The Best Way To Spend 24 Hours In Exeter

If you find yourself with just 24 hours to explore the charming city of Exeter, don’t worry – there’s plenty you can see and do in this historic city. From wandering through its picturesque cobbled streets lined with medieval buildings to enjoying delicious cuisine, there’s something for everyone in Exeter.

Allow me to paint the perfect picture of Exeter for you. I’ll map out an itinerary that will take you on a tour of this delightful city, with visits to its most famous spots and hidden gems. And of course, I’ll sprinkle in some tasty food recommendations to keep you fuelled up for the adventure ahead.Hooker Statue, Cathedral GreenExeter was awarded UNESCO City of Literature status in 2019, joining 245 other creative cities across the world. This guide will include some of the spots that won the city this honour. I arrived in the afternoon. However, you can explore the locations mentioned in any order to suit your time in the city.

* This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase something through the links, at no additional cost to you.

So here’s the best way to spend 24 hours in Exeter, starting at St David’s Station.

Arrival at St David’s Station

St. David’s is the main station in Exeter, offering direct trains to major cities like London and Birmingham. My friend and I took the 2.5 hour journey from Birmingham New Street and arrived in Exeter in the early afternoon.Exeter St David's StationAs soon as you step off the train at St David’s, take a moment to admire the artwork along the footbridge. It’s part of a community project, celebrating the City Of Literature status. The artwork was created by local artists and unveiled on World Book Day.

Keep an eye out for special vending machine in the foyer, which dispenses Penguin Books!

The story goes like this; Sir Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books, was waiting at St David’s Station in 1934. He’d just visited his friend Agatha Christie (yes, THE Agatha Christie) and was on his way back to London. He found himself without a book to read on his journey. Watch the video from my visit to learn more.Penguin Books Vending Machine, Exeter St David's Station

Head to Leonardo Hotel

We were booked into the Leonardo Hotel which is in the city centre. It’s easy to get a bus from outside the station but we chose to walk the 20 minutes or so. I prefer to explore as much as possible on foot whenever I’m in a new place because you never know what you might see along the way.

We’d checked in online and it wasn’t long before we were in our room for a quick refresh and a cup of tea. Now, without our luggage, we were ready for our literary adventure. But first, food!

Lunch at The Terrace Rooftop

We stumbled on The Terrace Rooftop by chance, as we were searching for a place for lunch. The restaurant offers panoramic views of Exeter’s skyline.The Terrace Rooftop Restaurant, ExeterBeautifully decorated, it’s a restaurant by day and a lively bar in the evening. Try to get there either before or after the lunch rush because it can get quite busy. I highly recommend the Margherita pizza!Pizza at The Terrace Rooftop

Visit Exeter Cathedral

Make your way to Exeter Cathedral, the most iconic building in Devon. The building you see today was completed in 1400 and has the longest uninterrupted medieval stone vaulted ceiling in the world. A visit to the Cathedral is worth it just to see this. It is so impressive.Exeter CathedralThe intricate carvings and stained glass windows are nothing short of majestic. Spot the astronomical clock, dating back to 1483, which chimes every quarter of an hour.

During the World War II, Exeter was one of the targets of a German air offensive. On 4 May 1942,  the cathedral sustained a direct hit. Since then, the damaged chapel has since been reconstructed.

Cathedral Library

Don’t miss the chance to visit the Cathedral Library, home to rare manuscripts and ancient texts dating back centuries. There are all kinds of books on a range of subjects including local history, theology, medicine and science.Cathedral LibrarySome of the books date as far back as the 11th Century and are so delicate that even the slightest mishandling could see them coming apart. Special pillows are used to rest them on when being used.14th Century Book at the Cathedral Library, ExeterAlthough the library is mainly used for research, the archivist said they encourage visitors. You have to make an appointment and it’s such a small room that it can’t hold a big group at once but it’s definitely worth a visit.Cathedral Library

Cathedral Green

If you have time, relax a while on the Cathedral Green. Admire the cathedral while taking a quick break, take some photos or just people-watch.

There are lush lawns, ancient trees and historic buildings dotted around the Green, creating a picturesque setting.Exeter Cathedral

Explore the Royal Albert Memorial Museum

Continue your 24 hours in Exeter by making your way to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (or RAMM). It’s free to enter and you don’t have to book ahead.Tiger display at Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), ExeterFirst off, the building itself is pretty impressive, with its grand Victorian architecture. You can learn about Exeter’s rich history and culture, from its Roman roots to its medieval heyday and beyond.

Don’t miss the model of Exeter on the ground floor, constructed between 1817 and 1824. It records the city as it was during the late 1700s. It’s one of the earliest surviving models of any town in Britain.

There are fascinating exhibits showcasing artifacts, artworks and interactive displays that span centuries, including costumes and textiles. You can see ancient Egyptian mummies, Roman pottery and even a beautiful statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh.Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM)

Dinner at Namaste Exeter

You must be hungry by now and there are lots of great restaurants for dinner. My friend and I fancied an Indian meal and there are a fair few around the city centre. We decided to head to the authentic South Indian restaurant Namaste Exeter.Namaste Exeter decorThe menu is quite extensive but we picked a chicken karahi, prawn curry and roti. Had we not had a late lunch, we definitely would have ordered one of the sharing dosas. The food was aromatic and delicious and offered the warmth and comfort we needed after a day of walking and exploring.Chicken karahi and prawn curry at Namaste Exeter

Drink at Turk’s Head

After dinner, head to the Turk’s Head, which is right in the middle of the city. It has a 700 year history and is right next to the Guildhall. ‘s been around for more than 700 years.

Can you believe even this pub has a literary connection? Author Charles Dickens (yes, the writer of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol), was a regular and even had his own corner! He even mentioned the Turk’s Head in one of his books; The Pickwick Papers.The Turk's Head, ExeterIt’s definitely a spot worth checking out if you’re a fan of literature or just want to soak up some history while enjoying a pint.

It’s time to call it a night, so head back to the Leonardo Hotel to recharge for the adventures that await you the next day.

Breakfast at Leonardo Hotel

Rise and shine. Let’s continue our 24 hours in Exeter. Start by fuelling up for another day of exploration with a delicious breakfast at Leonardo Hotel. There’s a great selection of hot and cold foods, freshly brewed coffee and pastries and fruits.

Explore The Quay

After breakfast, take a leisurely stroll along The Quay. We were lucky with the weather and the waterfront was bustling with families, tour groups and locals walking their dogs.

It’s a historic area along the River Exe, dating back to Roman times when it served as a busy port for the city. Throughout the centuries, it played a vital role in trade, transporting goods such as wool, tin and coal.Exeter QuaysideToday, visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls along the quayside, taking in the charming architecture and quaint boats moored along the riverbanks. There are also a variety of cafes, restaurants and shops. Or if you have time, why not hire a paddle boat?The Quay

Custom House

Make sure you drop into the Custom House, while you’re at The Quay. It was built in the 17th century as a hub for customs duties and trade regulation during the port’s bustling days.QuaysideToday, it hosts immersive displays to illustrate its pivotal role in maritime commerce. Visitors can explore exhibitions detailing the port’s history, maritime heritage and the role of customs officers. If you can’t take one of the tours, which I’ll talk about next, be sure to watch the 15 minute video to learn more about Exeter’s history.24 Hours In Exeter - The Quay Restaurant

Red Coat Guided Tour

This was one of my favourite things to do on our visit. We took a free Red Coat Guided Tour around Exeter. There are a number of themed tours, which offer a fascinating glimpse into the city’s history, architecture and folklore.

It’s led by knowledgeable local guides dressed in red coats, hence the name! We chose the history of Exeter tour and explored winding streets, ancient landmarks and hidden gems.Quay Lane

There’s a schedule outside Custom House. Pick the tour best suited to you and then head to the meeting point on Cathedral Green.

Lunch at Eat On The Green

You’ll want to be tucking into a hearty lunch now. Head to Eat on the Green, a delightful tearoom nestled in Cathedral Close. For lunch, you can enjoy a variety of freshly prepared sandwiches, salads and pies.

If you prefer a traditional afternoon tea, this is definitely the right place to come. You’ll get tiered stands with finger sandwiches, warm scones served with clotted cream and jam and a range of cakes and pastries. All of this is complemented by a choice of fragrant teas or optional bubbly!Gandy Street

Wander through Gandy Street

Now that you’re pretty full, it’s time to walk off your lunch. Head to the pedestrianised Gandy Street, which is known as Exeter’s own Diagon Alley. Author JK Rowling studied at the University of Exeter. Locals say Gandy Street served as an inspiration for her Harry Potter books.

You’ll find a narrow cobblestone lane lined with independent shops, boutiques and cafes. It’s worth spending some time here looking at vintage finds, handmade jewellery and locally crafted souvenirs.Gandy Street

Parliament Street

A short walk away is Parliament Street, which is Britain’s narrowest Street. It measures just 25 inches at its narrowest point and 45 inches at its widest. It’s 50 metres long and dates back to the 14th century.

It has been claimed to be the world’s narrowest street but this title officially belongs to the Spreuerhofstraße in the city of Reutlingen, Germany.Parliament StreetIt appears I’ve developed a fondness for narrow lanes lately! During my recent trip to Taiwan, we visited the most charmingly narrow entrance to a coffee shop in Tainan!

Fore Street

Next it’s time to explore Fore Street, with its quirky shops, cosy cafes and trendy bars. What makes it stand out is its mix of old and new – you’ll find historic buildings alongside modern boutiques. It’s the perfect spot to spend a some time browsing and relaxing. On my next visit to the city, I’d definitely like to spend a bit more time here.

Visit Book Cycle

Book Cycle is a fantastic shop where you can donate your old books and pick up new ones for free. It promotes reading for everyone and helps reduce waste by giving books a second life. All you need to do is drop off your unwanted books and you can take home three more.Book Cycle bookshopIt’s a system that relies on goodwill and honesty. Some customers may pay 10p for a book, others may spend £10 on the same title. Even if you have no money at all, you can walk away with a read. This was one of my favourite spots in the city, especially as the ethos of sustainability of high up the agenda.Book Cycle BookshopEven if you’re not a fan of literature, you should still stop by to admire the cosy atmosphere within a historic tudor building next to an old-fashioned street lamp.

The interior has low wooden beams running across the low ceilings and uneven floors, which just add to the charm. There’s even a sign just inside the entrance that reads ‘mind your noggin’!Mind Your Noggin sign in Book CycleAnd right across the street, you can admire The House That Moved!

This building has such a fascinating history. In 1961, they physically moved it to its current location to make way for a bypass in the city.The House That Moved

Relax in Northernhay Gardens

It’s now time to take a moment to unwind in Northernhay Gardens. This is one of the oldest public gardens in England. Stroll through beautiful gardens with lots of greenery, pathways and vibrant flowers.

You can see the ancient castle walls behind the trees, which date back to Roman times. It stands as a testament to the city’s rich history. The walls were reinforced by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.Castle Walls, Northernhay Gardens, ExeterThe gardens have seen some history. In the Victorian era, they served as pleasure gardens and later transformed into a memorial site for fallen soldiers. If you have some time, find a quiet spot to sit and admire the beauty of this urban oasis.Soldier Memorial, Northernhay Gardens

Visit The Guildhall

Wrap up your adventure in Exeter with a visit to The Guildhall. This is a historic landmark dating back to the 12th century.

This impressive building with intricate architecture, served as the civic heart of the city for centuries. And Charles Dickens is back! He famously performed readings at the Guildhall during his visits to Exeter.GuildhallIn just 24 hours in Exeter, you’ve discovered just how much is on offer. You can enjoy a varied trip, whether you’re coming alone or with friends and family. There are plenty of historical landmarks as well as hidden gems and remember what makes Exeter so special.

There’s plenty to see and do to appreciate why UNESCO has been awarded City of Literature. Keep this itinerary handy for your next trip because it offers a perfect blend of experiences for a wonderful day in this charming city.24 Hours In Exeter - Northernhay GardensDisclaimer: Visit Exeter paid for this press trip but all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you would like to work with me, click here.

EN - 970x250