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Portsmouth

Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom England South East England Hampshire Portsmouth

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Introduction

The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth.

The Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth.

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Portsmouth has graciously evolved from a traditional naval city to a contemporary waterfront destination in recent years. With modern bars & restaurants on the water's edge along with one of United Kingdom's newest icons, the Spinnaker Tower, the new and old fit together seamlessly.

Head out to Southsea for about 7 kilometres of seafront promenade backed by gorgeous green spaces and a range of quirky individual shops.

At only 1.5 hours from London, Portsmouth is easily accessible and a breath of fresh air.

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Sights and Activities

Portsmouth has a wide variety of visitor attractions, but is most famous for its collection of historic naval ships, including HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and Henry VIII's Mary Rose.

  • Spinnaker Tower – This 170-metre-tall tower has a triple observation deck at the top which provides an aerial view of the city and as far as 37 kilometres away. The tower is modelled after a sail, a reflection of the city's maritime history.
  • D-day Museum
  • Royal Naval Museum
  • Royal Marines Museum - in Southsea, near Portsmouth.
  • Southsea Castle - This Tudor Fort built by Henry VIII to protect the harbour from French invasion is free to enter, and explains the local history in a bit more depth. You can climb up on to the castle walls and up one of the towers for a better view of the city, the Solent and some of the sea forts that made up the defence along with the castle.
  • Two cathedrals: Roman Catholic and Anglican!
  • Blue Reef Aquarium

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Weather

Like much of southern England, the weather generally is not something to write home about, but not particularly bad either. Summers last from June to September when temperatures are generally around 20 °C during the day, sometimes a bit lower and warm days of 25 °C or more are certainly possible. Nights are generally mild. Winters are mild as well, with temperatures well above zero and just occasionally a few degrees below zero at night. It's proximity to the sea, and the sheltering effect of Portsdown Hill mean that Portsmouth is usually warmer and far more frost-free than areas on the other side of the South Downs. Precipitation (mainly rain, snow is rare) is possible during all months, though autumn and winters are wetter.

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Getting There

By Plane

Southampton Airport is about 30 kilometres from Portsmouth and services around 50 mainly European destinations.

By Train

South West trains run frequently from Waterloo Station in London and take between 1.5 hours and 1 hour and 40 minutes via Haslemere, or about 2 hours and 10 minutes via Winchester. Alternatively, Southern trains run regularly from Victoria Station. Other major services include Brighton (1 hour 40 minutes), Cardiff (3 hours 10 minutes) via Bath and Bristol; and Southampton (1 hour). There are also direct trains from Gatwick Airport (1 hour 20 minutes).

By Car

Portsmouth is easily accessible by car via the M275 via the M27 and A27. From London, take the A3 or M3 south and follow the Eastern road down the island. As Portsmouth is an island city, routes in and out are limited, and so congestion can be a problem, especially during rush hour.

By Bus

National Express travels into the Hard (few hundred yards from harbour and historic dockyard) with links to many of the country's major cities.

By Boat

From France

From Guernsey

From Spain:

  • P&O Ferries depart from Bilbao every three days at around noon time and arrive at Portsmouth just after 17:00 the following day.
  • Brittany Ferries depart from Santander once weekly for Portsmouth in the 24-hour journey.

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Getting Around

By Car

Finding somewhere cheap/free to park that isn't solely for permit holders is a bit of a pain in Portsmouth. And due to the high density of the local population, roads are often congested at busy times of day. Portsmouth FC playing at home is one a lot of visitors don't realise until it's too late. Many people in the city get cabs instead of driving, which are fairly cheap, the main companies being Aquacars and City Wide.

By Public Transport

Local bus routes stretch as far afield as Havant and Southampton. Day passes can be bought for £3.70 which allow unlimited travel in the Portsmouth City area or £4.80 for the whole of Hampshire.

By Foot

Thanks to the small scale of Portsmouth, and the fact no part of the island on which it sits is more than about 10m above sea level, much of the city is easily walkable. In fact it would only take an hour to walk from the West side of the island to the East (although almost all of the city's attractions lie on the South and Western sides, so journey times should be a lot less than this).

By Bike

The lack of hills (with the exception of Portsdown hill just off the island) makes Portsmouth great for cycling. There are also a number of cycle paths throughout the city, especially along the seafront and main roads, so cycling is a popular way to get around. This has led to numerous bike shops springing up around the area too.

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Drink

Portsmouth has a lively pub and club scene, with venues ranging from the upmarket and alternative, to the cheap and downright dirty. Depending on your a good idea of a night out, the city should be able to accommodate you. For those after a nice quiet drink, the bars along Albert Road and adjoining sidestreets are a mixture of old-man-pubs and younger, more trendy student hangouts like the One-Eyed-Dog and the Little Johnny Russels. Other student pubs worth checking out are the Honest Politician (on Elm Grove) the Registry (opposite the Portsmouth University Nuffield Centre).

If you want something a bit more lively, try the Gunwharf Quays area where fashionable bars and clubs are all conveniently huddled together in this flash new harbour area. Tiger Tiger and Jongluers are clubs where you can expect to see scantily-clad ladies and groups of marauding lads.

A rang lower down the ladder is the Guildhall Square, where you'll see an ambulance and police van permenantly stationed every Friday and Saturday night. Here cheap drinks abound, with Wetherspoons, Walkabout and Bar Me providing the fuel. The area really calms down during the week and is well worth a visit from Monday to Thursday as the students are out, and tend to be a much more relaxed (and less violent) bunch.

Last tip: dont forget to bring your ID (drivers license or passport) because at most venues it's a standard requirement after 6:00-7:00pm.

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Portsmouth & Southsea Backpackers Lodge4 Florence Road SouthseaHostel-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Portsmouth Travel Helpers

This is version 39. Last edited at 10:05 on May 28, 14 by Utrecht. 18 articles link to this page.

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