Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is an important site for the British Royal Navy, having played a part in the war against the Spanish Armada, the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars, and both World Wars. Although the dockyard is still a working naval base, many of its historic ships have been converted into museums.
Explore famous ships such as the Mary Rose, a Tudor carrack and Henry VIII’s flagship; the HMS Victory, from which Admiral Nelson commanded the victory at Trafalgar; the HMS Warrior, an iron-hulled warship that was the first of its kind in the world; the HMS Alliance, an Archeron-class submarine; and the HMS M.33, a WWI warship. Other highlights include the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, and the Dockyard Apprentice exhibit. The interactive exhibits at Action Stations and Boathouse 4 are ideal for families with kids, with a Ninja Force assault course and other hands-on activities.
You can explore Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on your own or opt for a guided tour to maximize your time and gain greater insight into the history of each ship. It’s also possible to visit on day trips from London or Oxford, which typically include round-trip transportation and extras such as harbor boat tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a must-see for first-time visitors to Portsmouth or anyone interested in Britain’s military history.
- Visitor facilities include a selection of restaurants, cafés, and shops.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes for exploring the shipyard—some vessels have steep steps, narrow passageways, and low ceilings.
- Most of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is wheelchair accessible, but some ships (including the HMS Victory) are inaccessible due to steep steps.
How to Get to There
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is located roughly 90 minutes by road from both London and Oxford. Trains from London also take about 90 minutes, and it’s also possible to arrive by ferry from France, the Isle of Wight, or Spain. Entrance to the dockyard is through the Victory Gate at the corner of Queen Street and the Hard, a short walk from the Portsmouth Harbour train and bus station.
When to Get There
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is open year-round but can get crowded on weekends and school holidays, especially during July and August. During this time opt for an early morning or late afternoon visit to avoid crowds.
Exploring the History of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Established in 1495, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the British Royal Navy’s oldest base and was once the largest industrial site in the world. Here you can find centuries of military history, with interactive exhibits that narrate the bravery and heroism of soldiers and serving personnel, offer insight into what life was like aboard these vessels, and outline how Britain came to be the ruler of such a grand empire.