A small but significant city on the south coast, Portsmouth has played a central role in both Britain’s naval and, more surprisingly, literary history. This guest post looks at some of the town’s top attractions…

As the only island city in an island nation, Portsmouth provides a real draw for visitors interested in all things nautical. The sea has shaped British history for centuries, and what better place to discover this rich heritage? Yet, alongside the naval tradition, Portsmouth remains an exciting modern city with much more to explore.

First Port of Call

Any visitor to this historic city should see the impressive range of naval and nautical history on display, and that points to one venue above all. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a world-class destination that enables visitors to experience 800 years of British naval history. It is home to the most famous vessels from Britain’s navy, including Nelson’s HMS Victory, Henry VIII’s Mary Rose and the World War II submarine HMS Alliance. History springs to life with interactive displays and informative tour guides who can talk about life at sea in different eras. The Dockyard also houses the Royal Marines and Royal Navy Museums.

The imposing HMS Alliance submarine. Photo by: Rob Nunn

A Bleak House?

Portsmouth is famous for more than the navy. A surprising number of great British writers called the city home, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Neil Gaiman and H. G. Wells. The main attraction for the literary-minded visitor is the birth place of Charles Dickens which carefully recreates the home in which the young Dickens grew up. Visitors can also enjoy parlour readings of Dickens’ work and set off on a tour of the locations that inspired him and provided much material for his novel Nicholas Nickleby. Fans of Conan Doyle’s greatest creation will doubtless enjoy the world’s largest Sherlock Holmes collection at Portsmouth Museum.

A Tale of Two Cities

Portsmouth’s attractions aren’t all in the past, however. There is an excellent shopping area at the Gunwharf Quays, home also to much of the city’s nightlife, and with three theatres and four top-rank musical venues the city offers plenty in the way of entertainment. No visit to Portsmouth today would be complete without ascending the Spinnaker Tower to enjoy stunning panoramas across the harbours.

Its numerous attractions and easy access to other areas of the south coast make Portsmouth an ideal destination for a city break. Its naval and cultural heritage have played a pivotal role in the development of Britain, providing a fascinating history to discover. That all this can be found at the heart of a thriving modern city only adds to the appeal.

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