A group of PA Life Club members spent 24 hours on a whistle stop tour of some of the best venues and tourist attractions Portsmouth has to offer. The Familiarisation Visit on 1-2 October was hosted by MEET Beyond London together with Venues of Portsmouth, which is part of Visit Portsmouth.
We arrived at Portsmouth and Southsea Station after a direct train journey from London Waterloo. On a non-strike affected days the journey takes only around an hour and a half, add a few minutes and you can get off at Portsmouth Harbour, right by the waterfront. The latter is a great option, with a wow factor of a station with stunning sea views as soon as you step off the train. A good choice especially if you are heading to the Historic Dockyard or to the Gunwharf Quays outlet shops first, as they are only minutes away on foot and both are definitely worth including on your visit to the city.
The Fam Trip to Portsmouth itinerary
Our first stop was at the Grade II listed Queens Hotel Portsmouth, where we were also stayed the night. This independently owned luxury hotel is in a fantastic location in Southsea, overlooking the vast green leisure space the Solent. Both Southsea Castle and the D-Day Museum can be seen from the hotel.
Queens Hotel Portsmouth was build in 1860s and was formerly known as Southsea House. The independent hotel was beautifully renovated in 2017 and brought back to its former splendour. Guests will be impressed as soon as they enter the grand lobby. The first thing I noticed is the most beautiful stained glass dome gracing the ceiling and the paintings surrounding it. The rooms were modernised well, still keeping in the style of the building with plenty of traditional charm, as are the beautiful bathrooms (mine had a large walk-in shower, no bath needed).
After touring the event spaces which include a stylish meeting and private dining room in a self-contained suite of rooms with its own bar. The hotel also boasts a gorgeous ballroom with doors opening to the seafront terrace – now covered to create a large outdoor event and party space. It’s transformed into a winter wonderland for the Christmas season. As a weatherproof area, it lends itself perfectly to parties all year round, with a capacity around 200 guests. The restaurant is a lovely space too, as is the adjacent bar. The hotel is great place to stay and host an event.
Just a few minutes drive away are some of the University of Portsmouth buildings. As you’d expect from a 25,000 student establishment the university has a vast amount of different event spaces available for hire. You can take your pick from small meeting rooms to lecture theatres of different sizes, and even whole buildings. We started our mini tour at the 3-star, bed and breakfast accommodation at Rees Hall, near Southsea seafront, which is available throughout summer. Very comfortable and clean rooms in good condition, each with en-suite shower and toilet. For history buffs, the building also boasts a blue plaque that commemorates the site where Charles Dickens stayed on his final visit to Portsmouth – the city of his birth.
We also saw the Richmond and Portland Buildings which are both modern and versatile, with different sizes of rooms and nice atria for break out sessions and coffee breaks or lunches.
It’s worth mentioning the Space Mission Incubator and the Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality. These make great teambuilding and educational visits and can be added to a conference schedule as break out sessions, or as stand alone visits. If you are planning a teambuilding day then it’s worth also noting that the university has excellent sporting facilities for hire.
A visit to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard was a very interesting and engaging place to add to our busy visit. I feel any visitor to the city – and definitely any Fam Trip to Portsmouth – should take in at least some of its rich maritime history. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to some of the most historic ships in the world, including HMS Victory which took part in the Battle of Trafalgar with Lord Nelson as Captain (currently partly covered due to a conservation project) and HMS Warrior. We went onboard the Warrior and visited the captain’s quarters which can be hired for ‘once in the a lifetime’ private dining experience. There’s plenty of other options onboard as well, from Shanty music evenings where you can dine on the gun deck the way the crew used to do, and even hire of the whole vessel for a private event.
A delicious lunch was laid out for us at the Mary Rose Museum (catered in-house and worth a mention) at the 18-seat meeting room which works well as a private dining space too. It’s located right by the HMS Victory which you can admire through the porthole style windows.
After the impressive history tour and lesson at the Historic Dockyard we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for our evening’s itinerary. Dinner was waiting at Portsmouth Guildhall which is located in the centre of the City. The imposing building was destroyed almost completely from the inside during the war and restored to a beautiful neo-classical style multi-purpose venue in the 1950s. The iconic building boasts a 2000-seat auditorium, hosting many well-know music acts and other performers as well as large conferences and weddings. We dined at a slightly smaller hall, still palatial in style and size. The dinner was absolutely delicious, all prepared in-house, as is all their event catering.
Spinnaker Tower Skybar: After a delightful dinner we headed over to take in the night views from 110 meters at the Skybar at the Spinnaker Tower. The cocktails were amazing, as were the views across the city, the Solent and Isle of Weight which is only 20 minutes away by the Hovercraft. The Spinnaker Tower has three levels and they hire out the entire tower for events.
The morning of our second day started with a leisurely breakfast at Queens Hotel. There was plenty of delicious cooked options on the menu as well as fresh fruit, bread and pastries in the buffet to set us up for the day.
The last items left on our visit were Southsea Castle and The D-Day Story. The castle has spaces available for hire or you can take over this former fortress build by Henry the VIII. There is also a pretty marquee on the side and a cosy restaurant in the courtyard – both ideal for dinners and parties. The D-Day Story was was fantastic. The interactive representation of personal stories from D-Day, provided a vivid and engaging historical experience. We were also able to go onboard a landing craft used in the Normandy landings, the only one of its kind open to public.
You may also enjoy reading about our earlier Fam Trip to Reading, also hosted by MEET Beyond London.