Exeter sure knows how to put on a show, with award-winning theatres, world-class music venues, an awe-inspiring cathedral and plenty more for you to visit. You can enjoy an intimate acoustic evening in a café bar one night, then a bombastic panto on the biggest stage in the city the next. There’s something for everyone, so decide whether you wish to laugh, cry, smile or dance and take your pick from our guide for entertaining ways to spend your spare time in Exeter.
Entertainment in Exeter
If it’s live music that you’re looking for, Exeter’s surely got a gig for you. Whether it’s folk or funk that gets your foot tapping, the Exeter Phoenix is a unique multi-artform venue that caters for an eclectic range of genres. Artists from across the country are invited to play in the main auditorium. As you’d expect from a venue that boasts its own recording studios, the sound is always on point. So peruse their programme and see if some familiar names are playing during your stay. If not, that still shouldn’t stop you from heading down; you may discover your new favourite band. You can find out more about the Exeter Phoenix on our dedicated page.
This creative corner of the south-west is abundant with local Exeter artists that are looking to make a name for themselves. Every Thursday, Artigiano Café Bar on the High Street hosts a live lounge, which attracts amateur musicians and music aficionados alike. And if you’re all about that jazz, then make sure you don’t miss out on their Monday jazz nights for a winning combination of smooth grooves and cracking cocktails.
Venues don’t get much more stunning than Exeter Cathedral. Every now and then, it opens its ornate doors for classical concerts that reverberate long in the memory, ranging from the Exeter Philharmonic Choir to guest ensembles from around the world. Traditions ring true in these parts; for centuries, locals and visitors have been serenaded by the cathedral choir’s evensong on weekdays at 5.30pm. The service is completely free and open to all, so why not head down for a listen?
Artigiano Café Bar
From pantos to Pinter, the variety of plays put on in Exeter means that there’s something for everyone. Take your pick from a handful of theatres that each offer something different to Exeter’s entertainment scene.
When it comes to theatre, size isn’t everything, In fact, the intimacy of a small production is often tough to beat. Need proof? Visit The Bike Shed Theatre; a renovated cellar near Exeter Cathedral with bare brick walls and brilliant plays from bold, emerging theatre-makers. You can find it beneath The Bike Shed... yes, the bicycle shop! At the opposite end of the scale, the Exeter Corn Exchange is the largest theatre venue in the city. It’s the best place for pantomime (oh yes it is!), with shows such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast pleasing its 500-seat-strong crowd.
Exeter Northcott Theatre prides itself on being the city’s ‘flagship professional theatre’. Ever since its early opening nights in the ’60s, Northcott has led by example, pioneering radical productions and contemporary themes in diverse programmes that go beyond classic plays and mask theatre.
Other honourable mentions include Exeter Barnfield Theatre - a completely independent theatre that was purpose-built in the 19th century, so there’s not a bad seat in the house – and Exeter Phoenix – a truly unique multi-arts venue that hosts theatre, comedy, dance, talks, live music and more. To find out all about theatre in Exeter, you can head over to our dedicated page.
If you’re looking for a laugh – and we’re not talking about mere chortles and guffaws here – then make your way to the Exeter Corn Exchange on the first Friday of every month for their comedy club night. It’s practically an Exeter institution; established over 20 years ago to give four up-and-coming comedy acts per night the chance to stand up and take centre stage. Be sure to book though, as shows have a habit of selling out. But if you book for four or more, then you’re guaranteed a table of your own. And while we’re on a roll making recommendations, try the pizza – it’s no joke!
Exeter’s a city of two sporting teams that play in different leagues, in more ways than one.
Exeter Chiefs are the city’s rugby union team that were crowned the English Premiership champions for the first time in their history during the 2016/17 season. A long time coming, the club was founded way back in 1871. Here’s something for you pub quiz aficionados; the first rugby union match the New Zealand national team ever played on English soil was hosted by Exeter Rugby Club in 1905 – it was the same game where they were given their nickname as the ‘All Blacks’. And if you fancy brushing up some more on your knowledge of Exeter Rugby Club during your stay, you will find it conveniently located just two miles from our Exeter (M5 J29) hotel.
Exeter City sadly have less to celebrate in their history as the city’s only football team. That’s not to say that they haven’t got plenty to be proud of though. Founded in 1901 under their original moniker, St Sidwell’s United, ‘The Grecians’ is a club entirely owned by their supporters. You can see them play against their League Two rivals at St. James Park (not to be confused with Newcastle United or, of course, the mighty Brackley Town – both of whose grounds share the same name).
If you want to find out everything there is to know about Exeter Racecourse, we’ve created a page dedicated to the city’s thoroughbred horse racing venue.