Portsmouth Car Hire
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The city of Portsmouth in South Hampshire is built mostly on an island and has been a major UK maritime site for generations. It has the world’s oldest dry dock and its history goes back to the Romans. The city was bombed during the Blitz in WWII and the port was a major staging point for the D-Day landings in 1944. The docks still harbour two-thirds of the UK naval fleet, plus a sizeable commercial and leisure port. The port hosts a number of famous ships, including Admiral Nelson’s HMS Victory. Meanwhile, the city is the birthplace of two other famous Brits, Charles Dickens and engineer Marc Isambard Brunel, who designed the Thames Tunnel. Prices for hiring a car in Portsmouth start at just £17.61 (€19.27) a day in off-season for a mini-size, snazzy Fiat 500 when you pre-book.
An economy car like a Vauxhall/Opel Corsa costs just £18.83 (€20.61) per day, while a comfy car like a Fiat Tipo – compact but spacious enough for a family of five ̶ is only £22.65 (€24.79) per day. Alternatively, if you’re travelling in a large group of family members or friends, hiring a large car can also be economical by splitting the cost ̶ a slick, 7-seater Volkswagen Sharan costs only £78.91 (€86.36) per day, great value for money given its capacity. Enjoy always partners with trusted and established car hire providers like Europcar and Keddy by Europcar in Portsmouth, so you can set sail on your own seaside adventure feeling hassle-free and independent.
Guide to Portsmouth
Portsmouth has always attracted visitors from all corners of the globe throughout the ages. It has a mild oceanic climate and enjoys more sun than most of the rest of the UK. Portsmouth is some 73 miles (188 km) from central London, 50 miles (80 km) west of Brighton and 22 miles (35 km) east of Southampton, so is really close to cities and serious partying! It’s also within a few hours of some of England’s most verdant countryside - there’s never been a better time to visit.
Origin stories and the sea
The Romans built a fort called Portus Adorni near Portchester in the 3rd Century AD. The Old English name comes from ‘port’ meaning ‘haven’, and ‘muotha’ meaning ‘mouth’ of an estuary/large river. Like most of the UK coastline, Portsmouth was harried and occupied by Vikings several times. In 1194 the town was granted a Royal Charter by Richard I and in 1994 the city celebrated its 800th anniversary. Once the first docks were laid (1212 AD) and the city became a permanent naval base, Portsmouth’s history would forever be entwined with the sea and all her battles (usually against the French, Scots or both). Henry VIII’s Mary Rose sank here in 1545, and Portsmouth continued to grow into one of the world’s most fortified ports. Several famous explorers and sailors either left from or returned to Portsmouth – General Wolfe captured Quebec in 1759, Captain Cook returned to Portsmouth after circumnavigating the globe for two years aboard the Endeavour, while Captain Bligh of the Mutiny on the Bounty also sailed from Portsmouth, as did Admiral Nelson in 1805.
Naturally, a city with Portsmouth’s long history and strategic importance is packed with culture and the arts in many forms, but it’s perhaps most notable for the number of historical landmarks, most of which were related to the naval forces and are now open to the public as visitor attractions. For example, the 170-metre (560 feet) Spinnaker Tower looms over a redeveloped harbour area on the historical site of a massive arms store, now a designer outlet called Gunwharf Quays. Several Victorian-era forts around Portsmouth like Fort Nelson are now visitor attractions ̶ the Tudor-era Southsea Castle and Round Tower are popular, but not as popular as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, not to mention Charles Dicken’s Birthplace Museum and Henry VIII’s doomed flagship the Mary Rose. There’s also a residential area and seaside resort called Southsea, at the southern end of Southsea Island.
Sports and pastimes
Sports fans have plenty to cheer when visiting Portsmouth. Portsmouth F.C. is the main football team and they won the League twice (1949, 1950) and the FA Cup twice (1939, 2008). Unfortunately they were relegated as far as League Two after financial difficulties in 2012, but then were bought by supporters to become the largest fan-owned club in English Football history. Cricket was played here from 1882 to 2000 when the Hampshire ground was moved to the new Rose Bowl grounds. Boxing was also popular in the past and the city has four hockey clubs. There are golf courses in the area too, like the Great Salterns Golf Club, which has two unique holes played over a small lake.
What to do in Portsmouth?
From the proud naval history of Portsmouth, alive and well in the centuries’ of fine ships at every turn, to Canoe Lake for a bit of crab fishing, the whole family will be spoilt for choice in dynamic Portsmouth. While we highly recommend the famous visitor sights, here are a few alternatives:
Swan pedaloes, crab fishing and tennis
For a nostalgic trip to the Victorian-era British seaside, check out Canoe Lake. It has postcard-like flower blooms and a lovely Art Deco angel statue, but the real draw is the lake. You can hire a swan-shaped pedalo (a small boat driven by pedalling) with bucket and fishing line and spend the afternoon pootling around and catching crabs (and yes, the crabs do pinch). There’s also a tennis club at Canoe Lake which has grass, clay and all-weather courts, not to mention basketball and netball courts, a model village, and a children’s playground. Finish your busy day at the South Parade pier for legendary fish & chips and an ice cream on the promenade!
Portsmouth, as you’ve no doubt gathered, is full of military history, specifically of the maritime and naval variety. And while HMS Victory or the Mary Rose are stunning (and essential), you can create your own adventure on a fort in the Solent, complete with hotel and laser quest, and only accessible by sea! No Man’s Fort was built in the 19th century to repel anticipated French invaders and is now a museum/adult’s playground. You can stay overnight in one of the sumptuous rooms (with ocean view!) or reserve for lunch, afternoon tea, laser quest, cocktail making, fishing, or even an escape game in the fort’s ancient cellars.
Pie & Vinyl
No, really ̶ this shop-cum-restaurant in Southsea serves beats and meats! It features a large selection of vinyl to try and buy, and an eye-popping selection of delicious pies with mash and booze. There are plenty of musically-inclined puns and pies, like Back to Black and Notorious P.I.G. There are ample vegan and veggie options on the menu and be sure to try the retro cordials served in vintage teapots too!
When you’re travelling with kids you need to keep them entertained, and luckily there are plenty of attractions for everyone in Portsmouth. Visit the Blue Reef Aquarium and marvel at the sea life from the underwater tunnels, get the ball rolling at Bowlplex, catch some air at the skate park or even try (among many other sports) sitting volleyball! Young divas can develop their dance, drama and singing skills at Giselle, and future Olympians might want to visit Portsmouth School of Gymnastics.
Eating out in Portsmouth
From tapas to traditional pub grub, Thai to English breakfast and fine dining, Portsmouth restaurants can cater for any appetite. Here are a few choice ideas for eating out in Portsmouth.
We like to include Michelin-starred restaurants in our reviews, and Portsmouth is no exception. First up is the elegant and passionately run Restaurant 27 in Southsea. It’s a modern British restaurant with a slightly Scandi style on contemporary dishes and they actually only serve tasting menus (except a set-priced Sunday brunch). However, you won’t be disappointed with the flair for flavours here and prices start at £49. My Bar and Eatery (also Southsea) is similarly acclaimed, with outstanding service, friendly staff, vegan and vegetarian options, great cocktails, and possibly the best seafood in Portsmouth.
No historic English town would be complete without an array of traditional tea rooms and cafes, and Portsmouth is no exception. Lauro’s Brasserie is just outside town in Fareham and this open-plan kitchen produces food with personality, cooked to perfection and served by smiling, friendly staff. It’s a combination of French cooking and Filipino hospitality that will have you raving about it. Fat Olives in Emsworth is similarly striking, not only in the 17th-century building but in its bold flavours, like baked bream with fennel broth, or fig and almond terrine with ginger ice cream. The modern European dishes sync well with the rustic surroundings, while the wine list is always perfectly selected. Average price is in the £30 - £49 range (which is outstanding value considering the cooking).
The 7Bone Burger Co. Portsmouth is situated on Guildhall Walk. It’s a friendly place, and not only does it have thick, juicy burgers, creamy shakes, and umpteen kinds of craft beer, there’s also an excellent menu for kids, with great value at around £4 per main dish. Similarly kid-friendly is Feed. It styles itself as a burger/breakfast bar, a casual industrial stop to fuel the body. However, there’s flavour aplenty – some have described the burgers here as the best in the south of England! Isle of Wight beef patties, sweet potato chips (fries) and peanut butter milkshake are just some of the interesting menu items at Feed.
Transport in Portsmouth
The nearest airports to Portsmouth are Southampton International Airport (SOU) (19 miles/28 km from Portsmouth), Brighton City Airport (ESH) (41 miles/65 km) and London Gatwick (LGW) (76 miles/122 km). At these airports, Enjoy partners with established and trustworthy car hire providers like Alamo, Easirent, Europcar, Green Motion, Hertz, and Keddy by Europcar. Car hire packages from reliable operators like these usually include third party liability, 24-hour assistance, theft protection and collision damage waiver as standard in all hire packages. The selection of makes and models at Enjoy is unparalleled ̶ whatever your preference, you’ll get a great deal when you pre-book online with Enjoy.
Buses and Park & Ride
Portsmouth bus routes are covered by two bus operators, Stagecoach and First Bus. Long-distance coach operators National Express and Megabus run services from the coach/bus interchange at The Hard in Portsea, next to Portsmouth Harbour train station.
Portsmouth City Council operates a Park & Ride bus service providing a quick, easy way for visitors and out-of-town shoppers to get to the city centre without the need for expensive parking.
Portsmouth has strong rail links with London, Southampton and both the south east and south west coastal routes, with four mainline railway stations in Portsmouth and three more in Portchester, Cosham and Hilsea. The direct rail link to London takes one and a half hours.
You should always drive on the left-hand side of the road in Portsmouth, as is the case everywhere across the UK. Speed limits are 70 mph (120 km/h) for motorways, 60 mph (100 km/h) on non-motorway main roads and 30 mph (50 km/h) or 20 mph (40 km/h) if you’re in busy built-up areas or close to buildings such as schools.
Seatbelts are compulsory for the driver and all passengers, drink driving is strictly illegal, and mobile phone use is prohibited (unless the system is truly hands-free and doesn’t distract the driver).
There’s some stunning countryside around Portsmouth, the Solent, the South Hampshire Coast, and a number of towns and villages are within convenient driving distance, as is the capital city. Here are just a couple of selected road trips from Portsmouth:
The Isle of Wight is a beautiful, temperate island in the Solent just off Portsmouth. It’s easy to get there from Portsmouth via the UK’s only year-round hovercraft service, departing from Southsea Hoverport. Even the longest journey on the Isle of Wight (Alum Bay – Bembridge) won’t take you an hour, so take your time to explore before heading back to the ferry. The three ferry companies that run to the island are Red Funnel Ferries, Wightlink Ferries and Hovertravel and it’s always worth looking online for discount codes before you buy your tickets!
Portchester Castle is a lovely excuse for a drive in the Hampshire countryside and Peterfield is a cute village with a lake and a popular ‘vegan McDonalds’ called Earth. Alternatively, travel a bit further out of Portsmouth to places like Rowlands Castle, Stansted House, Butser Hill, Mercury Hill, Compton, East Meon, Kingley Vale, Old Winchester Hill, and Harting Down.
Brighton is a buzzing, multi-ethnic and youthful town with a strong LGBTQ community and hedonistic reputation. Driving to Brighton from Portsmouth isn’t always picturesque, but it’s mostly smooth and allows you to stick close to the coast (so you can find a beach) and experience towns like Worthing, Bognor Regis, or the cathedral city of Chichester, to the west of which is Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). If you’re fond of horse racing then Goodwood is just to the north, as is the South Downs National Park.
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