Portsmouth is known as England’s only island city, even with its northern suburbs, including Cosham, Paulsgrove and Port Solent, located off Portsea Island on the mainland. Meanwhile Southsea, a seaside resort on Portsea Island with its own distinctive centre, is another suburb of Portsmouth and not a separate town, as many assume.

In brief Portsmouth is a sizeable conurbation with the highest population density of any British Island and the highest population density of any city in the UK outside London. Perhaps this accounts for its busy, buzzy vibe, along with the addition of a vibrant university community. There’s a whole lot of something going on in Portsmouth all the time.

The city is well connected with three main roads running between the Island and mainland (although they do get clogged up at peak times), and five train stations (including Cosham) with services to London and Southampton. As a port city it is, of course, particularly well served by ferries going near and far: to Gosport, the Isle of Wight, Channel Islands, France and Spain.

Great British Life: Portsmouth is the UK's only island city.Portsmouth is the UK's only island city. (Image: Getty)

Home hunters will discover a wide range of property: swanky penthouse apartments with panoramic sea views, character period houses in Old Portsmouth, elegant Victorian and Edwardian villas in Southsea, and mid-century family homes with long distance views in Cosham. A great choice of schools includes a couple of excellent independents: Portsmouth Grammar and Portsmouth High school.

Known as a historic naval port, Portsmouth also carries the weight of a significant cultural heritage. Literary giant Dickens was born here. So was the comedian and actor Peter Sellars, while University alumni include Ben Fogle, Grayson Perry and Tim Peake.

Simply look for the Spinnaker Tower rising 170m high; now an iconic symbol representing Portsmouth’s transition from old port and naval dockyard to destination city for the 21st century.

Great British Life: Enjoy strolls along the pier in Southsea. Enjoy strolls along the pier in Southsea. (Image: Getty)


Portsmouth and Southsea are a breath of fresh sea air. Between them they have it all: great shopping, open space, arts, history and a waterfront of beach, retro piers and wide sea views complete with ships toing and froing.

There’s so much to see and do. Portsmouth is best known for its Historic Dockyard, recently named among the best tourist attractions in the UK for the third year running, it is home to some of the most iconic ships ever to sail the seas among them Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and the Mary Rose. There’s also a waterbus service across Portsmouth Harbour to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower.

Southsea Castle, now a free museum open April to October, is said to be where King Henry VIII watched the Mary Rose sink in 1545. Further along, past the vast expanse of Southsea Common, is the D-Day Story Museum explaining D- Day and the Battle of Normandy with activities, exhibitions and workshops.

Great British Life: The Mary Rose Museum can be found in the award-winning Historic Dockyard.The Mary Rose Museum can be found in the award-winning Historic Dockyard. (Image: Elizabeth Kirby)

Portsmouth and Southsea are as much about shopping and eating out experiences as ships and battles. People from far and wide are attracted to Gunwharf Quays, a high-end outlet shopping complex with well-known brands such as Adidas, All Saints, Kate Spade, Levis, Loake, and Sweaty Betty. There’s a choice of relaxed eateries, and a waterfront plaza, the location of the Spinnaker Tower, which offers a spectacular venue for events, among them local artisan markets.

For quirky, individual style head into Southsea to discover an exciting mix of independents. These encompass antiques and vintage, stylish fashion and homeware boutiques, apothecaries, haberdasheries, vinyl and more. Palmerston Road is the venue for regular street markets, including Love Southsea Markets and Hampshire Farmers’ Markets.

Great British Life: Portsmouth Guildhall has a plethora of entertainment bookings each year. Portsmouth Guildhall has a plethora of entertainment bookings each year. (Image: Getty)

As for eating and drinking, Portsmouth and Southsea offer every kind of experience: traditional corner pubs, beachside cafes and smart seafood restaurants. In addition, the delicious choice of cuisines runs the gamut from Vietnamese to Venezuelan.

A thriving creative sector has workspaces for artists and makers at Hotwalls Studios inside some of the city’s sea defences at Battery Point, and exhibition opportunities at Aspex, a contemporary gallery within an old Royal Navy store.

As for families, they can relax, picnic and play on Southsea Common, enjoy traditional seaside attractions on Clarence Pier, hire a pedal boat on Canoe Lake or visit the Blue Reef Aquarium. Alongside all this, there’s a very lively events calendar which includes performances at Southsea’s King’s Theatre, Wedgewood Rooms, and Portsmouth’s Guildhall.


Great British Life: Find character properties in Old Portsmouth. Find character properties in Old Portsmouth. (Image: Getty)


Neil Maxwell, Director, Fry & Kent, says: ‘The housing market in Portsmouth and Southsea has changed a lot in recent years. During the covid period we saw a trend of people relocating from London and Surrey drawn by the fresh sea air, wide esplanades, and the multitude of amenities within a three miles radius, including Gunwharf Quays shopping complex with its iconic Spinnaker Tower that dominates the Solent skyline.

‘Since then, interest rate increases have caused the market to stutter, but we’ve noticed a growing confidence in the marketplace since October 2023. With some beautiful houses coming onto the market in recent weeks, plus the signs of interest rate cuts likely at some point, there are strong indications of a busier year.

‘Local property hotspots of Old Portsmouth and central Southsea continue to prove popular and there has been a lot of first-time buyer activity with people choosing to buy rather than rent, given access to favourable mortgage packages proving cheaper than renting.

‘The area has always been popular with second homeowners, and this continues with a wide variety of people attracted by the activities and views on the seafront along with the excellent transport links to London, France, Spain and the Isle of Wight.

‘People moving from Brighton to Southsea has been a growing trend with the popularity of the area as a seaside resort gaining traction, and let’s face it the Solent is a much more active backdrop than the vast expanse of empty channel that Brighton has to offer!

‘I’m very confident that the renaissance of this fantastic island city will continue with house prices remaining stable, and as its popularity grows the prices will also increase. Being an island there’s only a finite number of homes after all!’

Great British Life: Simon HartnettSimon Hartnett (Image: Queens Hotel, Southsea)


Simon Hartnett is Executive Chef at the Queens Hotel, Southsea, a glamorous Edwardian hotel on the edge of Southsea Common with acclaimed restaurant and al fresco dining gardens.

Simon says: ‘I have lived in Portsmouth and Southsea for pretty much my whole life, other than stints in Brighton and London.

‘Being an island city, Portsmouth has a bit of everything and you are never more than a few minutes from the beach. We have the perfect mix of beautiful sea views and pubs to sit and watch the sunset, as well as diverse cultures bringing great food from all over the world.

‘The city is the perfect size. It’s big enough to have everything you need and cool enough to have an amazing art and music scene. We have a fascinating history and the greatest football club in the world, right in the heart of the city!

‘Camber Dock is my favourite place. It sums up what Portsmouth is all about. In a five-minute walk, you go from historic Old Portsmouth to the bustling fish market, and if you turn your head, you can see Royal Navy warships and modern Gunwharf Quays. Close by will be a nice pub where you can settle down with a pint to watch the ships come and go while watching the sun go down. Perfect.’