The south coast city of Portsmouth has a prestigious maritime heritage that pervades city life to this day.
Admiral Lord Nelson famously set sail for the Battle of Trafalgar from Portsmouth which, at one point in the 19th century, was the most fortified city in Europe and its most industrialised.
Today, it remains a Royal Navy base and busy port city, and its Historic Dockyard – home to Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, and the Mary Rose – is among its principal visitor attractions. Two major additions to the city since the turn of the millennium have further boosted the city’s fortunes, with the Gunwharf Quays retail and leisure development opening in 2001 and the distinctive Spinnaker Tower in 2005.
Unsurprisingly, maritime services are a major employer in Portsmouth, while BAE Systems and IBM have significant operations in the city and Zurich Financial Service’s UK headquarters is in nearby Fareham
Name: Spinnaker Tower
Address: Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1 3TT
Tel: 023 9285 7524
Probably Portsmouth’s best-known landmark, the striking Spinnaker Tower opened in 2005 and pays tribute to the city’s maritime heritage with its sail-like design. At 170-metres high it is taller than the London Eye and the Blackpool Tower, and its commanding views of Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and the South Coast make it a popular visitor attraction. What’s more, its three decks can be hired for private events ranging from breakfast meetings and seminars to product launches and Champagne receptions. There’s capacity for up to 100 delegates theatre-style or 150 for canapé receptions, while private dining events are available for 50 to 90 guests. The event spaces are available outside of regular opening hours and there’s an extensive bar and catering menu on offer..
Name: Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard
Address: The Historic Dockyard, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, PO1 3LJ
Tel: 023 9289 3317
Among the treasure trove of historic naval attractions at Portsmouth’s historic dockyard are the Mary Rose, HMS Warrior, National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, the flagship of Admiral Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. Together with meeting and event facilities at Boathouse No.7 and the hi-tech Action Stations centre with its 275-seat auditorium, the Dockyard should be your first port of call when looking for a standout venue in the city. By way of example, HMS Warrior’s Gun Deck can host receptions for up to 600 delegates or its Cable Deck is suited to meetings for up to 40. The Mary Rose Museum has spaces for meetings of 16 people or dinners for 100, while the National Museum of the Royal Navy offers several galleries ranging in capacity from meetings for 24 people to receptions for 250.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Name: Spitbank Fort
Address: Spitbank Fort Departure Lounge, Royal Clarence Marina, Weevil Way, Gosport, PO12 1FX
Tel: 01494 682 682
A venue that also fits the ‘wow factor’ and ‘quirky’ moulds, Portsmouth’s Spitbank Tower opened as a luxury hotel and event venue earlier this year. Around a mile off the coast, the fort was one of several offshore towers built in the 1800s to protected Portsmouth from invasion. It was decommissioned in 1956 and sold by the Ministry of Defence in 1982 before eventually being bought by Clarenco – ‘amazing retreats in spectacular locations’ – and subsequently transformed. It now features nine guestroom suites, three private dining rooms, a Laurent-Perrier Champagne bar, a function room, games room, wine cellar and sun deck complete with rooftop hot tub, plus, of course, the ultimate in privacy. It sleeps up to 18 people or has capacity for up to 60 people for meetings and events.
ON A SHOESTRING
Name: Oasis: The Venue
Address: Arundel Street, Portsmouth, PO1 1NP
Tel: 023 9261 7397
This dedicated events centre is comprised of five meeting spaces in a convenient location close to Portsmouth & Southsea train station. The largest space is the Jefferies auditorium with capacity for 250 delegates in a seminar set up. The room has natural daylight, wifi and sound, lighting and AV systems. The Cowdery Suite is suitable for up to 60 delegates and lends itself to training events and meetings, while the Eldred Suite can host up to 40 people. Two further meeting rooms, the Mary Rose and Arundel suites, are suitable for up to 25 and 12 respectively.
Name: Marriott Hotel
Address: Southampton Road, Portsmouth, PO6 4SH
Tel: 023 9238 3151
Portsmouth’s 174-guestroom Marriott Hotel is situated on the city’s northern fringe, close to the M27, and has all the requisite facilities and technology you’d expect of this international brand. Its 11 meeting rooms provide 785m2 of meeting space, with the Mary Rose suite and its capacity of 350 theatre-style – or 240 for dinners – the largest of them. The Heritage suite has room for 150 theatre-style while the smaller meeting rooms are suitable for eight to 24 people in a boardroom set-up. There’s wifi throughout the hotel and comprehensive catering and AV services are available.
SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED
Name: Express by Holiday Inn Gunwharf Quays
Address: Express by Holiday Inn, The Plaza, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1 3FD
Tel: 023 9289 4240
With 130 guestrooms this popular hotel might not be that small, but its meeting facilities are – and they’re at the budget end of the spectrum too. Its two meeting rooms have natural daylight, wireless internet and blackout facilities, and there’s free parking for event attendees. The Nelson room can host 15 people in a boardroom layout or 25 theatre-style, while the larger Victory room has capacity for up to 50 delegates theatre-style. The hotel is part of the lively waterfront development, close to a range of leisure facilities, bars and restaurants.
Getting there: Portsmouth is around 90 minutes by road from central London. The nearest airport is in Southampton, around 20 minutes west of Portsmouth. The quickest train services from London depart from Waterloo station and take around 90 minutes to Portsmouth.