Situated on Portsea Island, the ‘Great Waterfront City’ of Portsmouth is one of the most famous maritime cities in the world – and is just around the corner from our newest Arena centre! Read on for our top five reasons to love Portsmouth…
History & Culture
As a naval city, Portsmouth is steeped in maritime history and has played a major role in English history.
Founded by the merchant Jean de Gisors in 1180, Portsmouth had become one of England’s most important ports by the 13th Century. Wine, wax and iron were imported into the country at Portsmouth, whilst wool and grain were exported overseas through the busy port. Centuries later, Henry VII boosted the fortunes of the settlement once again by building a dockyard and making Portsmouth into a naval port. From 1495, royal warships were built and repaired in the dockyard bringing wealth and prosperity to the area. The succeeding monarch – Henry VIII – extended the dockyard still further and built additional fortifications, making Portsmouth the most fortified settlement in the world. One of the most famous of these fortifications is Southsea Castle, which remains a prominent landmark on the seafront to this day. Henry VIII famously watched the sinking of his favourite warship, The Mary Rose from the ramparts of the castle in 1545 – the hull of which was lifted from the seabed in 1982 and is now on display at the Historic Dockyard exhibit.
With the opening of more dockyards along the River Thames, Portsmouth began to decline in importance and its fortunes would not recover until after the Civil War in 1646. Following its resurgence, however, the settlement grew rapidly, expanding well beyond the confines of the original town (now known as Old Portsmouth). Portsmouth eventually gained city status in 1926 and remains an important city – both in terms of its status as a port and dockyard (which employs a tenth of the city’s population), and in terms of the developing manufacturing, engineering and creative industries in the area.
In addition to its historical significance, Portsmouth also has a strong literary heritage: world-famous authors such as Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling all have strong ties to the city, whilst contemporary author Neil Gaiman is also a proud native of Portsmouth (with a seafront road named after his 2013 novel ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’).
Leisure & Activities
Portsmouth has been a popular seaside resort since the Victorian times – as a result, there is no shortage of things to do in the city! Try your hand at the ‘Pitch and Putt’ on Eastern Parade, visit the seafront aquarium, take an art class at the Hotwalls Studios or visit Clarence Pier for classic amusements such as the carousel, dodgems, waltzer and crazy golf.
Whilst the city offers plenty of activities throughout the year, the seafront city really comes alive during the summertime. The bandstand overlooking the sea offers free live music every Sunday throughout the summer, offering a great way to relax and enjoy the sunshine, whilst the August Bank Holiday weekend sees some of the biggest names in music descend upon Southsea Common for Victorious Festival. In recent years acts such as the Stereophonics, Madness, Elbow, Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher have graced the main stage to entertain festival-goers beside the sea!
Food & Drink
The city offers plenty of diverse options to appeal to foodies and those in search of fashionable new bars. Clarendon Road offers a collection of independent eateries offering diverse cuisine, from Spanish tapas at stylish Sant-Yago and spicy Mexican fare at Belle Isle to Greek mezze at Agora and world tapas at Two Doors Down, there is something to suit all tastes. Garage Lounge and Becketts provide the perfect settings for relaxed Sunday brunches, whilst cake (and Mac ‘n’ Cheese!) has become an institution at The Tenth Hole on Eastern Parade. Each summer there is also a large food festival on Palmerston Road, giving attendees the chance to tempt their tastebuds with exciting new flavours from around the globe.
The Southsea area also leaves you spoilt for choice when it comes to venues for after-dinner drinks: Gin & Olive offers a staggering collection of over a hundred different gins to be sampled, whilst Huis has a selection of sixty different Belgian beers to try. If wine is more to your taste, Chambers or Cheese & Cheers are worth a visit. If venturing to the seafront during the summer with cause to celebrate, take the opportunity to visit Southsea Castle where there is a pop-up Champagne Bar every Friday night from April to August (we are sure Henry VIII would approve of this creative use of his fortress!).
A bargain-hunter’s dream, Portsmouth is home to Gunwharf Quays – a large outlet shopping centre located close to the Old Portsmouth area of the city. With almost 100 big-brand shops on site and discounts aplenty, Gunwharf is the perfect place for a spot of retail therapy.
As well as mainstream high-street retailers, Portsmouth has a great selection of independent shops: the quirky Pie & Vinyl is a much-loved music shop with a twist, whilst Strong Island Clothing Co. sells popular original clothing designs (which can frequently be seen being modelled by the locals!). For those searching for quirky, locally produced items, the ‘Love Southsea’ market (held on the first weekend of every month) is a veritable treasure-trove, with diverse range of traders selling their wares!
Views Across the Solent
There are five beaches in and around the city of Portsmouth offering stunning views across the Solent and the chance to breathe the sea air! Whether you decide to relax to the sound of the waves or get active by running, walking or cycling along the promenade, the seafront provides the perfect setting to enjoy the great outdoors!
Love Portsmouth? Why not consider our newest location just around the corner in Havant? Call the team today to find out more!