Portsmouth, New Hampshire is the epitome of coastal New England charm. Portsmouth is only an hour north of Boston, making it an easy day trip or overnight visit. The city hosts a beautiful downtown complete with boutique shops, a nationally renowned restaurant scene, and an abundance of history.
In the fall of 2020, my boyfriend and I visited Portsmouth, NH for a night to celebrate his 31st birthday. Although we were only there for 24 hours, I really think that we did it right. Better late than never to document it on my blog!
What I packed
Hotel: The Inn Downtown
My first task when planning this getaway was to book a place to stay. Prior to this, we had only visited Portsmouth for a day trip. Because we had never stayed the night, I was on the hunt for the perfect hotel.
The only other time I have stayed in the Portsmouth area, I stayed at the beautiful Wentworth by the Sea with my family when I was younger. Wentworth by the Sea is an amazing option if you are interested in lavish resort & spa, but it is not within walking distance of the downtown area. Aside from this, I was only aware of the few mainstream, economy hotel chains located in the historic downtown. These hotels come up more readily in a Google search and are easy to spot throughout downtown.
My favorite type of hotels are small, boutique hotels with modern or renovated finishes. I wanted to find this type of modern hotel that stayed true to Portsmouth’s history. I also wanted to stay directly downtown, within walking distance of our favorite shops & restaurants. The Inn Downtown checked all my boxes.
Another great boutique hotel option I found was The Hotel Portsmouth. If I want to try something different next time, I may look into The Hotel Portsmouth. The biggest difference between the two is that every room at The Inn Downtown hosts a full kitchenette, while The Hotel Portsmouth are more traditional hotel rooms. The Hotel Portsmouth also has common areas, and I believe includes breakfast, giving it a more traditional hotel feel.
The Inn Downtown dubs itself as Portsmouth’s premier boutique hotel, and I would have to agree. The hotel is in a newly-renovated, historic home from the early 1800’s in the heart of historic downtown. Each of its ten modern (yet charming) studio apartments are fully equipped with kitchenettes. There is no lobby or common space, and the check-in process is seamless and a completely contactless. It really feels more like your own temporary downtown apartment than a hotel.
When we stepped foot in the hotel, I was utterly amazed by its beautiful modern touches, surrounded by historic charm. A few of my favorite touches are the fun wallpaper, the Smeg fridge, and the Malin + Goetz toiletries.
Pro tip – Enjoy Portsmouth on a day that isn’t too cold to enjoying walking around, and wear your walking shoes!
After checking into our hotel to drop off our bags, we stopped for some window-shopping fuel The Juicery. I am very familiar with The Juicery, as there is another location in my old neighborhood, the North End of Boston. (If you are a Bostonian, you may notice that there are a few Portsmouth-Boston crossovers.) I love their “Faster than Light” smoothie and their Acai Bowl. I opted for the smoothie this time, as it is easier to take on-the-go.
It is easy to spend the day strolling the streets of downtown Portsmouth and taking in the city’s charm. Along the way, you will find a plethora of independent, boutique shops on its main streets or tucked into its quaint alleyways.
We spent the afternoon popping in and out of shops. It’s hard to name favorites, but some notable mentions include Bliss, Sean Bags, Sault, Gus & Ruby, Pickwick’s Mercantile, Salt Cellar, & Stock + Spice.
If shopping gets your parched, or it’s nearing happy hour, there are a couple of great places to stop for a pre-dinner beer. My favorite is Book & Bar, a bookstore that serves beer and hosts live music. Be sure to check the hours before you head there, because I know some things have changed due to COVID.
Another great option is Portsmouth Brewery. Here you can enjoy handcrafted beers and a small bite to eat in a lively, fun atmosphere at New Hampshire’s original craft brewery.
Our last stop, and the only store that we actually made a purchase on this specific trip, was Stock + Spice. Stock + Spice is owned by the chef & owners of our favorite restaurant, The Black Trumpet. Stock + Spice makes their own small batch spice blends so that you to bring home a taste of their culinary expertise. They create innovative blends with exotic flavors that you can’t find anywhere else, using only the freshest ingredients. (You can also order their spices online!)
Although we didn’t stop during this visit, I want to try the Strawbery Banke Museum on our next visit. I think it would be fascinating to learn more about our nation’s third oldest city, and I have heard great things about this museum.
After re-stocking our Stock + Spice supply, and had dinner reservations next door at one of Portsmouth most coveted restaurants, The Black Trumpet, named after a mushroom the chef forages. Not only is the menu & drink list exquisite, the quaint historic building itself and its location right across the harbor from Kittery, ME is picturesque.
Pro tip: If you want a more casual dining experience, and love bar seating as much as we do, request to sit at the bar upstairs as opposed to the more formal dining room.
We ordered from the three course prix fixe menu, and every dish was better than the last! Be sure to try their warm olives, almonds, & garlic.
The benefit of staying the night is getting to eat breakfast at The Friendly Toast, a kitschy, 50s style diner. The Friendly Toast originated in Portsmouth, but it grew so popular that they have since opened locations in Back Bay, Boston, Burlington, VT, Burlington, MA, & Bedford, NH.
Because there was a 30 minute wait, we set out in search of one of the many great coffee shops in Portsmouth. We ended up down the street at Caffe Kilim, which came highly recommended. Caffe Kilim is a Turkish coffee shop, that has been a local favorite and hangout for over 20 years. Alone with strong coffee, Caffe Kilim also serves Middle Eastern pastries and sells hand-woven Turkish rugs, pillows, and a variety of gift items.
Back at The Friendly Toast, I ordered an omelet with a side of sweet potato hash and cinnamon raisin toast, and my boyfriend and I split a side of pancakes. I am confident that this is the best breakfast I’ve ever had. You can taste the freshness of the ingredients in their food, and the funky decor of the restaurant creates a fun atmosphere.
Overall, this was such a great getaway. If you haven’t visited Portsmouth, it’s worth the short road trip.