12 Best Things to Do in Portsmouth (UK!)

Welcome to Portsmouth! The English city I now call home. It’s a vibrant place to be, bursting with lively attractions, historical wonders, and that delightful seaside charm. From naval museums to a wonderful waterfront wander, this coastal gem has plenty to entertain you. Let me take you through the best things to do in Portsmouth, and where to find them.

I’ve lived in Portsmouth since 2017 – can’t actually believe it’s been that long. Coming up to longer than I lived in London – shocker!

I’ve definitely got to know the city and area well in that time, what with the whole lockdown and everything. I know exactly what to do in Portsmouth, so here are the best Portsmouth attractions to keep you entertained while you’re here.

From cool cafes and bookshops, to nationally renowned museums, and all the fun of the seaside this is what to plan into your Portsmouth itinerary for some good times ahead.

All the Best Things to Do in Portsmouth

1. Stroll along Southsea Promenade

Begin your relaxed journey by leisurely strolling along Southsea Promenade, a delightful stretch overlooking the (occasionally) azure waters of the Solent. Feel the gentle sea breeze caress your face as you amble past vibrant beach huts, inviting cafes, the odd food stand, and charming gardens.

southsea beaches

Take a moment to pause on the nostalgic South Parade Pier, basking in the views and the sound of waves lapping against the wooden structure. Grab a swirly ice cream from the Ice Cream Emporium and enjoy the taste as you wander round the pier, or simply find a serene spot to sit and watch the world go by.

Visit Southsea

The promenade is one of the many reasons I love living in Southsea. If you’re visiting Portsmouth, you should definitely check it out!

There’s loads of parking on the seafront, or park around Canoe Lake for a few hours of freebie.

2. Relax on Southsea Beach

Want to soak up some sun and seaside vibes? Look no further than Southsea Beach!

Take a dip in the bracing waters, bring something soft to lie on the shingles in the sun, or just park yourself on the promenade to watch it all unfurl. Southsea Beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Portsmouth.

It’s a great place to practice your sea paddle boarding skills – if the weather and conditions are right!

Look, this video I made will take you through everything you need to know about Southsea Beach…

Check out my Southsea Beach Guide for more on what to do when you get there. It’s a must do in Southsea.

travel in portsmouth

Getting around Portsmouth

First Bus have recently spent over £28 million on a fleet of 62 zero emissions electric buses. These buses mean cleaner air and quieter streets for the locals, and offer passengers a smoother, more comfortable ride. On board they’re fitted with USB charging points, on screen and audio announcements, and the latest in accessibility design.

The buses are on route number 1 from Gunwharf to Southsea, and 3 from Fareham to Southsea, as well as 9/9A, X4, X5 and the Eclipse rapid transit bus too.

You can pay on board using the First Bus app. Take the bus in Portsmouth and you can avoid the faff of driving in city centre traffic, and the parking.

3. Drink along Albert Road

I’ll take you for a walk along Albert Road here, to highlight the best places to eat, drink and see. But in short, Porters pub is a favourite for its Mexican offerings, Offbeet for the veggie options, and Southsea Spirit for a Spicy Magarita.

things to do in portsmouth

It’s one of the quirkiest streets in the UK, and full of independents – we have to support them!

4. Hang out at Southsea Castle

Southsea Castle, down by Southsea Beach, belonged to Henry VIII, and is now open for a free looksee. Climb up to the top and you’ll get great views over to the Isle of Wight. Downstairs you’ll find a fab little cafe which makes for a perfect brunch spot on a sunny day.

Exploring Southsea

5. Chill out on Clarence Pier

Clarence Pier’s iconic amusement park could be a bit of a love or hate situation. There are a few rides down there, plenty of arcades and now, an upside down house too. The Brewer’s Fayre offers great priced food and drink in a pub with a soft play – also, an all-you-can-eat breakfast!

6. Unwind in Victoria Park

Escape city life and find tranquility in the serene oasis of Victoria Park. Nestled in the heart of Portsmouth, this beautifully landscaped park offers a peaceful retreat for nature lovers and weary souls alike.

You can take a leisurely stroll amidst flower-filled borders, relax on a shaded bench with a good book, or kick back on the expansive lawns while enjoying a delightful picnic.

There’s a great playground in there for over 4s, and last time I was wandering through it looked like they were building some sort of playground for toddlers too. The new aviary in the centre should be finished any day now.

There’s also a great little cafe in there, and all profits go to homeless people in Portsmouth. Lovely cakes!

7. Eat your way around Palmerston Road, Southsea

Southsea entertainment is a third beach (covered that), a third Southsea Common (go picnic on it) and a third the great indie shops, coffee shops and restaurants. There are some great places to hang out with a brew here.

brunch in southsea

My current faves include The Clubhouse and Meat and Barrel, but you can find the best restaurants in Southsea here.

8. Eat and shop at Gunwharf Quays

For a leisurely lunch or dinner, head to Gunwharf Quays. This vibrant waterfront destination offers all kinds of feasts for foodies, with all the chain restaurants you could ever want. The latest additions include Tap&Tandoor and Banana Tree.

It’s a discount shopping outlet so expect a mix of high-end and high-street shops with their prices slashed. Personal favourites include French Connection and the Vans shop. Oh and the pik n mix in the Lindt shop is pretty special too.

9. Hit the Heights at the Spinnaker Tower

Ascend the iconic Spinnaker Tower and brace yourself for panoramic vistas overlooking the Solent, the Isle of Wight, and the city below. Once you’re up there the Sky Garden Cafe offers cakes, coffee and afternoon tea suspended 100 metres above sea level.

You can also check out the glass floor and test your nerves trying to walk across it. It makes my stomach flip, especially when Reggie does it!

10. Discover Portsmouth’s hidden history

Portsmouth is steeped in rich maritime history, and its hidden gems provide a fascinating glimpse into the past.

– Dive deep into history at the D-Day Story museum, where engaging exhibits transport you back to the dramatic events of World War II.

– Delve into the life and works of acclaimed author Charles Dickens at the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum, tucked away in the charming Old Portsmouth.

– Visit Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery for the latest exhibitions showing off the best of the city.

“No Place Like Pompey explores what’s special about the UK’s only island city, whilst Portsmouth at Play celebrates the myriad ways in which recreational habits have changed over the years. There’s also Football in the City, covering Portsmouth FC’s importance to many city residents, and The Story of Portsmouth – which offers a glimpse into home lives through the ages.”

– Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery

These hidden historical gems offer a relaxing opportunity to immerse yourself in the stories and legends that shaped Portsmouth.

11. Visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Get ready to set sail on historical seas as you step foot in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Immerse yourself in captivating tales of naval battles, explore the magnificent HMS Victory and stand on the very spot where Admiral Nelson was shot. Step aboard the HMS Warrior, the world’s first iron-hulled, armoured battleship, and explore the incredible interior.

You can also unleash your inner pirate with a visit to the interactive Pirate Ship Experience, where you can search for hidden treasure and walk the plank in style.

There’s also a great little cafe in here serving a range of lunch time snacks, alongside a quirky museum. Also, vintage arcade games to be amazed by aplenty. And when I say amazed, I mean, how tech and entertainment has come along so much!

12. Sunset Splendor at Portsdown Hill

Make your way to Portsdown Hill, a tranquil spot that provides panoramic views over Portsmouth and its surroundings.

Find a cozy perch and watch in awe as the sun slowly dips below the horizon. If you’re lucky you’ll see the sky change with vibrant hues of orange and pink. I’ve seen some epic photos of the sunsets here, although never been lucky enough to witness one myself.

You can either walk up here (mission, but fun) or just drive to the car park. See if you can find Mick’s Monster Burgers – he’s a bit of a legend around these parts. It gets very busy up here when there’s any sort of fireworks on, but it’s a great atmosphere.

What to do in Portsmouth

Has that enlightened your mind to some of the great things to do in Portsmouth? With its coastal charm, relaxed vibes, and hidden treasures I really do think Portsmouth is one of the most underrated cities in the UK.

Views across Portsmouth

I hope you’ll come and visit us for a night or four. On a sunny day there’s nowhere better.

I wouldn’t have stayed here for SEVEN years if I didn’t believe it!

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