Portsmouth is a city full of history and interesting things to see and do. The city has a rich maritime and military heritage and is best known as being the home of Nelson’s flagship, H. M. S. Victory. Portsmouth England is only 2 hours by train from London so it makes a great day trip from the capital.
With so much to see in this area, Portsmouth is also ideal for a short break. The city has ferry connections to France and the Channel Islands so it is ideal to see as part of a wider European itinerary. Here’s the lowdown on the best backpacking attractions in Portsmouth England.
Portsmouth England Historic Dockyard
Most of the major maritime attractions in Portsmouth are within the Historic Dockyard. This includes HMS Victory, the Royal Marines Museum, HMS Warrior, and the National Museum of the Royal Navy. There are combo tickets that include all the attractions within the Historic Dockyard costing £39 per adult. However, tickets purchased online in advance at the official website are usually discounted.
If you plan to be in Portsmouth for several days and don’t want to do everything at once, there are also tickets that enable you to return anytime in 12 months. You can also visit individual attractions within the dockyard and get tickets that cover 2-3 attractions.
For a combo ticket that includes all the main attractions in Portsmouth, there is the Portsmouth Pass. This includes a ticket to the Historic Dockyard and also the Emirates Spinnaker Tower and Mary Rose.
A visit to Portsmouth is not complete without seeing one of the most famous ships in the world. The Victory was Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s warship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and where he was killed. The ship has been beautifully restored to show what a warship at that time would have looked like. A brass plaque marks the spot where Nelson was killed.
National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth England
This brilliant museum is another big attraction for visitors to Portsmouth. It covers 350 years of naval history and has excellent displays of historic shipping as well as modern-day technology. The museum also has exhibits that show the lives of ordinary men and women in the navy over the past 100 years. It is located within the Historic Dockyard.
Another highlight of a visit to Portsmouth is the HMS M33. This ship is just one of three from the First World War that still exists. It is the only surviving ship from the Gallipoli Campaign and also operated in the Russian Revolution. Visitors can go onboard and see the workings of this historic ship.
HMS Warrior 1860
Visitors on a backpacking trip to Portsmouth will find HMS Warrior interesting to see. This is the first iron-hulled armored warship in the world. It was built in 1860 but in fact, never fired a shot in warfare. Today, visitors can see this remarkable piece of history in the Historic Dockyard.
HMS Alliance at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum is another great attraction in the Historic Dockyard. Visitors can walk onboard HMS Alliance which has been arranged to give the appearance it is about to leave port.
Mary Rose Ship
The Mary Rose is not included within the Historic Dockyard tickets but is a major reason to visit Portsmouth. This ship was the flagship of Henry the Eighth and sank in 1545 during the Battle of the Solent. 500 years later the ship was excavated from the seabed and restored.
The Mary Rose is now displayed in a dedicated museum in Portsmouth and is one of the highlights of the city. The museum has been constructed so visitors get views of the gun deck and can see many of the items excavated from the sea that gives an insight into life on this ship in Tudor times.
Emirates Spinnaker Tower
When visitors come to Portsmouth one of the major landmarks is the Emirates Spinnaker Tower which dominates the city and harbor skyline. At 170 meters high there are spectacular views of the city and the ocean below.
Visitors to the tower can learn more about the history of Portsmouth and step out on the skywalk over the water. Altitude is a virtual reality walk up one of the spines making up the tower. For those who want to relax, the Sky Garden is a good place to get a coffee and enjoy the views.
Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum
One of England’s most well- known writers, Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth. His books include Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol. Today, visitors can tour the small house where Charles Dickens was born in 1812. There are three furnished rooms and an exhibition about his life in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth England Guided Walks
One of the best ways to get to know the city of Portsmouth is to take a guided tour. These are organized by the tourist office and many are themed on different aspects of the city from its naval heritage to the spice trade.
For those who love running, there’s a free Parkrun at The Common each weekend where visitors can meet local runners and complete a 5km trail. For a longer walk try Portsdown Hill just outside the city center. There are spectacular views of the sea from the summit and the area is full of wildflowers in spring, kestrels and other birdlife.
Portsmouth Museum is a really interesting attraction. It has some interesting displays about the history of the city but also has a large section dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle lived and worked in Portsmouth and based one of his characters in neighboring Southsea.
Portsmouth England D-Day Story Museum
One of Portsmouth’s newest attractions, the D Day Museum is the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom that is dedicated to the 1944 invasion. It has several exhibits dedicated to this part of history and includes many personal accounts of the D Day landings. The museum also contains the Overlord Embroidery depicting D Day.
Portsmouth England Gunwharf Quays
Gunwharf Quays is near the Historic Dockyard and is a shopping center with several good restaurants. Most of the stores here are outlet stores selling items at a discounted price. Although most backpackers are not into shopping, this is a good place to find items to replace clothing and kit at a fraction of the normal retail price.
Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower
This interesting museum in Gosport can be reached by free waterbus across Portsmouth Harbour. It is an excellent collection of naval ammunition including torpedoes and even a nuclear bomb. The admission price is included in a full ticket to the Historic Dockyard. It is also a great way to see the city from the water.
Blue Reef Aquarium
Located in nearby Southsea, the Blue Reef Aquarium is a popular visitor attraction in the Portsmouth area. The aquarium includes species indigenous to British waters as well as those found in tropical climates. This aquarium also has feeding times for the saltwater animals and fishes. Here, visitors can watch and possibly participate in the feeding of animals. Also, the seals feeding is one of many favorites. The experience will definitely be a memorable one. Visitors also can go through an aquarium tunnel filled with amazing creatures.
Southsea Pier is another popular attraction here and the beach is a good reason to visit. Southsea Castle is nearby and was the place where Henry the Eighth watched the Mary Rose sink.