Portsmouth has been called the ‘City of Museums’, as we pack a great many into our relatively small space.
Portsmouth Museum (sometimes referred to as Portsmouth City Museum) is – as its name suggests – the place to discover all about the city and its past. The historic building has a variety of permanent exhibitions, as well as ever-changing temporary ones. The Sherlock Gallery offers a window into Portsmouth’s collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle memorabilia – the largest of its kind in the world. There’s also a chance to step back in time through The Story of Portsmouth, replete with a 17th century bedchamber and an 1871 Dockyard worker’s kitchen. Portsmouth FC is also covered at Football in the City, which contains rare items including balls from the team’s two FA Cup final wins (in 1939 and 2008).
The museum is home to art galleries that have displayed works by such eminent figures as Grayson Perry, Richard Eurich and W.L. Wyllie.
Portsmouth Museum is free to visit and open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am-5pm (5.30pm April – September).
Doyle isn’t the only famous author to have spent time in Portsmouth. Arguably the Victorian era’s most famous writer, Charles Dickens, was born here in 1812. His first home is now a museum containing some of Dickens’ personal items, including his snuff box and the couch on which he passed away. The museum is open Friday – Sunday, 10am – 5.30pm, between April and October.
Down at the seafront is King Henry VIII’s Southsea Castle (fact: the castle was named before the place, and not the other way around). It was designed, in part, by the king himself, who was a notable scholar of fortification architecture. Henry VIII spent much time in the castle and was even within its walls when his beloved flagship, the Mary Rose, sank during battle.
The Castle is open to visitors between April and October, 10am-5pm, Tuesday – Sunday. The Courtyard Café is open year-round.
The revamped D-Day Story is a museum which re-tells the personal stories behind the epic Normandy invasion. It contains some of the actual vehicles used during D-Day, as well as personal testimonies of those who were sent to France, or who helped Allied forces prepare for battle whilst they were stationed here. The museum is open daily, 10am to 5pm (5.30pm April to September).
Cumberland House Natural History Museum provides an invaluable insight into Portsmouth’s nature and its place in the wider world. The museum includes a butterfly house with South American inhabitants, a working beehive, and a dinosaur model that’s famous among generations of Portsmouth residents. The museum is free to visit and open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am-5pm (5.30pm April – September).