Portsmouth, New Hampshire, townscape. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Portsmouth, N.H.

BY Dana Freeman | February 6, 2022

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Portsmouth, New Hampshire? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Portsmouth?”

Drive just an hour north of Boston and you’ll find Portsmouth, a quaint New England coastal town and second oldest city in New Hampshire. It’s a place that doesn’t mind flexing its old-school charm, with 17th-century brick and slate buildings, a historic working seaport and cobblestone streets. It fronts the Piscataqua River, just half a mile from the ocean and a short bridge ride away from tourist hub Kittery, Maine. This is a walkable city (bring your comfiest shoes, though) with lots to explore. You’ll find nationally acclaimed local breweries like Redhook Brewery and Smuttynose alongside antique stores, restaurants, sidewalk cafes and boutique shops. Keep the following things in mind as you plan your trip to New Hampshire’s seacoast.

Things to Do

Market Square in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Photo via Shutterstock.
#1
Market Square in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Photo via Shutterstock.

Market Square

Market Square, Portsmouth, NH, USA

At the crossroads where Congress Street becomes Daniel, you’ll find Market Square, the designated city center of Portsmouth. Home to the Athenaeum Library, this vibrant area has quaint streets lined with independently owned boutiques, art galleries and restaurants, and it is where you should begin your visit to familiarize yourself with the city. 

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Strawbery Banke Museum. Photo via Shutterstock.
#2
PORTSMOUTH, NH - Peacock House was built in 1821 at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Photo via Shutterstock.

Strawbery Banke Museum

14 Hancock St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Strawbery Banke, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is an outdoor history museum. The museum is open seasonally from May through October with 10 square acres of meticulously restored houses and shops, period gardens and costumed role-players.

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Music Hall in Portsmouth. Photo via Shutterstock.
#3
PORTSMOUTH NH - JULY 22, 2018: Outdoor facade of the historical Music Hall on July 22, 2018 in Portsmouth NH. Photo via Shutterstock.

Music Hall

28 Chestnut St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

First opened as a vaudeville theater in 1878, the Music Hall is now the city’s premier performing arts center. They have two downtown locations — the restored 895-seat Victorian Theater and the Loft, a smaller, more intimate modern space.

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Riverrun Bookstore in Portsmouth. Photo via Shutterstock.
#4
Riverrun Bookstore in Portsmouth. Photo via Shutterstock.

Riverrun Bookstore

32 Daniel St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Support Riverrun Bookstore, a local independent bookseller located in Market Square. Discover your next read with their curated recommendations. Peruse the aisle filled with a selection of nationally known and local authors.

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Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail in Portsmouth.
#5
Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail

222 Court St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Take a self-guided audio tour of the Black Heritage Trail using your smartphone. Begin your tour on Court Street in front of their offices. Then wind your way through the city, discovering the little-known Black stories in Portsmouth, N.H.

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Where to Stay

Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth.
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Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth.

Wentworth by the Sea

588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, NH, USA

Located a few minutes outside of town on New Castle Island, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, you will find Wentworth by the Sea. Opened in 1874, it’s a member of the Historic Hotels of America. While all of the rooms have harbor or ocean views, the most spectacular are the bi-level turret suites. Staying here might be a splurge, but it is worth it.

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Sailmaker's House in Portsmouth.
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Sailmaker's House in Portsmouth.

Sailmaker's House

314 Court St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

The Sailmaker’s House, a 10-room boutique hotel, is conveniently located in the center of town within walking distance of everything. Renovated in 2017, this historic inn still maintains much of its original charm with pine floors and narrow staircases. Despite that, all of the rooms have been meticulously updated with conveniences that modern travelers crave.

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Where to Eat

Breakfast

Elephantine Bakery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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Elephantine Bakery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Elephantine Bakery

10 Commercial Alley, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Start the day with a chocolate croissant and cappuccino from Elephantine Bakery, located down a cute little alleyway. There is always a line out the door. However, it is well worth the wait to savor one of their sweet treats. 

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Tuscan Market in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
#9
Tuscan Market in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Tuscan Market

14 Market Square, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Prime for people-watching, Tuscan Market has outdoor seating right on the square. Pair your morning espresso with an assortment of savory Italian pastries, breads, frittatas and breakfast sandwiches. 

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Lunch

The Soupery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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The Soupery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The Soupery

51 Hanover St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

No time to sit for a full meal? Stop by The Soupery. This walk-up window serves a rotation of locally made soups from neighboring Maine, which are delivered daily in small batches to the shop. The chowder is an absolute must. Make it a full meal and grab a gooey grilled cheese to go with it.

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Geno's Chowder & Sandwich Shop in Portsmouth.
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Geno's Chowder & Sandwich Shop in Portsmouth.

Geno's Chowder & Sandwich Shop

177 Mechanic St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Open seasonally, Geno’s is the place to go for the freshest lobster rolls, chowders and stews. Owned and operated since 1964, this mom-and-pop shop is located on the marina in the South End of town. You can watch the lobster boats unload the day’s catch from their back deck, which is soon to be on your plate for lunch.

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Dinner

Portsmouth Gaslight Co. in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
#12
Portsmouth Gaslight Co. in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Portsmouth Gaslight Co.

64 Market St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Located in the former home of the city’s first utility, the Portsmouth Gaslight Co. might be a little touristy, but it belongs on your list of places to eat. They have four venues under one roof and are known for live music in their third-floor nightclub.

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Library Restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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Library Restaurant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Library Restaurant

401 State Street, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Ambiance is everything at this fancy steakhouse. Occupying the historic Rockingham House, a former mansion from 1785, the elegant Library Restaurant retains much of its old-world charm. Surrounded by dark-mahogany-paneled walls, patrons enjoy fine cuts of prime steaks and seafood. A highlight of your visit: try one of 96 martinis in the Lounge, their old English-style pub, which boasts the largest selection of vodkas north of Boston.

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Dessert

Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream

49 Ceres St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Annabelle’s serves rich and creamy (16% butterfat) all-natural ice cream. Enjoy delicious scoops of their staple flavors like Cashew Caramel Cluster and Mint Summer Night’s Dream; they don’t disappoint. Also, be sure to check the menu for seasonal flavors like Peachy Peach and Pumpkin Pie, a fall favorite.

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Best Breweries

Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Earth Eagle Brewings

175 High St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

A short walk from Market Square you’ll find Earth Eagle, an independent brewery with a sizable rotating menu of IPAs, lagers, stouts and ales on tap and in cans. With outdoor seating in their large beer garden (which has heaters in the winter), an extraordinary burger and hot dog menu, plus live music, this authentic craft brewery is worthy of a visit during your time in Portsmouth.

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Liars Bench Beer Co. in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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Liars Bench Beer Co. in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Liars Bench Beer Co.

459 Islington St, Portsmouth, NH, USA

Founded by two University of New Hampshire roommates, this nano-brewery has a rustic taproom and outdoor biergarten. Patrons sit around communal tables sipping beers, swapping stories and snacking on pretzel bites, ginger soy tofu sliders and tube meats. They host some pretty cool events, so check their Facebook page to see what is on tap before you go.

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