From food and music festivals to art galleries and half a dozen excellent museums, get your art and culture fix in Portsmouth with our guide.
Culture in Portsmouth
A 15th-century former military barracks, The Hotwalls Studio is now a collection of 13 creative studios opened in 2016 located near the Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral on Broad Street. A hub for local artists and designers, you can check out the artists at work and buy goods direct from them including jewellery, paper screen printers, textiles, sculpture and more. It’s also home to The Canteen, a popular deli-style café serving up breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner.
A more traditional affair, Aspex Gallery has been a go-to art gallery in Portsmouth for nearly 40 years. Focusing on local artists, including several who have gone onto worldwide fame and fortune including Mona Hatoum and Richard Wilson, the gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am-4pm and hosts regular artist residencies and exhibitions. And thanks to its location on Gunwharf Quays, it’s in the heart of Portsmouth’s entertainment district and just a short walk from our City Centre hotel.
A fine art gallery, the Jack House Gallery opened in 2015 and is just a short walk from the Dockyard. Focusing on contemporary art spanning painting, drawing and fine art printmaking, the studio regularly holds events, talks and projects as well as showcasing work from local artists.
Our video guide to Portsmouth culture
Held over the August bank holiday weekend, the Victorious Festival is one of the leading south coast music festivals, with big names like Paul Weller, The Prodigy and Dizzee Rascal playing since the festival launched in 2011. The festival is now held on the Southsea seafront near the castle from 4pm-11pm on Friday and 10am-11pm on Saturday and Sunday. Early bird tickets are great value for money, with camping and car park tickets also available to buy. A family-friendly event, tickets for children under 12 are heavily discounted.
Launched in 2014, Mutiny Festival is a dance-music-focused one-day festival held at the end of May each year. Spanning dance music, drum and bass and urban, household names like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent have played the Cosham-based festival held to the north of Portsmouth city centre. Sadly, two drug-related deaths caused the festival to be cancelled in 2018, so check nearer the time if the event is to continue.
Housed on Palmerston Road, one of the city’s most happening streets, the Southsea Food Festival is a free two-day celebration of street food, craft brews, live music and entertainment held every July. Some of the city’s best restaurants set up stalls across the weekend serving up food and cuisine from across the world. Best of all, our City Centre hotel is just a short walk away.
Powered by strong winds off the Channel, the Portsmouth International Kite Festival is nearly 30 years old and is one of the leading kite-flying festivals in the UK. Held on Southsea Common every August, the two-day festival attracts everything from Japanese fighting kites to giant cartoon kites, with dozens of food stands, arts and craft stalls and kids’ activities.
Portsmouth has a strong literary connection, having given the world Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells, Neil Gaiman, and Charles Dickens who was born in 1812. The Birthplace of Charles Dickens is a fascinating museum that recreates the house he lived in, allowing you to get into the mind of one of the world’s greatest writers and even take a tour of his bedroom and writing parlour. The museum hosts regular talks, Q&A sessions, guided walks and events, giving you a great overview of Dickens and his relationship with Portsmouth.
If you want to find out more about Sherlock and its creator Arthur Conan Doyle, the Portsmouth Museum has all the answers. Located near our Southsea hotel, the museum dates back to 1890 and has a world-leading collection relating to Sherlock Holmes, as well an impressive collection of fine art, paintings, prints, sculptures, ceramics and some fascinating period reconstructions through the city’s history.
The best time to visit the Cumberland House Natural History Museum is during the summer when their amazing Butterfly House is in full operation, with hundreds of neo-tropical butterflies on display alongside their new puparium. Located on the southern tip of Portsmouth near Canoe Lake, the butterfly house is only open during the summer, but the rest of the museum is open all year covering a wide range of wildlife from across the region.
A city with an incredible naval history, it’s no surprise to find several outstanding naval museums in the city. Her Majesty’s Naval Base is one of three still operational naval bases in the UK and is home to the oldest dry docks in the world. At one point the largest industrial area in the world, the naval base now employs nearly 20,000 people. To find out more about the naval base and the part that’s open to the public, head to our Historic Dockyard page for the full rundown.
And it’s here that you’ll find the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which brings over 350 years of marine history to life across a series of exhibitions and galleries. A short distance from our Southsea hotel, the latest addition to the museum is the Hear My Voice gallery which brings together some amazing naval stories from the last 100 years, while the Sailing Gallery brings the grim realities of fighting at sea to life including the multimedia Trafalgar Experience.
Again located in the Historic Dockyard, the Mary Rose Museum is a striking black building that brings the 16th-century Tudor warship the Mary Rose back to life. Over 19,000 artefacts have been recovered from the ship which was recovered from the Solent in 1545, with the ship now painstakingly reconstructed and on display. Surely a must for anyone with a passing interest in history.
Finally, the D-Day Museum by Southsea Beach is a fascinating retelling of the momentous Normandy landings, with audio and visual commentary and some amazing vehicles and exhibits from the incredible event. Open daily from 10am-5pm, the museum opened in 1984 and has become a firm favourite on the city’s museum scene.