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16 Superb Things to do in Plymouth

things to do in plymouth

Find out about the best things to do in Plymouth

There are so many great things to do in Plymouth – a historic coastal city steeped in maritime heritage. It offers a treasure trove of experiences for visitors seeking a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From exploring the iconic Mayflower Steps where the Pilgrims set sail for the New World to wandering through the charming Barbican area with its cobbled streets and waterfront cafes, Plymouth is a destination that captivates all who visit.

Immerse yourself in the rich naval history at the Royal William Yard or take a leisurely stroll along the stunning Plymouth Hoe, offering panoramic views of the sea and the iconic Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse. Whether you’re drawn to its historic landmarks, vibrant arts scene, or picturesque landscapes, Plymouth promises an unforgettable journey filled with diverse attractions and endless possibilities for memorable days out. Join me as we uncover the best that this captivating city has to offer!

This list of days out and attractions will give you a flavour of what is going on in Plymouth. They are not listed in any particular order. If you are exploring South Devon a bit further, have a look at some of the things to in Totnes and in the South Hams.

By the way, if you are looking for something to eat while in Plymouth, check out our guide to the best restaurants in the city.

The Box: Plymouth’s Cultural Gem

the box plymouth

Nestled in the heart of Plymouth, The Box stands as a beacon of cultural richness, seamlessly weaving together history, art, and heritage in a captivating tapestry of exhibits and experiences. This innovative museum and art gallery showcases a diverse array of artifacts and artworks, spanning centuries and genres, offering visitors a multifaceted journey through Plymouth’s past and present.

From ancient relics to contemporary masterpieces, The Box invites exploration and discovery, engaging guests with interactive displays, thought-provoking exhibitions, and immersive storytelling. By delving into the city’s cultural narrative, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for Plymouth’s identity and evolution over time. With its dynamic approach to showcasing history and art, The Box emerges as a must-visit destination for those seeking to unravel the layers of Plymouth’s heritage through a lens of creativity and innovation.

National Marine Aquarium: A Window to the Underwater World

plymouth aquarium

Situated in the coastal city of Plymouth, the National Marine Aquarium stands as a mesmerizing gateway to the wonders of the ocean. As the UK’s largest public aquarium, it offers an enchanting exploration of marine life, from local species to exotic creatures found in oceans around the globe. Through its expansive exhibits and educational initiatives, the aquarium provides visitors with a deep dive into marine ecosystems, conservation efforts, and the importance of preserving our oceans.

With captivating underwater displays, interactive touch pools, and engaging presentations, the National Marine Aquarium offers an immersive experience that educates and inspires guests of all ages. By fostering a connection with marine environments and promoting awareness of ocean conservation, this aquatic haven serves as a vital resource for understanding and appreciating the beauty and diversity of our seas.

“Plymouth Through Time” by Derek Tait offers a captivating journey through the history of Plymouth, UK, showcasing its evolution through stunning imagery and insightful narratives. From its humble beginnings to modern-day landmarks, this book is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts and anyone curious about the city’s rich heritage.

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plymouth through time

Royal William Yard: Historic Elegance by the Water

royal william yard

Royal William Yard, located on the waterfront in Plymouth, is a historic naval victualling yard turned vibrant waterfront destination. This architectural gem boasts a rich history dating back to the early 19th century when it served as a key supply hub for the Royal Navy. Today, the yard has been transformed into a bustling hub of restaurants, shops, and cultural spaces, offering visitors a unique blend of history and contemporary charm.

With its stunning Georgian architecture, scenic views of the harbour, and a diverse array of dining options, Royal William Yard provides a picturesque setting for leisurely strolls, waterfront dining, and cultural exploration. Whether admiring the historic buildings, sampling local cuisine, or simply soaking in the maritime atmosphere, Royal William Yard promises a delightful experience that seamlessly merges past and present in a captivating waterside setting.

Plymouth Gin Distillery: A Taste of History and Craftsmanship

gin distillery

Plymouth Gin Distillery, established in 1793, is one of the oldest working distilleries in England and a testament to Plymouth’s rich distilling heritage. Nestled in the historic Barbican area, this iconic distillery offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the art of gin-making through guided tours and tastings. Steeped in tradition and craftsmanship, Plymouth Gin Distillery showcases the meticulous process of creating its renowned gin, from selecting botanicals to distillation in copper pot stills.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the distillery’s history, learn about its unique blend of botanicals, and savor the distinctive flavors of Plymouth Gin. With its historic ambiance, knowledgeable guides, and opportunities for hands-on experiences, Plymouth Gin Distillery provides a memorable journey into the world of gin production, making it a must-visit destination for spirits enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Smeaton’s Tower: Iconic Lighthouse with a Maritime Legacy

plymouth hoe smeaton's tower

Smeaton’s Tower, perched majestically on Plymouth Hoe, is a striking landmark with a rich maritime history. Originally built in 1759 on the Eddystone Reef, this iconic lighthouse was dismantled and reassembled on Plymouth Hoe in the early 19th century. Serving as a symbol of maritime engineering prowess, Smeaton’s Tower offers visitors a glimpse into the challenges of navigation and the importance of lighthouses in safeguarding seafarers.

With its distinctive red and white stripes and panoramic views of the sea, this historic structure provides a unique vantage point for appreciating Plymouth’s coastal beauty and naval heritage. Whether admiring its architectural splendor, learning about its construction, or enjoying the sweeping vistas from the lantern room, Smeaton’s Tower stands as a beacon of maritime legacy that continues to captivate visitors with its timeless charm.

Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park: A Stately Retreat in Nature’s Embrace

mount edgcumbe house and country park

Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park, located on the Rame Peninsula overlooking Plymouth Sound, is a picturesque estate that offers a blend of historic grandeur and natural beauty. The house, dating back to the 16th century, showcases elegant architecture, period furnishings, and stunning gardens that reflect centuries of aristocratic heritage. Surrounding the house, the expansive country park features rolling landscapes, woodland trails, and scenic coastal views, providing visitors with a tranquil retreat amidst nature’s splendor.

Whether exploring the historic interiors of the house, picnicking in the lush gardens, or hiking along coastal paths with breathtaking vistas, Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park offers a serene escape for those seeking a balance of history, culture, and outdoor recreation in a captivating setting overlooking the sea. Certainly of of the best things to do in Plymouth.

Saltram House: A Stately Home Amidst Lush Gardens

saltram house outside

Saltram House, nestled on the outskirts of Plymouth, is a magnificent Georgian mansion surrounded by extensive gardens and parkland. This stately home, dating back to the 18th century, showcases exquisite architecture, opulent interiors, and a rich collection of art and antiques. Visitors to Saltram House can explore its grand rooms, including the impressive library and drawing rooms, adorned with period furnishings and fine artworks.

The meticulously landscaped gardens offer a peaceful retreat with meandering paths, vibrant flower beds, and scenic river views, inviting guests to stroll and unwind in a picturesque setting. Whether admiring the architectural splendor of the house, discovering its historical treasures, or enjoying a leisurely picnic in the tranquil gardens, Saltram House provides a glimpse into the elegant lifestyle of the Georgian era amidst lush greenery and natural beauty.

Tinside Lido: Art Deco Charm by the Sea

tinside lido

Tinside Lido, located on Plymouth’s waterfront, is a stunning example of Art Deco architecture set against the backdrop of the sea. This historic outdoor swimming pool, dating back to the 1930s, exudes retro charm and elegance with its curved lines, pastel colors, and stylish design. Visitors to Tinside Lido can enjoy a refreshing dip in the saltwater pool while soaking up panoramic views of Plymouth Sound and the surrounding coastline.

The lido’s sun terraces, fountains, and cafe provide a relaxing setting for sunbathing, socializing, and taking in the coastal ambiance. Whether swimming in the open-air pool, lounging on the sun deck, or simply admiring the architectural beauty of this seaside gem, Tinside Lido offers a unique blend of nostalgia and seaside leisure that continues to enchant visitors with its timeless allure.

Plymouth City Market: A Vibrant Hub of Local Flavors and Crafts

plymouth market

Plymouth City Market is a bustling indoor market located in the heart of the city, offering a vibrant showcase of local produce, artisanal goods, and unique crafts. This historic market has been a focal point of Plymouth’s shopping scene for generations, providing a diverse array of stalls selling everything from fresh seafood and gourmet treats to handmade jewelry and vintage finds.

Visitors to Plymouth City Market can immerse themselves in a sensory feast of sights, sounds, and aromas as they wander through its bustling aisles filled with local vendors and artisans. Whether sampling regional delicacies, browsing for one-of-a-kind gifts, or simply soaking in the lively atmosphere of this cultural hub, Plymouth City Market offers a dynamic shopping experience that celebrates the community’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

Drake’s Island: A Historic Gem in Plymouth Sound

jetty at drakes island plymouth

Drake’s Island, a historic 6.5-acre island in Plymouth Sound, Devon, holds centuries of maritime and military history within its volcanic tuff and limestone rocks. Initially known as St. Michael’s Island in 1135, it later adopted the name Drake’s Island after Sir Francis Drake, the renowned English privateer. Over the years, the island served as a strategic defense post against French and Spanish threats, witnessing notable figures like Sir Francis Drake, Captain James Cook, and Charles Darwin departing from its shores.

The island’s myths include tales of hidden tunnels linking it to the mainland and the legendary “Drake’s Drum,” said to beat in times of peril. Today, Drake’s Island offers guided tours that delve into its heritage, wildlife reserve hosting Little Egrets and diverse fauna, and collaboration with marine conservation efforts. Visitors can access the island via ferry from Plymouth Barbican for an enriching experience that combines history, nature, and breathtaking views across Plymouth and Cornwall.

Plymouth Pavilions: Entertainment Hub in the Heart of Plymouth

plymouth pavilions

Plymouth Pavilions, located in the city centre, is a versatile entertainment venue that hosts a wide range of events, from concerts and comedy shows to sports matches and exhibitions. This modern complex features a multi-purpose arena, conference facilities, and an ice rink, making it a popular destination for both locals and visitors.

With a capacity of over 4,000 seats, Plymouth Pavilions attracts top performers and events, offering audiences a diverse array of entertainment options throughout the year. Whether attending a live concert, cheering on a sports team, or enjoying an ice skating session, Plymouth Pavilions provides a vibrant hub for cultural experiences and community gatherings in the heart of the city.

Mayflower Museum: A Journey Through Time and Culture

mayflower museum plymouth

The Mayflower Museum, located in The Barbican, offers visitors a captivating exploration of the Mayflower story across four floors and four centuries. The museum’s new exhibition delves into the history of the Mayflower voyage in innovative ways, starting with insights into Wampanoag history and culture through a partnership with members of the Native American tribal nation.

This exhibition not only narrates the English voyages to America but also sheds light on the impact of English colonization on indigenous communities, both historically and in contemporary times. Visitors can expect to see period objects, maps, and music that tell the story of America’s emergence, along with contemporary faces of Mayflower passenger descendants and Wampanoag people. The museum also features a children’s trail to engage younger visitors in learning about Wampanoag life and culture, making it an educational and immersive experience for all ages.

Plymouth Snowsports Centre: Winter Sports Thrills in Plymouth

plymouth ski centre

The Plymouth Ski Centre offers winter sports enthusiasts a thrilling experience right in the heart of Plymouth. Located at Alpine Park on Outland Road, this ski centre provides opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and other snow-related activities regardless of the season. With its artificial slopes and professional instructors, the centre caters to all skill levels, from beginners to advanced skiers and snowboarders. Visitors can enjoy skiing or snowboarding lessons, practice their skills on the slopes, or simply have fun in a winter sports environment close to home. Whether you’re looking to learn a new sport, improve your technique, or just enjoy some snowy fun, the Plymouth Ski Centre is a fantastic destination for winter sports enthusiasts in Plymouth and beyond.

Sutton Harbour: Historic Waterfront Charm

sutton harbour plymouth

Sutton Harbour, located in the heart of Plymouth, is a picturesque waterfront area steeped in history and maritime heritage. This bustling harbor is a hub of activity, with a mix of fishing boats, yachts, and waterfront cafes lining its quaysides. Visitors can stroll along the cobbled streets, explore the historic buildings, and soak in the maritime atmosphere that has defined this area for centuries. Sutton Harbour offers a range of dining options, from fresh seafood restaurants to cozy pubs serving local fare, making it a delightful spot to savor the flavors of the sea. Whether watching the boats come and go, browsing the shops for nautical souvenirs, or simply enjoying the scenic views across the water, Sutton Harbour provides a charming glimpse into Plymouth’s seafaring past and vibrant present.

The Hoe: Iconic Landmark with Panoramic Views

plymouth hoe

The Hoe, a prominent headland in Plymouth, is an iconic landmark known for its sweeping views of Plymouth Sound and the English Channel. This historic site offers visitors a picturesque setting to admire the sea, watch ships passing by, and enjoy leisurely walks along the waterfront promenade. The Hoe is also home to notable landmarks such as Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse and the Royal Citadel, adding to its charm and historical significance.

With lush green spaces, floral displays, and memorials remembering Plymouth’s maritime heritage, The Hoe provides a tranquil escape in the heart of the city. Whether picnicking on the grassy lawns, taking in a stunning sunset over the water, or simply basking in the beauty of the coastal scenery, The Hoe invites visitors to immerse themselves in nature’s splendor and maritime history against a backdrop of panoramic views. Truly one of the loveliest things to do in Plymouth.

The Barbican: Historic Charm and Maritime Heritage

plymouth barbican

The Barbican, located in the heart of Plymouth, is a historic district renowned for its picturesque streets, ancient buildings, and maritime heritage. This vibrant area dates back to the 14th century and retains much of its original character, with narrow cobblestone lanes, Tudor-style houses, and a bustling waterfront lined with shops, cafes, and galleries. Visitors can wander through the Barbican’s labyrinth of streets, explore historic landmarks like the Mayflower Steps, and soak in the atmosphere of a bygone era.

The Barbican is also a hub for cultural events, from art exhibitions to food festivals, showcasing Plymouth’s rich history and creative spirit. Whether sampling fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant, browsing for souvenirs in quirky boutiques, or simply enjoying the maritime ambiance, the Barbican offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and charm that continues to enchant visitors from near and far.

a-z of plymouth

The book “A-Z of Plymouth: Places-People-History” by Derek Tait offers a concise yet comprehensive exploration of Plymouth’s rich history, from prehistoric times to significant events like the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers and the impact of World War II. Through engaging storytelling, Tait guides readers on a captivating journey through the city’s past.

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