From cathedrals to castles and canoe parks to wildlife reserves, there’s an abundance of Portsmouth tourist attractions to explore, with the city being awash with unforgettable sightseeing opportunities.
Attractions in Portsmouth
Head to our Portsmouth Historic Dockyard page to find out more about one of the main entertainment hubs in the city with an amazing 11 attractions including HMS Warrior 1860 and HMS M33.
Home to not one but two cathedrals, the older is Portsmouth Cathedral which dates back to the 1100s and is located on High Street in Old Portsmouth near Portsmouth Museum. A busy, active church with regular choir and organ sessions, and morning and evening prayer.
Nearby and close to the Cascade Shopping Centre is St. John’s Cathedral, a 19th-century Catholic church built in a red brick Gothic-revival style. A much more recent arrival, it was built in 1882 and is a huge, ornate church especially inside where it can hold up to 1,100 worshippers during Sunday Mass.
Staying in the religious world, Domus Dei is a stunning 13th-century church built by the Bishop of Winchester in 1212 that’s just around the corner from Portsmouth Cathedral. It’s played an active part of history, becoming an ammunition store during the Reformation and was an essential part of Elizabeth 1’s reign. The church was damaged during WWII, but has been restored with modern stained glass windows that recount the church’s vibrant history.
Moving into the military world, Portsmouth has several impressive castles, towers and forts. The Round Tower is located close to Domus Dei and Portsmouth Cathedral, and is a 15th-century fort that’s now home to the Hotwalls Studios (see our Culture section) and a popular café offering impressive harbour views.
Open from March to October, Southsea Castle is a dramatic sea fort built by Henry VIII in 1545, and was actively used during the English Civil War and both world wars. The castle is home to an impressive cannon collection, a great shop, café and even its own micro-brewery.
On the eastern tip of Portsmouth opposite Hayling Island, Fort Cumberland is an impressive series of harbour defences built from 1785 to 1810 that saw active service until 1975 when it was turned into an archaeological site. You’ll need to book up in advance to take advantage of their tours and open days which run throughout the year.
Built in memory of the 25,000 British and Commonwealth sailors who were lost in the world wars, the Portsmouth Naval Memorial is an imposing four-sided obelisk that stands tall on Southsea Common, and is a poignant reminder of Portsmouth’s naval history.
On the southern tip of Portsmouth, the Southsea Rose Gardens is, as the name suggests, a rose garden that makes for a wonderful summertime walk when the flowers are in full bloom. There’s also some fascinating history behind the circular park as it was the training base for the Cockleshell Heroes prior to their Bordeaux Harbour attack during WWII.
A stone’s throw from our Southsea hotel, Southsea Common is a wide open park perfect for picnics, ball games and ice cream eating. Next to the promenade and beach, the park also has a kids’ playground, beach volleyball courts, tennis facilities, pitch and putt and a skate park.
A little further down the coast past the castle, Southsea Rock Gardens is a well-maintained flower and rock garden that dates back to the Victorian era and is a perfect place for a mid-summer stroll.
With over 15 acres of grassland, flowers and trees, Victoria Park is a great place for a ball game or picnic while the central aviary is home to several exotic birds including parrots and peacocks and rabbits and guinea pigs you can feed. There’s also a café and large kids’ play area.
A coastal marsh and lagoon, home to a wide range of wildlife, Farlington Marshes Wildlife Reserve is a largely unspoilt and tranquil space to the north of the city centre and a short drive from our Portsmouth Havant hotel. Perfect for any birdwatchers with regular benches and watching stations, the gravel paths make for an easy walk, while it’s also open to dog-walkers as long as the dogs are kept on their leads.
One of the older parks in Portsmouth, Canoe Lake was opened in 1886 and is, as the name suggests, home to a large man-made lake perfect for boating and canoes. Located just off the Eastney Esplanade, it’s also home to a putting green, nine-hole golf course, grass and tarmac tennis courts, a cricket pitch and basketball court.
Head to our Fratton Park page to find out more about the historic stadium that’s home to Portsmouth Football Club, the most successful south coast team.