Home to world-class museums, excellent shopping, the landmark Emirates Spinnaker Tower and the Royal Navy, the UK’s only island city is a growing cruise port with an astonishing array of attractions showcasing its naval and literary heritage. It’s perfect for a day stop or turnaround trip.
Cruise port location
Cruise lines including Saga, Noble Caledonia and Viking, dock at three berths close to the modern terminal building, located to the north east of the Royal Navy base and Old Portsmouth.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
A 20-minute walk takes you from the Port Terminal to the town centre and the majority of key sites are within walking distance of each other.
To get your bearings, follow the Renaissance Walking Trail along Portsmouth’s historic waterfront, taking in Old Portsmouth, Camber dock and Gunwharf Quays.
The port also provides shuttle buses to and from major attractions or you can take a 10-minute taxi ride into town.
Portsmouth has an excellent and reliable bus network, which is cheap and easy to navigate. Families will enjoy hiring bikes as the city is small and flat with designated cycleways and plenty of scenic cycle routes.
The city is well-connected by road and rail links to the rest of the UK. Drivers should take the M27 and M275 motorways where directions to the port and passenger ferries are clearly signposted.
Portsmouth and Southsea station is closest to the port terminal building and there are frequent trains from London Waterloo (an 85-minute journey). The port terminal is a short bus or taxi ride away from the station.
Portsmouth Harbour offers train services to London Victoria via Gatwick Airport, Cardiff and Bristol.
The closest international airport is in Southampton while London Gatwick and London Heathrow airports are approximately 100km away.
A 10-minute drive from the Ferry Terminal, is the ultra-modern and tech-savvy Portsmouth Village Hotel. Club rooms come with a virtual concierge known as the Amazon Echo Dot and you can check in via an app or online.
Also conveniently located to the Port Terminal is the family-friendly Premier Inn Portsmouth City Centre, which has an on-site restaurant.
Stattons Hotel in Southsea is a delightful boutique hotel located close to the beach and affiliated with a nearby gastropub serving delicious dishes.
However, for a truly extraordinary start to your cruise, why not stay the night on an island in the middle of the Solent? In order to reach the No Mans Fort Hotel, you catch a boat with fellow guests – bag the penthouse suite in the lighthouse for incredible 360-degree views.
What to see and do
What can I do in four hours or less?
Portsmouth is packed with attractions for all ages so you’ll be spoilt for choice on arrival.
For those with limited time, head to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. It houses no less than 11 sights, including Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, the heavily-armed HMS Warrior and the Royal Navy Museum filled with fascinating artefacts such as the face of Nelson taken from a plaster cast while he was still alive.
The famous Mary Rose ship, which sunk in the Solent in 1545 after an attack by the French and brought back to the surface in 1982, is now housed in an extraordinary building a short walk from the historic dockyard and is full of well-preserved relics documenting 16th-century life.
Alternatively, you can explore Southsea Castle where it is said Henry VIII watched the aforementioned Mary Rose, his favourite ship, disappear beneath the waves.
If you’re more interested in the city’s literary history, then Portsmouth City Museum has the largest collection of items concerning Arthur Conan-Doyle, and his famous creation Sherlock Holmes, in the world. Alternatively, visit the unassuming terraced house where, in 1812, the great Charles Dickens was born.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
Aside from spending longer – and visiting more – of the museums, children will love the Blue Reef Aquarium in Southsea where you can spot sharks, rays and clown fish in the walkthrough tunnel and otters frolicking about in the indoor freshwater display.
If all this nautical history and marine life is making you miss life on the sea, then take the waterbus to Gosport where you can visit the Royal Navy Submarine and Explosion Museum.
From under the sea to high above it, enjoy afternoon tea at the sail-shaped Emirates Spinnaker Tower, one of the tallest accessible structures in the UK and the centerpiece of Portsmouth Harbour’s impressive redevelopment.
What can I do with a bit longer?
Combine city sightseeing with a day’s walking in the New Forest, a 30-minute drive from Portsmouth. Alternatively, take the ferry to the Isle of Wight and marvel at the multi-coloured sands of Alum Bay or visit Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s spectacular summer retreat.
Eat and drink
As expected with such an illustrious nautical heritage, fish is the dish of the day. Head to the stalls lining the Camber fishing port for delicious sea food or follow the waterfront to Southsea to sample traditional fish and chips at the highly-rated The Fisherman’s Kitchen. Wash it down with a pint at The Dolphin, reputed to be the city’s oldest drinking establishment, which opened its doors to thirsty townsfolk in 1716.
Don’t leave Portsmouth without…
Head to Gunwharf Quays to find major shopping brands under one beautifully-renovated roof. Alternatively, explore the antique shops and vintage clothes stores of Southsea.
It is a little-known fact that Portsmouth was famed for its soap making so stock up on sweet-swelling bath goodies at the South Sea Bathing Hut, which has brought this heritage back to life.
Need to know
Most visits are trouble free so long as the usual precautions are taken.
Best time to go
Cruise departures run all year. Traffic enroute to Portsmouth will be heavy on Goodwood race days. In June 2019, Portsmouth will be staging popular events to commemorate Britain’s 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Most places are open daily.