Plymouth: the vibrant Devonshire city that attracts holidaymakers from across the UK. Loved for its stunning waterfronts and historic gardens, Plymouth is home to an abundance of attractions suitable for the whole family – many of them free to do. Whether you’re a local trying to plan a family day out or travelling for a long weekend staycation, here are ten free things to do in Plymouth.
If you’re visiting Plymouth – whether for a day or long weekend – The Barbican should be your first port of call (pun intended). The city’s famous port has been shaped by its history of war and trade – though it’s no longer used for the former. Instead, it’s a great place to wander along cobbled streets to discover independent shops, cafes, and restaurants, with architecture left relatively untouched on the outside. It’s a place packed with history, too, which the museums, art galleries, and Elizabethan houses all attest to.
Plymouth hoe is the heart of the city, standing tall and proud amongst the backdrop of one of the world’s greatest natural harbours once used by the legendary Sir Francis Drake. Seeing the hoe is a must-do activity in itself, but a sensory garden, memorials, and a long stretch of promenade mean there’s always something to do in the area. Its proximity to the sea means a swim on the pebble beach is only a walk away.
Museum, art gallery, and archive all in one, is the best place to get your free dose of culture in Plymouth. The site was previously home to the Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, but a £46 million renovation in 2020 transformed it into a hub of history, galleries, and exhibition spaces complete with a café, shop, and bar. It’s an insight into local and international history and art, with enough on exhibit to spend a whole day of discovery and learning.
Plymouth City Centre
Plymouth’s city centre is a hub for shopping, food, and drink, with several shopping centres and markets scattered in between luscious greenery. Drake Circus is the county’s most popular shopping centre, home to all of your favourite high street retailers and food and drink chains. Plymouth Market is the place to go for your independent stores, with over 150 stalls selling gifts and produce you won’t find anywhere else. If the weather’s good, make sure to explore Royal William Yard for its wide range of restaurants, bars, and independent shops.
National Trust properties are always a safe bet for a great day out, and Saltram is no different. The house itself is stunning, set in the beautiful Devonshire countryside. Inside you’ll find treasures representing Saltram’s Georgian history, dating all the way back to the early 1700s. If the weather’s up to it, explore the 500 acres of National Trust grounds, including beaches, meadows, saltmarshes, and an estuary – all free of charge.
Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park
Spanning a huge 865 acres across southeast Cornwall is Mount Edgbumbe House and Country Park, one of the most historic and iconic attractions in Plymouth. The house was commissioned by King Henry VIII in the 16th century while the gardens have been expanding ever since. There’s a fee to visit the house and Earl’s Garden, but the rest of the park is free all year-round. There are five stunning walks taking you around different parts of the grounds, so there’s more than enough to explore over a whole day.
Devonport Naval Heritage Centre
Plymouth’s dockyard has played a pivotal role in the history of the country, and the pays homage to that. It records the development of the dockyard since 1300, including two world wars, its relationship with the Royal Navy, and the people of Plymouth. Through the heritage site, you can explore some of the buildings, exhibit galleries, and naval vessels which tell the story of the historic dockyard and learn how important it’s been to the city itself.
How can you visit Plymouth without dipping your toes in the sea? Wembury, is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is home to a quaint beach which is perfect for a family day out. The sand is fine, the water has won an award from the Marine Conservation Society for its cleanliness, and it has enough rock pools to keep the kids busy all day. The cliff paths which surround it lead you up and down the coast to other small beaches if you’re in the mood for exploring.
Dartmoor National Park
Walking, cycling, camping, climbing, canoeing; the list of free activities you can do in Dartmoor National Park is almost endless. But while you can pack up your boots and tent and hike any part of the country, the dramatic landscape Dartmoor offers makes it a must-do for anyone visiting Plymouth. With quaint towns and villages to explore, archaeological sites to unearth, and wild animals to discover, Dartmoor National Park has enough to keep the whole family busy for days, if not weeks.
St. Andrew’s Church
No free city day out is complete without a visit to a church, and Plymouth has one of the most impressive in the country. was built between the 14th and 15th centuries, but the site it sits on has been used for religious purposes for over 1,000 years. It’s an historic landmark, and one that has to be part of your tour of Plymouth.
There are so many free things to do in Plymouth that you’ll be soon be visiting for more. If you’re travelling by train, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.