The former home of our country’s capital, Hampshire is brimming with culture and historical delights. Stories of Arthurian legend, naval ships, and even medieval breweries await you amid the relaxing waves of pristine beaches and the lively plains of nature reserves. Grab your camera and prepare for the trip of a lifetime.
Whether you’re looking to indulge in nature, dive into history, or simply relax with a spot of retail therapy, Hampshire’s the perfect place for you to spend your holiday. To make sure you see everything the county has to offer, we’ve put together a list of top attractions and things to do in Portsmouth, Southampton, and across Hampshire.
Places to Visit
Our recommendations start with a trip to the beautiful city of Portsmouth, where a wealth of seafaring history is waiting to be seen. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the home of three historic warships – the Mary Rose, the HMS Victory, and the HMS Warrior – making it the perfect spot to learn about the legacy of the Royal Navy. Take in a show at either the Kings Theatre or the New Theatre Royal, both of which were designed by the revered Frank Matcham, or simply gaze out from the best viewpoint in the city at the top of Spinnaker Tower. Learn about one of England’s greatest authors with a visit to the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in the Regency home he was born in. Detailed displays bring his creations to life, while his personal possessions take you back to 19th-century life.
Another major stop on any visit to Hampshire, Southampton has a range of attractions from historic buildings (including a 14th-century residence) to art collections and sprawling greenery to explore. Make sure you don’t miss anything by taking a guided tour across the city. The SeaCity Museum is an ideal spot for the whole family to learn about the maritime history of Southampton, especially the city’s connection to the historic RMS Titanic. Interactive models and exhibits not only show you how the colossal ship was constructed but also give you an insight into the lives of the ship’s crew. There’s also Solent Sky Museum, showcasing the aviation history of city, which was the birthplace of the iconic Spitfire fighter aircraft.
The former capital of England, Winchester is an excellent destination for local produce, thanks to the largest farmer’s market in the country. Stock up on meat, bread, cheese, cakes, and ice cream to make sure you take a slice of local life home with you. It’s so special, we bet you’ll come back for more! Winchester also has a wealth of excellent military history, with their guided tours taking you to Iron Age forts and Civil War sites around the inner city, as well as further afield. Learn about the timeless legends of King Arthur with a trip to The Great Hall, the home of the iconic Round Table, as well as recreated medieval gardens.
If you’re looking for things to do in Hampshire that have a literary flavour, look no further than Jane Austen’s House Museum in the village of Chawton. Austen spent her final eight years in the cottage (in which she wrote and revised some of her most famous work), which was purchased and converted into a museum celebrating her life and work, and opened in 1949. Inside, you’ll find personal artefacts owned by the author, as well as rooms maintained just as she would have lived and worked in. The garden of the house features wildflowers common to Hampshire and is a welcome spot for a family picnic. Visit in the spring and summer months to fully appreciate the blooming flora and timeless beauty of Jane Austen’s home.
Royal Armouries - Fort Nelson
Found on the outskirts of Portchester, Fort Nelson is a must-see attraction for history buffs. With a 19-acre site full of ramparts, tunnels, and bunkers, you’re sure to gain a true appreciation for military life with a visit to the barrack rooms, hospital, and kitchen on-site. A special gallery showcases particularly artistic weaponry crafted over time, including a Burmese bronze cannon from the 18th century, and a daily firing of the 25-pounder howitzer gun demonstrates the true firepower on offer. Visitors of all ages are welcome, with special treasure boxes full of activities and toys available for those under five years old.
Beaulieu National Motor Museum
Home to over 250 vehicles, Beaulieu National Motor Museum tells the vehicular history of the UK from its ground-breaking origins to the models we see on our roads today, and even has a look at the technology we can expect in the future. Exhibits also showcase the world of motorsport and the history of F1, a delightfully recreated 1930s garage, and the attempts to break the British Land Speed record. With so much on offer, as well as the Victoria gothic-styled country home of Palace House and the beautiful gardens that surround it, this is one of the premier attractions in Hampshire.
Hawk Conservancy Trust
Learn about birds of prey from all shapes and sizes by visiting the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover. Treating around 200 birds a year, the trust has 22 acres of land dedicated to the conservation, treatment, and research of birds of prey in the area. There is a range of experience days on offer, including family fun days (where you’ll learn basic handling skills) and photo days for you to capture the beautiful species held there (available for both professional and amateur photographers). Keep an eye out for special events held throughout the day, such as speakers from members of the Trust, and the chance to see birds of prey by sunset or moonlight. It’s the perfect chance to get more in touch with nature.
Activities in Hampshire
Explore Test Valley
Follow the trail of the River Test as it winds through tranquil woodlands and beautiful meadows, taking you to friendly pubs and past delightful cottages in the area. You can tackle Test Valley by foot, bike, and even horseback, thanks to the wealth of special trails and paths marked through the valley. Discover the serene gardens, quaint market towns, and excellent fishing spots that pepper the area. You can even learn a spot of history at Andover Museum, taking you back to the Iron Age and the construction of Danebury hill fort. After all that walking, you’ll want to put your feet up, so keep an eye out for a tea room in one of the many villages.
See the Coast
Brean Leisure Park is an amusement park in the coastal resort of Brean, near Burnham-on-Sea and is the UK's largest free-admission theme park. With over 40 rides and attractions, there is plenty to see and do without spending a fortune. Take a ride on the Disco Dodgems or scare yourself in Terror Castle. From giggles to screams, there are rides to suit all ages. With an indoor and outdoor pool, you can enjoy this park at any time of year and at any time of day, with The Tavern Club offering great all-singing, all-dancing family entertainment every evening.
Get a taste of Ringwood Brewery
If you’re up for exploring a bit of local tipple, Ringwood Brewery is a great place to start. The town of Ringwood has a rich history of brewing beer since the medieval times, as water from the River Avon was mixed with malted barley from the fields of Hampshire. Ringwood became a prime destination for merchants as taverns and inns sprang up in the village, and it remains a must-see (or, rather, must-taste) attraction in Hampshire thanks to the continuing innovations of Ringwood Brewery. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells on offer with a tour around the facilities, and sample the craft and pale ales in their Pin Room, with a complimentary drink to boot!
Did you know?
The Hampshire Coastal Path is a popular route for walkers to experience the beauty of Hampshire's coastline. The path passes through a multitude of landscapes, towns and villages giving you plenty of photo opportunities and the chance to taste some of Hampshire's finest produce.
The first time I visited Hampshire back when I was 15, I immediately knew that this would be somewhere I’d like to come more often! I was amazed at all the wonderful places to visit - stunning coastlines, beautiful countryside and many exciting attractions such as Portsmouth, the New Forest, and of course Southampton, plus you are only an hour away from London! With all of this in mind, I have always found Hampshire the perfect destination particularly for short breaks, to suit all types of groups including family and friends.
I have personally found that if you love sea breezes and the smell of fresh, salty air, the coast is one of the best places to visit in Hampshire, and everybody loves the seaside, right? The coastline extends for miles and miles and is relatively unspoilt, making for relaxing days out for both families and groups of friends. Here you can enjoy beach fun, cycling, water sports, walking and swimming at destinations along the Solent, such as Southsea, Lepe and Hayling Island – in the summer it really does feel like you are much further afield than Hampshire!
As I have got older, one of my favourite spots is Winchester and I am sure I am not the first to say that! With its beautiful Cathedral, stunning Great Hall and Queen Eleanor’s medieval garden. Here you can explore the many independent shops and top quality restaurants that the city has to offer, as well as its popular and lively farmers’ market.