I’m not sure how I’ve managed to live in New England for ten years and not spent much time in our neighboring state, but for the very first time I spent a weekend in New Hampshire this summer. In Portsmouth, to be specific.
Portsmouth is a historic port on the seacoast of New Hampshire (they call it specifically the “seacoast”, not just the coast). Once one of America’s busiest port cities, it’s now a quiet tourist destination for shopping, architectural admiring, and meandering.
Market Square is the popular destination to visit for dining, walking, and shopping.
The historical North Church reminds me very much of Boston’s Park Street church and also the chapel at my alma mater.
My sister-in-law would be the perfect person to run a store like Gus & Ruby Letterpress – it was chock-full of adorable notecards, party accessories and calendars.
Portsmouth is also, like many of my favorite New England towns, is a collection of art galleries. We met Don Gorvett – a local printmaker whose art I had seen in an exhibit in college. His work is fantastic and he is quite friendly. (I plan on writing another post highlighting his work – amazing!)
Right next door to his shop was our favorite shop – whose name is escaping me! It’s a small nautical home decor store and I was in heaven! The store owner here was also helpful and chatty. And people say New Englanders are unfriendly. Wrong. We just don’t like small talk.
The state of Maine is (literally) just across this river.
Good Eats in Portsmouth
Don’t miss Breaking New Grounds for a cuppa and the perfect spot for people watching in Market Square. The place was constantly buzzing and morning, day and night.
If you’ve never experienced The Friendly Toast, you should. We’ve been to the one in Cambridge, and the Portsmouth location was equally busy and quirky.
It’s not cheap and there’s usually a wait, but where else can you get gingerbread french toast served to you by a hipster waiter with a tattoo sleeve and a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket hanging over your head as a lampshade? The answer to that questions is nowhere, and that’s exactly why The Friendly Toast is a worthy destination.
We were told that Portsmouth has the most restaurants per capita in New Hampshire, and I’d believe it. There was a restaurant around every corner. For dinner we picked the well-known Portsmouth Brewery. My overall review was “meh”. I’m pretty easy to please, but my experience was lack-luster. Maybe stick to the burgers.
Where to Stay in Portsmouth
We stayed at the Sheraton Portsmouth – it’s a great hotel right on the harbor that separates New Hampshire from Maine. It’s $15 to park overnight, but everything in town is within walking distance and you’d be hard-pressed to find better, less expensive parking in-town.
Other Things to Do in Portsmouth
If window shopping isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of other things to do in the area.
- One popular destination in the USS Albacore Museum & Park – a museum featuring the USS Albacore, a decommissioned U.S. Navy submarine open for tours.
- Strawbery Banke Museum is a very cool historical neighborhood settlement that is fun to visit too. We never made it there! Maybe for next time.
- And of course there’s always the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.
We spent the next afternoon in our one of our favorite Massachusetts’ towns – Newburyport – which I’ll post on later!
Have you been to Portsmouth before? What’s your favorite coastal town?