Exeter is a vibrant city in the South-West of the United Kingdom. It is considered the gateway to Devon, and is full of history! Exeter is great fun for students and visitors alike. Here are just some of the very best things to do in Exeter.
Historical Things to do in Exeter
1.) Take a Red Coat Guided Tour
Exeter is full of history. There are layers of time are woven in and around the streets, from Roman walls to city planning from the 2000s. They tell the city’s story but left to your own devices, you could be missing all kinds of gems. The solution is to book a Red Coat Guided Tour. Not to be confused with the overly cheery holiday camp staff, also called Red Coats, these volunteers operate tours throughout Exeter. Each tour guide is passionate about the city and keen to share their extensive knowledge.
There are a variety of tours on offer so you can find something that suits your interests. From the hour-long Introducing Exeter stroll to the 90-minute spooky Ghosts & Legends, there’s plenty to pick from. Oh, and did I mention, they are all free. (Tips are of course, gratefully received). To learn all about the photos below, opt for the Introducing Exeter tour like we did!
2.) Walk the Wall
When the Romans set up shop in Exeter, they fortified the town by building a large wall around it. Much of the wall has disappeared but some sections have been retained, restored and rebuilt. It is worth seeking out these sections, running alongside pleasant paths or modern pedestrianised streets. Exeter council has established a walking trail that follows the wall. It leads walkers from little Castle Street to nine i panels with more information about events in history related to the wall, and some cute activities for the kids. Download or print the walking trail leaflet here to treat yourself to a self-guided tour. It is only 1.5 miles long and will take around 40 minutes.
3.) Check Out the Cathedral
If you approach Exeter Cathedral from the front you will be bowled over by the array of Saints that adorn the front. These carvings are intricate and many. However, it might seem a tad diminutive. Well, what it lacks in frontage, it makes up for in depth. Running behind the front door is the world’s longest Medieval vaulted ceiling. It covers most of the length of the cathedral that extends back 117m (383 ft). This is about as big as a full-size football pitch, but don’t try and have a kickabout inside, there are some ancient and sacred artefacts inside! Within the Cathedral, there are a few highlights to look out for:
- The Astronomical Clock – This unusual clock shows the hour of the day, the phase of the moon and the day of the lunar month (so it might be the wrong date according to your iPhone but it all works itself out in the end). It predates the synchronisation of time across England, being built in the 1400s!
- The Tombs, Inscriptions and Carvings – Throughout the cathedral are the most wonderful memorials to those people who have passed away. Divine 1800s poems, Tudor carvings complete with ruffs and one slightly harrowing corpse carving are all particularly diverting.
- The Bomb – During WWII, Hitler decided to hit Exeter hard. One bomb hit the side of the cathedral and you can see some of the bomb’s metal within the newly built side chapel.
- The Organ – As well as the ornate organ above the choir entrance, (and the other two elsewhere in the cathedral), you can see a few huge pipes are against one wall. These are for the really low notes that shake your bones. I would have loved to have stood right here during a recital!
4.) Take a Trip to the Custom House Visitor Centre and the Quayside
Exeter was an incredibly wealthy city in the 1600s. The wool industry was based here and cloth from Exeter was sent from this area right across Europe. The quay was the base of trade but when steam power took the wool trade north, it sort of lost its way. Over recent years, it has been developed into an eclectic mix of modern additions, great bars and restaurants and historic elements. It is a wonderful place to wander around, sit and have a drink or do something a little more active…but more on that later.
For a rather novel way to cross the water, check out Butt’s Ferry. For the low, low price of 0.50p, you will be taken across in a little open boat, pulled along by…well Mr Butt presumably. Cash only!
To learn a little more about the area, in one of the quay’s most historic buildings, pop into the free Custom’s House Visitor Centre. Inside you will find artwork, historical items and a great video all about Exeter’s history. The building itself was the very first customs building constructed for the purpose, dating back to 1680. If you look up, you will some beautiful plaster ceiling work featuring pretty flowers and sneaking serpents. Outside sit two cannons that were rumoured to have been used in the Battle of Waterloo in the 1800s but they were actually in the possession of Russia at the time.
5. ) Explore the Royal Albert Memorial Museum
Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert was a great supporter of art and science. He believed that everyone should have the chance to learn and indulge in both. It was for this reason that a Devon MP called Sir Stafford Northcote decided that the best memorial for Albert would be a museum celebrating, art, science and literature. Within the Victorian Gothic building, RAMM is a delightful museum packed to the rafters with an intriguing mix of exhibits.
Downstairs visitors track the history of Exeter and the surrounding areas, starting at the beginning of mankind. Alongside a wonderful array of preserved outfits, musical instruments and stone carvings, there are several uttering diverting videos. Getting hypnotised by the making of lace or clotted cream is all part of the fun.
Upstairs there is a large natural history section, complete with the tiger shot by George V pictured below and a terrifying polar bear! You will also find cultural artefacts from around the world.
6.) Pop Into The Guildhall
The Guildhall on high Street is one of Exeter’s longest surviving civic buildings, being the base of local government for a very long time. The outside dates from the late 1500s but there has been mention of the building in the records as early as the 1300s! As you pass through the arches at the front, take a look up and you may spot a hook in the ceiling. This was used to hang a scale in which they weighed meat, wool and other goods when a market was set up outside the building.
Inside the tall roof is lined with gorgeous wooden beams. Around the walls, dark oak wood is carved into seating with a large and imposing Judge’s chair in the centre. This building has been used as a jail, a court, a banquet hall, and is now the office of the mayor, hosts city council meetings and other official
Sadly, during our visit, we just missed opening hours and then there was a private event the following day so we weren’t able to go inside. It is normally open daily but as you may have guessed, times can change. Visitors can have a private tour with tea and biscuits with tea and biccies for £6, or £9 with a cream tea.
Outdoorsy Things to do in Exeter
7.) Take a Hike on Dartmoor
Hop in a car and from the centre of Exeter, it is just 25 minutes to the wild landscape of Dartmoor. The windswept open spaces are wonderful to explore and hundreds of miles of trails take visitors across the moor. Along the way, you may come across stone age burial mounds, the mythical Hound of the Baskerville or the very real Dartmoor ponies. There are rivers to sit by, forests to tramp through and heather to marvel at. From Exeter, the circular trail from Drogo Castle is a great option. This castle is much younger than Exeter, at just over 100 years old, but it is still fun to see and Hunter’s Path is a fabulous walk
Another alternative is to visit the Becky Falls, a pretty waterfall that has been drawing tourists for over a hundred years. There is an entry fee for this area but it has brilliantly marked trails with an idea of the difficulty and lots of kids’ activities.
8.) Toddle Around Topsham
If you follow the river down from Exeter Quayside, you will end up in the pretty town of Topsham. There is a delightful array of specialist shops, antique boutiques and fancy pants restaurants. The architecture is different from much of Exeter, with the Dutch influence visible, a feature of so many sea-trading towns. If your visit is on a Saturday, there is a supermarket selling local produce, cheese, bread and meats. It is a wonderful place to pick up a picnic or some bits for dinner. If the sun is out, grab a drink at The Passage House Inn. You can pick a table in their riverside garden and watch the river flow by.
9.) Cycle the Quayside
On the quayside, the rental shop of Saddles and Paddles provides bike rentals to suit everyone from mountain bikes to basket beauties. They have bikes for kids, bikes for one adult, bikes for two adults and cool attachments that mean you can pop a kid on the back of any bike and make it a tandem. You can choose a rental for up to 3 hours, for the whole day or even overnight. They will provide you with a lock, helmets and even panniers for those long-term rentals.
The Quayside is mostly flat and you will very quickly find yourself on a shared walking/bike path that leads down the river and canal, through greenery and with the water in sight. A short ride away, there is a pub to stop at, or you can keep going all the way to Topsham. I would recommend getting the bikes for three hours or more if you want to do this so you have a bit of time to explore.
10.) Take to the Water on the Exe
If you are happier on the water than beside it, Saddles and Paddles also provide a range of paddle sports. You can pick from kayaks, stand up paddleboards or canoes and take them out on the water for as little as an hour. From the shop, you can paddle to that same pub and just tie up on the riverbank. Alternatively, ask the staff in the shop for advice on your watery adventure.
Again, you will be provided with everything you need, a quick lesson on how to paddle, helmet and buoyancy aids. Although you will have a life jacket, you do need to be able to swim to rent any of these. They have a spot to leave your belonging whilst you are out on the water so you can bring a change of clothes just in case! It is recommended to book in advance and arrive 15 minutes before your rental to get your forms signed and your kit on.
11.) Make Hay While the Sun Shines
In Exeter, the suffix “hay” tends to mean a park (or shopping centre). Hay is an old Devon word that means an open area…so they mean a nice field. Both of the hays listed below make an excellent spot to relax in the sun and enjoy a quiet moment or to watch the world go by.
- Southernhay is a pretty green rectangle, surrounded by Georgian properties. It was a grazing area that was late used for leisure purposes and played host to many a fair, but as the city grew, permission was given to build here. The architect and property developer, Matthew Nosworthy, built one house and with the profits from the sale, built the next. There used to be a lot more Georgian city but it was sadly lost in the bombing raid. The Southernhay House Hotel is a beautiful old town mansion that has been converted into a trendy hotel with rolltop baths and a lovely modern European restaurant.
- Northernhay Gardens is a formal park, set on a hill. Within the gardens, you will see some of the original Roman wall, and a little of the only Saxon wall in the country. You can also take a stroll past the back of RAMM and find the gates of Rougemont Castle. There has been a park here since the early 1600s, it may be the oldest public parks in the country! The layout you see today was set in the 1800s and there is some 1800s statuary still on shows. You will also find Exeter’s War Memorial topped with a beautiful depiction of Victory holding laurels aloft. Around the base sit a soldier, a sailor, a nurse and a POW.
Quirky Things to do in Exeter
12.) Descend into the Underground Passages
Underneath the streets of Exeter is a hidden secret. Running into the city, Medieval channels were created to bring water into the settlement. These tunnels are the only left of their kind in the UK and can be explored on foot with a guided tour. There is a small visitor centre which introduced how the tunnels were, how they worked and what has happened to them over the years.
After having a nose around, you will spend about 25 minutes underground with a guide. It is worth noting that under 5’s cannot attend this section and wheelchairs and buggies can’t access the terrain. Some of the sections are quite thin and low so everyone needs to remain in single file and follow instructions. Oh, and wear some sturdy shoes for the aforementioned terrain. As well as the normal tours, they also run special easter egg hunts, fun Halloween tours and a Blitz tour.
13.) Celebrate with the Community at Exeter Pride
Every May, the centre of Exeter gets a rainbow makeover. The city plays host to the biggest Pride celebration in the country that receives no big corporate funding. Around midday, the parade makes it way down the high street. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community from all walks of life are represented. Public services (firefighters, police, NHS workers) start the parade and they are followed by all kinds of amazing services and groups for the queer community. It is wonderful to come out and support them…and then head to Northernhay Gardens to party with them afterwards.
14.) Squeeze Through Parliament Street
Exeter is full of little one-offs. The oldest this, the last remaining that, and the queen of them all is Parliament Street. This is the narrowest street in the country. There are properties that have their front doors on into the street so it is definitely NOT an alley…and don’t let us catch you saying it is! It was once called Small Lane but was renamed in 1832 probably a thumbed nose to Cromwell’s Government (either their meagre power or meagre empire). To find Parliament Street, look out for the Greggs that sits beside Patisserie Valerie….it’s right there between them. It’s kind of like 12 Grimmauld Place, you just wouldn’t notice it until someone tells you the secret of its existence.
15.) Lose Your Bad JuJu at the Touch Stone
At the boundary of the old town is a strange rectangle of stone in the wall. This is called the touchstone and you have to be very careful how you use it! This was the boundary of the medieval town and was used as a sponge for bad spirits. Townies believed that as they travelled outside of Exeter, bad luck/spirits/juju was picked up. They touched this piece of the wall as they re-entered Exeter to rid themselves of all those bad vibes. It was originally part of the South ate but when that was demolished, the stone was saved and placed here.
If you do decide to use it, make sure you are walking towards the Cathedral with the stone your left, and use it with care!
Shoppingy Things to Do in Exeter
16.) Discover the Independent Businesses on Gandy Street
There is a long-held belief that Gandy Street, with its thin, colourful pedestrianised way is the inspiration for Diagon Alley (of Harry Potter fame) but it is just a myth. What is true, however, is that it is a great spot for some shopping at independent stores.
- Maker Mart is absolutely stuffed with products from small, local designers and artists. It is connected to the nearby Phoenix Arts. not do they sell beautiful, high-quality things, but they also run workshops to teach you how to make slightly less beautiful and top quality things of your own. (That is, unless, you discover you have a strange, undiscovered talent for macrame, jubilee flags or felt decorations. Some workshops include a cocktail from Mermaid bar next door (more on those to come later)
- If pre-loved clothing is your pre-loved bag, then you will love the variety of vintage and secondhand offerings in both My Ex Wardrobe and Sobeys Vintage. They both sell clothes, bags, shoes and jewellery/ You will find high street brands alongside designer goodies. You just need to have a little dig a little and you may find a hidden gem.
- Mantis specialises in sterling silver jewellery and gifts. Stand out designs for their earrings and pendants are based on beautiful, delicate natural shapes, pretty leaves, trees and starfish. They also have handmade scarves, soaps and scented candles. It is a wonderful place to pick up a gift or three.
17.) Wander Princesshay Shopping Centre & “Town”
The decline of British highstreet doesn’t seem to have impacted Exeter. Every high street brand you would expect to find is thriving here, and some that you might not have seen for a while. There are thee main shopping centres, all based around the high street. Check out, Princesshay, Guildhall and Glasshouse Lane for more shops than you’ll get through in a whole day of shopping! (Did I have to buy some emergency shoes at Primark during my stay? Why yes, yes, I did!)
18.) Meander Exeter’s Markets
As well as the farmer’s market at Topsham, Exeter has its fair share of outdoor markets to browse.
- There is a weekly farmer’s market every Thursday morning at the corner of Fore Street and South Street. As well as plenty of fresh produce and fish, meat, cheese etc there are ready to eat pies, pastries and cakes.
- Every Sunday there is a market that also includes a car boot at Fore Street. This is a great place to pick up clothes (both new and used) and everything that you can find in car boot sales. Toys, antiques, artwork and other totally random treasures. You might be able to pick up a piece of luggage to take all your new items home!
- The Cathedral Green plays host to a festive Christmas market in the run up to the big day. There are lots of gifts on offer as well as stalls full of yummy sugar and cinnamon treats.
Foodie Things to do in Exeter
19.) Munch at Margoux
Exeter’s hottest new opening is the very modern, very trendy Margoux. There is an interesting blend of modern European and traditional British flavours. Each dish is plated as pretty as a picture and thankfully, they taste as good as they look. The chateaubriand was incredibly tender and served with moreish truffle fries (amongst other sides). Mr Fluskey’s hake had perfectly cooked flesh and crispy skin and his crime brûlée pate was a very cool twist on this classic dish (his favourite). The pastrami coating on my smoked salmon was intense and punchy, pairing perfectly with the sweet and creamy sides. I couldn’t fault any of it.
Alongside the delicious food, is an extensive wine list. They are real wine experts and can recommend something that will tickle your tastebuds that you may never have considered.
Upstairs, the cocktail bar serves tasty drinks with an amazing view over the rooftops to the Cathedral. We recommend trying some of their original cocktail creations. The lemon sherbet (served with a lemon sherbet sweet) was nice and citrusy and the tiramisu was lent a nice almond flavour with the additional Disaronno. The shimmery kir royale was a fun take on one of my favourite drinks They all made excellent desserts!
20.) Cram in a Cream Tea
Here in the UK, there may be the eternal argument of which goes on first, the jam or the cream. However, in Devon, it is NOT up for debate. Cut your scone in two and spread your clotted cream liberally across the sliced area. Dollop on some bright red strawberry jam and take a big, fat bite! (or a little delicate bite if you are out for a fancy tea).
There are a few spots to try this traditional treat but one that come very highly recommended is The Hidden Treasure Tea Room. Vintage, charmingly twee and everything you want in a good old-fashioned cafe, this spot keeps it traditional but with a knowing nod to a modern sensibility. As well as the normal cream and jam cream tea, (which can be vegan or gluten free) they also have a yummy savoury option; cheese and olive scones with butter and tomato chutney to spread on top. You can opt for the cream tea or go all out with a three tier afternoon tea which includes a glass of prosecco.
If it is a sunny day, Eat on the Green has outdoor seating that is right next to Cathedral Green so you can have your tea with a nice view. They begin serving their cream tea at 14:30 and offer the choice of strawberry or blackcurrant jam to go with the cream and scones. It is also possible to have a gluten free option.
21.) Savour some Seafood at RockFish
Being so close to the fruitful waters of the South-West, no trip to Exeter would be complete with enjoying some seafood. Rockfish is a local chain of restaurants that focuses on fresh, local and utterly delicious sea fare. Exeter’s branch is located right on the Quayside, with nice views of the water from the window and with al fresco tables too.
Start your meal with a glass of champagne, Churchill would approve, and sip it as you learn from the server what the day’s menu holds. As well as the fixed menu that has such delights as Brixham calamari and Norwegian prawns, there is a selection of the best fish they could pick up that very morning. Now you need to make a choice between unlimited chips or a side salad. If you are on a diet, the salad is a good call but rest assured, those who opt for the chips will get a small side salad too so it’s a double win. During our visit, everything was cooked to perfection, the ray wing so smooth, prawns sweet and juicy, the calamari tender and crab picked beautifully for us. Top marks!
Whilst you chomp on your fish, why not try their very own cider. It is a reasonably sweet, very light perfect as a accompaniment to seafood.
22.) Bag a Baguette at Tiny Tasting Room
Down a small cut through, Martin’s Lane, that connects Cathedral Green and High Street, is a cool little cafe. Tiny Tasting Room offers a great range of baguettes, bagels and lots of pastries, cakes and other seriously snackables. South West Coffee Co is served to tourists passing by, students in search of caffeine and this very happy blogger. It was smooth and just what I needed.
They have a few tables downstairs but if you are planning to stick around, take the staircase up to the first floor. The air of calm up here is a nice place to relax, or borrow the WiFi and get some work done. There were plenty of students with essays underway on our visit surrounded by sunlight and awesome artwork from local artists. Light, funky music was piped in so the ambience is one of relaxed cool,
If you are in a hurry, or the sun is out, grab your food and coffee to go. Then, stake out a spot on Cathedral Green and have a picnic. That’s what we did! We picked up a baguette each (toasted because we are fancy) and I had a coffee. Mr Fluskey had the BLT and soft drink. My brie and chorizo with chilli jam was lovely and creamy with a little kick. Mr Fluskey’s had peppery rocket and cooling mayo. They were the perfect lunch.
23.) Get a Coffee Fix at Undergrad
Owned by the same people as Tiny Tasting Room, Undergrad also serves the same fantastic South West Coffee. As well as the same range of tasty baked goods and sandwiches, they have a lovely breakfast menu. It is packed with millennial favourites such as smashed avocado and açai. This cafe is attached to student halls but feels a thousand miles away from any student cafe I’ve ever visited. It was bright and airy, full of natural woods and plenty of plants.
The staff were lovely. They very kindly gave Mr Fluskey an extra egg instead of mushrooms when he chose the full Undergrad Breakfast ( I wonder how many hangovers that has cured). I chose the granola cup and demolished the fruity, yogurt-y, granola-ry lot. I had one cappuccino with breakfast and couldn’t resist ordering another to take away because it was just perfection,
Boozy Things to do in Exeter
24.) Play Mad Scientist at Quayside Distillery
There are two levels of experience to be had at Quayside Distillery. This new and intriguing distillery is creating cocktails you are not going to find anywhere else. New creations that confuse and delight the tastebuds have been lovingly crafted by the staff. As well as being new cocktails, they are developed using gins and vodkas made on site. Level one involves coming down to the quayside, trying and testing these drinks and wobbling home afterwards.
Level two means getting involved! Quayside Distillery has a lab on-site. In here, the fun flavours are brewed using a cool piece of science kit. This machine allows the master brewer to work with ingredients usually off limits to distillers. Dan, one of the co-founders is working with local herbs and fruits…and some slightly more offbeat ideas. Guests can join a tasting and learn all about the differences between traditional gin and vodka, and the spirits they are creating.
Alternatively, you can sign on for a “Create Your Own Gin” lesson. You will invent your very own blend and take home a 70cl bottle to enjoy at your leisure. It will be put on file and you can order bottles in the future too. So cool!
25.) Sip Some Sandford Cider
A 20 minute drive from the centre of Exeter is the home of Devon’s cider production, Sandford Orchards. During a visit here, you can see the oldest cider mill in the country doing its thing. They run two tours a month so if you are particularly keen, try to check in advance to time your trip correctly. Every tour includes a flight of cider and a pizza at the end.
Of course, you can try a tipple or two in their taproom which is open six days a week or grab something to take away. I am particularly enamoured with their Fanny’s Bramble bag in a box cider…so have a sip and tell them I sent you!
26.) Try the Tipples at The Turk’s Head
Fancy sipping a very modern beer in a very old pub? Pop down for a swift half…or several pints at the Turk’s Head for a whole lot of history. The Turk’s Head has been in in the spot next to the Guildhall, in one form or another, for around 700 years, providing necessary nips to the people of Exeter. There have been a fair few tourists and travellers who have patronised the Turk’s Head, including Charles Dickens. This was one of his favourite pubs and he visited it often. So often in fact that he had a corner named after him, and the character of Fat Boy in the Pickwick Papers is based on a gentleman he observed at the pub.
These days, you can get some great cider, including my favourite brand Lilley’s, as well as all the usual bar suspects. A fun recent addition to the pub, established in 2021, is their very own microbrewery. You can see it through the glass walls at the back of the pub. They are always brewing up to five different ales with appropriate names like “Crusador, “Fat Boy” and the terribly punny “The Last Exeter Nowhere”. We didn’t try any as neither of us drinks beer but fresh ale has got to be great!
If you are peckish, check out the pizza menu. The pizzas are pretty decent. The crust is a little thicker than an Italian thin crust and they have some cool topping combinations. For example, their pineapple and ham, The Controversial one, also has chorizo and chilli jam. They are served from lunch to early evening and make an excellent tummy liking if you are planning on a long night with a few more drinks.
27.) Bar Hop Along Gandy Street
Gandy Street isn’t just about shopping. There are some brilliant bars in and around here too.
- The Cocktail Club – The popular London Cocktail Club franchise has extended to Exeter and boy is it overexcited about it! You will hear the thumping music carry down the street and it will blow your head off as you enter. Banging music, a banging happy hour and bar staff who are in search of a banging make this spot pretty wild. The bartenders, decked out in a Hawaiian shirt, furiously shake four pornstar martinis at a time to keep up with demand whilst also swinging the overhead lights. Come for a party and stay for the decent drinks but if you want a quiet chat with your friends consider our next pick.
- The Mermaid is a classy venue down a set of stairs and a world away from Cocktail Club. Here, the bartenders take time and care with each drink and the music is a non-intrusive mix of light reggae and jazzy beats. The Mermaid is run by The Phoenix arts venue up the road and is linked to the Maker Mart next door. The creativity shows in the signature cocktails which are very grown up and entirely delicious. Try the Sea Nymph, a smoky twist on what feels like a classic cocktail.
- The Vaults is Exeter’s most popular LGBTQIA+ venue. It opens at 21:00 and is pretty busy every night of the week so you will always find a fun night out here. It becomes a full club on Fridays and Saturdays so bring your dancing shoes
- Cork & Tile is actually a restaurant but they stock a fun variety drinks that whisk the drinker to a sunny street in Lisbon or a wave-licked beach in the Algarve. They stock three kinds of vinha verde (yummy young wine), plenty of port and wines from throughout Portugal.
28.) Book a Boozy Brunch
Exeter has embraced the bottomless with gusto. It is no surprise in a town with a sizeable student population that a great value boozy brunch goes down well. There are plenty of places to choose from; The Terrace, Pink Moon Cafe and Absurd Bird all do their version including bottomless prosecco or beer. They are all fun options but our top pick is The Exonian.
The Exonian is a fun pub on Fore Street and they offer a brunch dish plus bottomless drinks for 30 minutes. It’s a fast and furious one! You can pick from a small drinks menu including prosecco, beer and cocktails like Aperol Spritz and a Tiki Sunrise.
They do some seriously delicious dishes too though, so it isn’t all about the drinks. Their breakfast tortilla wrap is stuffed with sausage, bacon, and hashbrowns and oozes with salsa and guacamole. There are crumpets stacked with BBQ jackfruit or bacon and avocado and they offer gut-busting plated breakfasts too.
Warning! You might have to give up the rest of your sightseeing for the day while you recover.
29.) Enjoy Drinks With a View at No.5
If you are after an afternoon cocktail or an early evening beer, No.5 is a wonderful option. Outside the front, there are tables on a small terrace and down on the cobbled street that lines Cathedral Green. You will get a wonderful view of the cathedral and it is a real sun trap. Guests out here sip on well crafted cocktails or glistening glasses of white wine as they watch the world go by. The menu says to ask if your favourite isn’t listed and I can attest they whipped up a rather lovely kir royale for me.
In the middle is the courtyard. This has heaters and a cover so it would be nice on an autumn evening but we suggest that you keep walking right through. At the back, the beer garden has a very different atmosphere. More laidback and with music from a couple of large speakers, it is much more of a beer garden vibe…which makes sense. There is a bar out here so it feels separate from the restaurant indoors but there is a food menu full of crowd-pleasing pizza, seafood and burgers.
30.) Fun at the Farm and Pebblebed Vineyard
Between Topsham and Exeter is Dart’s Farm. As well as a Maize Maze, pumpkin and sunflower picking, plenty of animals and a sculpture trail, Dart’s Farm is home to Pebblebed Vineyard. This winery produces delicious still and sparkling wines. If you opt for a tour, you will spend an hour out in the vineyard learning about the unique growing conditions of Devon and then one hour in the winery. A tour costs £30 and includes the tour and some wine tastings. At the farm, you will find an excellent variety of eating options from fresh fish to serious sweet treats in their Cow and Cacao Cafe so you can opt to just try a glass with some food. They also work with Sandford to create their own cider so it is the best of both worlds!
How to Get to Exeter from London
- Train – You can reach Exeter from London Paddington in just over two hours. Great Western Railway runs fast and comfortable trains hourly to Exeter St Davids. You can change and carry on to Exeter Central but it is just a 20-minute walk into town so unless you have lots of luggage, it probably isn’t worth it. If you book in advance, you can get some great cheap fares and if you are travelling at the weekend, enquire on board about the £25 first-class upgrade. You will get a more spacious seat with a table, enhanced wifi and snacks/drinks provided at your seat.
- Bus – National Express runs coaches from London Victoria Coach Station. The journey takes between 4.5 and 5 hours on board a comfortable coach with wifi, power sockets and a bathroom on board.
- Car – If you are driving yourself, it will take around 3.5 hours if you drive without stopping. Follow the M4 and when you hit Bristol, join the M5. Obviously, this means you have a car available to explore those areas around Exeter like Dartmoor and the cider orchards but if you are staying in the city, it isn’t the best option.
Where to Stay in Exeter
We insist you stay in the city centre. everything is walkable and there is no need to spend time travelling in from one of the cheaper hotels out by the motorway.
- Budget – Check out AirBnB for cute options in the city, especially in the summer holidays as students head home for the summer.
- Midrange – Jurys Inn, just a short walk from High Street is a great midrange option. The rooms are quite large, bright and well-appointed. Plus, the breakfast is great and they can make a very passable Pimm’s!
- High End – Southernhay House Hotel, just outside the old city wall provides beautiful accommodation in a mansion from the 1600s. There are 12 individually named rooms, each named after a commodity traded in the good old days. The biggest rooms have freestanding baths while the smaller ones have lovely views across Southernhay Gardens.
Final Thoughts on Things To Do in Exeter
Exeter is a compact, pleasant and very interesting city to explore. It is perfect for a long weekend away. Honestly, you would struggle to get in the full list of things to do in Exeter (there’s rather a lot of alcohol for a start) but we know you’ll have a lot of fun trying!