More than about boats, naval barracks, and Charles Dickens, the island city of Portsmouth – sprawled on the south coast of England – overflows with hotels well-versed in couture. We navigate the drapes, scatter cushions, and capacious four-posters to reveal ten of the town’s top boutique places to rest your head.
At the beating heart of Portsmouth, Number Four places you within walking distance of the theatre, bars and blustery Southsea seafront. On entering its sharp panelled-interior, dark wood floors lead to a Parisian-blue drawing room and private bar replete with velvet chairs, vintage cushions, and crisp white ceilings. Each inimitably designed room reverberates this decadent theme with bold damask prints, deep-pile carpets, and expensive L’Occitane Aromachologie products. Breakfast is equally unforgettable in the coffee-infused dining room where well-laid tables with a plethora of preserves overlook a lavender-hued garden.
Like Number Four, Somerset House is a part of the Mercer Collection – a luxury hotel group with seven boutiques under its belt. Moments from Southsea Beach, this Edwardian-cum-contemporary hotel neighbours the group’s gastro pub – The Florence Arms. Selling traditional cask ales, quirky cocktails, and a collage of seasonally-inspired dishes, this red-bricked boozer is always a good idea. Awash with colours of the sea and Moby Dick wallpaper, rattan rope lights and sea-worn candle-holders echo the nautical theme. But after an evening of fine dining, there’s nothing better than slipping into soft Egyptian cotton sheets on a hand-sewn Mattison bed back at Somerset House.
Looking for a grown-up hotel? This adult-only boutique with eight air-conditioned en-suites won’t disappoint. Quite apart from monkey wallpaper, each room is strewn with classical wood furniture and other artisan accoutrements. One even has a spa bath with glittery red tiles. Set in an Edwardian edifice, and equidistant to the night clubs of Gunwharf Quays and bohemian pubs of Southsea, it also has a lounge and private bar for cosy nights in. Catering to all tastes, this multi award-winning boutique pleases every palate with its sumptuous à la carte breakfast.
The first hotel in the Mercer Collection, Florence House is inspired by contemporary design but retains many of its Edwardian characteristics. Its white French wardrobes, original fireplaces and delicate pastel shades compliment colourful art deco cushions, vintage lamps and widescreen TVs. True to its roots, this six-bedroom boutique – festooned with handmade furnishings from Southsea’s Victoriana – really makes the most of local talent. Situated on Malvern Road, it’s close to the Natural History Museum where 9,000 European honey bees are hard at work in an observational hive.
From chocolate, caramel and café noir to crimson, mustard and cornflower blue – every one of Stattons’ rooms is coated with a different hue. Artistically designed, vibrant wallcoverings by Newmor create another dimension to the already well-appointed interior. This carries through to the bar where monochromatic checks govern the floor, lime-green Areca palms sit in brilliant white window sills, and iridescent glass bottles twinkle from every angle. Situated on Florence Road, this comfortable-meets-contemporary boutique is just a two-minute walk from Clarence Pier where commercial hovercrafts bounce passengers across the Solent to the Isle of Wight most days.
Light, airy and sleek, Florence Gardens is another of The Mercer Collection’s success stories. The latest addition to the group, this charming hotel, also on Malvern Road, is a six-bedroom boutique brimming with style. Local artwork fills its interior and irradiates almost every corner. From single to superior, its rooms come in all shapes and sizes and create the ultimate home-away-from-home for a comfortable night’s sleep. There’s even a lavender-sprayed garden and patio with fuchsia-pink hanging baskets for winding down in warmer months.
The Florence Suite
Like the area in which it stands, vintage makes up a large part of The Florence Suite’s personality. Once appearing on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed as Sea La Vie before The Mercer Collection took it over, this eight-bed boutique is well-known in Portsmouth. To honour its bohemian past, arty wallpaper by Cole & Son sets the scene in every room. Creativity is complemented by contemporary touches that weave together both comfort and style. Adjoined to Florence House and Florence Gardens by a pathway that snakes between them, this hotel also has a private annex for guests in want of definitive solitude.
From an 8ft round bed and starry ceiling in the Gloating You’re Not Here room to a slate and cerise-coloured double jacuzzi in the Giddy With Delight suite – each individually-named room oozes couture and affords a seamless city break. Set on a quiet street in Southsea and just a five minute-walk from the cafés, and curious second-hand shops of Albert Road, this hotel provides the perfect base from which to explore the surroundings. After perusing the rails, why not wind down in a glass bubble chair – suspended from the ceiling of the eclectic drawing room – before venturing out for dinner?
Solent Forts Hotels
Originally designed to defend our shores, Portsmouth’s Victorian fortresses have since become five-star hotels. Offering an unrivalled panorama of Portsmouth and beyond, these out-of-the-ordinary boutiques are set within colossal granite and iron structures where soldiers once slept. Each fort offers a rich profusion of seafood caught there and then but for toasted marshmallows, liquor coffee and warm blankets around a rooftop fire-pit, pick Spitbank Fort. Head to No Man’s Fort though for heart-pumping laser tag highs in the labyrinthine depths of the lower deck. Sitting in the salty strait of Portsmouth, each fort requires a short boat trip from Gunwharf Quays.
The Ship Leopard Boutique Hotel
Gin lover? How about rhubarb and custard flavour? This mad-about-gin hotel offers a range of flavour sensations. Exuding glamour while remaining true to its maritime roots, this boutique on The Hard is set in a Grade II listed Georgian building and boasts matchless views of the city’s historic dockyard and Spinnaker Tower. It’s also right next to the train station and car and foot ferries to the Isle of Wight, Spain and France. All about local, accessories are idiosyncratic as well as locally sourced, including the tea from nearby All About Tea.