Southsea is one of Portsmouth's oldest areas retaining much of its original Georgian character from its early 1800s roots as a middle class suburb. Offering a peaceful base just minutes from Portsmouth, Southsea has a host of fun attractions including Clarence Pier, The Blue Reef Aquarium and The King's Theatre. Southsea Castle dates from the mid 16th Century and was one of several commissioned along the South Coast by Henry VIII. Today you can join a ghost tour around the castle, see military displays and explore the adjacent Castle Field which regularly hosts music festivals and concerts.
Discover more about Southsea's military history at The D-Day Museum on the Esplanade or at The Royal Marines Museum. Accommodation in Southsea puts you within easy reach of not just Portsmouth but also the Hovertravel service over to the Isle of Wight. Compare prices on stylish seafront hotels and apartments in Southsea ideal for both families and couples or opt for an affordable and cosy Southsea B&B.
You can easily take a day trip over to the Isle of Wight from Clarence Pier. The hovercraft takes foot passengers only, although you can take your bike over free of charge. Hovertravel run a regular service to Ryde on The Isle of Wight. Hovercrafts run at least every half hour and the journey only takes 10 minutes, making it the quickest crossing from the mainland to the Isle of Wight. If you're travelling to Southsea by car there is a mix of pay and display and street parking around Clarence Pier.
Southsea centre is a haven of shopping, cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs. Shops are independent and include some great stylish boutiques. There are also regular markets and festivals. Southsea has a good range of venues for live music and comedy. Albert Road and Palmerston Road are the main centres for evening and lunchtime entertainment. The King's Theatre is an elegant Edwardian playhouse and a fantastic example of Italian Renaissance style of decor. It hosts a full programme of live theatre acts from ballet to comedy. Other venues include the Wedgewood Rooms and the Cellars at Eastney for regular live music, comedy clubs and club nights.
Southsea is renowned for seaside entertainment, particularly at Clarence Pier. It features amusement arcades, funfair rides, ice cream kiosks and shops. Blue Reef Aquarium is a popular year-round attraction, handily located next to the Tourist Information Centre. To complement all this there is the Pyramids Leisure Centre and Southsea Skatepark. The Pyramids Centre sits between Southsea Castle and South Parade Pier, and is ideal for wet weather days. This leisure centre has a toddler pool, tropical leisure pool, wave pool and cafe. Around the leisure centre are gardens and a skate park ideal for skateboarders, rollerbladers and BMX bikers.
Between central Southsea and the seafront is Southsea Common hosting a range of events throughout the year. One of the most spectacular has to be the Portsmouth International Kite Festival held annually at the end of August. It's a fantastic sight of hundreds of kites of all shapes and sizes taking to the air. There's pay and display parking around the Common and the event is easily reached by bus.
Right next to the Tourist Information Centre is the Blue Reef Aquarium where you can see a whole host of marine wildlife from local species found in the waters around Portsmouth to exotic tropical species in the gigantic ocean display and underwater tunnel. The Aquarium is open daily.
The D-Day Museum was originally opened in 1984 on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. The museum tells the story of Operation Overlord that brought victory to Britain and the allies during the Second World War. Displays include photographs, film footage and recordings of those who survived the war and fought for the country. There are also reminiscences from local people.
The Royal Marines Museum is based in Victorian buildings that were formerly the Officers' Mess of Eastney Barracks, built in the 1860s for the Royal Marine Artillery. You can find out all about the Royal Marines history from their beginnings in 1664 all the way up to the modern day where they've been involved in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Museum is open every day.
Southsea Castle was built in 1544 as one of the many fortifications commissioned by King Henry VIII along the south coast of England. It was hurriedly constructed as the threat of invasions from the French was a very real concern. It is believed the King designed the castle himself. Ironically when the French arrived at the Isle of Wight for an onslaught on Portsmouth in 1545, the Mary Rose was sunk as she sailed out from Portsmouth as part of the English fleet to engage the French - right in front of the castle while Henry VIII looked on! It was an effective military base for 400 years with the exception of one attack during the English Civil War when the Parliamentarian forces captured the castle in 1627 when it was surrendered by a rather inebriated Royalist commander - the only time in its history. You can visit the castle via a tunnel built to defend the moat. Southsea Castle has also been investigated for ghosts and paranormal activity and you can book onto ghost hunts and tours.