18 things to do in 2018

Portsmouth is – as we so often point out – an island city with miles of coast and centuries of history. There is, in short, plenty to do on our relatively small isle. That said, there’s never any harm in getting a firm plan in place of things you want to do during the year ahead – whether that’s on a visit, or to tick off a load of things you’ve never before got around to doing.

Whatever your situation, here are 18 things we thoroughly recommend doing in 2018.

See the stars of Strictly

In recent years, the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing has changed from an entertainment show to a cultural behemoth – making stars of the professional dancers and elevating the profile of any celebs taking part. Surely enough, many of the pros are now embarking on nationwide tours to show just what they can do when allowed to perform at their best. Among those heading for Portsmouth in 2018 are Kevin and Karen Clifton, Aljaz Skorjanec, Janette Manrara, Oti Mabuse, Giovanni Pernice and Pasha Kovalev, as well as Strictly alumni James and Ola Jordan. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the professionals let loose.

See HMS Queen Elizabeth

The monumental aircraft carrier caused quite a stir when she first arrived in Portsmouth. News crews from around the world gathered at the harbour entrance to welcome her home. As 2018 progresses and sea trials continue, you’ll have the chance to see ‘Big Lizzie’ when she’s stationed in the Dockyard, or even coming in and out of port. It’s a sight that has to be seen to be believed.

Follow in the footsteps of Sir Mo at the Great South Run

Sir Mo Farah, who was recently crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year, is among the illustrious band of runners to have won a Great South Run. You don’t need to get around the 10 miles in 46:25 (Sir Mo’s actual time) to enter, though. Places are available now but get in quickly, as they always sell out.

Dance all day at Victorious and Mutiny

Being on your feet doesn’t necessarily mean running 10 miles, of course! Although, with all the dancing you’ll do – you may not end up far off that total by the end! Victorious and Mutiny festivals return in 2018 to build on their immense successes. Already announced for Mutiny are Andy C and Craig David, whilst the Victorious line up currently features The Libertines and Kaiser Chiefs for the Friday night party. Keep your eyes peeled for more line-up announcements expected for early in the new year.

Shop ‘til you drop at Gunwharf Quays

It’s January sales time, so where better to head than Gunwharf Quays – where you can nab designer items at discount prices. Beat the January blues with a bit of retail therapy, or just while away dark winter evenings with some warming food and drink at the numerous restaurants and coffee shops.

Take in the view at Emirates Spinnaker Tower

Whilst at Gunwharf Quays, why not take a trip up the Emirates Spinnaker Tower. It’s a great view whatever the season, as the night-time views can be just as rewarding as the daytime ones. If you’re really feeling brave, there’s frequent abseiling events, see the Spinnaker website for more information.

Step into history at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

At Portsmouth Historic Dockyard you can stand on the spot where Lord Admiral Nelson was fatally shot, you can share the same air as Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, and you can climb aboard the ship that was once the most feared in all the world – but never actually fired a shot in anger. That’s not all, though, as the Dockyard also hosts a number of special events throughout the year (such as its popular comedy nights and the Victorian Festival of Christmas).

See where Henry VIII and Charles Dickens once stood

If it’s eminent figures from history you want, we’ve got them in spades. In addition to all the history on offer at the Dockyard, we also have two museums dedicated to some of the city’s most famous sons. Southsea Castle was designed by Henry VIII and was where he stood when his beloved Mary Rose sank. Nearer to the city centre is the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum. There’s no prizes for guessing that this regency house was the first home of the nation’s premier Victorian author.

See the newly re-opened D-Day Story museum

More modern history comes at the newly re-opened D-Day Story. Here you can do more than just learn all about the famous Normandy landings, you can also get an insight into the people who fought on the beaches, and everything that happened as a result. The D-Day Story will re-open in spring.

Get out onto the water

A trip to the UK’s only island city wouldn’t be complete without getting out onto the water. We have plenty of options, to suit all constitutions. There are sedate harbour tours for those wanting to see the sights or learn some history, as well as more white-knuckle powerboat rides. Those who really want to test themselves may also want to give wakeboarding a try, at the designated wake park at the top of the island.

Enjoy a drink or two (responsibly, of course)

The craft beer revolution certainly hasn’t left Portsmouth behind, as we host a number of events throughout the year to sample a properly brewed ale. The biggest events come in the form of the Portsmouth Beer Fest sessions (one in May and another just before Christmas). These events at Portsmouth Guildhall welcome thousands of visitors every year, looking to try ales, ciders, food and even gin. Another popular event is that held in the Groundlings Theatre during October, where local breweries sit alongside some from further afield.

See some of the biggest names in comedy

Our numerous venues – of all different sizes – makes Portsmouth a popular spot for comedy gigs. This year is no different, with tour shows from the likes of Sarah Millican, Jason Manford, Dara O’Briain and more coming to town. We also have Edinburgh award-winner John Robins plus a whole new comedy gala in the form of the Big Mouth Comedy Festival.

Enjoy the freedom at Portsmouth Festivities

Portsmouth Festivities is a 10-day celebration of all things cultural across the city. There’s a whole host of events, gatherings and special guest appearances throughout the festival, with a great many events being completely free to attend. This year’s festival is the 19th anniversary and will run from 15th to 24th June. The theme is ‘freedom’.

Seafood (and eat it!)

Another advantage of being beside the sea (as well as stunning views, fresh air, lovely walks, bracing summer swims… the list goes on) is our seafood offering. Get down to Old Portsmouth and sample some of the freshest catches. For proof of the quality, here’s where many of the most popular local restaurants source their seafood. There are also a number of foodie events throughout the calendar, from farmers’ markets to international food festivals.

Go fly a kite

The notion that kite flying is a rather archaic pastime will be dispelled within seconds for any visitors to the annual International Kite Festival on Southsea Common. Here you will find some of the most elaborate flying machines, alongside nippy kites that dance in a formation that make even the most elegant of synchronised swimmers look like the Tasmanian Devil. If it inspires you to try flying, there are plenty of stalls set up to buy a kite of your own.

See a beautiful play in equally beautiful surroundings

Some of the biggest and best-reviewed tour shows come to Portsmouth as they jaunt across the UK. It’s little wonder, as we have not one but two theatres designed by the incomparable Frank Matcham. A performance at the Kings Theatre or New Theatre Royal is certain to be buoyed by the opulent and elegant surroundings in which it is performed.

Take a look at the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection

Portsmouth has the world's largest collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle memorabilia, left to the city by Lancelyn Green. It's a fitting tribute, as it was in Southsea that Doyle first came up with his most famous creation, and the world's foremost Consulting Detective, Sherlock Holmes. 2018 will see a reshuffle at Portsmouth City Museum, with even more of the collection put on display.

Dip your toes in the water

Sometimes the best things to do are the classics. A trip to the seafront wouldn't be complete without a paddle in the sea. Whether you want a bracing winter swim or a summertime dip, the 3+ miles of beaches along Southsea seafront provides ample space. Furthermore, with the beaches recently maintaining their cleanliness awards, you can be certain the water quality is of the highest standards.

There you have it - 18 things to do in 2018. For more inspiration, take a look at our Things to Do and What's On pages for full details of all Portsmouth's events and attractions.

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