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Top 10 Things to Do in Exeter: A Local’s Guide

exeter quay

Unmissable things to do in Exeter

This guide is for people looking for things to do in Exeter and as someone who has lived here for over 25 years, I can say that you will find some great suggestions. As we love Exeter so much, we have an expanded list of things to in in Exeter when it is wet too, so check that out! This list is not in any particular order, but hopefully it will help you plan your trip to Exeter.


Explore the Historic Exeter Cathedral

Outside of Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, boasts a rich history dating back to the 11th century. This iconic landmark stands as a testament to exquisite Gothic architecture, with its impressive vaulted ceilings, intricate stained glass windows, and ornate carvings. Visitors can marvel at the grandeur of the Cathedral’s interior, which houses the longest continuous medieval stone vault in the world, spanning an impressive 96 metres.

Stepping inside the Cathedral, one is enveloped in a sense of awe and tranquility, as the peaceful atmosphere invites contemplation and reflection. The Cathedral’s stunning architecture and historical significance make it a must-visit attraction in Exeter, drawing in people from all walks of life to admire its beauty and soak in the centuries of history it embodies. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or simply seeking a moment of serenity, Exeter Cathedral offers a captivating experience that leaves a lasting impression.


Discover Exeter’s Underground Passages

exeter underground passages adventure

Beneath the bustling city of Exeter lies a hidden network of medieval passageways, known as Exeter’s Underground Passages. These tunnels date back to the 14th century and were originally built to serve as a sophisticated water supply system for the city. Visitors can now explore a section of these historic passages and learn about the fascinating history behind their construction and use.

Stepping into Exeter’s Underground Passages is like stepping back in time, as you navigate through narrow, dimly-lit corridors that once played a crucial role in the city’s infrastructure. The guided tours offer a unique glimpse into the past, shedding light on the engineering marvels of medieval times and the challenges faced by those who built and maintained these underground channels. Discovery of Exeter’s Underground Passages undoubtedly provides a captivating experience for history enthusiasts and curious explorers alike.


Walk along the Quayside

cobbles at exeter quayside

Strolling along the Quayside in Exeter offers a picturesque view of the historic waterfront, lined with charming cafes, shops, and vibrant street performers. The bustling activity of boats bobbing in the water and seagulls soaring overhead creates a lively atmosphere that captures the essence of Exeter’s maritime heritage. Visitors can indulge in delicious seafood at one of the many quaint restaurants or simply relax by the water’s edge and soak in the peaceful ambiance.

As you walk along the Quayside, take the time to admire the architecture of the historic warehouses that have been beautifully restored and repurposed into trendy boutiques and art galleries. The Quayside also provides access to the popular Exeter Quay Climbing Centre for outdoor enthusiasts looking to test their climbing skills against the impressive walls overlooking the water. Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to hop on a boat cruise from the Quayside, offering a unique perspective of the city from the tranquil Exe River.


Visit the Royal Albert Memorial Museum

royal albert memorial museum

Situated in the heart of Exeter, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum is a cultural gem that showcases a diverse collection of art, archaeology, and natural history. From ancient Egyptian artifacts to local Devonian wildlife displays, the museum offers a fascinating journey through time and space. Visitors can marvel at works by renowned artists, learn about the region’s rich heritage, and immerse themselves in interactive exhibits that cater to all ages.

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum provides a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of art and history, offering a blend of education and entertainment. Whether you’re interested in admiring intricate sculptures, discovering the geological evolution of Devon, or engaging with thought-provoking installations, the museum has something for everyone. With informative guides, hands-on activities, and rotating exhibitions, a visit to this cultural institution promises a memorable experience that will leave you enlightened and inspired.


Shop at the Exeter Farmers Market

things to do in exeter - exeter farmers market

At the Exeter Farmers Market, visitors are greeted with rows of vibrant stalls teeming with fresh produce, artisanal goods, and handmade crafts. Local farmers proudly showcase their organic fruits and vegetables, while bakers offer an array of freshly baked bread and pastries. The market is also a treasure trove for food enthusiasts, with a diverse selection of gourmet cheeses, jams, meats, and sweet treats to delight the taste buds.

In addition to culinary delights, the Exeter Farmers Market is a hub for unique handmade items, including jewelry, pottery, textiles, and more. Visitors can browse through the stalls and discover one-of-a-kind creations crafted by talented local artisans. The lively atmosphere, filled with the aromas of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling street food, coupled with the opportunity to interact directly with the producers, makes a visit to the Exeter Farmers Market a delightful experience for all.


Take a Stroll through Northernhay Gardens

northernhay gardens

Located in the heart of Exeter, Northernhay Gardens is a serene oasis amidst the bustling city life. As you step into the gardens, you are greeted by lush greenery, vibrant flowers, and historic statues that dot the landscape. The well-manicured pathways invite you to meander through the peaceful surroundings, providing a perfect escape from the urban hustle and bustle.

Take a moment to admire the Victorian bandstand, soak in the views of the ancient city walls, and revel in the beauty of the ornamental gardens. Whether you choose to sit on a bench and relax, enjoy a picnic on the grass, or simply take a leisurely stroll, Northernhay Gardens offers a tranquil setting for visitors of all ages to connect with nature and soak in the rich history of Exeter.

Its worth noting that there are several other great gardens and green spaces in Exeter to explore.


Go on a Ghost Tour of Exeter

redcoat ghost tour exeter

Embark on a thrilling journey through the haunting history of Exeter by joining a ghost tour of the city. Wander through the narrow, shadowy alleyways of the historic centre as knowledgeable guides regale you with tales of ghostly apparitions and eerie occurrences that have taken place in the city throughout the centuries. Feel a shiver down your spine as you learn about the chilling legends and macabre events that have left their mark on Exeter’s streets.

As darkness descends, explore the darker side of Exeter’s past on a ghost tour that will lead you to the city’s most haunted spots. Visit the Old Higher Cemetery where spooky stories of restless spirits and unexplained phenomena abound. Delve into the supernatural as you listen to accounts of inexplicable encounters at locations such as St. Nicholas Priory and the ghostly sightings reported in the city’s ancient buildings. Prepare to be captivated by the eerie atmosphere and spine-tingling tales that await you on this unforgettable ghost tour experience.


Enjoy a River Cruise on the Exe

river exe cruise

Embarking on a leisurely river cruise along the Exe is a delightful way to soak in the charm and beauty of Exeter from a unique perspective. Drifting gently along the tranquil waters, passengers are treated to picturesque views of historic landmarks, lush green banks, and abundant wildlife. The rhythmic lull of the boat creates a soothing ambiance, making it a serene and relaxing experience for visitors of all ages.

As the boat glides along the Exe, passengers have the opportunity to learn about the rich history and fascinating anecdotes associated with the surrounding areas. Guides on board often regale guests with captivating tales of the river’s significance in shaping the local culture and heritage. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape from the bustling city life, a river cruise on the Exe promises a memorable and tranquil outing.


Attend a Performance at the Exeter Phoenix

exeter phoenix arts centre

The Exeter Phoenix is a vibrant hub for contemporary arts and performances in the heart of Exeter. This multi-arts venue offers a diverse program of events including live music gigs, theater productions, film screenings, art exhibitions, and workshops. With its dynamic and creative atmosphere, attending a performance at the Exeter Phoenix is a great way to immerse yourself in the local arts scene and experience the talent and innovation of artists from the region and beyond.

Whether you’re into indie music, cutting-edge theater, or experimental film, the Exeter Phoenix has something to offer for every artistic taste. From emerging talent to established acts, the venue showcases a variety of performances that cater to a wide range of interests. With its commitment to supporting and promoting cultural initiatives, the Exeter Phoenix continues to be a vital space for artistic expression and community engagement. Its worth noting that Exeter has several excellent theatres worth exploring futher.


Hike up to the Iron Age Hillfort at Woodbury Castle

woodbury castle sign

Slightly outside Exeter, but close enough to count for this guide is Woodbury Common. Once you reach the summit of Woodbury Castle, take a moment to soak in the breathtaking vistas of the Exe Estuary and the rolling hills beyond. The peaceful atmosphere and sense of solitude at this ancient site make it the perfect spot for a moment of contemplation or a picnic in the company of history. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll in nature, a visit to Woodbury Castle promises a memorable experience that combines the beauty of the outdoors with a glimpse into the rich archaeological heritage of Exeter.

Hopefully some of these ideas about things to do in Exeter will have whet your appetite for visting this lovely city and having a great day.

If you are looking for something to eat, check out our guide to the best restaurants in Exteter and if you are looking for something to read, visit of of the great bookshops.

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