These Are the Best Things to Do in Portsmouth New Hampshire

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You’ll discover some of the best things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire when you visit this charming New England city on the coast. 

With its rich history, scenic location, unique shops, and excellent dining options, Portsmouth is a hidden gem worth your time. In fact, after your first visit, it may become your favorite coastal destination in New England!

Continue reading to learn all about the fun things to do and see when you plan a trip to Portsmouth, NH.

CONTENTS — In this article, you will discover what you need to to to plan your trip and the fun things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire, including:

Best Portsmouth NH Attractions

When you visit Portsmouth, New Hampshire, you can choose from so many things to see and do. 

Whether you adore coastal destinations or fancy yourself history buff, a foodie, or a shopper, you’ll find something to love here.

This comprehensive list highlights some of my favorite things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire and other recommendations I think you’ll enjoy.

You may not get to them all in one trip.

But rest assured, Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a destination that bears repeating!

Let’s start with some background info.

Brief History of Portsmouth

When you stroll through Portsmouth, it’s hard not to notice its old-world charm. This happening city has a distinctly “small-town” feel.

It’s very old, actually. 

The town was settled in 1623 as a fishing settlement originally known as Piscataqua (prounounced “pis-KAT-a-kwa”). In 1630, Europeans settled the west bank of the harbor, named Strawbery Banke because it was rich with strawberry plants.

Before that, the Wabanaki Nations lived on this land, seasonally fishing, hunting, and growing and gathering food for thousands of years.

The Port of Portsmouth was incorporated in 1849 as an important, bustling port and shipbuilding city.

When you visit today, you can easily step back in time to envision the various incarnations of this fascinating place. In fact, Portsmouth is the oldest settlement and the second oldest city in New Hampshire! (Dover was the earliest.)

Portsmouth was also the first capital of the state.

And, it remains the only seaport in New Hampshire.

In addition to its rich history, Portsmouth NH has so much on offer to visitors. So, you’ll definitely want to make sure it’s on your New England bucket list.

You’ll find so many things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Maybe you’ve heard of it, but do you know exactly where it is?

Where is Portsmouth NH?

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The charming seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire is just 1 hour north of Boston and 1 hour south of Portland, Maine

It is the last town in southeastern New Hampshire before crossing the Piscataqua River Bridge to Kittery Maine.

That makes it an easy destination from many points in New England.

From New York City, Portsmouth is a 5 hour drive.

Portsmouth is also about 1 hour from Logan International Airport and Manchester Regional Airport. It has its own airport, too.

This makes it easy to get to Portsmouth from more distant locations.

How to Get to Portsmouth, NH

Perhaps the easiest way to get to Portsmouth, NH if you’re within driving distance is by car. Portsmouth makes for a great road trip!

But you can also take the train.

The Amtrak runs into Portsmouth from various New England and New York destinations and beyond. While the famous DownEaster train does not stop directly in Portsmouth, it stops in nearby towns. 

Another way to arrive is to take the bus from Boston. C & J Bus Lines offers regular motor coach service from Logan Airport and South Station. 

If you have your own boat, you can arrive by sea at the Marina at Harbor Place when the spring season opens.

Finally, you can fly into one of three airports in or relatively near to Portsmouth:

  • Portsmouth International Airport at Pease (PSM)
  • Manchester Airport (MHT)
  • Logan Airport (BOS)

With so many ways to get to Portsmouth, there’s no excuse not to visit.

Getting Around Portsmouth, NH

Once you arrive in Portsmouth, you’ll find it’s an easy city to navigate by car or on foot.

Depending on where you stay in Portsmouth, you can enjoy walking to the downtown and the waterfront. 

In addition to traditional taxi services, you can call on ride-sharing services in town, including Uber, Lyft, Ola, and Didi. Simply download one of these apps and your ready to call for a ride.

The public transportation infrastructure in Portsmouth is good, too. So you can take the bus routes or hop on a ferry to one of the nearby islands.

Once you arrive in Portsmouth, you’ll have no trouble getting around to all there is to see and do here.

Portsmouth’s Scenic  Beauty

Things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire - scenic beauty

When it comes to scenic beauty, you’ll be delighted by these beautiful attractions in this area.

Here are some of the best scenic things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

1. Seacoast Drive

Seacoast drive is just what it sounds like: a coastal drive along the coast.

This New Hampshire byway along route 1A & 1B stretches about 18.5 miles beginning in Portsmouth. The coastal route will take you through the New Hampshire towns of:

  • Portsmouth
  • New Castle
  • Rye
  • North Hampton
  • Seabrook

As you drive, you’ll take in sweeping ocean views and scenes from colonial history as throughout Portsmouth.

This makes for a great coastal New Hampshire road trip. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful coastal byways in New England!

Driving straight through on Seacoast Drive will take you about an hour.

But with great stopping points along the way, including beaches, state parks, historic forts, quaint towns, and more along the way, you’ll definitely want to take your time to enjoy the scenery.

2. Portsmouth Harbor Trail

Another great take when it comes to scenic places is the Portsmouth Harbor Trail. It’s about 1 mile long and navigates a scenic walking path along the coast.

Along the way, it covers:

  • The Downtown/Waterfront area of Portsmouth
  • South End and State Street to Haymarket Square
  • Congress Street

This is a great way to see the local scenic beauty as well as points of historical significance in Portsmouth on foot.

You might consider scheduling one of the guided tours that begin at Market Square daily. For $15 or less, you’ll be enchanted by the beauty and history of Portsmouth as you’re led by a knowledgable guide on a 1-hour walking tour.

Whether you go on your own or with a tour, walking the Portsmouth Harbor Trail is enjoyable.

3. The Piscataqua River

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The Piscataqua River is 16 miles long running from the Portsmouth Harbor inland. This tidal stream forms the state boundary dividing New Hampshire and Maine.

From many points in Portsmouth, you’ll quickly recognize the iconic Piscataqua River Bridge spanning the river banks.

The Piscataqua the second fastest running navigable river in the US (the Columbia River in Washington state is #1). So, it’s not advisable to swim the Piscataqua because of the currents. 

This river is home to many varieties of fish and wildlife. It’s also a Federal Shipping Channel.

At all times of day and seasons, it’s a lovely scenic take.

If you’re an experienced kayaker, you might consider kayaking the Piscataqua River. But because of the fast current and eddies, you’ll need to be extremely cautious.

A better way to explore its scenic beauty is to take a river tour from Prescott Park. Not only will you enjoy the river, lighthouses, and islands along the way, but you will learn a lot, too!

4. Historic Downtown Portsmouth

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Downtown Portsmouth, NH
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Portsmouth Athenaeum

It’s hard to deny the scenic beauty of New England towns like Portsmouth. From the historic homes to the early churches and community buildings, they are a feast for any history-lover’s eyes.

So, you’ll want to check out the Portsmouth Downtown Historic District, which reflects nearly 400 years of history.

You can walk this L-shaped route yourself, which is cobblestone in some parts, so you’ll want to wear appropriate shoes.

This historic district is home to over 1,200 noteworthy places of historical importance!

Some of the highlights you’ll want to look for in the downtown include:

  • St. John’s Episcopal Church
  • Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden
  • African Burying Ground
  • North Church
  • The Music Hall
  • Market Square
  • Jackson House
  • Warner House
  • John Paul Jones House
  • Point of Graves

We’ll get into some of these historic attractions in more detail below, but they are beautiful to look at if you’re looking to take some interesting photographs in Porstmouth.

A great way to tour the downtown with insights to the past is to take a tour with the Portsmouth Historical Society. They offer historic walking tours six days a week, making this one of the best things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire, no matter when you visit.

5. Prescott Park

A visit to Portsmouth is incomplete without a stroll through the lovely waterfront green space of Prescott Park.

This 10+ acre public park along the the edge of the Piscataqua river features beautiful landscaping with fountains, sculptural elements, and extensive flower gardens.

Prescott Park is also home to art festivals, concerts, and other events throughout the seasons.

It’s great place for a short walk or to simply to sit and enjoy the shade and cool breezes with a water view.

Finally, it’s worth noting you’ll also find public bathrooms at Prescott Park. This is good to know if you’ll be out touring the town for an extended time.

The park is located at 105 Marcy St.

12 Worthwhile Historic Attractions in Portsmouth, NH

things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire

Let’s dig deeper into the range of historic attractions in Portsmouth. Exploring them is one of the most fascinating things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

1. Warner House

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High on the list of ‘must-see’ historic attractions in Portsmouth NH is the Warner House. You’ll love touring this beautifully preserved residence of Capt. Archibald Macpheadris, located at 150 Daniel Street.

As the earliest urban brick house in northern New England (built in 1716), Warner House offers an authentic look into what life might have been like in bygone days.

From the library stocked with a fascinating books, including young Polly Warner’s collection, to the period table settings and silverware poised in the dining room, you’ll admire the elegance and lifestyle of the home’s residents. This home witnessed six generations of family ownership!

The artwork within the Warner House is noteworthy, too.

Not only will you find impressive portraits of members of the Warners and their extended family, but four one-of-a-kind murals decorate the main hall, stairway and landing above.

It’s thought that these were painted by New York artist Nehemiah Partridge (1683-c.1737) and as such, are examples of the earliest British-American wall paintings in America.

Finally, the third floor is a treasure trove of artifacts collected during excavations on the property. You’ll see how members of the Warner House Association pieces together broken shards and findings from the past. You may even be able to climb the cupola to get a panoramic view of Portsmouth!

It’s easy to see why the 300+ year old Warner House built in the early Georgian style is known as “Grand Dame of Daniel Street”!

Check the Warner House’s website for visiting hours so you can visit this gem while you’re in town. You can also time your visit to coincide with special events hosted at Warner House for an exceptional experience.

2. Strawbery Banke Museum

When you visit Portsmouth NH, make a point of checking out the Strawbery Banke Museum.

According to their website, this outdoor museum is “the oldest neighborhood in New Hampshire to be settled by Europeans, and the earliest neighborhood remaining in the present-day city of Portsmouth.”

When you visit, you can explore the 10-acre outdoor history museum featuring:

  • Restored houses
  • Costumed role players
  • Exquisite gardens
  • Traditional crafts
  • Seasonal events and activities

The exhibits at Strawbery Banke Museum span three centuries from the 17th to 20th centuries!

Located at 14 Hancock St., you’ll certainly find history well preserved here–along with lovely water views and sea breezes.

Strawbery Banke Museum is generally 10 am – 5 pm most of the year, but be sure to check their hours before you visit.

3. North Cemetery

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Love old cemeteries? Then take a stroll through this historic burial grounds established in 1753.

North Cemetery is one of six historic cemeteries in Portsmouth, located on Maplewood Avenue on the shore of North Mill Pond.

This 1.5 acre site is the resting place of many shipbuilders, military heroes, and many other significant people. You’ll want to spend some time looking for the memorial stone and final resting place of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Whipple.

And like all graveyards of this era, you will find beautifully designed stones, though-provoking epitaphs, and discover the old-fashioned names of many residents of that era.

If you want to continue touring the old gravestones in Portsmouth, here’s a complete list of the historic cemeteries of Portsmouth NH:

  • Cotton Cemetery
  • Elmwood Cemetery 
  • North Burial Ground
  • Pleasant Street Cemetery
  • Point of Graves Burial Ground
  • Union Cemetery

The City of Portsmouth takes good care of these hallowed and historic grounds.

4. African Burying Ground Memorial Park

To pay homage those who were not so well-regarded in colonial times and beyond, take some time to visit the African Burying Ground Memorial Park. You’ll find it on Chestnut Street in downtown Portsmouth, between Court St. and State St.

You might be surprised to learn that, sadly, these 18th century graves were almost forgotten. In fact, they were paved and built over at one point in time. It was in 2003 that the buried remains of thirteen people of African descent were discovered.

In 2014, the African Burying Ground Memorial Park was opened to better honor and give the long-deserved respect to those enslaved and other people of color buried here. The memorial park aims to serve as a public place of reverence and you can learn more about it here.

It’s the only known African Burying Ground that dates to this era in New England.

5. USS Albacore Submarine

If marine history is something you enjoy, then take a tour of the USS Albacore in Portsmouth.

This retired submarine’s seafaring days are over, but it has continued life as a museum at 600 Market St.

You can go inside to explore the interior, including:

  • The bunk rooms
  • Control station
  • Engineering space
  • A look through the submarine’s periscope

You’ll hear crew recordings and audio highlights to learn more about life on this amazing sea vessel.

Be sure to start at the Visitor Center, tour the gardens, and stop in the gift shop, too. It’s a great take!

6. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Along the same lines, you can go on a guided tour of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

It’s technically in Kittery, ME, but easily accessible from Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Navy Yard, as it’s locally referred, offers tours to US citizens, provided you’re excluded from certain felony guidelines.

This is the U.S. Navy’s oldest continuously operating shipyard, founded in 1800 under President John Adams.

It is here that the US Navy’s nuclear-powered attack submarine fleet is repaired, overhauled, or modernized.

The first Navy-constructed submarine was built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, and more than 130 submarines were built here through the 3rd quarter of the 20th century. This shipyard is home to a number of historic naval vessels.

Prior to it’s designation as a Naval Shipyard, it has a rich history dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Did you know it was here that the first British warship was built in the colonies? That was the HMS Falkland in 1696. 

7. Original Portsmouth Brewery

The Original Portsmouth Brewery, established in 1870, was one of three breweries in Portsmouth of the time, and the smallest one. But it produced such fine refreshments as “India, Pale, Stock and Cream Ales, Hop Beer and Old Brown Stout” as well as a lager, “Portsburger.”

This establishment is no longer standing, but you’ll get a taste for this historic place when you drink in the vintage photographs at Strawbery Banke Museum or the Atheneum.

And while the original Portsmouth Brewery is long gone, today you can head on over to it’s namesake, Portsmouth Brewery, for great drink and food.

Sample tasty beer from “New Hampshire’s original craft brewery” and make a toast to the tradition of brewing great beer in Portsmouth!

8. The John Paul Jones House

This Georgian-style house is where Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones rented a room while his warships were constructed or repaired. The home was a boarding house at the time, and is now a museum that showcases Jones’ life and the Revolutionary War era.

You can stop in to take a self-guided tour of The John Paul Jones House, or pre-arrange for a private tour of this National Landmark. You’ll discover rare historical objects and artifacts of the period and special exhibits on display this early stately home, located at at 43 Middle Street.

9. Portsmouth Athenaeum

The Portsmouth Athenaeum, an early membership library, was one of many established by communities in the 1800s. Membership libraries aimed to serve the community with educational resources beyond the service of local libraries.

Established in 1817, it is now one of fewer than 20 such remaining institutions.

Toward that end, the Portsmouth Athenaeum houses about 40,000 books, manuscript archives, photographs, and other items that relate to Portsmouth’s and New Hampshire’s local history.

To this day, they host or sponsor a variety of other community initiatives, like:

  • Exhibitions
  • Lectures
  • Concerts
  • Educational programs
  • Cultural programs

It’s worth a visit to the research library and exhibition gallery (at no cost) when you’re in Portsmouth. With an optional donation, you can also take a tour of the historic reading room on the first floor.

Plus, the architecture of the Portsmouth Athenaeum is stunning, inside and out!

You can’t miss this stately building with elegant arched windows flanking the entrance in the heart of Downtown Portsmouth at 9 Market Square. And the interior is just as magnificent, if not more so.

10. Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion

As you continue your exploration of historic Portsmouth, be sure to take a tour of the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion.

This historic house museum that was once the home of the New Hampshires first Royal Governor, Benning Wentworth (1696-1767).

You’ll find the mansion on the banks of Little Harbor, set upon farm land at 375 Little Harbor Rd. In fact, you’ll want to take an outdoor tours of the grounds, which are open daily from dawn to dusk.

Fun fact: The lilacs on the property are the oldest in the United States, planted as early as 1750!

You might even extend your walk to include the 1.5 mile path along the water that connects Wentworth-Coolidge Grounds, Creek Farm, and Portsmouth Conservation Land. 

This route is called the Little Harbor Trail, which offers gorgeous water views along the way.

The museum is open from May to October, but check the hours and events at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion before you go. You might even take in one of the Twilight Tours or plan a picnic on the picturesque grounds.

11. Moffat-Ladd House & Garden

The Moffat-Ladd House & Garden is a National Historic Landmark built between 1760 and 1763 — given as a wedding gift by John Moffat, one of the wealthiest men in the NH colony, to his son, Samuel. At one point in time, founding father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Whipple (1730-1785) resided here, as well.

You’ll find it at 154 Market Street.

Here, you’ll find period furniture, artifacts, impressive architectural detail, and stories of the people who lived and served in this imposing Georgian house overlooking the old part of Portsmouth Harbor.

During the season, you can take a 45-minute tour every day except Wednesdays from 11am to 4pm. Advance reservations are not required. It’s well worth taking a tour of the Moffat-Ladd House interior and gardens for some fascinating insights, not to mention the lovely ocean breezes.

12. Historic Walking Tour

For an in-depth experience of Portsmouth’s historic attraction, consider taking a historic walking tour. That way, you can cover many of Portsmouth’s historic attractions with the insights of a tour guide.

For instance, did you know that President George Washington visited Portsmouth for four days in the fall of 1789? It was part of the first US President’s tour of the northern states six months after his inauguration.

During your 90-minute historic walking tour, you will follow the route of the President down Congress Street to the site of the former British State House in Market Square. This is the place where Washington addressed the citizens of Portsmouth.

That’s just one of the many facts you’ll learn along the way.

Other locations you’ll visit on a historic walking tour may include:

  • Site of Brewster’s Tavern where the Washingtons slept
  • Governor John Langdon House where the Washingtons had tea and attended a piano concert
  • Sites of two churches where the President worshipped—both on the same day!
  • Portsmouth waterfront where President Washington enjoyed barge cruise
  • Childhood home of Tobias Lear, Washington’s private secretary from 1783-1799
  • Pitt Tavern where the President participated in a Masonic service

This walking tour begins at Discover Portsmouth Welcome Center and ends in Market Square. It’s one of the best things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Great Places to Shop in Portsmouth NH

Now that you’ve planned to explore some of the scenic and historic sites in Portsmouth, let’s take a more modern experience into account: Shopping.

This is another of the fun things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire you’ll want to plan some time for.

That’s because you’ll find plenty of locally owned novelty shops, boutiques, and art galleries to shop as you meander the city.

You’ll find some right in Market Square, and others tucked into meandering side streets. There is no shortage of options, and better yet, they are tax free!

So, set aside a few hours on your itinerary to collect some souvenirs, hand-crafted items, unique gifts, and more when you’re visiting Portsmouth.

Culture & Entertainment

Now, when it comes to culture and entertainment, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire!

From the music and performances to art galleries, there’s something for every kind of culture-lover.

Here are a few favorites.

1. The Music Hall

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things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire - Music Hall
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Enjoying a music show, movie, or theatrical performance at The Music Hall is a must when you visit Portsmouth NH.

This incredibly beautiful venue has been in service since 1878, offering live concerts, theater events, and more. It was originally a Vaudeville theater, and has proudly hosted over three centuries of theater in Portsmouth.

Fun fact: The Music Hall is the oldest theater in New Hampshire, and one of the last “hemp houses” in the country. That means the curtain still relies on the original rigging system (1901), which features rope, block and tackle, and counterweight.

Today, it remains an important part of the community, hosting local and renown performers and events. In addition to performances, The Music Hall offers dance, art classes, author events, and a variety of workshops.

There’s not a bad seat in the house within this 895-seat Victorian-era theater. The seats are comfortable and the acoustics are great!

And while you’re there, you’ll enjoy a well-stocked bar and snacks.

So, be sure to check their schedule when you’re in town and take in the experience. You can’t miss the neon marquis that glows down the side street (28 Chestnut St.) off Market Square.

2. Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club

What’s all the buzz about Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club?

This lively venue combines inspirational music with libations and fine cuisine.

Whether you visit to listen to an award-winning musician, Sunday Jazz Brunch, or to celebrate your anniversary, you’ll love the vibe here!

Some say Jimmy’s has the feel of a feel of nightclub from the 20s and 30s – but with state-of-the-art production, sound, and lighting.

Check their schedule for performances and a bite to eat – your event ticket serves as your reservation. You’ll find this Portsmouth NH hot spot at 135 Congress Street.

4. 3S Artspace

This unique nonprofit venue is more than a contemporary art gallery. 3S Artspace is a showcase for bold emerging art exhibits that hosts more than 100 music and other performances each year.

In addition, the venue collaborates with a restaurant partner, making it a welcoming community place to gather, enjoy food & drink, and exchange ideas.

Discover what’s happening at 3S Artspace, located at 319 Vaughan St. There’s always something interesting going on here – making it one of the best things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

5. Seacoast Repertory Theatre

In Downtown Portsmouth, the Seacoast Repertory Theatre puts on a variety of plays and musicals, and is the Seacoast’s only professional year-round live theatre.

Their award-winning art has been featured in the New York Times and live streams world-wide.

Check out their latest schedule and attend a performance at “The Rep” when you’re in town. You’ll find it at 125 Bow Street.

Festivals & Events in Portsmouth

Portsmouth hosts several fun festivals and events throughout the year. They are some of the best things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire., so you may want to time your visit to coincide with them.

Here are some of the most popular:

  • Market Square Day (June)
  • Juneteenth Music Festival (June)
  • Piscataqua Riverfest (June)
  • St. Nicholas Greek Festival (June)
  • Annual Chowder Fest & Summer Social (June)
  • Seacoast Fine Summer Craft & Artisan (July)
  • Sail Portsmouth Tall Ship Festival (July)
  • Prescott Park Arts Festival (August)
  • Little Italy Carnival (August)
  • New England BIPOC Fest (Sept)
  • Vintage & Vine Wine Festival (Sept)
  • New Hampshire Brewfest (Oct)
  • New Hampshire Film Festival (Oct)

Whether you have a special interest or you just enjoy strolling through to see what’s going on, you’ll discover plenty of options from which to choose. For the latest Portsmouth Events Calendar, check the Go Portsmouth calendar before you visit.

Best Restaurants in Portsmouth | Food & Drink

It’s true: Portsmouth NH is a bit of a foodies dream.

Of course, as a New England coastal destination, you’ll find the best seafood, chowder, and regional specialties. But you’ll also find a diverse selection of flavors in Portsmouth.

Dining out is definitely a big part of things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Here are some excellent places for dining in Portsmouth that are sure to please your palette.

1. Sol Southern Kitchen and Lounge

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How unusual to find southern hospitality and cuisine this far north.

And yet, here it is.

At Sol Southern Kitchen and Lounge in Portsmouth, you can enjoy a generous heaping of southern hospitality, an elegant ambiance, and seven distinct styles of southern food. In fact, you might even feel transported to the French Quarter of New Orleans while you dine!

On the menu, choose from dishes featuring delicious styles of southern US cuisine, including:

  • Appalachia – The original ‘Farm to Table’ with dishes based on hunting game and foraging
  • Cajun – French Canadian meets the swamplands…think Jambalaya and Dirty Rice
  • Creole – Louisiana’s spicy blend of French, Spanish, and African cultures and cuisines
  • Floribbean – The Ffavors of Florida and the Caribbean; often lighter fare with coconut, mango, honey, and rum
  • Gullah – Similar to the flavors of West Africa, featuring one-pot dishes, seafood, rice, and vegetables
  • Lowcountry – From the Carolinas and Georgia coast, with lots of shrimp, shellfish, okra, and favorites like Hoppin’ John (black eyed peas and rice)
  • Soul Food – Dishes traditionally prepared, eaten, and passed down by African Americans in the south, with dishes fried chicken, catfish, mac and cheese, collard greens, and candied yams

Whether you have a hankering for Fried Green Tomatoes, BBQ Brisquet, Blackened Catfish, Shrimp & Grits, or even Fried Frog Legs, you’ll find it on the dinner menu at Sol. And don’t forget the Biscuits and Corn Bread and a slice of Chocolate Peacan Pie to finish!

Along with a nice selection of drafted and bottled beer, wine, and champagne, you’ll also find southern cocktail favorites, like the famous Hurricane, Mint Julep, and a House Made Iced Tea.

And if you happen to be looking for Sunday morning breakfast, start your day with a hearty Biscuit and Sawmill Gravy, Chicken and Waffles, a Low Country Scramble, and other southern comfort food favorites. Sol offers a selection of “Breakfast Bubbles” beverages and several types of Bloody Mary’s, too.

Both the food and the drinks are expertly crafted, and some are GF or offer gluten free options. It’s a refreshing alternative from regional New England cuisine.

To further the experience, the decor of Sol is nothing short of southern elegance.

Try a taste of the South for yourself at Sol Southern Kitchen and Lounge. You’ll find it at 111 State Street.

2. Rio Tequila Cantina

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Stop in to Rio Tequila Cantina waterfront dining, tasty cocktails, and incredible Mexican-inspired dishes.

Of course, as the name implies, you’ll find a wide selection of fantastic tequilas here served up in one (or more!) of their Signature Margarita cocktails.

In fact, last I counted the Tequila List offered 62 varieties, ranging from $10-$100. If you are a connoisseur of fine spirits, or just like to sip this tasty drink from Mexican–this is your place!

Do you like your Margarita with salt? (Yes, please!) Then you’ll be able to choose your rim dip from a sample flight of uniquely flavorful salts.

But the food is great, too.

Order from specialty tacos, like Beer Battered Haddock and Pork Belly Tacos, to a selection of the freshest seafood entrees, such as Lobster Cemita, Mahi Mahi, Ahi Tuna, and more. Plus, you can enjoy homemade grilled salsa roja, tortilla salads, and finish up with chocolate-topped Churros for dessert.

Even better, the restaurant sits right on the waterfront, where you can sit overlooking the tug boats and other harbor activity. Seating is on a first-come first-served basis, so go ahead and make a reservation when you visit their location at 37 Bow St.

Brought to you by the same folks who own Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, River House, and other high quality restaurants in Portsmouth NH, you can be assured that you will be delighted by your experience at Rio Tequila Cantina!

3. Fresh Press

Fresh Press is a great little place to stop for a smoothie, bowl, grains, elixirs, and more. Here, you can enjoy 100% gluten-free and dairy-free options that are organic and local.

Their delicious juices are a great way to detox and energize your body, and boost your well-being while on vacation.

You’ll find it on the Portsmouth Green at 2454 Lafayette Road, Unit 18.

4. Popovers On The Square

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If you’re in Portsmouth, you must try the iconic Popovers on The Square. They offer the most delicious Classic New England popovers, as well as breakfast, all-day brunch, lunch, and bakery goods. Popovers on the Square has mastered the art of creating the perfect gluten-free popover, too! You can even get a local beer, wine, or cocktail at the bar.

So, order yourself a warm Signature Popover with Maple Butter, and have a seat overlooking the downtown as you savor the flavor.

To do so, head on over to this delightful cafe and bakery at 8 Congress St. the next time you’re in Portsmouth. Make sure it’s on your list of things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire!

5. Cure

Head to Cure for some of the best American comfort food with an upscale twist.

This chef-owned gem serves up exceptional protein plates that are tender and flavorful, prepared from scratch using local ingredients.

From Wine-Braised Short Ribs to Seared Scottish Salmon, a creative selection of appetizers, soups, salads, and sides, you’re sure to leave Cure satisfied. Their menu changes seasonally, offering fresh dishes to tempt your palate.

With a cozy indoor dining room that seats about 40 in summer and 60 in winter, you’ll want to make reservations ahead to receive priority seating.

This award-winning restaurant was recently voted Best Outside Dining by New Hampshire Magazine, voted ​Open Table Diners’ Choice winner, and received Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence!

Visit Cure at 189 State Street. Look for the signage with the Chef’s knife on it.

6. Brewery Tours

Portsmouth is home to several craft breweries, so beer-lovers will want to tour one or more.

Among the Breweries in Portsmouth NH, you’ll find:

  • Cisco Brewers
  • Earth Eagle Brewings
  • Great Rhythm Brewing Co.
  • Liars Bench Beer Co.
  • Loaded Question Brewing Co.
  • Portsmouth Brewery
  • Stoneface Brewing Co.
  • The Press Room
  • Tributary Brewing Co.
  • Woodland Farm Brewery

You can go on a brewery tour offered by the brew house itself, or opt for a multi-stop tour company, like New Hampshire Brews Cruise or Granite State Growler Tours. And, for a unique twist on the brew tour experience, consider a Bikes & Beers Tour by Cisco Brewers!

9. The Library Restaurant

Have you ever dined in an elegant library? Well, there’s a first time for everything – and you can do just that at The Library Restaurant at 401 State St.

You’ll find this top-rated upscale steakhouse in the library space of the Rockingham House, a historic brick mansion built in 1785.

This multiple award-winning restaurant offers the most indulgent dishes, like the 24 oz. Bone-In Ribeye with optionally toppers, like a lobster tail or jumbo lump crabmeat, asparagus and Béarnaise sauce. Each is exquisitely prepared.

And the surroundings are as impressive. In addition to the bookcases filled with volumes to make any bibliophile swoon, the grandeur of The Library Restaurant itself is spectacular.

With a vaulted ceiling, hand carved Spanish mahogany panelling, ceiling frescos, original lighting fixtures (with semi-precious stones by Shreve, Crump and Low) and crackling fireplaces – this dinner experience is fit for a king.

Or perhaps I should I say “President”…George Washington, Franklin Pierce, James K. Polk, Theodore Roosevelt, Chester Arthur, William Taft, and John F. Kennedy each dined or stayed here.

Additionally, the Russo-Japanese Treaty (1905) was signed here for the press.

You’ll want to make reservations and check the dress code before visiting The Library Restaurant for yourself. Or, head over to the Old English style pub on the premises for a selection of beer, wines, and distinguished spirits. You’ll find the largest vodka selection North of Boston, comprising more than 120 vodkas from around the world. 

11. The Black Trumpet Bistro

Step through the mustard-colored door of this 200-year old brick and beam building at 29 Ceres St, and you’ve entered the creative realm of Chef Evan. This is the iconic chef-owned bistro-and-wine bar known as The Black Trumpet Bistro.

The Black Trumpet is something of an institution in these parts, with a cozy downstairs setting for dining, and a lively wine bar on upstairs with a view to the harbor.

The craft food that’s expertly prepared here features eclectic flavors with influences from the Mediterranean countryside and beyond. You’ll find delicious smalls, mediums, and main courses on the à la carte menu, which changes seasonally.

For instance, the Dine-In Early Summer Menu at the time of this writing features dishes like Seafood Paella, with shrimp, mussels, finfish, chorizo, peppers and leeks simmered in saffron rice and Pan Fried Zucchini Feta Cake with mushrooms, local greens, beet yogurt & orange blossom honey.

You’ll find gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options on the menu, as well as some really delicious-sounding desserts. The Black Trumpet Bistro also offers a limited take-out menu.

If you’ve never been the Black Trumpet, it’s so worth a visit. They’re open after 5 PM and reservations are recommended.

12. Portsmouth Book & Bar

You can spend an afternoon at the Portsmouth Book & Bar, a cozy coffee shop and bookstore that also serves beer and wine.

In addition to the great coffee, tea, hot chocolate, baked goods, and delicious lunch items, you’ll love their collection of interesting books and unique ambiance. They also host live bands.

Enjoy this unique experience at Portsmouth Book & Bar, nestled within Portsmouth’s historic Custom House at 40 Pleasant Street.

13. Portsmouth Farmers Market

What’s more “New England” than a community farmer’s market? At the Portsmouth Farmers Market, you will find fresh produce that’s locally grown, prepared foods, along with handmade an other items made by local artisans.

This is the perfect opportunity to select some sweet or savory items to eat and collect souvenirs of your trip to Portsmouth.

The City Hall parking lot is transformed into a bountiful marketplace on Saturdays in season.

Where to Stay in Portsmouth

With so many things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire, you’ll want to consider staying over. The good news is there’s no shortage of great places to stay in Portsmouth.

You’ll find a good selection from which to choose to suit your needs and budget. They include trusted brands, like Marriott and Sheraton, to budget hotels, luxury stays, family-friendly accommodations, and charming inns in Portsmouth.

To get the most out of the location, consider staying near the downtown so the shops and waterfront are within walking distance.

On my last visit, I stayed at the AC Hotel in Portsmouth and had a great experience. You can read my full hotel review here.

How Long to Stay in Portsmouth?

Portsmouth makes for a great day trip, but if you have the time, plan to stay for a weekend. 2-3 days will give you time to see many of the popular attractions, but you may want to spend a week to fully immerse yourself in this seaport town.

There are so many things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire!

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Portsmouth New Hampshire

Now that you know about the best things to do in Portsmouth New Hampshire, you can start planning your trip.

Focus on the types of experiences you’ll enjoy the most, and leave some time in your itinerary to just meander, relax, and happen upon unexpected adventures in New Hampshire’s oldest settlement.

And as you travel about, take note of the things you’d enjoy on your next visit to Portsmouth!

Jackie Gately at the beach

About Jackie Gately, editor-IN-CHIEF

I'm Jackie Gately, your travel confidante and the creative force behind Enjoy Travel Life, awarded the "Best Casual-Luxury Lifestyle Blog (USA)" in Travel and Tourism by LUXlife Magazine for four consecutive years.

With 25 years of published expertise, I'm a seasoned writer, editor, and photographer curating inspiring travel guides and lifestyle tips for empty nesters. I hope to kindle your spirit of exploration, encouraging you to overcome obstacles and turn your dreams into reality.

Learn to minimize your pre-travel angst and maximize the joy of exploration with insights from my experiences. Let's make every adventure a celebration of this exciting phase of life! 

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