A History-Packed 48 Hours in Exeter

Devon’s county capital, Exeter is steeped in rich Roman history which is complemented by an attractive and modern-day scene that offers something for everyone!
Exeter Cathedral

Exeter is a thriving city with a rich history, joining Stage 3 and Stage 4 of the South West 660. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or mid-week city break, you can pack plenty into just 48 hours in Exeter.

Words and research by Jon Pressling at our Partner Visit Exeter.


Day 1

Exeter Cathedral Green

9am – Breakfast around Cathedral Green

A charming spot to people watch and immerse yourself into Exeter life. Start your day soaking up the magnificent views of Exeter Cathedral while sampling the delightful local produce on offer. Save the traditional cream tea for later though!


10am – Exeter Cathedral

Admired from afar and dominating the Exeter skyline, in true Roman style all roads lead to Exeter Cathedral. The amazing Gothic-style architecture welcomes visitors from across the world. It’s worth taking a guided tour inside as you’ll get to see magnificent stained-glass windows and the world’s longest stretch of unbroken Gothic vaulting.


11:30am – Red Coat Guided Tour (“Introducing Exeter”)

The perfect way to explore Exeter and discover over 2,000 years of history, the free Red Coat Guided Tours are something of an institution in Exeter. What they don’t know about Exeter’s rich history probably isn’t worth knowing.


1pm – Lunch

It’s not every day you get to have lunch in a place once frequented by the likes of Sir Francis Drake or Charles Dickens – “Please Sir, can I have some more!” Well at The Turk’s Head you certainly can and it even boasts its very own microbrewery.


2.30pm Shopping

Did you know that Harry Potter author JK Rowling attended Exeter University? A stroll down quaint Gandy Street, with its narrow, cobbled pavements and hanging street shop signs is certainly full of wizardry inspiration and a must visit for some Instagram-worthy photos.


6pm – Wine and Dine

Tickle your taste buds and sample the best of the west on the Exeter Food and Drink Trail. From vineyards on the sheltered slopes surrounding the city to bees creating a buzz producing honey on the rooftops of Princesshay shopping centre, it’s all about celebrating our fantastic local producers.


7:30pm Theatre show

It’s show time and there’s a thriving theatre scene across Exeter. From international shows to emerging local talent, live bands to stand-up comedy, the curtain never closes on Exeter theatre land. For a rather heavenly show check out nightly events hosted at Exeter Cathedral.


Day 2

Exeter Quayside

9am – Breakfast by the river

Stroll on down to Exeter’s historic quayside and immerse yourself into the relaxing river life. Watch the world float by along the River Exe before browsing independent antique and craft shops. You can also catch a sneaky peak at some of the hand-made crafts being created.


10am – Custom House Visitor Centre

Occupying one of the most historic buildings on the waterfront, Custom House Visitor Centre houses lively displays, illustrations and artefacts which bring Exeter’s Quayside to life. A great starting point for discovering the rich history which has helped shape this area of the city.


11am – Explore the River Exe

On the water or alongside it, there’s plenty of ways to take in the beautiful scenery along the River Exe and you’re in charge of the pace. Hire a bike from Saddles & Paddles to cruise along the flat, cycle-friendly paths or choose the life aquatic with canoe and kayak and hire available.


1pm – Quayside lunch

Now’s the perfect time to treat yourself to a piece of the local life with a traditional Devon cream tea. Just remember it’s jam atop cream on your scones if you want to fit in with the locals. You could also create your own gin concoction at the local distillery and maybe something for after you’ve been on the water!


2pm – RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum)

Free to enter, housing stunning displays, galleries and exhibitions, Exeter’s RAMM is the perfect all-weather, family friendly attraction. There’s an array of rich Devon and Exeter history on display along with Gerald the giraffe waiting to greet you.


4pm – Exeter’s Underground Passages

You’ve explored the city over ground so now it’s time to get a different perspective with a look beneath the streets. The only passages of this type open to the public in Britain, Exeter’s Underground Passages offers a unique and memorable visit through the city’s medieval past. Just remember to watch your head.


6pm – Al fresco dining

If the British weather plays kind, then there’s no better way to dine than al fresco. Choose from an international menu of cuisines that will delight your taste buds as the sun sets on your Exeter visit. For something truly memorable then take the ferry from Exmouth, just a short train ride away, and visit the floating River Exe Café where you can dine out on the spectacular Exe Estuary views and the freshest local seafood.


Day 3

Exeter Rougemont Gardens

8am – Rougemont and Northernhay Gardens

You’ve packed lots into just 48 hours so a little tranquillity amongst Exeter’s gardens is the ideal way to reflect on your visit. A hidden gem and Grade II listed, Rougemont Gardens were originally part of the defence of Exeter Castle while Northernhay Gardens are of outstanding historic significance and home to a stretch of Roman wall.

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