10 reasons to visit Portsmouth

Portsmouth is a vibrant place and the UK's only island city. This week, our Local editor Shelley highlights what's great about Portsmouth; a city that perfectly combines its historic marine attractions with some fantastic shopping, nightlife and culture.


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1. Thing about the area

This is a bustling city which is big enough to accommodate pretty much any interest you can think of, but small enough to foster a real sense of community wherever you are.

The birthplace of Charles Dickens, home to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and famous for its naval history, Portsmouth has an abundance of historical attractions to offer. There are a wealth of live venues which attract major comedy and music acts. Host to the Great South Run, you will also find excellent sporting facilities for a wide range of sports.


2. Child-friendly café

Southsea Coffee Co was set up by parents with parents in mind. This café has room for pushchairs, a chalk wall for children to draw on and a basket of toys in a dedicated area at the back of the café. There are plenty of highchairs and excellent changing facilities. Not only is the space perfect for parents and their children, but the cafe also serves a lovely range of coffees, teas and delicious cakes, even catering for those of us who have to go dairy free. The café is a firm favourite with local parents and also hosts a regular sling meet for the local Southsea Sling library.


3. Child-free night out

Top of the list has to be Albert Road for the Kings Theatre which attracts major theatrical national tours, or the Wedgewood Rooms for comedy and live music. With plenty of bars, bistros and restaurants on the road, your only problem is choosing one. Both Gunwharf Quays and Port Solent also offer bars and restaurants and cinema complexes.


4. Outside Space

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s oldest nature reserve Farlington Marshes is a beautiful grazing marsh, taking in the northern shore of Langstone Harbour between Portsmouth and Havant. My daughter loves to walk the circuit around the marsh spotting butterflies, birds, rabbits and other wildlife. (It’s also the best spot in Portsmouth for blackberry picking but shhhh, don’t tell anyone). If you like your outside spaces a little less wild, then you will find a man-made boating lake, playground, splash pool, tennis courts, putting green, bowling green and park with café and public toilets at Canoe Lake in Southsea.


At a glance

Average semi-detached house price
Portsmouth: £211,898
UK: £201,427

Average class size for primary schools
Portsmouth: 26.8 pupils
UK: 25.9 pupils

Average salary
Portsmouth: £19,552
UK: £26,461

Unemployment rate
Portsmouth: 8%
UK: 7.3%

5. Hidden Gem

There's plenty of hidden gems in Portsmouth, but if you’re of a crafty persuasion, then I would urge you to pay a visit to ArtyPotz. Hidden away on Castle Road, here you can indulge your inner artist and create something very personal for a gift or keepsake.


6. Community Venues

Southsea Greenhouse community garden is a local community co-operative growing, creating and selling local produce and craft. It also provides volunteering opportunities. You can visit any time it's open and see the pond, the five star bug hotel, ornamental beds, wild gardens and vegetables. I can’t think of a better way to shop local than to support this community venture.


7. Free visitor attraction

The City Museum has free admission offering regular guest exhibits and themed workshops for children. You can also visit the Natural History Museum and Southsea Castle, built by Henry VIII, free of charge.

8. Day out

Spinaker Tower

A ticket for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard lasts for a year and offers year-round entertainment with regular family-friendly events. The dockyard houses the Mary Rose, and Henry VIII’s tudor carrack, famously raised from the sea in 1982. You can explore Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and the Victorian HMS Warrior. The attraction caters for all ages with interactive exhibits throughout and Action Stations provides simulators and a climbing wall. Under 5s are catered for in the Cabin Room which is a beautifully decorated sea-themed soft play area with lots of activities and dressing up clothes.


9. Places to live

Portsmouth is situated mainly on Portsea Island. If you want to live centrally then consider Southsea, Eastney, Fratton and Milton. For those who need to commute, consider living on the mainland in Cosham, Drayton or Farlington with easy access to the motorway. Wherever you go, you will find a lovely community, excellent parks and plenty of children’s activities.


10. Places to shop

For designer shopping we have Gunwharf Quays, which boasts a park and sail option allowing you to sail there from the carpark. Albert Road offers you an eclectic mix of independent shops and you will find high street shops both on Commercial Road, including the Cascades shopping centre, and Palmerston Road precinct, which has a nice mix of high street and independent traders.


About the editor

My name is Shelley and I’m the Local Editor for Mumsnet Portsmouth. Originally from the Isle of Wight, I lived in London for several years working in Notting Hill and moved back to the area two years ago. I live in Cosham with my husband and two children and work from home. I’m always on the lookout for anything interesting to add to the site, if you want to share something – you can email me at portsmouth@mumsnetlocal.com


Last updated: about 3 years ago