Perfect Weekend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

By Yankee Magazine

Jun 18 2020

Perfect Weekend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Historic Portsmouth, New Hampshire | Photo by Denis Tangney Jr./iStock

In the Weekends with Yankee episode “Join the Club” (season 4, episode 12), we travel to the hip, seaside city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to learn the story of their legendary music hall. Planning a visit? Here are some of our favorite ways to spend a weekend in Portsmouth. 
Perfect Weekend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
A view of the harbor in historic Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Despite being the third-oldest city in the nation, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, feels anything but outdated. This coastal gem boasts big-city attractions while maintaining old school charm, making it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. History and a hopping nightlife go hand-in-hand here, meaning there will be something for everyone, day or night, all weekend long. And with one of the most walkable downtowns in all of New England, you can ditch the car this weekend and explore Portsmouth’s colorful smorgasbord of shops, restaurants, and sites all by foot. — Katherine Keenan

Plan Your Perfect Weekend in Portsmouth

5 Essential Things to Do in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Prescott Park

Just a short stroll from the city center, Prescott Park sits on the edge of the Piscataqua River and provides a quiet respite from midday hustle and bustle of Market Square. In the summer, fountains and gardens come to life, picnic blankets abound, and the Prescott Park Arts Festival offers a rotating roster of concerts, theater, and movie nights. A 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Public Park” and a 2015 pick for “Best Summer Concerts.” Learn more about Prescott Park

The Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail

This portion of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire offers tours (guided in the summer or self-guided anytime) and has been well-marked with 27 detailed brass signs which honor New England’s long African-American history. A 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Walking Trail.” Learn more about African-American Heritage Trails in New England

Strawbery Banke Museum

This indoor-outdoor living history museum gives visitors a glimpse into coastal New England history, depicting life as it was in Portsmouth from the late 1600s until the 1950s. The museum runs events throughout the year, including holiday programs and outdoor winter ice skating, meaning its always a perfect time to visit. A 2013 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Historic Village.” See our Summer Visit to Strawbery Banke Museum.

The Music Hall

Built in 1878, The Music Hall holds the title of the 14th oldest operating theater in the United States. It was recently restored to its former glory and now hosts a myriad of musicians, comedians, musical theater performances, cinema screenings, and readings throughout the year. A 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best All-Around Entertainment.

Book & Bar

It wouldnt be difficult to spend an entire day at this bookstore. Comfortable chairs, killer coffee, pastries, plenty of tables, sprawling shelves of used books and…did we mention its also a bar? Evening brings bands, open mics, readings, and film screenings which might just convince you to look up from your reading. A 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Bookstore.

3 Places to Stay in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Hotel Portsmouth

This 32-room mansion was recently restored to its full 1881 glory and offers cozy gathering rooms, complimentary gourmet breakfast, and free parking. With luxurious B&B vibes and an optimal location (only a few blocks from the waterfront and Market Square), its no wonder this hotel was a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Boutique Hotel.

The Inn Down Town

A relative newcomer to the Portsmouth hotel scene, The Inn Down Town has shaken things up with their boutique apartment-style accommodations which offer an extra dose of independence and homely comfort rarely found while traveling. This “apart-hotel” offers ten fully equipped contemporary studio apartments in a newly-renovated, historic 1809 home. Oh, and they’re smack-dab in the middle of downtown Portsmouth.

The Sailmaker’s House

Extensive renovations brought new life to this c. 1800 Greek Revival building in 2017, and thanks to the owners’ painstaking effort to preserve original details (like the inn’s original pine floors and quirky layout) and the building’s prime downtown location, this inn would be an ideal home base for all your Portsmouth adventures. A 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Walk-to-Everything Lodging.

5 Restaurants to Try in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Black Trumpet

With rotating menus inspired by New England’s distinctive seasons, Black Trumpet was named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Farm-to-Table Elegance.” Inviting ambiance and a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence take this Mediterranean bistro and wine bar up yet another notch, making it the perfect spot to linger with a glass of wine in hand.

Row 34

Home to some of New England’s finest raw seafood, at Row 34 you’ll find a top-notch selection of both brine and brew. With chic industrial-style decor, craft beers aplenty, and $1 oysters every day until 5 p.m., this one’s a no-brainer. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Oyster Bar.”

Brgr Bar

With sky-high burgers (some served impaled with steak knives for architectural integrity), loaded (and we mean loaded) french fries, and a creative selection of craft cocktails, Brgr Bar’s offerings are anything but bland. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Burgers.”

Geno’s Chowder & Sandwich Shop

The one seasonal option on this list, the open-air patio at this longtime Portsmouth establishment might be the perfect perch for admiring the Piscataqua River during the warmer months. If you make the right call and order the lobster roll, it will arrive lightly dressed on a toasted, no-frills hot dog bun. Just the way you want it. As we’ve described it in the past, this place is “simple, and simply good.” A 2019 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Lobster Roll.”

Annabelle’s Natural Ice Cream

Decades after making its debut on Ceres Street, this sweet ice cream shop is still churning away. You’ll find classic flavors with inventive names, like Mint Summer’s Night Dream (Mint Chocolate Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks) as well as those with a distinctly New England spin (like New Hampshire Pure Maple Walnut). Though Annabelle’s can be found at other locations in New Hampshire and even Maine, the flagship is still our favorite. A 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Ice Cream.”

Learn More: Best Bars in Portsmouth, NH, for Every Kind of Night Out