Portsmouth has been shaped by its association with the sea and you’ll find most of the visitor attractions along the waterfront at one point or another. The city is a real mix of old and new with the old fortified defences around the historic waterfront and Royal Naval battleships and aircraft carriers at the Historic Dockyard still in use today. You can walk along the waterfront from Gunwharf Quays all the way down to Clarence Pier. Along the way you’ll find a good choice of cafes and historic inns.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has a host of must-see attractions and there’s plenty on offer for all ages with a vast array of FREE year-round activities with a valid ticket! Explorers can learn history in fun ways with costumed interpreters, games, dressing-up, crafts, trails and talks. There’s also lots of space for children to explore in their own way, including indoor attractions to cater for that ever-changing British weather! The Historic Dockyard is home to world-famous ships and maritime museums including HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, the Mary Rose Museum and the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
From the Historic Dockyard you can follow the Millennium Promenade around Gunwharf Quays and further south into the centre of the historic part of Portsmouth that has retained much of its eighteenth century port feel. It was known as Spice Island as it was the main port for the importation of spices from the Caribbean. It is still obvious that it was an important port and military stronghold with the fortified walls and battlement towers still defending Portsmouth from the sea.
The two towers are original fortifications in situ here for around 500 years. The Square Tower was built in 1494 and was originally a gun platform, and through the centuries it has served as a fortified residence for the governor and a gunpowder and meat store. On the north east side of the tower is a gilded bust of King Charles I which was a gift to the city from the King himself after he landed at Portsmouth following his tour around Europe to find a suitable bride.
The Round Tower, dating from 1418, is at the other end of Point Barracks that were built in the 19th century. It was originally a single storey 18 gun battery much narrower than it is today. The second tier was added to house 32 cannon while the rest of the battery was rearmed with 68 carronades on traversing mounts. Lining the streets in this area are several terraces typical of the architecture from the eighteenth century. The Inns on the "Point" at the end of Broad Street appear to have changed very little since that time. From here you can get some excellent views of the modern development of Gunwharf Quays and Spinnaker Tower. The Millennium Promenade Trail links up with the Renaissance Trail which takes you down to Clarence Pier.
The ruins of the Old Naval Garrison Church are still standing on the Grand Parade despite being bombed in 1941 during World War II. It was originally founded in 1212 as a hospice and the Domus Dei was used as shelter for overseas pilgrims as they travelled to the cathedrals at Winchester, Chichester and Canterbury. In May 1662 Catherine of Braganza from Portugal landed at Portsmouth to marry King Charles II which did much to cement the alliance between England and Portugal.