Updated: Feb 10
Visiting Portsmouth? or a local trying to find things to do to fill the half term holidays? Well we've compiled a list for you of FREE things to do in Portsmouth!
Portsmouth is a city located off the south coast of England. It is the only island city in the United Kingdom, with the majority built on Portsea Island; and is steeped in naval history. When visiting Portsmouth, it is unlikely that you will avoid the maritime past, as "Pompey" has been a significant port for many centuries, as well as a line of defense for the country.
Portsmouth offers a lot for visitors, whether you are a tourist wanting to learn more about this historic city or a local; wanting to take the family out or keeping the children entertained during the holidays. We've packed together a list of FREE things to do in Portsmouth!
The City Museum, Museum Road, PO1 2LJ.
The City Museum tells the story of Portsmouth, through permanent and temporary exhibitions. Visitors are able to explore and discover, on the self guided trail about how life has changed through the ages. There have been varied displays about 'Football in the City', 'On the Beach', and A study in Sherlock; a character from the books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, written by the author whilst he lived in the city.
There is also a retro gaming display, in collaboration with Game Over, displaying more than 100 consoles, over a 40 year span. Take time to practice and reminisce whist playing with a selection of playable consoles open to the public.
Located just a 10 minute walk from Portsmouth and Southsea train
5 minute walk from Southsea Common, Seafront, Cathedral and Fortifications.
On street Pay and Display.
Check opening times.
Price: Free, Donations Welcome
Cumberland House and Natural History Museum, Eastern Parade PO4 9RF.
Cumberland House and Natural History Museum allows visitors to view and explore different habitats and discover more about the wildlife within Britain. Cumberland is home to a large collection of taxidermy, an observational beehive and a butterfly house (open during warmer months).
Explore fossils that are millions of years old and view more of the natural history collection with a small display about dinosaurs and the history of the Earth.
The museum often offers children's trails for a small fee (about 50p)
Located close to the beach, Canoe Lake and the Model Village.
Closed on a Monday, check further opening times.
Price: Free, Donations Welcome.
Fort Nelson, Portsdown Hill Road, PO17 6AN.
One of six fortifications built in the 1860's, along the top of Portsdown Hill, overlooking the city of Portsmouth. The fort now hosts a collection of some of the largest guns ever made. Take a stroll through historic ramparts, underground tunnels and discover what life was like for a Victorian soldier.
There are also hands on exhibits and a few interactive sections with fancy dress and toys.
Royal Armouries often offer trails and activities during the school holidays, some are free, others come with a small charge, ask about these at reception on entry.
Pay and Display car park.
Price: Free, Donation Welcome.
Southsea Castle, Clarence Esplanade, PO5 3PA
Step back in history, as you step inside Southsea Castle. Ordered for construction by Henry VIII, back in 1544, it was here that the monarch watched his beloved ship, The Mary Rose, sink to the bottom of the Solent.
Now, Southsea Castle is open to the public, and visitors can enter the tunnels (guided) to see how the English would have defended themselves against invaders...at the time of Henry VIII reign, against the French.
Standing at the top of Southsea Castle, offers panoramic views and further information about the gun platforms.
Stop for a coffee or treat at the Courtyard Cafe.
Outside there are water fountains, that are often lit up during the evenings or children are often seen cooling off in the warmer months.
Open March to October.
A short walk from Canoe Lake, Cumberland House and just over a mile walk to other Southsea Fortifications.
Square Tower and Round Tower, Broad Street, PO1 2LY
The Round Tower was originally built from wood, but replaced by stone in the 1490's and positioned at the entrance to the harbour, as always to stop invaders. The roof of the round tower is open to visitors offering views of Old Portsmouth, Spinnaker Tower and Southsea Seafront.
The Square Tower was constructed under the rule of Henry VII. This fortification is not open to the public and is used for weddings and events but can be seen positioned to the East of the Round Tower.
Garrison Church, PO1 2NJ
On occasion the Garrison Church, located close to the Square Tower, is open to visitors.
This 13th Century church,has been used for pilgrims and as hospital over the centuries. The church was restored in the 19th century but was damaged considerably in the second world war, meaning that part of the church is now uncovered without a roof.
Portchester Castle, Castle Street, PO16 9QW
Portchester Castle, although located just outside of Portsmouth, if you are looking for historic castles, then Portchester is not one to be missed!
This medieval castle has been built within the remains of a Roman fort. It has always been deemed a perfect site for centuries as it is at the commanding head of Portsmouth Harbour.
Unlikely to be attacked by invaders from the sea today, Portchester Castle is the perfect site for a picnic, run and to let off steam or explore the history of the magnificent structure.
Within the castle walls is the historic St Mary's church and a tearoom.
5 minute walk from Portchester train station. 2 free car parks or on road parking outside of the castle.
Price: Free To walk around the walls and enter the perimeter of the castle. English Heritage charge to enter the keep.
There are splash parks positioned around the city, which are all free to use. The equipment offered at each, varies, ranging from see-saws, play houses, stepping stones and shallow pools. All of the parks open at different times throughout the year, usually summer months and sometimes weather dependent. Please check before travel.
*) Canoe Lake, Eastern Parade, PO4 9RF.
Positioned close to the beach and canoe lake. There is a play park around the splash zone. Pay and Display car parking.
*) D Day Splash Park, Clarence Esplanade, PO5 3PA
Located close to Southsea Castle and the D day museum. Pay and Display on road parking.
*) Hilsea Jubilee Splash Park and Lido, London Road, PO2 9RP
The splash park is free to enter but the lido is a deep, cold water pool and is supervised, with that comes a charge. Free car parking (but limited) Next door to the splash park is a sandy playground.
*) Buckland Adventure playground, Malins Road, PO2 7BA.
This splash park is dependent on when the adventure playground is open and the weather. On road parking near by.
*) Paulsgrove Splash Park, Marsden Road, PO6 4JB.
This is a smaller, shallow pool with a large tap for splash effect, differing from the brightly coloured splash zones positioned elsewhere in the city. Limited on road parking.
4) Adventure Playgrounds.
There are 6 adventure playgrounds located throughout the city. The adventure playgrounds are supervised, safe play areas but children are free to come and go as they please.
These parks are all different and offer a stimulating environment, where children are free to play, explore and let off steam.
Whether it's messy play in sand pits, arts and crafts, natural play whilst climbing trees, or bouncing along a zip wire, there is something for all children at one of these playparks.
> Buckland Adventure Playground, Malins Road, PO2 7BA
>Landport Adventure Playground, Arundel Street, PO1 1PH
> Paulsgrove Adventure Playground, Marsden Road, PO6 4JB
> Portsea Adventure Playground, Aylward Street, PO1 3PB
> Somerstown Adventure Playground, Waterloo Street, PO5 4HS
> Stamshaw Adventure Playground, Western Terrace, PO2 8JX
These parks are run by Portsmouth City Council, it is advised that you check their website for opening times. All close for lunch periods.
5) Walks....or run, scoot, whatever takes your fancy!
Southsea Seafront Walk
A walk along the promenade at Southsea Seafront, offers views over the Solent, on a clear day the Isle of Wight can be easily seen. Walking from Eastney Swimming Baths to Clarence Pier will provide 2.8 miles of strolling, with sights of Canoe Lake, South Parade Pier, Spinnaker Tower and of course the Hovercraft, the amphibious craft taking passengers back and forth to the island.
The promenade is flat, making it accessible for wheelchairs and suitable for pushchairs. The beach itself is pebbled.
This walkway can be joined just past the Clarence Pub/ Clarence Pier. The Millennium promenade is visually marked on the floor by a link chain. The trail links three kilometres of historic places, offering a self guided tour that will take visitors past the historic Round Tower, through Old Portsmouth and the modern Gunwharf Quay; a waterfront shopping Centre and out on to The Hard. Along the way are sights of the Spinnaker Tower, The Warrior warship and the Camber, to name a few.
Each of the above walkways have information boards, offering further insight into the history and future plans for the area.
The recently opened and newly refurbished shoreline walk is a perfect place for a mile long walk that stretches from Hilsea Lido to the Mountbatten Centre. The improvements have been built to incorporate new flood defenses (a four foot wall along the waters edge) but have all been beautifully done. The promenade now features stepping stones, wooden sun loungers, information plaques and the list goes on. The walkway is accessible and pushchair friendly.
This shoreline walkway is also part of Portsmouth's designated cycle routes, so be aware.
Farlington Marshes Nature Reserve
The nature reserve is to the North- East of the city and is perfect for bird watching. The site is host to a huge number of migratory wildfowl. The circular trail that runs along the sea wall is approximately two and half miles and has views over the harbour water and the nature reserve. A large number of cattle can also be seen grazing.
The path is gravel and a key is required for disabled access.
Dogs must be kept on a lead.
Foxes Forest- Hilsea lines.
A woodland walk within the city, discreetly hiding the historic fortifications from the 18th and 19th Century. Covering 80 hectares, the trees line the route from the west of Portsmouth, by the Hilsea splash park and travel across to the East and end close to the arterial route, in and out of the city, at the Eastern Road. Take time to climb the trees, and banks covering the old ramparts or feed the ducks, all the while feeling a step closer to the countryside.
Geocaching is something that can be completed in any city, worldwide, depending if there are active geocachers hiding 'caches' in that area. Geocaching to all intents and purposes is a treasure hunt. Allowing you to explore and find undiscovered nooks and crannies, that would otherwise go unnoticed. For more information check out our Geocaching post!