Lively, upcoming and rich with culture and history, there are many reasons to visit the waterfront city of Portsmouth. The birthplace of Charles Dickens, home of the Royal Navy and officially the UK’s only island city, from unique heritage to world-class attractions, incredible shopping destinations, a range of places to eat and a vibrant nightlife, Portsmouth truly does offer something for everyone.
Ideally situated on the south coast, Portsmouth has been growing in popularity for shorts breaks by the sea as well as a place to party. Live music venues, festival and endless events are just some of the reasons why large groups are flocking here. Plus, once there, walking around the city is easy and there’s also great public transport links,
With so much to do and see, it’s no wonder that this seaside gem has been called the Great Waterfront City. And if the weather’s not on your side, you can always take cover in one of the many bars!
Explore the City
Located on the seafront, this 100-acre open space is where all the big events take place. A popular location for sports, picnics and walks, why not explore the area and see whether there’ll be any festivals taking place while you’re there?
Designer labels, high-street names and bargain brands - whatever you’re looking for, Portsmouth is sure to impress. Gunwharf Quays offers designer goods at fantastic prices and Cascades Shopping Centre boasts high-street brands. Commercial Road is not only a favourite with those looking for high-street goods but also boasts various coffee shops and restaurants, ideal for resting in after a long day.
If you’re looking to get away from Portsmouth’s hustle and bustle, head to Southsea. Choose from an exciting range of boutiques, vintage stores and boho shops. Palmerston Road is one of the best areas and is home to a selection of shops, bars, restaurants and the regular farmers market.
As a waterfront city, naturally Portsmouth is home to a variety of watersports. Put your body to the test in a little sailing challenge, recover from the night before with some open-water swimming or if you prefer to watch, sit back, relax and breath in that fresh sea air.
Comedy and Theatre
A city jam-packed with culture, Portsmouth has a number of theatres offering a whole host of performances from comedy, drama, live music and more. If you’re looking for a good time, it’s worth looking out for some stand-up acts while you’re there. New Theatre Royal, King’s Theatre and The Groundings Theatre are the area’s best venues hosting up and coming talent as well as some well-known famous faces.
From a big night out, quiet catch up with friends or simply wanting to go where the night takes you, Portsmouth’s nightlife scene has something for all ages, budgets and tastes. Boasting traditional pubs, lively clubs and cool cocktail lounges, there’s even live music venues for something a little different.
If you love to be the last one of the dancefloor, then head to Gunwharf Quays, which is home to some of the cities best bars and clubs. Enjoy a drink while overlooking the boats and then head inside to dance until the sun comes up. Guildhall Walk and Palmerston Road are also popular clubbing areas. Pyrsm, Popworld and Tiger Tiger are also favoured with tourists and locals alike.
Having previously hosted some of the biggest names in music, Portsmouth offers a range of musical genres which means planning a night out is as easy as A, B, C. Portsmouth Guildhall is the area’s biggest music venue and the Pyramid’s Centre and Wedgewood Rooms also host a number of upcoming acts.
Feeling lucky? Indulge in a little flutter at Portsmouth’s modern casino, which is complete with gaming tables, slot machines and a late night bar. With entry into Grosvenor Casino, you’ll be guaranteed a good time but will your fortune come in?
Eat like a local
In Portsmouth, there’s definitely no shortage of places to eat and drink. Whether you’re looking for something quick to grab, want to try something exotic, or want to celebrate a big occasion, Portsmouth’s streets are lined with great restaurants - even the fussiest of mates will be pleased.
Traditional Pub Grub
Portsmouth is jam-packed with traditional pubs and many serve food until closing - so whether you fancy a good plate of comfort food or you’re craving a big plate of chips with a few bevvies, you’ll definitely find somewhere to satisfy. Albert Road is home to the Fat Fox and Porters and in the city centre, you’ll also find Wetherspoons and the Brewhouse and Kitchen.
Cafe Rouge, Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama, Nandos, Zizzi and more - this waterfront city is home to many popular chains for those that know what they love and love what they know. Even better, these restaurants easily accommodate large groups and with fantastic deals floating around, meaning you’ll have more money left over for booze!
A Ruby Murry
Is there anything quite like a good old curry? Maybe you prefer a chinese curry? Whatever tickles your taste buds, Portsmouth has plenty of Chinese and Indian restaurants that everyone will love. Albert Road offers various delicious eastern inspired restaurants.
Woken up with the worst hangover known to mankind? Fear not as Portsmouth has loads of great cafes ideal for recovering in. Take a little wander along the waterfront and check out the likes of Garage Lounge, Southsea Coffee Company which serves vegan treats or Southsea Beach Cafe for a view that won’t be beaten.
Places to Stay
Like most cities, Portsmouth has its fair share of hotels both budget and those for special occasions. Plus, most have the option of double and triple rooms, which is a great for large groups to save money.
Portsmouth, modern and lively
Your guide to a stag weekend on England’s fun-loving south coast
Portsmouth’s an easy city to understand. There’s the totally modern centre, rebuilt completely after the Second World War and home to the University of Portsmouth campus and more shopping than anyone has time for. You want Old Portsmouth for harbourfront buildings, little boats and the city’s massive cathedral. Southsea’s the place for traditional seaside frolics. And then there’s the sea. It’s everywhere and what Portsmouth hasn’t done to make its waterfront spectacular obviously wasn’t worth doing.
Portsmouth at a glance:
- On the English Channel between Southampton and Brighton and England’s only island city
- Home to Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory from the Battle of Trafalgar, which is docked in the city, as is Queen Victoria’s favourite ship, HMS Warrior
- Home to the biggest amusement park on the south coast
- Buzzing with watersports and other activities perfect to add some thrills and spills to your weekend
- A university city with a young, vibrant population that likes to party
City Centre – where the city goes shopping
Shopping’s such a big thing in Portsmouth the city even has a festival dedicated to the art of rampant consumerism. But don’t worry if you miss the official celebrations, buying stuff is a year-round pastime in Portsmouth and the city centre is the focus for top brand names, department stores and many, many malls.
Old Portsmouth – the city’s romantic, seafaring side
Seen from the top of the Spinnaker Tower, Old Portsmouth looks like it fell out of a picture book. Up close it’s pretty much the same with cobbled streets, old churches, a pretty little harbour, historic homes and quaint coming at you from every side. This is a glimpse of the city from back in the day when women fluttered hankies on the quayside and real men voyaged for years on nothing but weevily biscuits and rum. It’s also the area for great bars with amazing views, excellent restaurants and good cafés.
Southsea – all the fun of the fair and the rest
Famous for its Victorian pier and the big, bold funfair, Southsea is just as well known for even more shopping. You won’t find the big high street names here, small and specialist is the Southsea signature. And it goes without saying that this is the place for ice cream, paddling and bracing walks on the beach.
Dockyard – for boats, submarines and big, big battleships
Portsmouth’s regenerated Dockyard is one of the city’s finest achievements. Even if you just wander about and look at the boats, it’s amazing. The stunning Mary Rose Museum is here, so is Nelson’s Trafalgar battleship, HMS Victory, and, if you want a bit of ‘crow’s nest’ action, the Spinnaker Tower awaits you.
Best pubs in Portsmouth:
The Wellington, High Street
A little slice of real ale history in the heart of Old Portsmouth, pubs don’t come more traditional than The Wellington. Staff are lovely and the ale selection is second to none. http://wellingtonportsmouth.co.uk/
The White Swan, Guildhall Walk
Impressive 100-year-old Tudor-style building, as authentic inside and out as its great range of cask ales and beers. But the real draw here is the brewing done on site in huge silver vats of delicious alchemy – follows the traditions of the original Brickwood Brewery so a must for beer history buffs. www.brewhouseandkitchen.com
The Bridge Tavern, East Street
One of Portsmouth’s outstanding pubs for real ale and seaside atmosphere. The views are amazing and the crowd ranges from students to local old timers.
Spice Island Inn, Bath Square
One of the best beer gardens in the city and an iconic Portsmouth pub – not least because of its romantic name. Overlooking the harbour and great to get lost in for hours with the help of an incredible ale selection and excellent home cooking.
Bar 38, Boulevard Building
Famous for its 2-4-1 Happy Hour and all-day cut price cocktails, Bar 38 is big and boisterous and has brilliant views. Great for groups and very welcoming to stag parties, especially if you make the effort to dress up. www.bar38.co.uk
Best clubs in Portsmouth:
Tiger Tiger, Gunwharf Quays
Cocktail lounge come club, Tiger Tiger has some of Portsmouth’s best nights out bar none. Fantastic cocktails, good music and a young, lively crowd. Monday and Thursday are student nights and the retro disco dancefloor is great any night. Big on events and themes, they do everything from cocktail making parties to club nights and comedy. www.tigertiger.co.uk/portsmouth/
The Barn, Milton Road
Part pub, part live music club, this is where to hear raw, new, local talent before anyone else does. Atmosphere’s easy going and it’s a good place for a few beers and some music critic moments.
Liquid & Envy, Stanhope Road
Classic clubbing right in the city centre. Big crowds, incredible DJs and fantastic light shows. Once a month, the ‘Big Night Out’ is always worth checking out. www.liquidclubs.com/portsmouth/
Pop World, King Henry I Street
Retro cocktails, classic shots and pure disco sounds are what makes Pop World one of Portsmouth’s best known and best loved nights out. www.popworldportsmouth.co.uk
Food: eat like a local:
A huge, international port and one of the most historic and visited cities in the UK, Portsmouth isn’t short on variety when it comes to eating options. Tradition demands you try fish’n’chips because it’s the seaside. Home-cooked pub grub and real ale are what true sailors put under their belts round these parts. And then there’s everything else on the menu, from tapas to French rural, just take your pick.
Nicholson’s Tapas Bar (http://www.nicholsonsrestaurant.co.uk)
On Albert Road serves up tapas and wine and half-price Sangria on Tuesdays, Nicholson’s is understandably loved locally. Always up for a party and a good place to start the night because it’s surrounded by plenty of great bars.
For a relaxed, beachy atmosphere and amazing views of the Spinnaker Tower Abarbistro (http://www.abarbistro.co.uk)
On White Hart Road is perfect for lunch or dinner. Fresh, locally caught fish is their speciality and the sunny terrace and private garden are lovely in summer.
Pie & Vinyl (http://www.pieandvinyl.co.uk)
On Castle Road is a Southsea favourite serving up every imaginable variation on the traditional homemade British pie. Live music is an added attraction and it takes pride in its vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
Portsmouth’s reputation is a lot bigger than its acreage so getting about on foot is just fine for most places.