Fun things to do in Portsmouth

  • Spice Island from a ferry
    Spice Island from a ferry
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  • Action stations (for kids and dads)
    Action stations (for kids and dads)
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Portsmouth

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    Nelson's ship

    by bzh Updated Apr 4, 2011

    One permanent resident of Portsmouth you need to pay a visit to is HMS Victory, the flagship of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. This historical war veteran is definitely worth your time and will delight kids of all ages.

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    Gunwharf Quays

    by leffe3 Written Nov 13, 2010

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    Connecting the Naval Dockyards with Old Portsmouth, Gunwharf Quays is a new development of apartments, shops, cafes, restaurants and bars.

    It’s become something of a destination, not only for tourists but locals as well – not surprising considering there are some 95 designer shops, 30 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, bowling alley, comedy club, nightclub as well as a hotel. All built alongside a new marina, a 10 minute walk from the Naval Dockyard and minutes from Old Portsmouth. And dominating the Quays is Spinnaker Tower.

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    Old Portsmouth

    by leffe3 Written Nov 13, 2010

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    Little is left of Old Portsmouth – the original part of the city – due to redevelopment over the centuries and, most significantly, the Luftwaffe bombing of WWII. It is now predominantly residential as commerce and industry gradually moved to other parts of the city.

    But remnants of the 15th century fortifications of the city remain and are readily accessible, as is the Anglican Cathedral (one of only two cathedrals in England visible from the sea – the other being Chichester) and there are 2-3 waterside pubs housed in 18th century buildings (although heavily renovated).

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    Historic Dockyard - Harbour Tour

    by leffe3 Updated Nov 12, 2010

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    Included in the admission ticket to the Dockyard is the harbour trip around the modern day naval base. With a running commentary from the pilot, we get to hear the history of the base as well as details of the ships that are in dock. This obviously varies from day to day - on the day we were there, a number were berthed, including the Ark Royal aircraft carrier, one the RN's largest.

    The tour is worth taking at the end of your time at the Dockyard - not only to put size into perspective - but because the ferry stops at Gunwharf Quays (although it does do a full circle back to the Dockyard), where lunch/dinner or just coffee maybe beckoning.

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    Historic Dockyard - HMS Victory

    by leffe3 Updated Nov 11, 2010

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    Launched in 1765 in Chatham, Kent, the HMS Victory is the oldest naval ship still in commission, in spite of being retired from active duty in 1812.

    It is most famous for being Vice-Admiral Nelson's flagship in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 against the French/Spanish fleet and where he was fatally wounded during battle. But Victory had already seen considerable action before Trafalgar under the command of a number of captains - including the two battles of Ushant (again, against the French).

    In 1798, it was determined that Victory was unfit for service as a warship, and became a hospital for wounded French and Spanish POWs. But with the HMS Impregnable running aground in Chichester Harbour and unable to be refloated, Victory was reconditioned and in 1803 once again entered service.

    More expeditions followed Trafalgar but in 1812 the Victory became a depot ship, moored in Portsmouth Harbour. The historic ship gradually deteriorated until the 1920s saw the beginning of the campaign to restore the ship, much beloved by the English. (When it was damaged by a Lutwaffe bomb in 1941 during WWII, the Germans tried a propaganda coup in announcing the destruction of HMS Victory, leading to an instant denial by the British Admiralty).

    Nowadays, along with HMS Warrior, Victory is an important museum ship at the Historic Dockyard, attracting more than 350,000 visitors per year. You can walk throughout the ship, from below decks to the base of the transom (Victory is in dry dock). Be warned though - low ceilings and steep stairwells.

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    Historic Dockyard - HMS Warrior

    by leffe3 Updated Nov 10, 2010

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    The pride of Queen Victoria's navy, when completed in 1861, the HMS Warrior was largest, fastest, most heavily armed and most heavily armoured warship the world had known. Commissioned by the Royal Navy, it was built in direct response to the French ship La Gloire, launched a year earlier.

    Such was the race to constantly improve fire-power and armour, HMS Warrior was withdrawn from service only 22 years later in 1883 having never been engaged in battle. Luckily, having been withdrawn she was not sold off for scrap – instead being used for a variety of purposes hardly fitting for such a prestigious ship. It was first proposed to restore HMS Warrior as a museum ship in the 1960s, although it wasn't until 1979 work began – a program which took 8 years.

    HMS Warrior returned to Portsmouth in 1987 and now forms a centrepiece of the Historic Dockyard. Access enables you to wander around throughout - from engine rooms, gun decks, officer's cabins, galleys.

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    Historic Dockyard

    by leffe3 Written Nov 10, 2010

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    Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the home of the Royal Navy.

    Whether or not you are interested in military history or boats, the Historic Dockyard is a fabulous day out. Included in the (rather steep) admission fee includes access to Nelson's ship, the HMS Victory; the first British iron-clad warship, HMS Warrior: a harbour tour; the National Museum of the Royal Navy; the interactive Action Stations (for kids and adults alike) and the Mary Rose Museum. Sadly, viewing the Mary Rose itself is not currently possible as a new home is being built around the hull and is not due to open until 2012.

    See separate tips below.

    Admission fees: £19.50 (adult)/£16.50 (senior)/£14 (child)/£55 (family)
    Opening times: Everyday except 24/25/26 December.
    April – October: 10am-6pm (last tickets sold at 4.30pm)
    Nov – March: 10am – 5.30pm (last tickets sold at 4.00pm)

    Note that access to the historic ships close earlier than the above closing times.

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  • Mexican Celebration at Gunwharf Quays

    by AlexandraBarry Written Oct 7, 2010

    11th - 29th October

    Gun Wharf Quays

    Dia de los Muertos, in Mexico, is a fiery fiesta celebrating the life and passing of our ancestors.

    Events
    • Butterfly & Giant Skull
    • Day of the Dead Workshops
    • Day of the Dead Parade & Entertainment
    • Spectacular Fireworks Display

    Butterfly & Giant Skull
    11th - 28th October

    The giant inflatable skull, celebrating the lives of those who have
    gone before, arrives at Gunwharf Quays on 11th October and will
    be situated in Caen Marche and The Avenues until 28th October.
    You are invited to place your 'offering' onto the skull to express your
    wish for change and future happiness.

    Offerings are in the form of decorated butterflies, an example of the cycle of life, and can be obtained from the following:

    Visitor Information Centre • La Tasca • aspex gallery • Gap
    Fire & Stone • Las Iguanas • Past Times • Tiger Tiger • Chiquitos

    Once you have decorated your offering, please place it onto our skull shrine and join us again on 29th October for our Day of the Dead procession.

    Day of the Dead Workshops
    25th - 29th October at 12pm - 4pm

    Join the UK’s leading carnival artists, Same Sky and Copperdoller, to create Mexican Day of the Dead inspired memorabilia to either take home or to become part of the parade on Friday 29th October.

    The free workshops take place in the marquee in Central Square.

    Activity includes:

    • Catarina headdresses and garlands
    • Skeleton and Butterfly tabards
    • Skull lantern shrines
    • Skull masks

    Plus see a photo gallery of old Mexico courtesy of Chiquitos. Also visit Chiquitos 26th - 28th Oct, 9.30am - 11am for the free fajita factory!!

    Day of the Dead Parade & Spectacular Fireworks Display
    29th October
    Entertainment from 6.30pm / Display 8pm

    Watch our Day of the Dead parade as it leads to the waterfront and the spectacular firework display. A giant 15” skull with drummers and performers will lead a 100 strong procession of skull lantern carriers from schools around Portsmouth including Milton Cross, King Richards,
    St Georges, St Edmunds, Park Community School and participants from our half term workshops. Plus Victory Morris Dancers, Drum Nation, giant Butterflies, piñatas and lots more!

    See The World Famous push the boundaries of fireworks as art, as
    Portsmouth Harbour is alight with a choreographed Mexican Day of
    the Dead meets Halloween display. This year the display also includes
    the lights of the Spinnaker Tower.

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    Enjoy the fab views

    by annase Updated Oct 7, 2010

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    The Spinnaker Tower is 170m high above sea level. It is higher than the London Eye, Blackpool tower and Big Ben and at 170m is the tallest publicly accessible structure in the UK. It is visible for miles around Portsmouth, changing the area's horizon.

    Three different designs for the tower were proposed the Spinnaker design, a tripod design intended to emulate ship funnels and a twin tower design holding a large glass globe at the top. The final decision of the choice of design was given to the residents of Portsmouth, exhibitions were held in various locations around the area, with visitors being able to cast their vote, 13,000 people atended and voted at these exhibitions, with more than 60% favouring the Spinnaker design.

    The design is similar to the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. However, the latter being a little less than twice as tall at 323 m. The tower represents sails billowing in the wind, a design accomplished using two large, white, sweeping steel arcs, which give the tower its spinnaker sail design.

    The tower opened for business in October 2005, offering panaramic views across Portsmouth Harbour, across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and far beyond.The viewing distances on a clear day are claimed to be 37 km or 23 miles. At the top is a triple observation deck, providing a 320° view of the city of Portsmouth, the Langstone and Portsmouth harbours.

    •Deck1 is at a height of 100m, has full height glass walls and is home to the largest glass floor in Europe.
    •Deck2 is at 105m and is home to the 'time telescopes' and from 18 October 2010 onwards, there will also be a coffee shop on deck 2.
    •Deck 3, known as the 'Crows Nest' is at 110m high and is open to the elements. It is the highest of the three observation platforms and has a wire mesh roof, allowing visitors to be in the elements. Windows extend to above head height, so it is not possible to get a view unobstructed by glass.

    The website promises that if you can't see the 3 Solent forts on the day of your visit, each member of your party will be issued with a ticket to return for free within 3 months. To claim your free return visit, you must speak to our Duty Manager whilst you are visiting the Tower.

    Admission: Adults £7.25, children (3-15 yrs) £5.75 (children under 3 FREE), senior citizens (60+) and students £6.50. Valid until 31st January 2011
    Guide Book £3.50, Audio Guide £1.00

    The Spinnaker Tower is open daily except for Christmas Day. Opening times are 10am - 6pm.
    Last admissions 30 minutes before closing.

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    Fortified walls and battlement towers

    by annase Written Sep 20, 2010

    Portsmouth was also an important port and military stronghold with the fortified walls and battlement towers defending the town from the sea. Two of the original fortifications are the two towers which have been in place for around 500 years. The Square Tower was built in 1494 and was originally a gun platform. It later served as a fortified residence for the Governor and subsequently it was later used as a store for gunpowder and then meat for the Navy. On the north east side of the tower is a gilded bust of King Charles I which was a gift to the city from the King himself.

    The Round Tower, which dates from 1418, is at the other end of Point Barracks that were built in the 19th century. It was originally a single storey 18 gun battery and much narrower than it is today. The second tier was added to house 32 cannon while the rest of the battery was rearmed with 68 carronades on traversing mounts.

    From the promenade you can also see the Saluting Platform (also Great Platform) which was originally built in Tudor times to carry bronze and iron guns to guard the harbour approaches. The Saluting Platform as well as the raised walkway which runs between the platform and the Spur Redoubt was originally built as a promenade in 1862.

    The foundations of the town's main Guard House are outlined in red brick on the lower level next to the Promenade. This building was demolished in 1883.

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    Millenium Promenade

    by annase Updated Sep 20, 2010

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    The Millenium Promenade is a walkway that stretches over 6km on both sides of Portsmouth Harbour: 3km both the Portsmouth and Gosport communities. You can follow the Promenade all the way from the Historic Dockyard around Gunwharf Quays and further south into the centre of the Old Portsmouth that has retained much of its 18th century port feel. The promenade finishes at Spur Redoubt near Clarence Pier, Southsea.

    The promenade has been built of natural stone and it was opened in 2001. Once it was opened, it made the part of waterfront accessible to the public after some centuries. The route is marked by a chain motif set into the surface, symbolising partnership between Portsmouth and Gosport & between past and present. Historically it also refers to the chain, which used to be tightened across the harbour entrance at times of potential attack.

    The promenade is lighted by column-mounted lanterns. They were designed to reflect the historic character of blue lights at night that are strung around the harbour.

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    The ruins of the Old Naval Garrison Church

    by annase Updated Aug 30, 2010

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    Despite being bombed during World War II, the ruins of the Old Naval Garrison Church are still standing on the Grand Parade. The church was originally founded in 1212 as a hospice. It was also used as shelter for overseas pilgrims on their way to the cathedrals at Winchester, Chichester and Canterbury. In May 1662 Catherine of Braganza from Portugal landed at Portsmouth to marry King Charles II.

    There are nearly 300 memorials associated with this church. However, many of the plagues went missing after they had been removed following the bombing in the 1940s. Further problems have been caused by the decision not to replace the church roof which has led to considerable erosion of the plaques. The reasons behind the decision not to replace the main roof and provide a roof to the Nave are the fact that this would probably increase the deterioration of the exposed stonework. Owing to its location next to the sea, the stonework has absorbed considerable amounts of salt solution, which would cause further damage if the salt was able to dry out.

    The church is open from April to end Sept (Mon-Fri between 11am-4pm).

    Admission is free.

    Parking on streets adjacent to the church is permitted, though residents parking schemes operate in some areas.

    For bookings and information about the church phone the Secretary, Friends of the Royal Garrison Church Peter Richmond, on 023 9282 3973 or e-mail peter.richmond1@ntlworld.com

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    Harbour Tour

    by jo104 Updated Aug 19, 2010

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    The harbour tours run every 30min giving a tour around the harbour with a commentary which was quite witty. Portsmouth harbour is still home to the modern Royal Navy and you can see the HMS Ark Royal, HMS Illustrious and HMS Invincible as well as several other military ships. On the way back towards gunwarf quays you will get great views of the spinnaker tower. Lots of sailboats came past as we were nearing our journey end which made for a pleasent video.

    The trip is fairly cheap about GBP5 for 30min

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    Portsmouth Waterfront

    by FM1721 Updated Jul 28, 2010

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    There's probably no better way to enjoy Portsmouth than walking along the waterfront, starting at the harbour with the Spinnaker Tower all the way down to the South Parade Pier.
    http://www.fm1721.com/pictures/uk/portsmouth/

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    Historic Dockyard

    by Acirfa Written Jun 5, 2008

    A fascinating full day out.

    Home to Nelsons Flag ship, HMS Victory, also the Mary Rose, HMS Warrior and the Naval Museum.

    The ships are an absorbing education, see and hear how the sailors slept, worked, ate and went to war.

    HMS Warrior is a larger ship than Victory built to counter French moves in shipping. She was once the largest, fastest, most powerful warship in the world. She spent 10 years in service, 12 years in reserve and then became a depot ship and also a floating workshop for an oil jetty at Milford Haven.

    The Mary Rose, sits in a dome, in the dark being constantly sprayed with a wax solution, it seems there is not a lot to look at however, when you realise how long she lay at the bottome of the ocean, how much of her is still in tact after all this time and how long it took to raise her and place her where she is right now, with pieces still being found out there in the sea, it is an unbelievable sight and accomplishment.

    The HMS Victory, the location of where Nelson fell and finally died are on here.

    On each ship there are volunteers whom you can approach with questions, they are knowledgeable and make the whole experience far more interesting if you take the time to speak with them.

    I loved this day out, it also includes a 50 min. boat ride around the dock area and there is plenty to do for the children too.

    The Warrior is hired out for weddings and events and fundraising events such as Burns Night , Sea Shanty Nights and Pickle Nights are held here.

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