Portsmouth has been an English naval port since before the Napoleonic Wars. The historical harbor contains a number of ships from the history of the Royal Navy and other attractions that make it an excellent day trip from London.
From my personal experience, having visited the historical harbor in August, 1990, the best way to get to Portsmouth from London is take a train from Waterloo Station early in the morning to the Portsmouth Harbor Station, about a ninety minute trip. Everything is in easy walking distance from the station. Some of the attractions, which highlight Great Britain’s centuries long naval tradition, include:
The Mary Rose Museum. The museum, opened in 2013, contains the remains of the 16th Century ship the Mary Rose that sunk in the channel before the horrified eyes of King Henry VIII and his court. The ship was raised in 1982 and then underwent decades of restoration. She is the only 16th Century ship on display anywhere in the world. Also included in the museum are artifacts that have been recovered from the ship, including personal items such as plates and combs and weapons such as longbows and cannon. It is one of the greatest collections of early Tudor England in the world.The Mary Rose was one of the first ships of war ever to sail for England that voyaged completed under canvass.
HMS Victory. Nearby is the most famous ship ever to sail for the Royal Navy, the HMS Victory, a three deck ship of the line that served as Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. She has been fully restored and rests at dock in the harbor. Tours guided by Royal Navy personnel occur frequently.The visitor will be on the very decks where over two centuries ago men served the guns, firing into the French and Spanish ships at Trafalgar as they fired back, filling the space with smoke, flying wood splinters, and death. The Victory was first built in the mid 18th Century and was considered a state of the art battleship for her time.
HMS Warrior. Built in 1860, the HMS Warrior was one of the first iron clad, steam and sail powered ships of war ever to float. A tour on this ship will provide the visitor a good look at shipboard life during the reign of Queen Victoria.The ship, while it never fired a shot in anger, represented a transition from the days of wooden ships and iron men to the days when all ships were made of metal and sailed with engines rather than by sail.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy. This museum contains exhibits and artifacts of the Royal Navy from its very beginnings to modern times. One of the interesting features is the “Trafalgar Experience” that immerses the visitor in the middle of one of the greatest naval battles in world history that established Great Britain as the undisputed sea power for a hundred years.
The Harbor Tour takes the visitor on a 45 minutes trip on a small boat around Portsmouth Harbor along with a lively commentary where one can see some of the modern ships of the Royal Navy at anchor.
For more attractions in and around Portsmouth, check out Tripadvisor.