Portsmouth is the world centre for maritime heritage and there is much of it to see at the Historic Dockyard which hosts historical ships HMS Victory and the Mary Rose, a Royal Navy museum, exhibitions and more besides. The Historic Dockyard used to be part of the Royal Navy Dockyard and is enclosed by high walls. It contains a number of different attractions and you pay for the ones you want in the gatehouse at the main entrance called Victory Gate. Once inside you can wander between the various attractions in any order you like.
HMS Victory was Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar and is still to this day the flagship of the First Sea Lord. The ship is beautifully preserved and you can walk between decks to get a sense of the living conditions of crew members and officers, cannons on the gun deck and Nelson's cabin containing period furniture. The staff are extremely knowledgable and guided tours are sometimes available.
The Mary Rose was one of Henry VIII's warships. It sank in 1545 while in action against a French invasion fleet. It is now in its own modern purpose-built museum, opened in Spring 2013. The museum contains many thousands of artefacts recovered from the ship ranging from pocket sundials to a chamber pot, and paints a vivid picture of life in the Royal Navy during Tudor times.
HMS Warrior is an example of a Victorian warship that was driven by steam as well as sail. With her iron armoured hull, she was the largest and fastest ship at the time of her launch in 1860.
National Museum Royal Navy is packed with interesting artefacts and exhibitions illustrating the history of the Royal Navy. There are special exhibitions about Nelson and HMS Victory, and exhibits include a mask cast from Nelson's face, the first Victoria Cross ever awarded, and an Enigma machine used to decipher secret messages in World War II.
Action Stations has interactive displays and games illustrating life in the modern Royal Navy and is aimed at younger visitors to the Historic Dockyard.
HMS Alliance is a restored World War II submarine. To see this vessel you will take a boat trip across the harbour to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. There are two other museums on the same site: The Royal Marines Museum and Explosion! The Museum of Naval Firepower.
A Harbour Tour is highly recommended for close-up views of active Royal Navy ships, a panoramic view of the Historic Dockyard and an interesting commentary about the sights.
For more information about the Historic Dockyard and its attractions, see the Historic Dockyard website.