  • 11 Travelodge Portsmouth Hilsea, Copnor Road, Hilsea, ☏ +44 8715 591841 (high cost). The 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. (updated Apr 2019)

Stay safe

As with most other large English cities, there can be a problem with violence around the city centre at weekends, around pub and club closing times (around 11PM and 2AM), but with a little common sense, the risk is minor.

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 2392 826722).

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.

Go next

  • 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.



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