Some of the best things to see and do in Portsmouth
PUBLISHED: 06:04 07 December 2019
Portsmouth is packed with interesting discoveries from shops to ships, so what do the locals recommend?
Portsmouth is a mash-up of the very old and brand new, culture and commerce, port and navy - all hugger-mugger on the country's only island city. It has been a naval base since the 12th century and is well known for its maritime heritage. However Portsmouth has successfully reinvented itself for the 21st century, emerging as a vibrant destination city with waterside high-end outlet shopping complex, award-winning university that counts artist Grayson Perry among its alumni (from its polytechnic days) and the iconic 170-metre high Emirates Spinnaker Tower dominating the cityscape. What would Dickens (born in what is now 393 Old Commercial Road) make of it all?
Benjamin Clabon, Guildhall Studio
Guildhall Studio is Portsmouth Guildhall's new performance space with an exciting programme encompassing children's theatre, drama, dance, comedy, classical, folk, jazz and world music. The studio also provides a hub for the community with workshops, activities and support for emerging artists in the region.
Benjamin's local life:
"I love Portsmouth's sense of community. When we need to, we come together, especially when celebrating our heritage or success. The city really knows how to put on fantastic commemorations and events."
A secret: "Portsmouth held the FA Cup for the longest amount of time during World War II with people taking turns looking after the cup."
Something quirky: "Friends from outside the city never believe me when I tell them we are an island!"
Favourite pub: "My partner works near the dockyard and we enjoy going to the Ship Anson for a drink; it's full of welcoming people."
Restaurant: "I love an Italian, such as Bella Calabria in the north of the city; I go a lot with my mum and dad."
Evening out: "My best evening out was a ghost walk around Portsmouth with friends. It was a great mix of fun, history and beer!"
Walk: "I head to Foxes Forest [aka Hilsea Lines] on the edge of the city where I walk my greyhound, Molly. You feel well away from it all."
Overnight stay: "G Boutique Hotel, a fantastic, locally run hotel."
Fitness class: "I attended a great bootcamp called TMF (Terrain Military Fitness). William, who runs it, was very supportive when I couldn't run as far as everyone else!"
Barber: "The Library Barbers Club: I have been going there since they opened for a great cut and atmosphere."
Local event: "We have some brilliant community-led events; I enjoy the Portsea Carnival with the mix of generations and multi-cultural groups."
Family day out: "I suggest one of our family shows in the Guildhall Studio. In the afternoon you could head to the Hilsea Lido, which is free, and for a small charge have a go at wakeboarding with South Coast Wakepark."
Local attraction: "Peter Ashley Activity Centre - something for all!"
Louise Lea, Wightlink
Wightlink is one of the UK's largest domestic ferry operators connecting the Isle of Wight to Portsmouth (and Lymington).
Louise's local life:
"I like Portsmouth's mix of the old and the new - 15th century fortifications against the backdrop of the iconic Spinnaker Tower; buildings that survived bombings in World War II next to modern tower blocks; historic ships beside the latest warships."
Something quirky: "There's a colony of harbour seals in Langstone Harbour; you can spot them along the Eastern Road, or get on the water with the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre."
Favourite pub: "Spice Island Inn on Old Portsmouth Point with views across to the Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays and Gosport; it's a great place to watch the world float by."
Café: "Canvas Coffee at Portsmouth and Southsea Railway Station: fantastic speciality coffee and home-baked cakes, but it's also a social enterprise which helps those in recovery from addiction to develop skills and confidence."
Restaurant: "7Bone Burger Co. I'm addicted to their Portswood Poutine. It's also the only place in Portsmouth that I've found a Pickle Back (shot of bourbon washed down with pickle juice)."
Walk: "Follow the Millennium Promenade. Starting at Spur Redoubt, the trail takes you over Long Curtain Moat, past Grand Parade and the Garrison Church, around Camber Dock and through Gunwharf Quays."
Local event: "Victorious - it gets better every year and is such good value for money. Where else can you be beside the seaside, listening to top chart acts and rock legends while watching warships sail by?"
Family day out: "A trip across to the Isle of Wight. Just 22 minutes on Wightlink's FastCat and you're on the sandy beaches of Ryde; and some of the best views of Portsmouth are from the water!"
Local attraction: "Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is amazing. The 12-month ticket is incredible value, so you can take your time seeing each attraction. My favourite is HMS Victory."
Jacquie Shaw, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to a number of attractions among them the Royal Navy's HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, Action Stations, World War I veteran HMS M.33, and Horrible Histories Pirates (a UK-first for the popular book series). The site welcomes 850,000 visitors a year and contributes £110m to the local economy.
Jacquie's local life:
"The best thing about Portsmouth is being by the sea; it never fails to raise my spirits."
A secret: "Portsmouth is home to the world's first mass production factory - Block Mills in the naval base - you can see it from the arena alongside HMS Victory."
Favourite café: "The Canteen in the historic barracks in Hotwalls Arts Quarter - lovely food in a great location."
Restaurant: "Abarbistro opposite Camber Dock - I love fish and they get it just right. My colleagues have been raving about Outside-In, Middle Street, street food served in a 'food court'; apparently very quirky."
Best evening out: "Portsmouth Guildhall. I was a trustee there for years. They also have a cracking line up of acts!"
Overnight stay: "Ye Spotted Dogge in Old Portsmouth, although The Village at North Harbour comes strongly recommended."
Local event: "I was part of the team that introduced Victorious Festival to the city, so that's got to feature. As does our own Victorian Christmas Festival - 20 years old this year!"
Family day out: "Definitely Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - great for learning by stealth! I also love Portsmouth Museum; there's always something of interest to see, and entry is free."
Jane Prescott, headteacher, Portsmouth
Portsmouth High School (part of the Girls' Day School Trust) has been educating girls since 1882.
Jane's local life:
"Portsmouth is a vibrant city with so much happening... Many pass through, using the channel ferries, but it is so much more than just a port."
Favourite store: "Revive Interiors, Castle Road, with so many interesting items."
Pub: "The Dolphin - it has a great selection of gins and is said to be the oldest pub in Portsmouth."
Restaurant: "The Briny. It has a lovely bright atmosphere, superb menu and is a perfect people-watching spot."
Fitness class: "The Pyramids' spin classes are a fantastic work out."
Hair salon: "The Salon, Old Portsmouth; it is so friendly, and Kay is a brilliant hairdresser!"
Local event: "Portsmouth High School Christmas Fayre."
Day out: "The D-Day Story."
Local attraction: "The Mary Rose or Portsmouth Cathedral - blending the old with the new.