Art, culture and nightlife in Portsmouth
Life outside study
Whatever you're into – whether you're looking to meet people with similar interests, explore the local art and culture in our historic city, or have a great night out with new friends – you'll find a place to do it in Portsmouth.
Unfortunately due to the Covid pandemic, some venues, shops and events may be restricted, closed or postponed in line with government advice. Please check directly with the businesses, organisers or hosts, to confirm what activities and services are available.
The city has several art galleries and hosts regular arts and crafts festivals where you can discover local artists and buy their work, or exhibit your own. Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry studied at Portsmouth, and there's still a strong artistic community in the city.
Home to new, contemporary and more traditional art, find out more about some of the main galleries in Portsmouth, including:
You can catch a train to the centre of London from Portsmouth in less than 90 minutes, where you'll find hundreds of galleries – including the Tate Britain, the Saatchi Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, and many smaller galleries.
When you study here, you'll enjoy creative art workshops in venues across the city, cooking classes in our independent stores and drama classes in our Victorian theatres.
At the University, we run workshops and creative short courses you can sign up for outside of your studies. These could include Introduction to Drawing, Painting with Acrylics, Mobile Videography, Paeloart, Acting Fundamentals and Letterpress Printing. Keep an eye on our short courses to see what you could do when you're here.
Make sure to look at the societies run by the Students' Union for any student-led groups that offer workshops. You can join the Photography Society, the Script Reading society or set up your own arts and crafts group. Workshops available in the city include:
Arts and crafts
- Artypotz – paint your own ceramic shop
- Chris Wood – experimental life drawing workshops
- James Mouland – paper marbling art classes
- Let's Paint Pompey – painting events
- The Makers Guild – makers events
- Michelle Gibbs – artist and art tutor
- Omega Printmakers – printmaking and paint workshops
- Paint Chill Co – painting events
- Repair Cafe Portsmouth – mending event
- Seeded – crochet and knitting workshops
- Stampin Squirrels – monthly papercraft workshops
- Strong Island Photography Walkshops – photo workshops
Both the city and the University are home to people of all cultures, who bring their passion for different pursuits to Portsmouth – so whether you're interested in Ghanaian fashion, Bengali music or comic book culture from around the world, you can take your interest further here.
Student-led cultural groups
When you study with us, you can join as many student-led groups as you like. These include cultural societies like the Cinema Society, Book Club or the Harry Potter Society and national groups including the Bengali Society, the Czechoslovakian Group, or the Afro-Caribbean Society. If you don't find a society based on your interests, you can always start your own when you arrive at University.
As well as music festivals, Portsmouth hosts cultural festivals throughout the year in celebration of food, community, art and history. Cultural festivals held throughout the year include:
Black History Month
During October each year, we run public events to celebrate Black History Month and to promote knowledge of black history, culture and heritage, and positive black contributions to British society. See previous programmes.
Black History Month Film Festival
The annual Black History Month Film Festival takes place in October. We run it in partnership with the Portsmouth Film Society to promote black filmmakers to a wider audience. Films featured free to staff and students in 2020 included Harriet, Queen and Slim, and White Riot.
Comic Con is an annual celebration of comic books and pop culture held at Portsmouth Guildhall. In 2019, our students shared their work in subjects such as virtual reality, robotics, storytelling and design.
Darkfest is an annual festival bringing together artists, writers, performers, academics, storytellers and musicians to explore ghost stories, urban legends, crime, horror and hidden histories.
Festival of Culture
We hold an annual Festival of Culture to celebrate our international community. The festival includes guest talks, film screenings, and experiences from around the world such as Chinese calligraphy, Iranian music, Ghanaian fashion, Arabic coffee and Cuban salsa.
Guildhall Games Fest
Guildhall Games Fest celebrates 40-years of gaming through board games, retro games and VR experiences. Festival staff can show you how to play new and retro games and consoles and you can also compete in festival tournaments to be the Games Fest Champion.
Journeys Festival International
In October, Portsmouth hosts Journeys Festival International – a celebration of the creative talents of refugee and asylum seeker artists – who share their experiences through live music, artist-led workshops, theatre, films, discussions, exhibitions and storytelling.
LGBTQ+ Film Festival
Run by Portsmouth Film Society, the annual LGBTQ+ Film Festival raises awareness of matters affecting the LGBT+ community and promoting their welfare, and shares the history, lives and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through film.
Oktoberfest Portsmouth is a weekend hosted by the Guildhall filled with traditional Bavarian entertainment, food and drink – including German sausages, pretzels and 2-litre steins of beer.
PortsFest (previously Portsmouth Festivities) is an annual showcase of the theatre, film, art and music on offer in the city that has been running for over 20 years.
Portsmouth Pride, the city's biggest celebration to our LGBTQ+ community, takes place annually in June with performances from local musicians, drag performers and the Portsmouth Pride Youth Society (PPYS).
Portsmouth Tattoo Fest brings more than 70 talented tattoo artists to the city from around the country. Get a new tattoo, listen to live bands and watch rival artists compete for the best tattoo in various themes.
Victorian Christmas Festival
The family-friendly Victorian Christmas Festival takes place every year in the Historic Dockyard with a Christmas market, Victorian choirs, Christmas food and circus performers.
You can visit museums about our literature, our natural history, and our history as the home of the Royal Navy. Museums in the city include:
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a collection of Naval charities and museums including the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Mary Rose Trust, the HMS Warrior Preservation Trust Ltd and the HMS Victory Preservation Company.
HMS Victory was completed and launched in 1765 and served as Lord Nelson's Flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. The Mary Rose was first launched in 1511 as a warship of King Henry VIII. After she sank in the Solent in 1545, she wasn't discovered until 1971, and salvaged from the water in 1982.
The D-Day Story
The D-Day Story tells the story of the Normandy Landings. D-Day was the largest invasion ever assembled by allied troops and the D-Day Story is home to over 10,000 items of significance from the Normandy Landings and the people that were part of it. The museum also hosts the Overlord Embroidery, an 83-metre long embroidery piece commissioned by Lord Dulverton in 1968. It took 5 years to stitch.
Portsmouth Museum gives you an idea of what it was like to live in Portsmouth at different times in history. Galleries include 'Living in Portsmouth,' 'No Place Like Pompey' and 'Portsmouth at Play'.
You can also visit Portsmouth Museum to find out more about Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle lived in Portsmouth, and a plaque is on the wall of Bush House on Elm Grove, the site of his former home.
Cumberland House Natural History Museum
Portsmouth's Natural History Museum displays a selection of items from a collection of over 114,000 natural science specimens. These specimens have been collected from across the South Coast of England and further afield and are now on show as part of the A to Z of Natural History Exhibit.
If you visit between May and September, you can also experience the Butterfly House in season.
Charles Dickens Birthplace
As he wrote so much about industrial London, few people know that Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth and you can visit his birthplace. The museum includes 3 furnished rooms and a small collection of memorabilia. The museum is open between April and September.
Built by King Henry VIII, Southsea Castle was an active military base for over 400 years and is also home to Southsea's iconic lighthouse. The castle is open to visitors throughout the spring and summer months, but the restaurant and cafe in the grounds of the castle are open all year round.
Eastney Beam Engine House
The Eastney Beam Engine House is a Grade II listed Victorian engine house that dates from 1887. The house is open on specific dates throughout the year and admission is free.
Nightlife in Portsmouth
Portsmouth has late-night cafes and gelaterias, and more pubs per square mile than any other city in the UK. The oldest is The Dolphin in Old Portsmouth – open since 1716.
Pubs, bars and clubs
If you're starting your night out or looking for a quiet night at the pub, you'll find most pubs around the Guildhall, Osborne Road, Palmerston Road and Albert Road. A few of the pubs on Albert Road stay open until 2.00am on the weekends, and others have free pool tables during the week or happy hours in the evenings.
Gunwharf Quays is the place to go for cocktail bars or nightclubs, and Guildhall Walk is also a popular night out destination for students. Many of the clubs and bars along the walk – like Astoria, Zanzi and Mr Miyagis – have dedicated student nights. The walk is also close to Pryzm on Commercial Road, the largest nightclub in the city.
The centre of campus is home to Hampshire Boulevard (HB), Portsmouth's premier LGBTQ+ bar and nightclub. HB also has a host of resident drag queens who run weekly student nights, bingo nights, cabaret and kareoke.
If you want an alternative night out, or have a few jokes of your own to tell, comedy nights take place all over the city.
The Portsmouth Guildhall hosts Laugh Out Loud comedy nights at least once a month and you can also attend comedy nights at the Spinnaker Tower. The Wedgewood Rooms has its own Comedy Club and hosts big comedy names throughout the year along with other theatres in Portsmouth.
While the cinema can seem like an expensive night out, you can get tickets for the latest releases at Vue Cinema in Gunwharf for less than £6. For a unique experience, you can see movies at No. 6 Cinema for just £5 if you're under 25. The 275 seat cinema is in a Grade II listed boathouse in the Historic Dockyard, built in 1846.
A few times a year, you'll also get the chance to attend outdoor sunset screenings of popular movies run by the Portsmouth Film Society.
Portsmouth has 2 Victorian Grade II-listed theatres that host touring plays, musicals, stand-up comedians and bands. The New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk has been active since 1884 and the Kings Theatre on Albert Road opened in 1907.
Groundlings Theatre is the newest theatre company in Portsmouth. It was opened in 2010 but the Georgian building the company chose as their theatre was built in 1784. As well as a programme of shows throughout the year, you can visit the building itself for a theatre tour.
Find out more about life in Portsmouth
Take a closer look at more of the exciting things on offer in our amazing city.
Hungry for adventure? Here's a taster of the great food and drink you can savour in the city.
Want to get involved in Portsmouth's music scene? Here's all you need to start.
Portsmouth is a bustling city with the sea on our doorstep and green spaces all around.