20 things to do in 2020

It's a brand new decade - so what better excuse is there to head out on a short break to Portsmouth and experience some of the many great things we've got coming up over the next 12 months.

Of course, there's a whole host of great events to take in and attractions to see, but here are 20 of the biggest and best set to take over the city this year. For all the details on events in Portsmouth, keep checking back to our What's On section and sign up to receive our regular email.

Enjoy world-class sailing at the Emirates America's Cup World Series

World-class sailing returns to the Solent this year, as Sir Ben Ainslie and his Ineos Team UK launch their bid to bring the oldest trophy in world sport to British shores for the first time ever. There's a brand new boat to help them achieve just that, and it's an engineering marvel. In being named Britannia, the foiling monohull also has a nod to Rita, the boat in which Sir Ben won his Olympic golds. Portsmouth is one of only two places in the world outside of New Zealand where spectators can watch America's Cup series racing.

Watch the arrival of LCT 7074

There's a decidedly older - but no less remarkable - vessel taking to the water in 2020, as well as the ultra-modern America's Cup yachts. LCT 7074 is the last remaining Landing Craft Tank that crossed the English Channel for the Normandy Landings. The vessel was used to carry up to 10 tanks and their troops across for D-Day, and has more recently been restored by the National Museum of the Royal Navy (with Heritage Lottery funding). The LCT will be sailed from its current position in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard across to Southsea Seafront, before being positioned in its dedicated dry dock next to The D-Day Story. Stay tuned for updates on when this will happen because - just like D-Day itself, the departure is wholly dependent on tides and weather.

Celebrate the August bank holiday weekend at Victorious Festival

Victorious Festival is a staple of the Portsmouth calendar, with people visiting from all around to catch some of the biggest names in live music on Southsea Common. This year's headliners are still to be revealed, but the Friday opening party is already shaping up nicely, with Ian Brown headlining, and the likes of The Kooks, Peter Hook and Terrorvision lining up in support. Tickets are available at early bird prices now.

Get involved in a VE Day street party

The May Day bank holiday has been shifted to Friday this year, to account for VE Day celebrations taking place across the land. Portsmouth will be no exception, with street parties aplenty and a whole host of events to mark the big day. Keep checking the Visit Portsmouth listings for full details of everything that's being organised to mark the event.

Test yourself on the world's premier 10-mile running race

The Great South Run brings tens of thousands of runners to Portsmouth every October - for a 10-mile race that's flatter and faster than any other on earth. This makes it an opportune place to post a PB, or to just get out and push yourself into longer distances. It's also a wonderfully scenic race, with runners passing the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, HMS Victory and Southsea Seafront along their route.

See the UK's brand new aircraft carriers in their home port

The Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers have now made their way into Portsmouth Harbour - their home port. HMS Queen Elizabeth made her first entry to Portsmouth in 2017, followed by HMS Prince of Wales in 2019. Whilst the aircraft carriers will be deployed around the world, Portsmouth will be their home, so there's every chance your visit will coincide with one or both of them being here to see. If you're lucky, you may even time it right to watch them sail in or out - a great spectacle that always draws a crowd.

Get out on a harbour tour

If you want to see the aircraft carriers close up, there's little better than a harbour tour. Here you can get out on the water of Portsmouth Harbour, for a guided tour of the area's history - including all there is to see today. These harbour tours come as part of the Full Navy ticket at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which also gets you entry to 10 other attractions - including HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860 and M33.

Sample some of Portsmouth's independent culture

Portsmouth is awash with independent shops, bars and restaurants - with a whole culture that's fiercely indie. It's what makes the city unique, with an offering you cannot get anywhere else in the world. Make sure you spend some time on your next visit exploring independent Portsmouth, with a workshop at the Hotwalls Studios, a rifle through the racks at Pie & Vinyl, or a bite to eat at one of the many great independent, locally owned restaurants. During the summer months, you can also sip some fizz as the Champagne Bar returns to Southsea Castle - making for a night out like no other.

Take in a game at Fratton Park

For atmosphere you'd be hard pushed to beat the Pompey faithful. Football legends have commented on the wall of noise that greets players when they walk out on the hallowed turf - with everyone from Jose Mourinho to Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho singing its praises. It's a great addition to a weekend in the city - or if you're an away fan making the trip down to support your club, why not extend your visit and see the many other great things to enjoy here?

See a dodo skeleton

There's a real rarity headed to Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery this February - as Portsmouth hosts one of only 12 dodo skeletons still left in the world. It's part of a wider exhibition about extinction being organised by the Natural History curators, giving you the chance to learn all about how to preserve precious life - and those which unfortunately haven't made it.

Celebrate the life of Charles Dickens

There's a modest terraced house in Portsmouth that may look somewhat unassuming from the outside, but it's where the great Victorian author Charles Dickens was born. Inside, the home has been transformed into a museum to the author, containing many of his personal artefacts. The museum always hosts a celebration on 7 February to honour Dickens' birthday, but keep your eyes peeled also for special events on 9 June, to mark 150 years since his death.

Feel the rush and abseil down Emirates Spinnaker Tower

Daredevils can test their mettle at the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, which will bring back its abseiling days in 2020. Step off the ledge at around 100 metres up before slowly bringing yourself down to terra firma along the side of the tower. That's not all, as experiences at the tower also include The Drop - where you can enjoy (or endure, depending on your preference!) freefall from the tower struts before being safely brought back to the ground. There's also a chance to take a virtual walk along the tower struts using the latest in virtual reality technology.

Mark a big anniversary at the Mary Rose

2020 marks 475 years since the Mary Rose sank during battle with the French. As such, there will be a host of events throughout the year to mark the anniversary, all centred around the theme: sinking. There will also be a host of other events for visitors to enjoy, from an audience with King Henry, to a special VIP opening where guests can head into the Ship Hall to see the Mary Rose up close.

Bag a bargain at Gunwharf Quays

Gunwharf Quays is the place to shop 'til you drop - with a host of designer outlets situated right along the water's edge. It's a day and night destination, with coffee shops, bars, restaurants, a cinema, contemporary art gallery and bowling alley also nestled amongst the outlets. It's also worth checking the events listings for Gunwharf Quays before you visit, as there are a host of community events, markets and more taking place on a regular basis.

Take in some culture at a city art gallery

As noted above, Gunwharf Quays is home to a contemporary art gallery - Aspex. Here you can see intriguing works by local and national artists, with displays changing regularly. It also hosts the Platform award each year, to showcase award-winning talent from new university and art school graduates. In addition to Aspex there's much to take in at the city's other art galleries, including the Jack House Gallery and Art Space.

Enjoy some festivities all year round

Portsmouth has a host of festivals and large events filling the calendar throughout the year. Portsmouth Festivities is among the largest, featuring 10 days' worth of cultural events at various venues across the city. You can expect live music, talks from some of the country's most fascinating individuals, and lots more besides. Elsewhere, Portsmouth Guildhall hosts its mega Comic Con, which brings huge artists and actors to the city for a weekend celebration. This year sees a celebration of female superheroes on the Saturday, and a nod to the world of witchcraft and wizardry on the Sunday. If all that wasn't enough, there's also the International Kite Festival on Southsea Common which welcomes people from all across the globe every August.

Take a trip off Portsea Island

Though much of what's to explore is on Portsea Island itself, there's plenty for visitors to enjoy just across to the mainland. Portchester Castle is one example. A castle has stood on this land since the 3rd century and what you can see today is the best preserved of all the Roman 'Saxon Shore' forts. Just a short hop away is Port Solent, where small shops sit alongside some big name restaurants - all lining the picturesque harbour. With a gym and cinema also on site (plus free parking), it's something you won't want to miss.

Treat yourself to a spot of luxury on Solent Forts

The Solent Forts were originally built as defences against invasion - with fortifications out at sea flanking the deepest part of The Solent to prevent anyone making their way to Portsmouth Harbour. Today, two of the three are luxury hotels, offering a stay that's quite unlike any other. Book yourself an overnight trip to get the full package, or simply pop over for an afternoon tea or Sunday roast to sample these unique buildings.

Ride the world's only commercial passenger hovercraft service

Cross The Solent from Southsea to Ryde and you'll be on the world's only commercial passenger hovercraft service. Hovertravel runs regular crossings that get you to (or from) the Isle of Wight in just under 10 minutes. The journey itself is something to enjoy, as the craft rises up ahead of the 'flight' across the water.

Get all the highlights with a Portsmouth Pass

Portsmouth is breaking new ground for UK destinations, with the Portsmouth Pass. This one ticket get you discounted entry to four of the city's biggest and best attractions, so you can make the most of your trip. You get an annual ticket to The Mary Rose and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Full Navy ticket), as well as entry to the Emirates Spinnaker Tower and The D-Day Story - with a 20% saving on walk-up prices. You can find out more information and get your Portsmouth Pass here.


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