Plymouth’s rich maritime history is perfectly offset by its sparkling new waterfront, which was built as part of an extensive regeneration project aimed at bringing the city back to its prime – and it’s working. Set in the southwest of Devon County, Plymouth is a gorgeous and historic city that knows how to have fun at the seaside.

An exciting sense of discovery runs throughout the ocean city. Many famous seafarers begun their travels here: Charles Darwin embarked on his voyage around the Galapagos, Sir Francis Drake set off to circumnavigate the globe, and the Pilgrims sailed in search of the New World in 1620.

The coastal paths offer endless summer strolls, hidden coves, beautiful bays and swathes of undisturbed sandy beaches.

Did you know?

  1. Plymouth is home to two very rare fruits: the Plymouth pear tree and the spikey Plymouth strawberry.
  2. Jacka Bakery in Plymouth is one of the oldest bakeries in the UK. It supposedly baked biscuits for the Mayflower roughly 400 years ago.
  3. Plymouth University was originally the Plymouth School of Navigation – not surprising, given how many famous seafarers set off from Plymouth.
  4. Thought pasties originated in Cornwall? Think again. The earliest record of the pasty is actually found in Plymouth.
  5. Plymouth was home to the first women to be a Member of Parliament. Nancy Astor, a pioneer of women’s rights, represented the constituency of Sutton in Plymouth in the House of Commons in 1919.

What to do in Plymouth

Start by strolling the vibrant cobbled streets of the Barbican district, where prominent historical monuments stand proud alongside the harbour. Watch as yachts sail out to the ocean and fishing boats bob merrily in the water.

For an insight into the nautical history, stop by the Mayflower Steps. They’re currently closed for renovations, but will be reopened in 2020 for the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower to what is now America. If pirates are your preference, catch the ferry to the Cornish smuggling towns of Cawsand and Kingsand, both of which were famous smuggling ports.

Climb the 93 steps of Smeaton’s Tower for far-reaching views of Plymouth and the surrounding seaside. The red and white candy-striped lighthouse is 72 feet high, so you’ll get a great view!

Smeaton's Tower, Plymuoth, England

Gin fanatics will want to visit the historic Plymouth Gin Distillery, which has been in operation since 1793. It’s the oldest gin distillery in England, and it still flavours its gin with its original six botanicals. The informative tours on offer give you a chance to delve into the incredible process used to create the famous gin.Alongside the interesting tour and blind tasting, guests will be invited to create their very own gin using their own bespoke botanicals. We’ll drink to that!

Thanks to its still waters and calm current, Plymouth boasts one of the most perfect spots to learn stand up paddle boarding, a peaceful sport similar to surfing. Head down to Reactive Surf School who will teach you the basics. After you’ve mastered those, slip on a wetsuit and join one of their surf safaris along the shore. 

What to eat and drink in Plymouth

Seafood suppers should be high on the agenda when visiting Plymouth. The Boathouse Café allows you to mix seafood with sea views thanks to their Cook Your Catch tours. Join them on a day boat and go fishing. Once you’ve caught your dinner, the staff at the café will cut, fillet, and cook it for you.

Fish and chips are somewhat of an institution here in the UK, and there’s no better place to grap a portion than the seaside. Watch the boats land with their fresh catches before they head over to Plymouth Fish Market to flog their wares. A portion of local fish and crispy chips is only £3 on Fridays.

Photo of fish and chips

Where to shop in Plymouth

Shopaholics can browse the stores in Drake’s Circus, home to over 70 of the UK’s top brands including Jack Wills, Primark and Topshop. For independent stores, head to Royal William Yard where galleries and boutiques like Identity Fashion mingle next to one another.

Located in the Barbican District, stylist streetwear fans should shop in The Lost Side. This cool concept store stocks the best streetwear brands with a sleek coffee bar next door. If you’re searching for your own tasty seafood then stop by Plymouth Fisheries fish market.