It wasn’t that long ago that we were enjoying some festive overindulgence. Now Christmas has eaten all our money, it’s still dark outside, summer feels like a distant dream and we’re not even half-way through January yet!

We're not worried though, as there are plenty of fun, free things to keep us busy in Exeter this January, here are some ideas for free things to do in and around Exeter.


Exeter’s award-winning museum offers a whole variety of exciting exhibitions and activities to suit everyone. Free admission allows everyone the freedom to visit as often and for as long as they wish and there are always lots of fascinating things and ever changing events and programmes going on.

Find out more.

RAMM Exeter

2. Red Coat Guided Tours

Join the Red Coats on a free walking tour of Exeter to take advantage of their incredible local and historical knowledge. Tours run daily, even in winter, and each tour focuses on a different aspect of Exeter’s rich history and culture. Tours start outside the main West Front of the Cathedral (a few meet outside the Custom House on the Quay as well) - no need to book, just turn up!

Red Coat Guided Tours

3. Self-Guided Heritage Trails

In a city steeped in history, follow Exeter's City Wall Trail, Woollen Trail or Medieval Trail to discover interesting information and sites of interest that have shaped Exeter throughout the centuries. There are fun quizzes and puzzles for children to solve along the way so don’t forget to bring a pen and some paper with you.  Pick up your free trail leaflets from Exeter Visitor Information & Tickets or the Custom House Visitor Centre.

4. Exeter Guildhall

Over 800 years old, the Exeter Guildhall has played a key role in the city’s civic life, with many of the dramatic events of Exeter's history being played out here. Alongside the historic features of the building itself, including its fine oak roof, door and gallery,  see the display of civic regalia, including a collection of swords, and the impressive collection of silver - an accumulation of gifts by past mayors and sheriffs to mark their year in office.

 A structure of outstanding architectural interest, this busy, working building is regularly used for a variety of civic functions and full meetings of the City Council. Check out its opening times when you'd like to visit, as these vary weekly.

5. Exeter Cathedral

Although not free for adults (£7.50 per ticket), children under 18 are free if accompanied by a paying adult. (If you live in Exeter you can apply for a Residents’ Card, offering people living in postcodes EX1-EX4 free entry to the Cathedral during normal visitor hours).

Dating back 900 years, Exeter Cathedral is one of England's most beautiful medieval cathedrals and one of the finest examples of decorated Gothic architecture in this country. Expert guided tours, trails and activities are all included within the admission price.

Exeter Cathedral

6. St Nicholas Priory

The 900-year-old guest wing of a former Benedictine Priory, St Nicholas Priory is now furnished as an Elizabethan town house offering families the chance to experience Tudor life. Open on Sunday afternoons, 1 - 4pm.

7. Custom House

Built in 1680 at the height of Exeter's woollen cloth industry, the Exeter Custom House is now a visitor centre and a meeting point for Exeter Red Coat Guided Tours. It provides a whole host of fascinating things such as information for tourists, quayside treasure hunts and an accommodation booking service. Watch the short film illustrating Exeter's history in just 15 minutes!

Custom House

8. Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

Free to enter and open seven days a week, the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum offers an audience's experience of the moving image. Both an accredited public museum and an academic research facility, it holds a collection of over 75,000 items with over 1,000 of them on display. Explore popular visual culture through exhibits of toys, artefacts, images and memorabilia dating back from the seventeenth century to the present day.

Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

9. Tuckers Hall

Home to the city’s important historic woollen cloth trade heritage and free to enter, Tuckers Hall is a stunning building dating from around AD 147 which has a long and interesting history. Explore the exhibits and learn about the origin of some of our everyday phrases - all associated with the woollen cloth trade! Open on Thursdays, 10.30am - 1pm and the first Saturday of each month throughout the year, plus additional summer openings.

10. Haldon Forest

We're heading outdoors now - it may be a bit chilly but sometimes this is the best time to explore Exeter's beautiful surrounding countryside, when there aren't many people around, giving you a real feeling of escapism!

Made up of 3,500 acres of stunning woodland, Haldon Forest Park is a great place for exploring and adventuring. No matter what your thing is, from experienced hiker to a casual stroller, there is something for everyone. With a wide range of walking and cycling trails, this is a great place to go to enjoy the great outdoors, whilst only being a short drive away from the city centre.

Haldon Forest Park

11. Donkey Sanctuary

Situated near the coast at Sidmouth (approx. 30 minute drive from Exeter or an hour's scenic bus ride), the Donkey Sanctuary is home to donkeys, mules and hinnies. As well as meeting some of the friendly resident donkeys, explore the sanctuary’s new indoor attractions including the Visitor Centre, Understanding Donkeys Zone and Dr Svendsen’s Hut. There are also guided walks, scenic trails and a maze to lose yourself in.

Donkey Sanctuary

12. Bird watching at Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham

Bowling Green Marsh is a great place to learn about migratory and domestic wildfowl in a tranquil setting. Enjoy a scenic walk around the Goat Walk, with beautiful views of the Exe Estuary and the chance to learn lots of interesting information about local wildlife via the interpretation boards. It's also not too far to walk, scoot or cycle from here to the quaint estuary town of Topsham itself, or to Darts Farm.

Bowling Green Marsh


Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery - RAMM
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery - RAMM

The Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) is one of Exeter City Council’s flagship services. RAMM is also supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Stunning displays reveal Devon and Exeter’s rich history and global connections. Exotic animals, birds and insects delight children and a changing programme of exhibitions and events means there is likely to be something different to see on every visit. Free entry gives everyone the freedom to visit many times and to stay any length of time.

Exeter Red Coat Guided Tours
Walking Tour
Exeter's Red Coat Guided Tours

The City's award winning Red Coat Guided Tours are provided by Exeter City Council and are the perfect way to explore Exeter, one of the oldest cities of England. Run by experienced qualified volunteer guides a variety of tours are available, each one focusing on a different aspect of Exeter's history and culture

Exeter City Wall Trail
Walking Tour
City Wall Trail

A self-guided tour exploring Exeter's ancient city wall.

Exeter Woollen Trail
Walking Tour
Exeter Woollen Trail

A self-guided tour exploring the buildings and history of Exeter's woollen trade.

Exeter Medieval Trail
Waymarked Trail
Exeter Medieval Trail

Discover Exeter's medieval past, find out about many of Exeter's surviving gems and the events that helped to shape this period of Exeter's past.

Exeter Guildhall
Historic Site
Exeter Guildhall

The Guildhall has served as the centrepiece of Exeter's civic life for more than 800 years.

Exeter Cathedral
Exeter Cathedral

Medieval cathedral. Fine example of Gothic Decorated style. Longest unbroken stretch of Gothic vaulting in the world. Image screen on West Front, Minstrels' Gallery and tombs. Expert guided tours, trails and activities for the family

St Nicholas Priory
St Nicholas Priory

Situated off Fore Street in Exeter City Centre, Saint Nicholas Priory was founded by William the Conqueror in about 1087. The 2 ranges remaining from the original 4 sided structure are now managed by Exeter Historic Buildings Trust (EHBT).

Custom House Visitor Centre
Heritage/Visitor Centre
Custom House Visitor Centre

The Custom House Visitor Centre is in the centre of Exeter's historic quayside & occupies one of the most historic buildings on the waterfront.

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum
The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum

A museum dedicated to the audience's experience of the moving image. Explore the visual culture from magic lanterns to Marilyn Monroe. The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum is an ACE Accredited public museum dedicated to our experience of the moving image. Visitors can explore popular visual culture through exhibits of toys, artefacts, images and memorabilia from the seventeenth century to the present day. It is home to one of the largest collections of material relating to the moving image in Britain. We are both an accredited public museum and an academic research facility and we hold a collection of over 75,000 items. Over 1,000 of our items are on display, and everyone is welcome to visit our galleries seven days a week (except bank holidays

Tuckers Hall
Historic House/Palace
Tuckers Hall

Ancient hall of the still existing Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen, one of the craft guilds of Exeter. With 15thC roof timber and Jacobean panelling this building is a real gem and one of the most important in the city's financial history.

Haldon Forest Park - Forestry England
Country Park/Nature Reserve
Haldon Forest Park - Forestry Commission - walking with view
The Donkey Sanctuary
Animal Collection
Family enjoys meeting donkey

With adventures for all the family, make memories that last a lifetime at The Donkey Sanctuary. Meet hundreds of friendly rescue donkeys for FREE and discover so much more besides.

Bowling Green Marsh
Country Park/Nature Reserve
Bowling Green Marsh (c) RSPB

Managed by the RSPB, Bowling Green Marsh nature reserve is an area of coastal grazing marsh alongside the River Exe Estuary, on the outskirts of Topsham.



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