Day Trip to Portsmouth – Things to Do in Portsmouth in One Day

A photo taken at sunrise from a ferry, overlooking the town of Portsmouth. You can see the Spinnaker Tower on the left of the phot and the walls of the old castle on the right. As it is sunset, the light in the photo is warm, with orange shades.

Portsmouth is a lovely harbour city famous for its maritime heritage, architecture and shopping. There are plenty of things to do in Portsmouth in one day. I have visited Portsmouth on a cold day in February and tried to see as many things as possible before getting too cold. I enjoyed walking along the quiet streets of the old town, but also window shopping around the famous Gunwharf Quays.


How to get to Portsmouth

Getting to Portsmouth from London is very easy, with hourly direct trains from both Victoria and Waterloo stations. On an average day there are 271 trains connecting London to Portsmouth. The nearest airports are Southampton and Gatwick, both connected by trains and buses to the city. If you have a ferry connection, you can take a train from Portsmouth Harbour to Gatwick Airport, London, the New Forest or Weymouth.


Things to do in Portsmouth in One Day:

Spinnaker Tower

Thie Spinnaker Tower, shaped as a sail in the wind, standing in front of the Gunwharf Keys shopping comples. Below it you can see the sea and some small ships docked along the quay. The sky is blue

As you approach Portsmouth either from the motorway or by train, you cannot not notice the Spinnaker Tower, the symbol of the city. The 170 meters high landmark is an observation tower with a 360 triple panoramic deck on the top and a café. Visitors can access the viewing and the sky garden deck (which is outdoors and exposed to the elements) only by buying a ticket which costs £11.50. For courageous souls, the first observation deck has a section of glass floor, from which you can admire the harbour below your feet.

Deck 2 is dedicated to the Clouds Café, which serves afternoon tea for £30 (includes the entrance fee to the tower).


HMS Victory Lord Nelson

HMS Victory Lord Nelson ship docked into the harbour. The ship is black and has three red masts. The lower part of the ship, touching the water, is red as well. In front of the ship there is a fence on which four seaguls are resting.

Docked in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, HMS Victory Lord Nelson is the oldest naval ship still in commission, with 241 years of service. She was Lord Nelson’s flagship in the battle of Trafalgar, from 1805.

The 104-gun war ship is not preserved as a museum and can be visited. A full price ticket which includes access to all the ships run by The National Museum, a harbour tour, a visit to the National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth and many more, costs £31.00 and it is valid for an entire year. For just one visit and access to the ship, the ticket costs £18.00.


The Royal Garrison Church

The remains of the stone church, without a roof. The church takes the entire space of the photo. It has one small tower.

This Grade II listing building used to be the chapel of a medieval hospital, built sometimes in the 12th century. King Charles II married here in 1622. Renovated over the years, it lost its roof during the bombings from 1941. You can take a guided tour inside the church, but, as they are run by volunteers, they are available only in summer and not every day (usually between Tuesday and Sunday between 11:00 – 16:00, between April and October).


Southsea Castle

Stone chars overlooking the sea, on top of the historical walls in Portsmouth. The sun is setting in the background over the sea. The sky is cloudy but you can see the orange disk of the sun.

At the end of the Clarence Esplanade you will find Southsea Castle, which is free to visit. The museum sits inside a coastal fortress dating from 1545, built by Henry the VIII. For over 400 years, the castle was an active military base, being withdrawn from active service only in 1960.

Inside the castle gates visitors can observe the moat, the lighthouse, the keep, even an original Tudor wall.  Free tours of the tunnels are taking place Wednesdays and Sundays at 11am and 11.15am during the castle’s summer season.


The D-Day Story Museum

The D-Day Museum in Portsmouth is a storytelling experience, which focuses on the personal stories gathered from people who lived through the Battle of Normandy. It has a collection of over 10,000 items including maps, uniforms, vehicles, medals, documents and recordings of veterans.

The Memorial Wall remembers those who lost their lives in the 1944, during the D-Day landings.


Gunwharf Quays

The Gunwharf Keys Shopping centre: two big buildings with a wavy roof, a second floor balcony and many windows around. There are cannons in front of the buildings

Most people who visit Portsmouth from the nearby cities, come here to shop at the famous Gunwharf Quays, the largest designer outlet on the South Coast. Shoppers can find at Gunwharf Quays over 90 famous brands which offer sales up to 60% the retail price every day. The outlet has many different shops, from clothing to beauty, from homeware to sportswear, from shoes to jewellery and watches.

If you are dedicating an entire day to shopping, you should know that Gunwharf Quays is also home to around 30 different restaurants, bars and coffee shops, so when you get hungry you don’t have to go too far away.

If you come to Portsmouth to renew your wardrobe, my advice would be to avoid the weekends and try doing it on a weekday. During weekends it can get very busy.


Have you been to Portsmouth before? Have you climbed up Spinnaker Tower? Have you been shopping to Gunwharf Quays before? I would love to read your opinions in the comment section below.

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23 thoughts on “Day Trip to Portsmouth – Things to Do in Portsmouth in One Day

  1. Lisa says:

    Even though I live most of the year in the UK, I’ve never been to Portsmouth! Saying that, this post has opened my eyes to the attractions to see here. My first stop would be Southsea Castle, simply because I like castles and sunsets too!

  2. Catherine says:

    There are so many beautiful sights to see and discover there…Loved this virtual mini tour…I’d love to see it in person one day!

  3. Alvern says:

    I have never been to Portsmouth before but it sure does look like a very interesting trip. The Spinnaker Tower, HMS Victory Lord Nelson and the Gunwharf Quays have all been added to my list.

  4. kumamonjeng says:

    My friend who married a British guy stayed in Portsmouth and asked me to visit her for years. Your post has convinced me it is worth to visit Portsmouth as there are so many interesting places to visit.

  5. Yeah Lifestyle says:

    We have never been to Portsmouth but hope to next year in Summer, loving your comprehensive list of things to do there in a day, hoping to see some of the things you have shared here on our trip there.

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