ARRIVING: From I-95, exits 3 through 7 reach Portsmouth. The most direct downtown access is via Market Street (exit 7), which is the last New Hampshire exit, just before crossing the big bridge to Maine.
By train, it’s trickier. Amtrak (www.amtrak.com; [tel] 800/872-7245) operates four to five trains daily from Boston’s North Station to downtown Dover, New Hampshire ($15–$30 one way; the trip takes about 1 1/2 hours). From Dover, take the no. 2 COAST bus (www.coastbus.org; [tel] 603/743-5777) from Dover station to the center of downtown Portsmouth, a 45-minute trip that costs just $1.75 ($1 for seniors, free for kids 5 and under)—but be warned, the bus doesn’t run on Sundays.
Bus service, for once, may be a better option. Greyhound (www.greyhound.com; [tel] 800/231-2222) runs a couple of buses daily, and C&J Trailways (www.ridecj.com; [tel] 800/258-7111) almost hourly buses from Boston’s South Station to Portsmouth, plus frequent daily trips from Boston’s Logan Airport. Greyhound stops at the main bus stop near Market Square, while C&J stops at a modern but distant bus station about 5 miles south at the former Pease air base (call a taxi or rent a car). Trips cost $10–$20 one way, with some student discounts. Note: C&J requests that passengers don’t talk on cellphones while on their buses.
A one-way Greyhound trip from New York City’s Port Authority bus station to downtown Portsmouth costs from $30 to $80, depending on how far in advance you book it, and takes about 7 to 7 1/2 hours.
VISITOR INFORMATION: The Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, 500 Market Street (www.portcity.org; [tel] 603/436-3988), has an information center on outer Market Street as you approach the downtown off I-95’s exit 7. From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, it’s open Monday through Wednesday 8:30am to 5pm; Thursday and Friday 8:30am to 7pm; and normally on weekends 10am to 5pm. The rest of the year it’s usually open weekdays only, from 8:30am to 5pm. During the summer, a second staffed booth opens in Market Square—look for the hut right in front of the Breaking New Grounds coffee shop. Hours are irregular; the info is good.
GETTING AROUND: Most of Portsmouth can be easily reconnoitered on foot, so you only need to park once. But mind the rules and signs; parking can be tight in and around the historic district in summer, and officers will ticket. The city’s municipal parking garage nearly always has space and costs $1.25 per hour; it’s on Hanover Street, between Market and Fleet streets. Most metered spaces are also $1.25 per hour; some are $1.75 per hour. The Strawbery Banke museum also provides limited parking for visitors.
A trackless “trolley” ([tel] 603/743-5777) loops through central Portsmouth every half-hour to an hour on weekdays (less frequently on Saturday and not at all on Sunday) from about 7am to 9pm. It costs $1.50 per person to ride and covers a few blocks around Market Square and before leaving downtown for the rest of its route. A schedule is posted online at www.coastbus.org/trolley.html.