Top 10 reasons to visit the waterfront city of Portsmouth this autumn

Portsmouth is the only city in the UK situated on an island. Portsea Island measures just 24 square kilometres and its history can be traced back to Roman times and, in 979 AD, the island was raided by Danes. It has been a significant naval port for centuries and was England’s first line of defence during the French invasion in 1545 and the man-made Solent Forts were originally built to protect the eastern approaches to the harbour from attack. The waterfront city today offers world-class attractions, a variety of accommodation and places to eat which makes it a great destination for an autumn short break.

1. D-Day Story is the only museum in the UK dedicated to the Allied Invasion and Portsmouth was a pivotal embarkation point for the Normandy Landings. At the heart of the Collection is the 83 metre Overlord Embroidery, inspired by the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. 2019 marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day landings. Portsmouth and D-Day a talk by Andrew Whitmarsh, Curator about the history and its interpretation in the museum’s displays. (11 October) included in standard entry ticket. Adult £10, child £8.

 2. The award-winning Mary Rose Museum is located in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Visitors are able to feel, hear and smell life on board the great Tudor ship. Marking 36 years of the raising of the Mary Rose, The Mary Rose Anniversary Lectures will take place at the University of Portsmouth and speakers include: Dr Sean Cunningham, Head of Medieval Records at the National Archives; Lauren Mackay, Tudor Historian; and author and Dr Jane Malcolm-Davies author and historical clothing expert. (Saturday 13 October).

 3. Southsea Castle, Henry VIII’s great fortification was built in great haste in 1544. It was said to have been designed by the King himself, prompted by Henry’s fears of a French attack. The castle was only finally withdrawn from active service in 1960. FREE entry. For castle opening hours, which are restricted, and a programme of events visit

 4. The Historic Dockyard is home to The National Museum of the Royal Navy and is Britain’s top National Museum for naval and maritime heritage. Visitors can explore HMS Victory and see Nelson’s legendary warship or take a Harbour Tour and discover a working naval base from the water. The Subaquatic Steampunk Weekend including steampunk performers, a gin and beer tent and a boutique fashion show. Visitors can enjoy exclusive access to HMS Alliance, the incredible Cold War submarine, on show with levers, lights and an original periscope. (29 to 30 September) For ticket options visit

 5. Portsmouth Museum. The ground floor of the museum is currently home to both, A Study in Sherlock: Uncovering the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection and You Don’t Know Sherlock Holmes, Yet. Showcasing the largest collection pertaining to Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes in the world, the galleries explore Doyle’s early life as a doctor and author and the writing in Portsmouth of the first two Sherlock Holmes novels. Visitors can discover more about this fictional detective and test their detective skills through a range of interactive displays. Runs until Jan 2020. FREE entry.

6. Portchester Castle at the northern end of the harbour is the most impressive and best-preserved of the Roman ‘Saxon Shore’ forts originally built in the late third century. Adult £6.90, child £4.10, concessions available. Opening times vary throughout the winter.

 7. The Great South Run. The fast and flat 10 mile course starts and finishes on Southsea sea front, with beautiful views of the Solent. The route takes runners past some of Portsmouth’s best scenery, including the Emirates Spinnaker Tower and through Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. (Sunday 21 October). Other runs take place over the weekend and NEW this year is the 2.5km Canine Run, for dog owners to take with their pets. Entry fee £42.

 8. Emirates Spinnaker Tower is a 170-metre landmark observation tower in the heart of Gunwharf Quays. (Standard ticket adult £11, child £8). Pirates Half Term (21 to 28 October) will challenge visitors to test their head for heights by collecting coins from a virtual treasure chest perched 90 metres in the air. (Additional £4 per person, for ages 9 and up).

 9. Ice Skate Portsmouth opens. The Guildhall Square is transformed into a winter wonderland with a real, 646 sqm, ice rink big enough for 215 skaters per session. The party atmosphere includes an Alpine Bar, and DJs play at the weekends, special Toddler Time morning sessions. Ticketing options available. (17 November to 6 January).

 10. Dickens Festival of Christmas at the Historic Dockyard. Travel back in time to a bygone era, where snowy Dickensian streets welcome you to a world of festive cheer, (30 November to the 2 December). The weekend programmes will include street performers, a traditional green-clad Father Christmas and Christmas markets. NEW for 2018, the Hampshire Makers market, will offer a celebration of local handmade talent and a NEW Gin & Prosecco Parlour. Early Bird tickets, adult £15.50 and child £13.50.

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