Exeter from above

Things to do in Exeter

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Exeter is a lively and varied city with a large student population, a rich history, and plenty to see and do. It was once a Roman city, and became a religious centre in the Middle Ages, with its cathedral dating back to the mid-11th century. 

If you're wondering about things to do in Exeter, we've got you covered! From ancient alleys to contemporary nooks, here's a fun-packed list of activities to enliven your Exeter expedition when you stay with us at Devon Cliffs Holiday Park.

1. Exeter Cathedral

1. Exeter Cathedral

No visit to Exeter would be complete without a visit to this magnificent building, dating from 1050 and expanded into its current form around 1400. The two square towers date back to the Norman era, around 1114-1133.  

This stunning Gothic cathedral contains a host of riches, with exquisite stained-glass windows and a 1484 astronomical clock, displaying the phases of the moon, time of day and date, while mirroring how the solar system was understood back then.

2. Royal Albert Memorial Museum

For more of Exeter’s complex history, this museum provides a wealth of entertainment and insight. With over a million exhibits, it’s one of the country’s best museums, exploring everything from ancient costumes to science exhibits and contemporary art. 

There’s a busy program of events held at the museum too, including concerts, talks, workshops, and family shows. Learn about Exeter’s Roman past or explore the Jurassic Coast’s rich geology in a variety of interactive ways. You could easily spend a rainy day here and still not see it all.

3. Exeter's historic quayside

3. Exeter's historic quayside

For a breath of fresh air after viewing ancient exhibits or dark underground tunnels, head to the quayside. Here a medieval canal was turned into a 16th-century quay and extended in later centuries for goods barges and seagoing vessels servicing the woollen trade with Holland. 

These layers of history remain to be unravelled as you stroll the quayside, lined with antique buildings, boutiques, and cafes. The quayside offers an ideal blend of relaxation and discovery. You’ll also enjoy a wonderful view of the River Exe. 

4. Underground Passages

This is a fascinating and unique attraction. Explore the medieval tunnels that once provided the city with fresh water. Take a guided tour and learn about plagues, wars, and sieges, in which the passages provided refuge, escape or fresh water. 

A tour around the subterranean city is a fascinating and unique Exeter thing to do! Do book ahead since places are limited for these narrow lanes and tunnels.

5. Bike the Exe estuary trail

5. Bike the Exe estuary trail

If you’re looking for something more active, bring your bikes and a picnic and explore this 17-mile trail. Experience the wind in your hair as you cycle alongside the estuary, taking in birdlife, boats, and breathtaking views. 

The route runs from Exeter, south via the Exeter Ship Canal and the River Exe as it widens to the estuary at Dawlish. 

6. Exeter guided tours

6. Exeter guided tours

A great way to get to know the city better is with an expert guided tour. Given Exeter’s long history, there’s a lot to learn. Dive deep into stories, legends, and dark secrets of Exeter’s complex past. 

Highlights include a Forgotten Exeter tour of the nooks and crannies of the northwest quarter, a Medieval Exeter tour, and a Cathedral to Quay walk that includes the historic town walls, which are almost 2000 years old! 

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7. Princesshay shopping

After digging deep into the city’s heritage and culture, it’s time for something very different: a spot of retail therapy! Fortunately, this Exeter shopping centre is a shopaholic's delight with big brands, boutiques, and local designers in plentiful supply. 

In fact, the whole city centre between Cathedral Gardens and Northernhay Gardens is well worth a wander in search of bargains or souvenirs. When you’re feeling peckish, there are plenty of eateries and pubs to choose from too. 

8. Northernhay Gardens

8. Northernhay Gardens

Exeter’s largest city centre green space has plenty to enjoy, from rose gardens to modern sculptures and miles of scenic trail to wander.  

You’ll also find stretches of Roman and Saxon wall, and places to picnic. Situated in the heart of the city, these gardens offer a tranquil retreat, after a busy morning exploring. 

9. Powderham Castle

9. Powderham Castle

If the medieval Cathedral hasn’t whetted your appetite for history, why not drive out to this extraordinary 600-year-old castle and deer park on the western side of the Exe estuary.  

Guided tours of its grand interior and grounds are provided, and for the little ones, there’s a secret garden with a small petting zoo and a Shaun the Sheep augmented reality trail. The venue is dog friendly, apart from the deer park and walled garden, but do keep your pooch on a lead.

10. Devon Wildlife Trust’s Cricklepit Mill

Devon Wildlife Trust has its headquarters at this historic mill and wildlife garden, situated a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, near the quayside. There’s been a fulling mill here since the 13th century, where cloth was finished by machines powered by a waterwheel.  

The main attraction, however, is the beautiful nature garden, with its wildflowers, water features and habitats for birds, bees, and butterflies. Watch a milling demonstration, learn about local conversation efforts (including the reintroduction of beavers to Devon) and pick up some tips for other scenic local trips.

11. Stroll along Exeter's city walls

11. Stroll along Exeter's city walls

History buffs will want to spend some time walking some of the oldest relics in Exeter – its Saxon and roman city walls.  

Take a self-guided tour starting in Castle Street and Northernhay Gardens, progressing past the Norman Gatehouse, North and West Gates, the Water Gate then on to the South Gate and the best-preserved sections of wall which skirt Cathedral Green before ending in Princesshay. 

There’s a helpful leaflet to guide you on your walk and plenty of places to pause for a coffee or nibble on the way.

12. Exeter Phoenix

Dive into the city's contemporary arts scene at this multipurpose theatre and arts space. With gigs, exhibitions, and workshops, there’s plenty to do. From movie screenings in its solar-powered cinema to contemporary art, comedy, and an excellent cafe-bar, you could easily while away a stimulating day or night here. 

Make sure you browse their busy schedule and book ahead, so you don’t miss out. It’s one of the liveliest cultural venues in town.

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