Nightlife and going out

The high proportion of students in Exeter makes for a buzzing, creative nightlife despite the relatively small size of the city's population. A number of independent local breweries feed the city’s varied pub culture, which stretches from big chain venues to weird curio pubs round corners and down back streets. While the city’s nightclubs aren’t numerous, a culture of outdoor events offers a surprising amount of variety, while arts centres, (literally) underground music  venues, and independent theatres ensure there’s plenty of choice of live entertainment for a great night out.

If the theatre and cinema are more your idea of a good night out, don’t forget to read our Arts and culture webpage.

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The pubs in Exeter have a rich and varied history, from The Ship Inn between the High Street and the cathedral, where the likes of Sir Francis Drake used to drink, to gastro-pubs off the beaten track like The Fat Pig, Oddfellows, and The Hourglass, and boisterous venues at the top of Fore Street.

Perennial student favourites include: the Victoria Inn, mere moments from Streatham Campus and slap-bang in the middle of Exeter’s peak student housing area; the enormous Imperial Hotel, a giant Wetherspoons with rolling gardens near St David’s train station; and The Firehouse, famed for its excellent range of beers and ciders, its giant late-night pizzas, and for allegedly being the inspiration for Harry Potter’s The Leaky Cauldron.

Summer isn’t complete without a visit to Double Locks, a beautiful pub along the canal, or its downstream neighbour, Turf Locks, which has extraordinary views across the Exe. The estuary village of Topsham, meanwhile, has a wealth of pubs close to its picturesque quay, perfect for warm afternoons.

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The South West has a quietly impressive musical heritage, and the city has several venues catering for all tastes. The University’s own Great Hall is the largest venue in the region, and regularly plays host to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as well as big names in rock and pop.

Across campus you’ll find more alternative fare at the Lemon Grove, while the city centre is home to the region’s subterranean punk-rock mecca, The Cavern. Round the corner from there, The Phoenix is Exeter’s art centre and cultural hub, with live music several times a week ranging from folk, blues, jazz and world to banging techno and indie rock.

Obviously Exeter can’t compete with the likes of London or Manchester if you want to dance all night, but there are still plenty of options. Unit 1, just off Sidwell Street, runs most of your common-or-garden cheesy student nights. Timepiece is Exeter’s self-proclaimed “half decent nightclub”, and caters for both the city’s more discerning club-goers and an inordinate number of sports team socials depending on which night of the week it is.

Elsewhere Mosaic, The Terrace, and, of course, The Lemmy, offer student-friendly variety, while promoters Thick As Thieves run an array of high-quality nights, booking the best names in dance music at venues across the city. Their Exmouth boat parties are legendary, as is their own Hijacked Festival in May.

Exeter celebrates history and embraces today... its thriving nightlife, lively cultural scene and rich history make it well worth a visit. This old city is young at heart thanks to a large student crowd and plenty of bars, clubs and cafés, especially around the revitalised quay area.

Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain