Why Portsmouth is the ultimate family day out come rain or shine

22 October 2019, 06:00 | Updated: 22 October 2019, 06:01

There's so much to see and do in Portsmouth
There's so much to see and do in Portsmouth. Picture: Getty

The historical naval city might be home to some of the UK's oldest - and most famous - ships, but there are plenty of other activities to enthral the whole family.

Portsmouth is the perfect place for a family day out, especially if you have a passion for history.

Just 70 miles from London, South Western Railway run a regular train service, with travel time taking from 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Upon arrival in Portsmouth, or Pompey as the locals call it, you'll soon be won over by its charm.

One of the oldest settlements in the UK, it is the only city to be on an island, and has a higher population density than London.

It's regarded as the 'home' of the Royal Navy, with much of its sightseeing attractions connected to its naval past and importance.

However there are plenty of other things to sea and do in this charming corner of Hampshire.

City of Museums

If it’s raining or a bit cold, there’s still plenty to do in Portsmouth.

Known as the ‘City of Museums’, there are plenty of places to take the family to wile away a few hours, and the city's Portsmouth Pass offers entry to Emirates Spinnaker Tower, The D-Day Story, and an annual ticket for The Mary Rose.

The £65 pass also includes an annual pass to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard which gives you access to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, Horrible Histories Pirates: The Exhibition, HMS M.33, The National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth, Action Stations, Boathouse 4, Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Explosion Museum, Dockyard Apprentice Exhibition and a Harbour Tour.

The Portsmouth Museum shares a fascinating history of the city from Roman times to the present day, via Tudor rule and its importance during WW2, and more information on famous sons Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens.

Fans of the Victorian superstar author can experience the Portsmouth of his childhood at the Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum, which is the small terraced house where he was born.

Educational naval gazing

HMS Victory its the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Navy
HMS Victory its the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Navy. Picture: Getty

It would be a wasted trip if you didn't take a look at some of the famous ships moored in Portsmouth, and the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the best place to start.

The city has played a central role in Royal Navy operations for generations, and has the world's oldest dry dock.

It's also where Henry VIII watched the sinking of his beloved warship, the Mary Rose - the same wooden structure that was so painstakingly raised from the seabed and restored for modern visitors.

It's also home to Vice Admiral Lord Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned ship in the Royal Navy.

Visit the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is just 22 minutes away on a WightLink ferry
The Isle of Wight is just 22 minutes away on a WightLink ferry. Picture: Getty

If the weather is fine and you want a change of scenery - or you feel brave enough to endure a 22 minutes of choppy crossing - the Isle of Wight is easy to get to.

The hilly town of Ryde, the largest on the island, features charming Victorian architecture, and plenty of cute cafes to enjoy a cake and a cup of coffee.

You can take either a catamaran or a hovercraft to make the crossing, which is sure to delight boat-mad youngsters (and parents!).

Spinnaker Tower

Spinnaker Tower is a modern structure built as part of Portsmouth's regeneration
Spinnaker Tower is a modern structure built as part of Portsmouth's regeneration. Picture: Getty

One of the most famous landmarks in Portsmouth, and one of the tallest buildings in Britain (higher than both Big Ben and the Blackpool Tower), the 170m tall Emirates Spinnaker Tower is the centrepiece of the redeveloped Portsmouth Harbour.

Its modern design wouldn't be out of place in Dubai or Shanghai, but unlike similar buildings in those exotic locales, this structure offers uninterrupted views of the Solent, English Channel, and beyond.

On a good day, visitors can see 350 degree panoramas stretching up to 23 miles.

Admission is £11.50 for adults, with kids under-3 going free, and 4-15 year-olds paying £8.50. There's also a family ticket for £35.

The Tower also features a smart cafe where you can enjoy a champagne afternoon tea, or sit out on the viewing deck and enjoy an ice-cream - weather permitting.

Visit their website for more details, including opening times.

Eat like a local

Portsmouth's vibrant food scene is on the up, and to see what the city has to offer head to the Outside In Food Court.

Based in old warehouses, the relaxed dining room features pop-ups from different vendors from around the area, each serving up cuisine from around the world.

There's a strong focus on sustainability, and it's not just the food that's locally sourced, you can try beers and other spirits made in the area.

Typically for a hipster canteen, the food is all very Instagrammable, so make sure you've got enough battery left on your smartphone to take some mouth-watering snaps for social media!

Great days never leave you – so have more of them by enjoying a brilliant family day out with South Western Railway.

Trending Live Playlists on Global Player: The official Heart app!