Visiting Exeter - What to See and Do
(Exeter International Airport EXT, England)
Just the name Exeter
evokes a sense of mystery and royalty, a place where knights stormed walls and noble explorers strolled its streets. This fascinating city was built by the Romans in the 1st century and traces of its ancient stone walls still linger today.
Though much of its beauty was destroyed by WWII, Exeter managed to escape the worst and still has some beauties in its core, like the Gothic cathedral and a strip of historic houses. A lively university student population keeps the scene buzzing, with fun bars and trendy little cafés tucked among the city's back streets, and attractions targeting the lucrative tourist market.
Exeter is a great English city for a weekend getaway. It has just enough history to create an atmosphere, but nothing is dull. Interesting shopping, a canal and river for recreation, and a countryside littered with interesting sights makes Exeter a very well-rounded travel destination without any real hype.
Ten things you must do in Exeter
- One of the prettiest churches anywhere in England is Exeter Cathedral. It has a fantastic history dating back to Saint Boniface and earlier. Though many aspects have been destroyed over the centuries, the twin Norman towers from the 12th century still stand. Its well-known choir sings evensong every night, but the church is worth a visit anytime.
- Powderham Castle is the private home of the Earl of Devon and dates back to the 14th century. It is an absolute marvel, and luckily for the common man it is open to public tours. Its family portraits, timeless furnishings and overall atmosphere are everything that you would expect in a medieval English castle in full repose.
- Visit England's oldest municipal building at the Exeter Guildhouse on Main Street in the city centre. It was first built in 1160, although the facade we see today is from the Tudor era in 1593. It is still a working building, but it often opens for visitors to admire its classic guildhall interior.
- There are some great little shops in Exeter, from the antique dealers along Western Way next to the Quay to silversmiths on Queen Street. The Edinburgh Woollen Mill is another example of the diverse and interesting range of old-style shopping on offer here.
- Classical music, opera, dance and theatre are on a rotating docket at the Exeter Phoenix. This is the city's main venue for performing arts, and it enjoys a steady schedule of quality events.
- You can still get a taste of William the Conqueror's day at the Norman Gatehouse just off Castle Street. The great king's castle once stood here, although all that is left now is the gatehouse and walls. The views are inspiring, and you can ponder the waves of invasion that Exeter has endured from the Romans to the Nazis.
- Spend a day exploring the pathways that run along the city's canal and river. They run for miles in both directions and are ideal for walking or biking. Bike rental shops are easy to find along the Quay, with useful maps published by the city.
- If you have kids or are a child at heart, the Crealy Great Adventure Park is just outside the city limits. It has a decent assortment of rides and slides, both indoors and outdoors.
- Go church hopping in the historic city centre of Exeter. Within a few square blocks are a half-dozen beautiful medieval churches, with these charming religious attractions including the likes of St. Martin's, St. Mary Arches, St. Olave's, St. Petrock's and St. Stephen's.
- Have a pint of beer with a 14th-century ghost at the Well House Tavern. It is a great old pub off Cathedral Close with as much atmosphere as you would expect from such a historic building. Stories say a friendly ghost named Alice haunts the place. Either way, it is an ideal spot downtown for a pint and a pub lunch.