Wondering what to do when you visit Portsmouth? Follow our tips and you will surely have a fun afternoon in Southern England’s historic port city.
Ghosts of a literary past surrounded us as we walked around Portsmouth. So many famous writers lived in Portsmouth back in the day. We’re talking big time authors like Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling and H. G. Wells – a veritable who’s who list of famous British authors. This is the kind of city where we would normally want to relax at a pub and soak in the history, but we just didn’t have that luxury due to an aggressive itinerary.
If you’re like us and have limited time when you visit Portsmouth, don’t be sad. Instead, follow our suggestions for an afternoon of jam-packed fun.
What To Do When You Visit Portsmouth
Enjoy Tea and Thrills at the Emirates Spinnaker Tower
Holy Moly – It’s a long way from here to the ground!
That’s what we thought as we looked down at our feet and saw the ground 100 meters or 25 floors below us. We knew that we were safe and sound on the sturdy observation deck, but that didn’t stop the adrenaline from rushing through our veins as we proceeded with caution over the glass sky walk.
Appropriately designed in the shape of a sail, the Emirates Spinnaker Tower is a striking landmark in a city filled with landmarks. Our eyes locked on the 30 story building as we approached Portsmouth, but the view from inside, looking out toward the abyss, knocked our striped socks off. We ogled in awe as we gazed at ships of all shapes, sizes and ages through the huge windows that offer a 360 degree perspective.
After walking just a few steps up to the Cafe in the Clouds, we continued to gawk at the view, but in a much more comfortable fashion. As we sipped tea and feasted on home-made scones, we achieved a rare moment of zen in our hectic tour. Less formal than our afternoon tea at nearby Blenheim Palace, this tea service stands out in our collective memory for its spectacular view and yummy treats.
Emirates Spinnaker Tower is located at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth PO1 3TT, United Kingdom.
Experience History at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Just a short walk from the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a working Naval base that is also a fantastic maritime museum. Admission provides access to several buildings and ships including the HMS Victory, the Mary Rose and the HMS Warrior 1860, not to mention a harbor tour.
The dockyard’s main attraction is the HMS Victory, the legendary ship on which Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson valiantly died during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1905. Open to the public on this site since 1922, the ship is epic in size and oozing with nautical history. As we toured the ship, we kept imagining how difficult life was at sea over 200 years ago. Let’s just say that we can totally understand why the sailors were given a liquor ration each day for reasons of sanitation and mental health.
We also checked out Boathouse 4 during our visit. This newly opened building is an educational facility with revolving exhibits open to the public. We enjoyed seeing the ships used in various wars. We also enjoyed trying on the hats. Ahoy matey!
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is located at Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ, United Kingdom.
Eat Lunch and Drink Wine at Abarbistro
Let’s face it – touring is fun but exhausting. We were happy to take a break at Abarbistro, a cute restaurant within walking distance of the city’s major sites. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating and offers an eclectic menu that skews toward seafood. Since we ate at Abarbistro on a Sunday, we tried the traditional Sunday Roast. It was our first Sunday Roast in England, but it certainly wasn’t our last.
The restaurant has an excellent wine bar with a wide variety of wines available by the bottle or glass. We chose to linger at Abarbistro and sip wine rather than shop at Gunswharf Quays, a massive retail mall in the center of town. From a happiness perspective, it was the best choice that we made all day.
Abarbistro is located at 58 White Hart Road, Old Portsmouth PO1 2JA, United Kingdom.
Where to Stay and Eat after an Afternoon in Portsmouth
The White Lion is a great place to stay and dine in nearby Soberton. Although it’s just a quick half hour drive from Portsmouth, the Hampshire countryside location feels like another world. The inn’s guest rooms are the ultimate in modern charm, and the food at the on site pub is superb.
We thank Tourism Southeast and Visit Hampshire for their assistance with our visit to South England. We also thank the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Abarbistro for their generous hospitality.