Weekend Guide to Portsmouth, NH

The charming little town of Portsmouth, NH seems to be gaining popularity lately with headlines such as Most Underrated American CityBest Places to Live in New Hampshire and even one of the World’s Top 20 Small Towns! Settled in 1623, Portsmouth was once one of the nation’s busiest ports and shipbuilding cities.  This quaint New England town, hugging the tidal Piscataqua River, is rich with history and has a little something for everyone.  From the bustling food, music and social scene to the picturesque views and community feel, Portsmouth, NH is a town not to be missed.

Being raised here I often get asked where to eat, what to do and what to see.  I have put together a list of spots that I actually go to.  Enjoy!

FOOD & DRINK

The flourishing culinary scene boasts more restaurant seats than residents (21,000+) and offers cuisine ranging from tapas to vegetarian Thai food, and of course, heavy on the fresh seafood: lobster is everywhere.

      Breakfast

  • Visit the Juicery’s first location for a smoothie or fresh juice to get your day started
  • Colby’s for a huge breakfast; get there early because it is small inside (or grab a seat on the small patio out back)
  • Daily specials, quick service and 30+ years of awesome breakfast at The Golden Egg
  • Grab an iced hazelnut at Caffe KiLiM and relax in their laid back lounge
  • Ceres Street Bakery has home-baked bread and affordable breakfast and lunch items (cash only!)

Lunch

  • Grab a classic Italian sub to-go at Moe’s; they have been making them the same since 1959!
  • Looking for the best veggie burger you have had in your life? Try a quick stop into the casual Lexie’s Joint and ask for “Instant Classic.”  Fish tacos are a local favorite too
  • For a bit of an “outside the box” menu, The Kitchen is not to be missed.  You will have a hard time deciding, but you can’t go wrong!  My favorite is the kale Caesar
  • Experience world flavors, craft cocktails and fun, eclectic decor at Street

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Dinner and Drinks

  • Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe offers classic local seafood and creative dishes with international inspiration; check out their raw bar and seasonal Shuck-A-Buck
  • American comfort food done right at Cure is perfect for date night or catching up with friends.  Seasonal menu prepared daily from scratch
  • For modern American tapas with an industrial interior design, head to Moxy; pair dinner with a unique cocktail or one of their numerous beers
  • For the best pizza in town (actually ever), head to the Bratskellar on Rt.1.  Casual pub with ice cold draft beer. Enoy your pizza with a Greek salad and thank me later
  • Watch the sunset over the tugboats with a Jimmy Juice at The Old Ferry Landing: Portsmouth’s oldest waterfront deck
  • Try one of the numerous homemade beers on tap at Earth Eagle or The Portsmouth Brewery both located right downtown; also check out Redhook, Smuttynose and Throwback just a short drive away

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…and something sweet

  • “Enter into the sweet world” with a macaron and latte from La Maison Navarre, a fairly new, authentic French bakery where you can treat yourself after a busy day

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ENTERTAINMENT & ARTS

A creative community with generations of shipbuilding helped cultivate the art and music scene for many decades before Portsmouth became what it is now.  Notice the 17th and 18th century architecture of the buildings that closely line the streets and river.

  • Catch a play or some live music at Prescott Park Art Festival.  The park sits right on the river and is filled with gardens, fountains and grassy areas to throw down your blanket.  Events are held nightly in the summer, so be sure to check out their schedule.  There are no tickets, but a donation is requested to support the park.
  • Contemporary meets history at the local art galleries downtown.  Check out “First Fridays” every month
  • Book store that sells food and craft beer and has live music?  Head on over to Portsmouth Book and Bar right in the center of town
  • The 3S Artspace non-profit alternative arts organization offers a mid-size venue for music, films, festivals and more
  • Explore Birdseye Lounge, The Press Room, Springhill Tavern for nightly live music

ACTIVITIES

This active seacoast town is filled with people biking, running, kayaking and yoga-ing.  Since New England winters can be tough, the residents make the most out of the humid summer months, especially from June to September.

  • Sunset paddle boarding around the island of New Castle at sunset with Portsmouth Paddle Co. They supply all the gear, just book online in advance
  • Wind down with a lightly narrated cocktail cruise on the HeritageDaily at 7pm
  • Enjoy sweeping views of town and trails along the river on Peirce Island and Four Tree Island.  Also a great place to BBQ at the end of your day
  • Outdoor yoga in the park (Tuesdays at 12pm in Prescott Park)
  • Though New Hampshire only has 13 miles of rocky coastline, there are a few beaches located in the neighboring town of Rye just to the south

SHOPPING

Boutique shops with a New England flair line the streets of downtown.  Take a walk around Market Street and Congress Street where most of the shops are located.

  • Clothing boutiques such as Serendipity, Ganesh and Bobbles and Lace will hook you up with a new summer outfit or accessory
  • Summer Sessions can assist you with the latest surf gear, or visit their other shop on Rye Beach to take a surf lesson
  • Get your fresh fruit and veggie fix at the Portsmouth Farmers Market (Seasonal Saturdays at 8am)
  • Diversions Puzzles and Games is filled with brain teasers and games for all ages
  • Chat with the knowledgeable staff at the Salt Cellar to have them help you pick out something unique for your home

I hope this post gets your wheels turning about a visit to the beautiful and historical seacoast town of Portsmouth, NH.  This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all there is to do in town and in the surrounding area.

Photos: Ceres Street Bakery, Street,  MN,  Prescott Park , Portsmouth Paddle, Salt Celler

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: KORINA SCHLIEPERHeadshot Schlieper

After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, I ventured out to San Diego, CA where I started my professional career as an Executive Assistant, earned my Master’s in Organizational Management, started a blog and soaked up all the sun and sand that SoCal had to offer. After four years, I am now back in New England looking for new opportunities.  I enjoy the beach, hiking, traveling, volunteering, cooking, reading and learning/trying new things.

Read More About and From the Author: Korina’s WiLab Profile