15 fantastic free things to do in Portsmouth
Portsmouth harbour

There are plenty of great things to do around Portsmouth that’ll leave a dent in the wallet, but sometimes you want to enjoy yourself without splashing the cash.

We’re here to help, offering suggestions for just 15 things that will keep you busy and not cost you a penny.

1. Learn some Portsmouth history

If you haven’t been before, Portsmouth Museum have simply beautiful grounds. It’s free of charge and full of activities, brain-teasers and games for all. Vibrant and perfect for a picnic in the summer months, gorgeous, picturesque and scenic in the winter. It’s all year round kind of stuff.

Museum Road, Portsmouth – more info

2. Visit the infamous Canoe Lake

Many an hour have spent at Canoe Lake — famous for its swans, crabbing, paddling and now swan boat rides. After a few years of neglect and scallywags polluting the area with stenches of cider and rubbish cigarettes, the lake’s back on track. Surrounding greens are great for relaxing, enjoying a family picnic in the park and for the kids to blow-off some steam in the playpark.

St Helen’s Parade, Portsmouth

3. Relax in Portsmouth’s Rose Gardens (if it’s not raining)

Tucked away, just past Canoe Lake, you can find the historic Southsea Rose Gardens. This hidden gem of Southsea is a beautiful place to sit peacefully and relax, have a picnic or delve into a good book.

4. Overlook the Solent on Clarence Pier

Winters the worst #southsea #portsmouth #sea

A photo posted by Fred Horn (@fredhorn_) on

You can find this intricate set of ropes and wooden bridges hovering over the Solent at the end of Clarence Pier in Southsea. The beautiful stench of the sea mixed in with candyfloss and the screams of children on a nearby roller-coaster make this a unique experience.

Clarence Esplanade, Portsmouth

5. An even deeper look in local history

Portsmouth is a very special place for wildlife in Britain. It has many different habitats in a very small area, and at Portsmouth Natural History Museum you can explore them all. The museum tells the story of the wild things of the riverbank, marshes, woods and urban areas of Portsmouth. Have a look for the heron stalking its prey and the Brent geese coming into land after their 3000 km flight from the arctic.

Cumberland House, Southsea – more info

6. Grab bargains or simply wander in vibrant local markets

Markets! Southsea has some of the best traders and markets on the south coast. Palmerston Road is home to the Love Southsea market, Hampshire Farmers Market and an Art & Collectables Market. There’s always a great deal to see, eat, and it’s a great place to just enjoy the great outdoors.

Palmerston Road / Southsea Common

7. Stand in King Henry VIII’s shoes at Southsea Castle

Visit the exact spot where King Henry VIII witnessed the great Mary Rose sink in 1545. Situated on the waterfront, overlooking the Solent with the Isle of Wight also in sight, this is a beautiful day of learning and discovering some of Portsmouth’s most interesting facts.

Clarence Esplanade, PortsmouthClick here for more info!

8. Witness 344 ft of beauty

Great picture from @jordan.bareham of Portsmouth's @thespinnakertower. #portsmouth #landscape #landmark #tourism @visitengland

A photo posted by Team Locals Portsmouth (@teamlocals) on

Whilst travelling up the tower costs more than your car, walking besides such an impressive structure is both overwhelming (on your first time, maybe) and totally free. Based in the heart of the city’s renowned Gunwharf Quays, be surrounded by tourists and busy shoppers who gaze hundreds of metres into the sky to witness the sheer scale of the thing. Pretty cool, right?

Gunwharf Quay, Portsmouth

9. Explore the outer reaches of the City

For the more adventurous of you, a walk up to the top of Portsdown Hill is a must do. Over-looking Portsea Island and all its surrounding areas is a site to behold of a clear day. Looking out as far East as Gosport and as far West as Hayling Island, all is in sight. If walking isn’t an option (and you don’t have a car), bus it. Stop being a snob.

10. Some history a little further afield

Westbury Manor Museum with its Dickens inspired window panels. #outwalking #mypatch

A photo posted by Lucy (@looplu66) on

A little outside of Portsmouth (but still in that PO postal code) in Fareham is Westbury Manor Museum. It features a variety of local and county-wide facts and quizzes that will keep you on your toes throughout. With a cafe intertwined within the museum, you could stop and grab a tea and cake too.

West Street, Fareham

11. Greenery, playgrounds and country walks

The new natural Bere Forest playground is now open in West Walk and is suitable for children and young people of all ages, it has a huge oak tree house, wooden playhouses, wigwams, sand pit, climbing wall, bridge and shingle stream.

Bere Forest, Fareham

12. Sit back and let the kids entertain themselves

You can escape to another age as you discover mysterious follies in these idyllic surroundings! Let the kids loose in 1,000 acres of landscaped parkland, then take a stroll around the Farm and feed the fun and friendly animals, or see if you can find your way out of the Golden Jubilee Maze. There is so much to see and do here, you will be spoiled for choice!

Staunton Country Park, Havant

13. Some more history?! Yeah, why not?

The fort is an historic monument, strategically positioned atop Portsdown Hill, offering fantastic panoramic views across Portsmouth harbour and the Meon Valley. It is restored to how it would have been in the 1890s, and you can access most areas of the fortifications to see how the Fort used to operate. It covers about 19 acres (77,999 m2)!

Fort Nelson, Portsdown Hill – more info

14. Architecture at its finest in the heart of the city

For centuries this building, the Cathedral of the Sea, has watched, listened and helped the people of Portsmouth navigate the passage of time. It has witnessed war and peace, famous marriages, been bombed and rebuilt and remains a building of greatness and simple enduring beauty.

Portsmouth Cathedral, Old Portsmouth

15. People watch

In being such a multi-cultural and diverse city, Portsmouth is up there with the capital as one of the best people-watching cities in the country. Take a seat on one of the Portsmouth Guildhall steps, sit back and relax as hoards of shoppers, workers and tourists pass by. No one really admits to it, but most of us could people-watch all day.

Have we forgotten something? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

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Main image: Ronald Saunders / Flickr / CC