Appreciate the cultural transformation this waterfront city has undergone, with the World War II-damaged center now home to fashionable restaurants and maritime attractions.
Stroll along the cobbled quayside and see deep water fish tanks in Plymouth’s aquarium. Tour a gin distillery and sample the wares. Swim in a Jazz Age open-air swimming pool and take a boat trip out into the bay.
Plymouth is home to the most extensive naval base in Western Europe and an important location in British maritime history. The Pilgrim Fathers who settled New England set sail from here, as did Robert Falcon Scott of the Antarctic, Captain James Cook, Charles Darwin and Francis Drake. Since the 17th century the Royal Navy has maintained a base here, which drew extensive fire from the Germans in World War II. Plymouth was the target of a series of 59 Luftwaffe raids known as the Plymouth Blitz, which destroyed much of the city as well as the dockyards.
Walk the partially cobbled streets of the Barbican to see Tudor and Jacobean buildings and other attractions. Tour the Elizabethan House, a well-preserved property that gives insight into how a sea captain would have lived in the late 1500s. Stop at the Mayflower Steps, which mark the site where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail to found America in 1620. Walk through glass tunnels at the National Marine Aquarium and watch sharks swim all around you. The aquarium also has moral eels, fish and even a loggerhead turtle called Snorkel. Have a drink at the Plymouth Gin Distillery, which has been producing gin since 1793.
See the statue of Francis Drake and read the numerous war memorials at the Plymouth Hoe, a green-lawned expanse that looks out over Plymouth’s natural harbour. Take a tour of the Royal Citadel, a 17th-century fortress still used by the British military today. Bring the family to Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park where you can ride Segways, play disc golf and visit artist studios as well as learn about the earls that once lived here.
Plymouth is a major U.K. city and has great transportation links. Though Plymouth Airport closed in 2011, Exeter Airport is just 1 hour away by car. Ferry services are also available. Eat at a range of pubs and restaurants or use one of the many take-out venues.