Situated centrally along the English south coast, Portsmouth is an interesting and vibrant city, with a large historic waterfront and a long naval tradition. There is lots to see and do, with an impressive range of maritime attractions, including one of Britain's key historical naval bases, several iconic British war ships, numerous ancient fortifications, maritime museums, art galleries and two cathedrals.

Portsmouth Harbour

Portsmouth Harbour © Hannah Brownlie

Ships have been crafted here as long ago as 1194, when Richard I built the first docks. Henry VIII later extended the waterfront and established a small navy base in the 16th-c. Today the Royal Dockyards cover some 300 acres. The pride of the great wooden ships moored here is the HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship from the Battle of Trafalgar. Other historic vessels include the ironclad HMS Warrior and the preserved hulk of the Mary Rose, which sank on her maiden voyage in 1545, near to the port entrance.

Although it was bombed heavily in the war, the narrow streets of Old Portsmouth still host many old monuments. The Round Tower in the old town is part of an old fortification (open to the public) and also the Square Tower, nearby, where many fine old houses can also to be found. The ancient dockyard area is lined with several 15th-cent. buildings, such as the splendid Navigation School and a terraced row, originally built as offices.

A great way to explore and learn about city's heritage is by joining one of the regular guided walks, provided by the Portsmouth Guiding Service. Further details are available from the Visitor Information Points at the D-Day Museum on Clarence Esplanade and the Portsmouth Museum on Museum Road.

The city centre provides excellent shopping facilities and many exceptional places to eat. For something different try the independent shops on Albert Road or the designer outlets on Gunwharf Quays.

For culture buffs Portsmouth boasts two theatres (Kings Theatre and the New Theatre Royal), a multiplex cinema, plus a host of museums and art galleries. There are also live music venues (such as the Guildhall) and a vibrant nightlife around the town.

Portsmouth has a great literary heritage too. It was the birthplace of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling spent many years living in the town. Festivals are held in their honour each year. Other key festivals include The Navy Days festival in August and the Trafalgar Day ceremony in October; held in honour of Nelson's final victory. Many other outdoor festivals and events are hosted throughout the year on Southsea Common, next to the seafront.

A walk along the Esplanade to the east, leads to several miles of beautiful waterfront and sandy beaches. For holiday makers, the traditional seaside resort of Southsea has everything to offer individuals and families, looking for either fun or relaxation.

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