SOME OF THE BEST PLACES TO DISCOVER ON YOUR FIRST VISIT TO SOUTHSEA
We asked Laura, a student at Winchester University and who recently had her first visit to Southsea, to explore the south of Portsmouth and pick out her favourite alternative & independent shops, cafes and more she discovered while out exploring.
So you’ve found yourself in Southsea for the day, or maybe for a couple of days, and you are wondering where you should spend your time. There are tonnes of places to visit and things to do in Portsmouth and Southsea, but there are only a handful of places that should not be missed off of your to-do list. I had never been to Southsea before, so I have recently made my own way around the seaside part of the city, exploring all of the brilliant places Southsea has to offer. As well as some of the most popular destinations for a day out, I also embarked on a more alternative adventure, seeking out some of the best hidden gems of Portsmouth and Southsea.
As well as some of the most popular destinations for a day out, I also embarked on a more alternative adventure, seeking out some of the best hidden gems of Portsmouth and Southsea
Southsea Beach Cafe
When arriving in Southsea it would be criminal to ignore the beautiful beach, right on Portsmouth’s doorstop. With that in mind, my first stop along the coast was to the Southsea Beach Café. What more could you want on a sunny day on the beach, than to enjoy some delicious food and drink, with the sea right at your feet. This independent café sits along the shingle and sand, with a beautiful decked outdoor seating area, as well as a covered dining room. The inside has wall to wall windows that give a panoramic view of the ocean, without having to sit outside.
They pride themselves on serving high quality, locally sourced, homemade food with an undisturbed view of the horizon
The café serves a yummy menu of breakfast, lunch, light-bites, cakes, coffees and more. They pride themselves on serving high quality, locally sourced, homemade food with an undisturbed view of the horizon. The café was formed on the wish to have a more elegant place to eat and relax, along the promenade, and it truly achieves that. Surrounded by the sounds of the ocean, the calming atmosphere is a welcomed companion to anything you might order at the café. One of the local products they offer is a range of flavours of Alexander’s of Winchester tea, hand blended and packaged in Winchester. You could not wish to start your time in Southsea with anything less than the classiest place on the coast, by far
Marmion Road – Design House
Marmion Road is filled with lots of wonderful independent stores and quirky places to explore and admire. If you are in Southsea, this is a street you do not want to miss. The first place that caught my eye down this road was an interior design shop called Design House. The whole building is filled with beautiful furnishings and ornaments, tucked into every nook and cranny. The shop specialises in soft furnishing and are experts in refurbishing sofas, creating cushions and curtains, and even matching paint swatches, with their homemade, in-house paint selection.
…creates handmade cards and shadow box frames, from beach glass and driftwood that he sources right from the Southsea seafront
Alongside all of this they host designs and products from a range of local artists, as well as trying to seek out new up-and-coming suppliers. The impression of Southsea’s beach flows through the shop, especially through the work of local artist Nick Hoxley – who creates handmade cards and shadow box frames, from beach glass and driftwood that he sources right from the Southsea seafront. More inspiration from the sea can be found in the glass ornaments from Glass Relief, a partnership of designers Estelle Connan and Matthew Adkins. A true Southsea gem of a shop
Marmion Road – Confiserie Verdonk
If you are a bit of a sweet tooth, or perhaps know someone else who is, further up the road you will find just what you are looking for. You can’t help but be sucked into the dreamy, chocolatey heaven, as the tasty aromas welcome you through the door. Confiserie Verdonk, formerly Coco Chocolate Boutique, greets any passer-by with a sickly, sweet smile, and a promise that you will not leave without succumbing to its deliciousness. Upon entering the shop I was greeted by mother-daughter owners, Geraldine and Sophie, who told me about their takeover of the shop and how they were only just settling into Southsea. The ladies already run their first Confiserie Verdonk in Wickham, and bought Coco Chocolate Boutique to expand their brand.
The shop oozes class and finesse, right down to the token flowers and ribbon that they use to seal each chocolate take-away box…
The chocolatiers offer imported speciality chocolates from Belgium, as well as a few English treats. As well as enough beautiful little choccies to make anyone drool, they also have the perfect partner to a warm summer’s day, with their range of award winning Dorset ice cream. With their move onto Marmion Road, daughter Sophie expressed some of their wishes to branch out into providing their own in-house made chocolate in the future. It was fair to say that I was spoilt for choice, trying to fill up my own selection of chocolates to take home with me, and I was glad I did not leave empty handed. The shop oozes class and finesse, right down to the token flowers and ribbon that they use to seal each chocolate take-away box. They offer gift boxes in various sizes, to fill with their extravagant pick and mix selection, as well as pre-packed selections of goodies. Alongside the chocolates and the ice cream, there is also a hot chocolate station, because you can obviously never have enough chocolate.
Castle Road – Pie and Vinyl
Just down from Marmion Road you can find another haven for independent stores and cafes, on Castle Road. Along this road you can amuse your time looking around at the beautiful ornaments at Revive Interior, grab a bite from Delaneys award winning sandwich bar, or even immerse yourself into probably the quirkiest place on the block, Pie and Vinyl.
This place had been recommended to me on multiple occasions, and after hearing the name of it, I had to check it out. Pie and Vinyl does exactly what it says on the tin, combining a love of music with a passion for hearty, English cuisine. Hidden away behind mismatched furniture, and collections of frames and ornaments that glitter every surface, delicious pies are created and served to dozens of very happy customers. From pork, to beef, to falafel, to chicken, there is a pie for everyone. As well as the mouth-watering selection of savoury treats, including a vegan pie section, their pies cover desserts such as pecan and lemon meringue pies.
The quaint building is crammed with relaxing vibes, as well as hundreds of records, lining up in boxes along the back wall…
Not only are the pies good, but so is the atmosphere surrounding you whilst you gorge on your food. The quaint building is crammed with relaxing vibes, as well as hundreds of records, lining up in boxes along the back wall. They also host many different events at the store, including gigs, album signings, and their own podcasts. So whatever your appetite, there will always be something musically pleasing to fill your belly.
Spinnaker Tower & Café in the Clouds
Gunwharf Quays is home to a wonderful range of designer outlet shops, a cinema, and an amazing range of restaurants and bars, that will keep you refreshed throughout your day of shopping. You can enjoy walking along the harbour and even looking out over the water, whilst having dinner or drinks along the water front. As well as having a day of leisure amongst the shops, Gunwharf is also home to the Spinnaker Tower, that I was able to take a trip up and experience some amazing, panoramic views of the city.
The wall to wall windows show a beautiful, undisturbed view of Southsea and out to the harbour…
There is an entry fee on the door to the tower, from their one of the friendly members of staff takes your picture in front of a green-screened Spinnaker Tower, before you enter the lift and make your way up the tower. Stepping out onto the first viewing deck you are hit by an exhilarating wave of vertigo, making you want to cower to the floor and not take another step. The wall to wall windows show a beautiful, undisturbed view of Southsea and out to the harbour. The view deck provided me with hours of fun, taking hundreds of pictures of every inch of the city. I also braved the glass floor, walking across it and staring down at the pavement below.
‘High tea’ is taken to a whole new level at the Café in the Clouds, situated on view deck 2 of the Spinnaker Tower. Here you can enjoy a range of tea, coffee, cakes and sandwiches, all at 105 meters above sea level. You can even enjoy the tower’s high tea package which includes a selection of sandwiches, fruit scones, sweet petit fours and teas and coffees, which you can swap out for prosecco or champagne if that is more your cup-of-tea. The café offers outstanding views along the whole of Portsmouth, the Harbour and along to Gosport, it is the perfect place for a tea and a cake, surrounded by the stunning, sky-high views. Other than the great views, and the friendly and attentive staff, the best part is that café is very reasonably priced, so you can enjoy high class luxury in the clouds, without spending a fortune.
When planning trips out you want to be able to go to an exciting place filled with exciting things; somewhere where you can head out without a plan of what to do and end up having a great day out. Portsmouth is one of those places.
I had so much fun, venturing out to see all of the beautiful things Portsmouth and Southsea has to offer. I easily covered all of these places in a day and would have loved to have been able to see even more of the city. Having never been here before I presumed that I would be visiting a normal seaside town with just a coast and a town Center, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of quirky, amazing places the city holds. Truly a fantastic place to spend a day.
Written by Laura Tozer.
Photography by Laura Tozer.