Coming to university in Exeter means you are granted access to a top level of academic tuition, a beautiful campus, great people, but most importantly, brilliant shopping. I came from a small city with barely a New Look and a Dorothy Perkins to rub together; so coming to Exeter was great for my shopping passion, but terrible for my bank account. It took me all year to find some of the best shops in Exeter, so I’ve compiled this handy list of the key areas you should hit to save you the work. It is genuinely true that there is a shop for every style. Debit cards at the ready ladies and gentlemen!
Your go-to for all your high street favourites. With a more premium end and a more budget-friendly end, there is an impressive range of shops in a fairly small but beautifully kept outdoor centre. Naturally, there is a Topshop/Topman, a New Look, a River Island and H&M for fast fashion at cheap prices (and all of these also offer student discount in some way, shape or form – check their websites for exact details). As you stroll past Swarovski and Apple, (a very useful shop to have when you inevitably drop your iPhone outside Timepiece) you get to Karen Millen, AllSaints, Reiss and the newly opened M.A.C. store. These stores are perfect for treating yourself to some really special pieces, so if you’re in the mood to splurge, head their way.
Just off the high street down a tiny alley next to Urban Outfitters, Gandy Street is the stuff of Exeter legend – the story goes that J.K. Rowling based Diagon Alley on it and the imposing white corner building of The Vaults (Exeter’s most popular LGBTQ+ nightclub) is the inspiration for Gringotts in the Harry Potter novels. Down its small cobbled street there are some hidden treasures that not everyone knows about.
The new vintage shop Sobey’s offers a great array of well-kept vintage and reworked clothing at really good prices. Their jewellery is particularly unique, so you can afford to add some of their pieces to any outfit to give it a bit of a twist. Up from there are some great bars (Hats and John Gandy’s) which are perfect for nights out with friends or even going on dates, and some other really unique and different shops. Moko is one of these, specialising in quirky gifts and homewares that can help you out for Mother’s day, Christmas or just for brightening up your own student room.
If you head down the high street and off the beaten track, Fore Street is where some of the most niche shops are located. There is a host of fancy dress shops down here (perfect for stocking up on outfits for the hundreds of themed club nights you’ll have to attend) as well as shops like Blue Banana that cater for alternative personal styles. Down there, you’ll also find cute little haberdashery shops. These can come in really handy if you need to repair your favourite top after a wild Cheesy Tuesday.
But, by far the jewel in the crown of Fore Street is the Arcade about halfway down. Under cover, and truly unique, McCoy’s Arcade is home to classic gaming and music shops, streetwear labels and at the end, the famous Real McCoy vintage store bursting with amazing clothes at brilliant prices. Downstairs is full of period pieces from the early 20th century – flapper dresses, faux fur coats, dinner suits and loads of beautifully preserved accessories. Upstairs is full of denim shirts, amazingly cheap but 100 per cent real leather and shearling jackets, 80s shell suits, and all manner of other high-quality vintage pieces, as well as some more cheap fancy dress items. It’s definitely worth visiting a few times; they change their stock regularly so you never know what you might find!
Exeter Christmas Market
Sadly it only comes once a year, but the Exeter Christmas Market, held on the Cathedral Green, is definitely a must when it arrives in November. Again, it is perfect for gifts, and features shops selling great locally made goods of all descriptions. Crafts, sweets, wine, clothing and ornaments, as well as much more, are all on offer. Be sure to try the authentic hog roast that is second to none if you get a chance – it has the power to turn even the most hardcore vegetarian.