Area Guide: Exeter

From the stunning River Exe to the green space of Dartmoor National Park, Exeter is the perfect place to put down roots and enjoy the great outdoors.

In this Exeter guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the city, where to live and how much it costs to buy a property.

We’ll also highlight Exeter’s best schools, pubs, and restaurants, and showcase the area’s superb transport links.
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Is Exeter in Devon?

Exeter is the second largest city in Devon, 36 miles from the city of Plymouth and 65 miles south west of Bristol.

Is Exeter a good place to live?

Exeter is fantastic city to live in, and was named the ninth best city in the UK in 2021.

The city was also dubbed the UK’s friendliest city in a survey by Parkdean Resorts.

Exeter combines the best in urban amenities with superb rural green spaces, making it the ideal place for families to put down roots.

Is living in Exeter expensive?

Without rent taken into account, consumer prices in Exeter are 20% lower than those in London, according to Numbeo.

And with rent 55% cheaper in Exeter than in the capital, the city is a very affordable place to live.

The best places to live in Exeter

1. St Leonard’s

St Leonard’s is a hugely popular residential area of Exeter with a village feel and a vibrant community.

The area is popular with families and young professionals, with a large number of impressive period homes.

For the best Georgian properties in the area, look on roads like Lyndhurst Road, where white stucco-fronted properties can be found.

2. Topsham

Topsham lies on the estuary of the River Exe and is a quaint, fishing village that offers some stunning properties as well as great connections.

Topsham has its own railway station and is also close to the M5 for superb links to Exeter and beyond.

Properties in the village are a lovely mix of traditional cottages and town houses, many with riverside views.

3. Exeter quayside

Right on the edge of the River Exe, the quayside area of Exeter is a lively and popular spot, with pubs and restaurants alongside former industrial buildings which are now riverside flats.

You’ll also find plenty of period properties in the area, many with views of the river.

4. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to the University of Exeter, with Harry Potter author JK Rowling having lived in the area while a student in the city back in the 1980s.

The area offers plenty of Victorian and Edwardian properties to the south, while more modern 20th century housing can be found to the north.

5. Heavitree

The suburb of Heavitree lies to the east, between the city centre and the M5 motorway.

The area is best known for its narrow streets of terraced period homes, while larger, bay-fronted family homes can be found on roads like Roseland Avenue.

6. Alphington

Another former village, the suburb of Alphington is south of Exeter city centre.

Most of the properties on offer in Alphington are 20th century homes, but some cottages and modern bungalows can also be found.

House prices in Exeter

The average price of a property in Exeter in the year to October 2021 was £282,168 according to Dataloft Inform – a rise of 9% on October 2020.

Average costs by property type in Exeter

Detached house: £414,680

Semi-detached house: £272,462

Terraced house: £240,040

Flat / apartment: £161,412

Property to rent in Exeter

Rental properties in Exeter include many period homes from the Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian eras, as well as early and late 20th century houses and more modern flats and apartments.

Rental prices in Exeter

The average monthly rent for a property in Exeter was £902* in October 2021.

Buy-to-let investors can expect yields of between 4% and 6% on rental properties in Exeter, with good demand from young professionals, families and students studying at the city’s university.

*Prices from Dataloft Inform October 2021

The best schools in Exeter

Exeter has excellent schooling, making it a popular choice for families looking to rent or buy.

Seven primary schools within three miles of the city centre are rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted:

  • St Leonard’s CofE Primary School
  • Ladysmith Infant and Nursery School
  • Exwick Heights Primary School
  • St Michael’s CofE Primary Academy
  • Stoke Hill Infant and Nursery School
  • Ide Primary School
  • Ellen Tinkham School

A further 16 primaries are rated ‘Good’, including:

  • St David’s CofE Primary School
  • St Thomas Primary School
  • Montgomery Primary School
  • St Sidwell’s CofE Primary School and Nursery
  • Redhills Primary School
  • Bowhill Primary School

Five secondary schools within three miles of Exeter city centre are rated ‘Good’, meanwhile:

  • Barley Lane School
  • Isca
  • Southbrook School
  • St James School
  • St Peter’s CofE Aided School

Exeter is also known for its superb independent schools, which include:

  • Exeter Cathedral School
  • The Maynard
  • Blundells

The University of Exeter is home to more than 20,000 students studying a huge range of undergraduate and post-graduate courses.

Exeter transport links

Exeter is extremely well connected to the rest of the South West and beyond, by road, rail and air.

Exeter rail links

With three main train stations, Exeter offers rail commuters plenty of options.

Direct trains from Exeter St David’s to London Paddington take just over two hours, while services to Bristol Temple Meads arrive in less than an hour.

Trains to Birmingham, meanwhile, arrive in two hours and 30 minutes.

Exeter road links

The M5 motorway runs to the east of Exeter city centre, connecting the area with Somerset, Gloucestershire, Bristol and Birmingham.

The A30, meanwhile, links Exeter with Cornwall to the west and the A303 to the east for the M3 to London.

Exeter airport links

Exeter Airport is just four miles from the city centre and offers domestic and European flights to a host of destinations.

Five of the best pubs in Exeter

Exeter is home to cocktail bars, traditional pubs, and modern ale houses, making it an ideal city for nightlife.

Here are our top-five Exeter pubs…

1. The Fat Pig

Quirky and popular in equal measure, The Fat Pig is a short walk from the River Exe.

The venue prides itself on its locally sourced menu, ales and spirits, which are produced in-house at its mini-distillery.

2. Tabac Taphouse

A sister venue of The Fat Pig, the Tabac Taphouse specialises in home-brewed craft ales and is located close to Exeter central station – making it an ideal venue for a post-commute drink.

3. Mill on the Exe

Housed in a former paper mill, The Mill on the Exe has been a focal point of the city for more than 30 years.

Traditional beamed ceilings and riverside views mean The Mill’s character matches its wide-ranging drinks menu.

4. The Hourglass

Open since 1848, The Hourglass is a traditional pub with a great food and drink menu.

The venue’s drinks menu features ales from Exeter Brewery and Exe Valley Brewery, giving it a distinctly local feel.

5. The Oddfellows Bar

As well as an impressive menu of craft ales, The Oddfellows is also doing its bit for the environment by ensuring no waste from the venue ends up in landfill.

You’ll also find great gastro food and live comedy, as well as special pop-up kitchens.

The best restaurants in Exeter

Exeter offers a whole host of amazing places to eat, with many of the city’s restaurants featuring in the prestigious Michelin Guide.

Here are our top-five restaurants in the city…

1. Salutation Inn, Topsham

The Salutation has been serving customers in Topsham, just outside the city, since 1720.

Now featured in the Michelin Guide for the quality of its menu, guests can expect to find local produce like Devon crab, partridge and locally caught skate.

2. The Galley, Topsham

Based alongside the River Exe estuary, The Galley specialises in locally caught fish and seafood.

Run by head chef Jason Mead, the venue is featured in the Michelin Guide and has been praised for its simple approach to seafood.

3. Stage

Stage offers diners imaginative lunch and dinner tasting menus, alongside music, canapes and cocktails.

The six-course evening tasting menu includes roasted hand-dived scallops and Cornish spider crab alongside an olive oil sorbet.

4. Red Panda

Red Panda is known for its Asian street food that comes with a healthy twist.

Its baos (steamed buns with teriyaki tofu or meat and raw vegetables) are hugely popular and an excellent choice for lunch on the go.

5. Harry’s Restaurant

Founded by the Pounds family in 1993 and now run by chef proprietor Samantha Pounds, Harry’s offers brunch, lunch, and intimate dinner seats.

Locally reared meats and seasonal produce from local farms all make Harry’s one of Exeter’s most popular eateries.

Things to do in Exeter

Exeter’s history can be explored by visiting the city’s cathedral – one of the best examples of gothic architecture in the UK.

The cathedral grounds during the summer are a wonderful place to soak up some sun and enjoy a picnic, too.

The historic quayside is a short walk from the city centre and is a picturesque way to spend time exploring Exeter’s architecture, while also taking in some historic waterside pubs and cafes.

A boat trip on the River Exe, meanwhile, allows you to see the city from a different angle, while the glorious open space of Dartmoor National Park is approximately 10 miles away.

The historic port of Topsham is a must visit and can be reached via bike, public transport or on foot from Exeter.

Take in the stunning views from the Exe estuary and stroll along the Goat Walk while watching boaters and paddleboarders on the river.

Topsham is also home to a number of independent restaurants and boutique-style shops, while Exeter itself is superb for high street shopping.

As well as the high street, Princesshay shopping centre offers more than 60 shops including Levi’s, Zara, Apple, Molton Brown, River Island and Pandora.

Sport lovers, meanwhile, can take in football at Exeter City’s St James Park stadium or Premiership rugby at Sandy Park, the home of Exeter Chiefs.