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Portsmouth – A city brimming with history
The south coast of England is home to the port city of Portsmouth, one of the most notable maritime ports in the history of the UK. Much of the city is spread across Portsea Island, yet there’s even more to this coastal city than its naval base and many historical points of nautical interest.
A port city of history
Many towns and cities in the UK have histories that are rich and tapestried, and Portsmouth is no different. It’s here that visitors will find Southsea Castle which since first built in 1544 by Henry VIII has seen more than its fair share of battles. Strengthened over the years, the castle was first used as a means of defence against a sea invasion but throughout the ages took on a few different roles. At one time it served as a military prison while in the 1820s a lighthouse was constructed to guide ships coming into port.
The Historic Dockyard boasts that it is the only place in the world where tourists can view the Royal Navy’s current fleet and also visit some of the most famous naval vessels in history. Here visitors will find ships of old such as the HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, while the Royal Navy Submarine Museum is located off-site at Gosport. Gosport is just a quick drive from the dockyard and a short distance from many of the city’s hotels.
A tale of Charles Dickens
In the city itself, visitors will find the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum which holds a small collection of Dickens memorabilia such as an inkwell belonging to the writer himself. The house in which the museum is located was the writer’s birthplace, and the building has been restored to its 19th-century condition. For a more detailed look at the life of Portsmouth’s most famous citizen, tourists can pay a visit to Portsmouth City Museum. This beautiful building resembles a castle but is actually a former military barracks. It offers visitors the chance to learn more about the city’s history both on land and at sea while there is a permanent exhibition on Dickens and his life’s work.
A view above and on the ground
The first port of call for many visitors to the city is Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. However, the Spinnaker Tower is a relatively recent addition to the city that is certainly drawing the crowds. Children and adults alike will love the glass-floored level where they will feel like they’re floating on air while the top deck is a perfect vantage point to see the harbour and the ships leaving the ferry port. Another interesting way to see the city is on foot. There are so many things that are easily missed from a bus window, or that cannot be seen from a hotel window and the guided walking city tours of Portsmouth are the ideal solution. They take visitors through various points of interest in the city ensuring that they get to see and understand a side of the city that many tourists miss out on.
Retail therapy and a lively nightlife
Once all the tours and museums are done, it’s time to hit the shops in either Gunwharf Quays or Cascades Shopping Centre. Gunwharf is home to over 90 retail outlets while Cascades houses over fifty. There’s quite a few bargains to be found and no shortages of souvenirs to bring home too. Gunwharf is also home to a lively nightlife and is a popular destination for a night out as it boasts numerous bars and restaurants. Another of Portsmouth’s popular shopping centres is Port Solent – The Boardwalk Shopping Centre which is a great place to visit some independent and quirky shops or enjoy a meal and a few relaxing drinks outside by the marina.
Hit the beaches or enjoy a spa
If the infamous UK weather permits, then a trip to one of Portsmouth’s three beaches is a must. Southsea, Eastney, and Old Portsmouth Beaches are all shingle shorelines that are well maintained and near many of the city’s hotels. They are a great vantage point from which to see ships coming to and from the naval base, harbour, and ferry port. There are also many opportunities for some indoor relaxation as Portsmouth is home to a variety of spas and wellness centres. In fact, there are quite a few spa hotels in the area worth paying a visit to. It’s an ideal way to spend a few hours especially after a long day of shopping, sightseeing, or hitting the tarmac on one of the guided walking city tours. For the best inside knowledge from a local, simply ask hotel reception staff for some recommendations.