With the coronavirus scuppering most of our holiday plans last year, many of us spent the time indoors thinking about all the great things we want to see and do once lockdown measures are eased.

However, we’re not quite able to jet off to far-flung corners of the globe just yet – so attention is turning to destinations a little closer to home. This has led many people to consider ticking off those UK short breaks they’d maybe always fancied but never quite got around to organising.

If that sounds like you, and Portsmouth has always been on your must-visit list, let us take you through some of the things you simply can’t miss on a short break to the Great Waterfront City.

And remember, always check the latest restrictions before you travel and be sure plan ahead - as not everything will be open as the guidelines change. Some of the below aren't able to welcome visitors back just yet, but that doesn't stop you from planning your summer break to travel when restrictions have lifted further still.


Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Image of boat masts from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard takes top billing for many visitors to Portsmouth, keen to see centuries of British naval history brought to life. It’s no surprise, really, with one ticket granting you access to a host of the most famous ships to ever take to the water.

There’s HMS Victory – Nelson’s flagship and oldest naval ship still in commission. You can step on board to see where crew members lived and fought, and even stand on the very spot where Nelson was fatally wounded in the Battle of Waterloo.

Elsewhere there’s the iron-hulled HMS Warrior 1860 – once the largest, fastest and most powerful warships on earth, but one that never actually fired a shot in anger.

Or how about the iconic Mary Rose? Henry VIII’s beloved ship sank off the coast of Portsmouth during the Battle of the Solent in 1545, and lay on the sea bed for some 437 years. Following the largest marine salvage operation ever undertaken, the hull was raised once more – alongside the largest cache of Tudor artefacts ever recorded at one site. In fact, so large and informative was the haul that it went on to change how we think about Tudor life.

All these and more (including a Harbour Tour, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, and HMS M.33) can be seen at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, with one ticket granting entry to the lot.


Spinnaker Tower

Family looking through the glass floor at Spinnaker Tower

A much more recent icon of Portsmouth is the Spinnaker Tower. Completed in 2004, this much-loved structure has been adopted by us ‘Pomponians’ as something of an emblem for the city itself.

Its design was informed by the people of Portsmouth, with a shortlist put out to public vote to see which would be the most popular.

Today, the Spinnaker Tower stands not just as an iconic building but also a popular tourist attraction. The three viewing platforms – at 100 metres above sea level – provide stunning views of city, coast and country. On a good day you can see for up to 23 miles, over 350 degrees. Points of interest include the city skyline, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Solent Forts, Isle of Wight and the ever-changing seascape, with boats and ferries on their travels.

It’s not just about the views when you get up the tower, though. There’s a Café in the Clouds offering a very high tea, as well as a glass floor for the brave, or even abseil challenges down the side for the really, really brave! Be sure to check out the events listings for your visit to know what’s coming up during your trip.


Gunwharf Quays

If you’re already visiting the Spinnaker Tower, why not stay on site and enjoy a little retail therapy whilst you’re there? The tower is situated within Gunwharf Quays – the waterside outlet centre where your favourite big-name brands have stores at the water’s edge.

Here you’ll find high-end designers (Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade and Karl Lagerfeld), luxury brands (Osprey, Joules and Mido), sport retailers (Nike, Adidas and Under Armour), homewares (Denby, Pro Cook and Le Creuset), beauty (L’Occitane, Penhaligon’s and Rituals) and loads more besides.

Gunwharf Quays isn’t just about shopping, though. In addition to the 90+ outlet stores, there are more than 30 bars, restaurants and cafes to enjoy. Whether you need a quick rest stop and refresh, or somewhere to settle in after a busy day of exploring, there’s certain to be something to fit the bill. And you definitely won’t go hungry, with food from all corners of the world – including France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Vietnam and, of course, the UK.


The D-Day Story

A couple viewing the displays at The D-Day Story

The museum has been called The D-Day Story for very good reason. Here you can discover the first-hand accounts and fascinating stories of those involved in the Normandy Landings of 1944. Using personal testimony, The D-Day Story puts visitors in the heart of the action, showing how it would have felt for those young men heading to an uncertain future across the Channel.

Of course, the museum is also full of incredible artefacts related to D-Day, from ‘the pencil that started the invasion’ to Betty White’s coat – emblazoned with patches kindly donated by servicemen from regiments the world over.

New for 2021 to The D-Day Story is Landing Craft Tank 7074. This huge vessel – large enough to transport 10 tanks and their crew members – now stands on Southsea Seafront following a multi-million-pound restoration by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Visits to The D-Day Story now start at LCT 7074, where a circular route takes you around the entire ship so you can take in its sheer size, as well as its historical significance.

Afterwards, head inside to walk through the galleries related to preparations of D-Day, the operation itself, and the legacy that’s still felt today. Within the Legacy gallery is the 83-metre long Overlord Embroidery, which depicts the events of D-Day and has been referred to as the UK’s answer to the Bayeux Tapestry.


Southsea Castle

Southsea Castle at sunset

Mere metres from The D-Day Story you’ll find Henry VIII’s Southsea Castle, the fortification on which the king stood to watch the Battle of the Solent unfold. A pyrrhic victory if there ever was one, the battle resulted in victory for the British against French ships – but it came at the cost of Henry VIII’s beloved Mary Rose, his flagship that sank during the battle.

Today, the castle is free to enter as a popular visitor attraction. Once you’ve explored the courtyard area – home to a gift shop, café and even a microbrewery – you can head into the keep, which is now a museum. Explore the castle’s history and see how it’s now used as a stunning wedding venue.

You can finish your visit on the ramparts, enjoying views out across Portsmouth and out over the Solent. If you time a visit well, you may even be able to enjoy a glass of fizz at the Southsea Castle Champagne Bar – on select summer weekends.


Southsea Seafront

Southsea seafront at dusk

From Southsea Castle you can take a leisurely walk in either direction along Southsea Seafront. East will take you past the Rock Garden to South Parade Pier and beyond towards the beach at Eastney. Here you’ll find some of the quieter beachside spots, which is ideal for setting up camp on a busy summer’s day.

Alternatively, going west will take you past a whole host of seafront attractions including Blue Reef Aquarium, Southsea Common and Clarence Pier. The pier is home to a number of fairground rides, as well as traditional arcade games, and stalls selling everything to remind you of trips to the seaside – there’s no shortage of candy floss, doughnuts, ice creams and sticks of rock here!

Whether you want to sit on the beach, dip your toes in the water or just enjoy a walk along the promenade, Southsea Seafront has it all. It’s little surprise that a vast majority of our visitors say they simply have to factor a trip here at some point during their trip.


Old Portsmouth

Image of Old Portsmouth

Continue west past Clarence Pier and you’ll reach the historic area of Old Portsmouth. Many years ago this would be the area to avoid – where sailors would press-gang poor individuals into joining their operations, and where there was no small amount of vice and sin.

These days it couldn’t be more different, with Old Portsmouth now the city’s most genteel areas. Here you’ll find great pubs selling locally produced food and drink – including quality seafood brought fresh into the Camber.

Old Portsmouth is also where you’ll find the Hotwalls Studios – old fortifications which have been transformed into working studios for artists, designers and makers. See the creatives at work or even pop in and make a purchase. One thing’s for sure, you’ll not find the same product anywhere else.

As evening falls, enjoy a lamplit walk through the area’s cobbled streets, where you’re within walking distance of Southsea, Gunwharf Quays or the city centre – in case you want to continue your visit into the small hours.


These are just some of the big points of interest to enjoy on a staycation to Portsmouth. Of course, if you’d rather avoid the crowds, why not head off the beaten track and enjoy something a little more out of the ordinary? Our list of attractions has all the information on everything you can do across the city.

Also, please remember these remain uncertain times so some attractions may not be open during your visit, depending on the level of restrictions in place at the time. Check before travelling to ensure you can do everything you want to, as there may be limits on capacities or timed entries to some of the busier places.




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  2. KellyJane
    It would really help the Albert Rd Traders if we could be included in this!
  3. Alan
    South Parade Pier also features rides and amusements as well as places to eat.
    Canoe Lake is surely worth a visit so needs a mention too.
    Southsea retail should be explored in Albert Road, Palmerston Road, Castle Road, Marmion Road, Elm Grove and Osborne Road.
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  5. Suusy bonue
    It helped change our priorities in life
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