Things to Do in Exeter

Established as a Roman Fort in AD55, Exeter has been the scene of shifting political and economic activity for almost 2000 years. Once a buzzing trading port on the tidal river Exe, the city is now a destination for businesses in the south west and a lively centre for culture in the region.

With a rapidly growing population – 14% of which works or studies at the University – Exeter is a vibrant city offering activities to entertain all, hidden gems to explore and easy access to beautiful coastline and national parks.

History

Although heavily bombed during WW2, Exeter retains a great deal of its ancient charm which can be easily explored, often free of charge.

Free Guided Tours

Get to know Exeter with a Red Coat Tour. These walking tours are completely free and no booking is required.

Walk the Roman Wall

Almost 70% of Exeter’s original Roman Wall is still intact and walkable within an hour. Information panels at key points guide you through Exeter’s history and the events that defined the city.

Exeter Cathedral

The city’s Anglican cathedral survived a direct bomb strike in 1942 to remain Exeter’s most famous landmark. Sited behind the High Street, Cathedral Yard is also home to several boutiques and eateries and is a popular sunbathing spot in warm weather.

Exeter Castle

Exeter’s Norman Castle opened to the public in 2005 and now hosts a range of events throughout the year, most notably the Exeter Food & Drink Festival which takes place each April, featuring local producers, chefs and music acts.

Underground Passages

Exeter’s medieval underground aqueduct system is open to the public where visitors can learn about the city’s sophisticated solution to accessing fresh water.

Guildhall

Exeter’s medieval Guildhall is believed to be the oldest municipal building still in use in the UK. Since its construction in the Middle Ages, the Guildhall has remained at the centre of Exeter’s municipal life and is now a visitor attraction and licensed function venue.

Exeter’s Historic Quayside

Once the epicentre of Exeter’s wool and cloth trade, the Historic Quayside now provides a history-rich background for numerous boutiques, restaurants and events. The Quay House Visitor Centre is open to the public and admission s free.

Food and drink

Exeter and the surrounding area feature a wide choice of outstanding restaurants, coffee shops, delicatessens and markets. Exeter’s famous annual Food & Drink Festival features famous chefs from the region, a wide range of local produce and family entertainment.

Restaurants

From national chains, gastro-pubs and independent eateries to burger joints, street food and fine dining, Exeter has something for everyone. Must-explore areas include Magdalene Road, Queen Street, Sidwell Street, Princesshay, the Quayside and the West Quarter.

Coffee Shops

Exeter is a coffee-lover’s dream, with a seemingly limitless choice of both franchised and independent coffee houses. The chains can mainly be found on the High Street, while local names and independent outlets are dotted around the city, offering special roasts and blends as well as freshly prepared snacks and meals.

Shopping

Not just home to a wide choice of supermarkets, Exeter also offers foodies numerous opportunities to sample local and international cuisine. Magdalene Road in particular offers a range of independent butchers and delis while Sidwell Street has a number of specialist international supermarkets. The Real Food Store (Paris Street) is a favourite with students and locals alike, bringing together the best of local produce under one roof.

Every Thursday, Exeter Farmers Market takes place at the junction of South Street and Fore Street, bringing south west producers and their wares right into the city centre. The University also hosts its own Farmers Market every other Friday featuring a selection of produce and food stalls.

Shopping

From national chains to independent boutiques, Exeter packs maximum shopping into a small city. Fashion lovers, fancy-dress hunters and those with a passion for the unique will all find something to love.

Exeter Trails

Discover Exeter’s independent retailers, cafes and activities with the Exeter Trails series, helpfully divided into key themes.

High Street and Princesshay

Home to Exeter’s high street favourites and department stores, the modern Princesshay complex offers a varied shopping experience while the High Street often plays host to a range of events and entertainments.

West Quarter

Fore Street, New Bridge Street and South Street are brimming with independent retailers, boutiques, cafes and more just waiting to be explored. Highly recommended for vintage lovers and fancy-dress seekers.

Guildhall

Home to numerous high street favourites and a regular street food market, the Guildhall Shopping Centre offers varied undercover shopping accessible from Queen Street, High Street and North Street.

Castle Quarter

Gandy Street, Castle Street and Queen Street offer a range of independent boutiques, eateries, bars, galleries and more, all wrapped in historical and architectural charm.

Food shopping

For a small city, Exeter packs a powerful supermarket punch. Besides the numerous ‘express’ and international supermarkets in the city centre, Waitrose sits on the doorstep of the St. Luke’s campus while Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland are all a short distance away. Exeter also boasts many independent food  outlets.

Home basics

Make your new accommodation feel more like home with all the essentials. Within the city centre, Wilko, Primark and the Futon Company offer basic home furnishings, kitchenware etc. For those willing to travel a little further, Dunelm Mill or Range offer more variety.

Entertainment

Exeter’s varied entertainment scene has something for all tastes from live music and nightclubs to independent cinema and life drawing classes.

Live music

Exeter specialises in independent music venues – including the Students’ Guild’s own Lemon Grove, Exeter Cavern, Bike Shed Theatre and Exeter Phoenix  – which host local, up and coming and lesser-known acts while the University’s Great Hall has played host to international acts including Muse (2015) and is the residence of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Pubs

From the modern, to the cosy, to the downright historical, Exeter’s pubs have it all – and the legendary Ram Bar, located within the Students’ Guild. On the doorstep of Streatham Campus are student favourites, the Imperial and Victoria Inn, and a short walk from St Luke’s is the snug Globe Inn complementing its bar with freshly prepared food.

Head into town to sample the beers, ciders, famous pizzas and live music of The Old Firehouse; the fruity cocktail menus of The Monkey Suit, Oddfellows or Urban Underground; the historical features and spectacular roasts of the Rusty Bike and Fat Pig; or find your own favourite.

Feeling energetic?

Enjoy a scenic walk or bike ride from the Quayside to Double Locks, famous for its rolling garden and family of swans. Or head out of Exeter and take a stroll along the estuary to The Turf Hotel, only accessible by walking or cycling and well worth the effort.

Cinema and Theatre

In addition to two multiplex cinemas (Odeon and Vue), Exeter’s Picturehouse cinema showcases arthouse, world, family, independent, mainstream and cult movies.

The Bike Shed provides an intimate setting for emerging theatre companies, while the Barnfield and Exeter Corn Exchange offer varied programmes of entertainment. Exeter Northcott Theatre nestles in the heart of the university’s Streatham campus and offers a variety of shows from music to theatre and dance to student performance.

Clubs

Exeter’s largest nightclub venue is our own Lemon Grove, located on Streatham campus and running Saturday Lemmy every weekend during term time as well as live gigs and alternative music nights.

Tucked in the shadow of Exeter Castle is Timepiece – a thriving club which also hosts weekly salsa and soul nights.  In the West Quarter, Mosaic, Club Rococo, Walkabout and EX4 sit closely together while Arena remains a firm student favourite over on Sidwell Street, famed for Cheesey Tuesdays.

Arts and Museums

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) has been housed on Queen Street since 1869, showcasing a diverse collection of more than one million individual objects and specimens from across the globe. The RAMM also hosts regular exhibitions from local artists, photographers and academics.

Around the corner, Exeter Phoenix offers live music, film screenings, art classes, courses, exhibitions, a café bar and much more besides.

Devon and the South West

The sights and scenery of Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Cornwall sit on Exeter’s doorstep within easy reach of local trains and buses whether you’re a walker, surfer or just enjoy an ice cream by the sea.

Dartmoor was created a National Park in 1951 and remains a working area with much farmland alongside awe-inspiring tors and tourist attractions. Enjoy walks of varying difficulty, cycle rides, pony treks, family days out or just absorb the view on a scenic drive.

Exmoor is a dazzling patchwork of scenery ranging from wild uplands, thickly wooded combes, ancient farms, sheltered villages and beautiful coastline. National Trust trails present straightforward walking for day trippers with Exmoor ponies dotting the landscape for company.

The Jurassic Coast, stretching from East Devon to Dorset, is England’s first natural World Heritage Site. Stunning views, fossil hunting opportunities and visitor centres provide a varied day out.

Stunning coastline, great surf, history at every turn and rolling countryside make Cornwall a must for a weekend trip.

 


University of Exeter Students' Guild is a Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered Charity Number: 1136468 Company Number: 7217324; registered in England and Wales Registered office: Devonshire House, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4PZ