Portsmouth is a busy Harbour city with a population of approximately 207,000 people – the only city in the United Kingdom whose population density exceeds that of London according to a 2011 census. Portsmouth is home to the world’s oldest dry dock and its history can be traced back to Roman Britain and is today international Port location.
The city’s history is embodied throughout, with locations such as Southsea Castle still in use as tourist attractions run by the council. The castle, which houses a collection of cannons, is located on the southern end of Portsea Island and was built in 1544 to protect a deep-water channel running to the royal naval base.
A notable modern landmark in Portsmouth is the Emirates Spinnaker Tower which was built during the re-development of Portsmouth harbour as an interesting skyline addition. Visitors can pay to take a trip up the tower for a birds-eye view of the city and experience the hair-raising glass floor.
Portsmouth’s harbour is home to the historic dockyard located on the HM Naval Base Portsmouth. The dockyard is open to public tours of the several historic buildings and ships which are managed by the National Museum of the Royal Navy. There are two famous ships in particular that are immensely popular for visitors to Portsmouth; The Mary Rose and HMS Victory.
The Mary Rose is a 16th Century Tudor Warship considered to have been one of King Henry VIII’s favourites. The ship eventually sunk and whilst there is much speculation as to potential causes, the exact cause of the sinking was never uncovered. After being excavated and placed in a dry dock for restoration, a dedicated ship hall was built around the wreckage for public viewing and continuing conservation of the remaining ship. In 2013 the Mary Rose museum as it is today was built around this ship hall as an extended museum dedicated to the ship and the era in which it was prominent.
HMS Victory was key in many British naval endeavours including leading fleets in the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary war and most prominently, she was the flagship of Nelson’s defeat of the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1922, Victory was ‘saved for the nation’ and placed permanently into Portsmouth dry dock where she remains today.
Portsmouth is still central in modern day international shipping with ten percent of its resident’s workforce employed at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard. The city is also home to a large cruising terminal and one of two direct routes to the Isle of Wight from the UK mainland.
One of the key excursions in the city is The D-Day Story where visitors learn about Operation Overlord during the D-Day landings, experiencing the story in three parts; Preparation; D-Day and the Battle of Normandy; Legacy and the Overlord Embroidery. The 83m long embroidery was commissioned to remember those who took part in the significant Normandy Battle and D-Day landings and took an impressive 5 years to complete – certainly worth the viewing experience.
Other attractions down on the seafront include spending the day on the spanning Eastney beach or heading to Clarence Pier Amusement Park with thrilling rides and arcades for a family fun day out.
Locals advise that the best spot to see the city is at the top of Portsdown Hill for an impressive panoramic view.