No-Cost Delights – What’s a Free Day in Exeter Like? 

Are you tired of feeling like your wallet controls your every move? As students, we’re mostly living on little, but we have big aspirations to explore and discover more. If you feel like you want to break free from the confines of your room without breaking the bank, keep reading. I can help you plan a FREE day in Exeter. (And no, I don’t mean affordable or “student discounts”. I mean you can actually do this without a wallet at all!)    

Exeter, as a city, has always been a haven for budget-conscious travellers with rich cultural and historical sites as well as its serene outdoor spaces adorned with lush greenery and the riverside charm. Interestingly, most of these attractions don’t cost you a dime to enjoy anyway. 

Let’s begin with some popular oncampus spots and then move off into the city:  

University of Exeter  

You can always just take a leisurely stroll around our picturesque campus, and trust me, you’ll find something new each time.  

Reed Pond on Streatham Campus – a tranquil place to sit and relax

The Forum Piazza is where you can find stalls with games, free goodies, and interesting opportunities to sign up for.  

The Exeter Guild hosts “Give It A Go” events often for you to expand your social circle and connect with new faces. From tote bag designing and badge making to pet therapy day, here is something for everyone to try their hand at and probably even discover a new passion at no cost!   

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum at the uni really beckons to cinephiles. Boasting an impressive collection of over 87,000 items, ranging from books, campaign material, and cigarette cards to postcards, sheet music, and more, it’s like a haven for those passionate about the silver screen. What’s more, admission is free, and you can visit the museum any day from 10 am to 5 pm. Be sure to grab a guidebook at the entrance and prepare for an unforgettable exploration of the fascinating world of film history. 

Keep an eye out for Society events – It is a fantastic way to make the most of your university experience. Many of these events are not only free but also offer valuable opportunities for learning, networking, and personal growth. I recently had the pleasure of attending the Henkel Talk Event hosted by the Women in Business Society, and I must say, it was an incredible experience. From insightful discussions to practical tips and advice shared by industry experts, the event provided immense learning opportunities without any expense.    

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery  

If you’re someone who loves marvelling at Victorian architecture and intricate art, you will surely be charmed by this experience in Exeter. Remember to enter from Rougemont Gardens – Roman Wall so you can take in the breathtaking view of the city and pick up the Rainbow Trail at the reception.  

The museum actually offers interactive experiences like the Queering Butterfly which shares unique stories from the city’s LGBTQ+ community. You can also listen to a compilation of sound pieces crafted offer fresh perspectives on museum objects in a playful way on your own phone.  

River Exe / Quayside 

For the days when you just want to sit by flowing waters and ponder over your life choices – the Quayside is just beautiful. I swear it can do wonders even if you’ve hit a creative roadblock! 

Beautiful walks around the Quay

I take my cycle on Sunday mornings and head here, something like a waterfront weekend detox after a hectic week. I mean, you’ve earned it. There’s also a really cute souvenir store with postcards written over a a 100 years ago, cassettes, game sets, crockery, and more. The postcards cost just 10-20p, I guess they’re almost free?  

Exploring the souvenir and antiques shops

Tip: As you walk along, you’ll see a dam and narrow access path through a park once you cross the smallest bridge in the area. It takes you close to the water – you’ll sometimes find a woman sitting on the rock painting the scenery. It’s beautiful! After all, it’s moments like these that make us appreciate the simple joys in life. 

Exeter Cathedral  

The Cathedral is one of Devon’s most iconic buildings. Steeped in architectural splendour and sacred spaces, this popular tourist attraction is nothing but stunning. Although they do have paid guided tours priced at £6 for international students, it is free to enter if you want to worship or just sit in solace for a while.   

PS. They do have a Residents Card Entry, which means that it is completely free for Exeter residents.

Red Coat Guided Tours  

For those who love the thrill of guided tours and passionate about understanding Exeter’s history and heritage through fascinating insights, the Red Coat Guides are both educational and entertaining! The tour usually begins at the Hooker Statue on Cathedral Green and goes on if there are at least two people.  

You can find the schedule and further details here:  

Exeter Custom House  

As the oldest purpose-built custom house in England, the Exeter Custom House near River Quay boasts a rich history and a diverse range of arts and cultural events. Its distinctive architecture, including a sweeping staircase and ornate plaster ceilings, makes it a favourite among photographers and history enthusiasts alike. The lively Visitor Centre inside has artefacts that vividly depict the evolution of the Exeter Quayside over the past 2000 years!  

Exeter Library   

The Exeter Library on Castle Street is not just a quiet space to study in, but a community hub as well. The days that I want to get out of the mundane routine of studying alone in my room, I head to the library and work on my assignments. It’s not that hard to get lost in this haven of over 60,000 books when I’m on a “short break”. Sometimes, I like to take my lunch and sit in the Rougemont Gardens next to the library and watch puppies playing fetch. You can also chill at The Owl and the Pussycat Café which is inside the library itself. PS: They have around 28 free-to-use computers with printing facilities too.  

St. Nicholas Priory 

Step back in time and discover the enhancing history of this hidden gem on Mint Lane. This is Exeter’s oldest building, a historic site transformed into a luxurious merchant’s townhouse now. It doesn’t end here…are you brave enough to uncover the truth behind the priory’s haunting mysteries? Yep, footsteps where nobody walks and doors closing in locked areas. The secrets of this landmark await those bold enough to seek them!  

Northernhay Gardens   

Located in city centre, this is a popular spot for people seeking tranquillity amidst the hustle. On sunny days, you’ll find students unwinding on the grass by the row of the Sweetgum trees. It’s a great place to catch up with friends and enjoy a picnic with the perfect expansive backdrop. You can also see the Volunteer Memorial and the War Memorial here and stroll along the central pond. Also, the Handkerchief tree, which bursts into bloom with flowers every May!   

Unexplored Nooks  

Despite being a small city, there are surprisingly still a few locations that haven’t made it to everyone’s radar yet! 

Viewpoint: Last year, I decided to take a walk after visiting the St. David’s Church and just a stone’s throw away, I found myself at the most breathtaking viewpoint. It’s not your typical tourist spot – more like a humble parking space – but it offers the most stunning panoramic view of the city. Perched atop a rustic compound wall, I could sit back, relax, and soak in the majestic skyline spread out before me.  

(Location: It’s on St. David’s Hill, next to Oakcliffe Hotel)    

Urban Charm: If you’re in the mood to just walk around the city one day, here’s a place you’ll most definitely love: I was heading to the Exeter Clifton Hill Golf Range last weekend with my friends when I stumbled upon a scene straight out of Notting Hill. Along the way, I found myself walking past a row of charming, colourful houses that instantly caught my eye (An Instagrammable spot!). As I continued on, I entered a sprawling park that seemed to stretch for miles. A group of friends was engaged in a spirited game of basketball, while playful dogs chased after balls thrown by their owners. Over on the grassy lawn, a group of girls sat in a circle, sharing laughter and life stories under the warm sun. I guess we can call it urban charm?  

Parliament Street: It’s not every day that you get to walk down the narrowest street in the world – according to Guinness World Records. The Parliament Street runs between High Street and Waterbeer Street. As you stroll down this quaint thoroughfare, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back in time to a bygone era. Each cobblestone probably tells a story, who knows?  

The House That Moved: Here’s a peculiar sight that never fails to capture imagination – a house that quite literally travelled through time and space. The House That Moved is located on West Street, on the way to River Quay. Houses are usually demolished, or they stay in one place, but this one had other plans. It got moved and also has a slanted appearance, leaning to one side.  

The historic ‘House that moved’


The Exeter Guildhall is an 800-year old iconic landmark that holds a special place in the city’s history and culture. Originally built as a meeting place for the city’s merchant guilds, the Guildhall has served various functions over the years, including as a courthouse, prison, and administrative centre. Its impressive architecture reflects the changing styles and tastes of the times, with elements of medieval, Tudor, and Victorian design.  

PS: Beneath the Guildhall lies a hidden underground crypt which is not always open to the public, but when it is, it’s worth visiting!   

While the Guildhall is housed within the same building as the Shopping Centre, they serve different functions.  

The Shopping Centre is an extremely lively, unique, completely dog-friendly retail complex especially on the weekends. Take your friends and just look around – it’s got grocery stores, fashion stores, cafés, pubs, a food market, and local homegrown boutiques around as well!    

Birthday Freebies   

Did you know? Many cafés in Exeter offer exciting freebies to make the most of your special day!  

I did go around the city on my friends’ birthdays, so here are some places that offered them free drinks or treats:  

  1. Kristy Kreme – A free doughnut  
  1. Starbucks – A free beverage with unlimited refill  
  1. Rosa’s Thai – A free drink  
  1. Pizza Express – A bottle of Prosecco  
  1. Muffin Break – A muffin  
  1. Greggs – A dessert   
  1. Miller and Carter – Champagne  

Well, I think we’ve established that you don’t always have to pay to have a good day. Now, there’s no excuse to go out there and make the most of what our city has to offer. And, who knows what wonders you’ll uncover along the way? Happy exploring!