Portsmouth, or ‘Pompey’ as the locals lovingly refer to it, has many claims to fame, having been the birthplace of the great Charles Dickens and a historic dockyard. The UK’s only island city is home to a host of attractions and landmarks showcasing its rich maritime and literary heritage, all of which can be explored during your cruise stopover.

Why cruise Portsmouth

Portsmouth has a rich maritime and literary heritage, and an abundance of world-class attractions, all of which easily be explored in a day during your stopover. Portsmouth International Port is also the perfect embarkation port for an array of no-fly cruises to destinations all over the world, from the sun-soaked shores of the Mediterranean to the awe-inspiring Norwegian fjords. Leading cruise lines including Crystal, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Hapag-Lloyd, Noble Caledonia, Ponant, Saga Cruises, Silversea and Viking all operate from Portsmouth.

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What to see and do in Portsmouth

Emirates Spinnaker Tower

The centrepiece of the redevelopment of Portsmouth Harbour (which was supported by a National Lottery Grant), this sail-shaped landmark boasts sweeping views of the port city. Visitors can enjoy high tea (quite literally) in the aptly-named Clouds Café, located 105 metres above Portsmouth Harbour.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Those pressed for time should head straight to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, home to Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Royal Navy Museum. The museum details the history of the Navy, displaying treasures from the past 350 years, and has a dedicated Nelson Gallery, where the famous Battle of Trafalgar is brought to life in a multi-media show. Situated a short walk from the dockyard is the famous Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s warship which sunk in the Solent in 1545 after an attack by the French but was recovered in 1982. The museum in which she is housed also has an artefact gallery displaying over 19,000 objects that have been recovered from the shipwreck site.

Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery

Tracing the port city’s literary heritage, the Portsmouth Museum houses the world’s largest collection of items relating to Arthur Conan-Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes. Visitors can take a trip through Portsmouth football club’s rich history through the display of match memorabilia and learn what makes Pompey unique as a city. Entry to the museum is free.

Southsea Castle

History fans should head to Southsea Castle. Built by Henry VIII to protect England against an attack from the French, the fortification has been an active military base for over 400 years. Top attractions include the castle tunnels and the ramparts, which provide views out to sea (indeed, it is said that Henry VIII watched his beloved Mary Rose sink from this very castle). While in Southsea, families should pay a visit to the Blue Reef aquarium, where kids can spot sharks, rays and clown fish in the walkthrough tunnel.

Gunwharf Quays

Do not leave Portsmouth without paying a visit to Gunwharf Quays, the waterfront designer shopping outlet where you’re sure to find some amazing offers. Alternatively, if you’re after something more authentic, Southsea has several vintage stores and antique shops.

Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum

Home of the eponymous 19th century British author, this is a must for all literary buffs visiting Portsmouth. Along with a tour of the house in which Charles Dickens was born, the museum also offers a walking trail, which takes visitors on a tour of places in the city that have connections to the author, including old haunts of his family members and buildings that inspired his work.

Need to know when travelling to Portsmouth

Getting around Portsmouth

It is roughly a 20-minute walk from the terminal to the town centre, or the port also provides a shuttle bus. Once in town, most of the city’s sites are in walking distance. Portsmouth Harbour train station, located a five-minute walk away from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, runs a regular train service to London Waterloo, approximately two hours away. For day trips, you can take the ferry to the Isle of Wight or drive 30 minutes to the New Forest.

When to go to Portsmouth

Cruises leave from Portsmouth all-year round.


Portsmouth uses the pound sterling.