One of the major cities in the county of Devon in southwest England, Plymouth is most famous for its port and naval history. It was from this city's port that the likes of The Pilgrim Fathers, Scott, Cook, Drake and Chichester set sail. It became an important shipping port during the Industrial Revolution and was a major naval base during both world wars, leading it to being heavily bombed during the Plymouth Blitz. While this side of the city's history is well represented in terms of attractions, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Plymouth. This modern city has a host of restaurants, bars and shops to please all tastes and further afield you have stunning coastal scenery and one of the country's foremost national parks. Plymouth also has its fair share of events from sports to the arts and is easy to get to by road and train. Not a well-known destination in its own right, it is one that should perhaps be given closer attention.
There is a vast array of attractions in Plymouth, from cultural to sporting and from shopping to the arts. The two major museums are the National Marine Aquarium, which has Europe's best collection of sharks and rays, and the City Museum and Art Gallery. The 60m high Wheel of Plymouth offers 360° panoramic views of the city for considerably less than the London Eye! The Theatre Royal puts on some of the UK's biggest productions while for gigs head down to the Pavillion. For a quaint backdrop to your shopping sprees, the Barbican is the place to go. The city's old port, its cobbled streets are home to a number of specialist art galleries and many restaurants and bars. There are a number of stately homes and gardens around Plymouth, including Mount Edgcumbe House, one of only three Grade I listed gardens in Cornwall. The Summer Festival from July to September includes music performances, exhibitions and of course the famous Americas Cup race.
Plymouth Sound, the city's deepwater harbour has one of the best views in the area. From here you can see Drake's Island and Mount Batten, where T. E. Lawrence was once based. For another great view, head to The Hoe, an open public space on the waterfront and climb up Smeaton's Tower which was here in 1884.There are many other points along the coast in both Devon and Cornwall which are worth exploring for their beaches and coves. Inland, the surrounding countryside is certainly worth driving through, with areas of outstanding natural beauty such as the Tamar Valley not far away. Another spectacular area is the Dartmoor National Park with its heather-covered moors.
Getting to Plymouth is fairly straightforward via several modes of transport. Whether you are coming from London or the north of the country, the major motorways all have routes to Plymouth. Trains from London Paddington and all major cities are widely available as are flights into Newquay, Exeter and Bristol Airports. Two international ferry services leave from Plymouth to Roscoff in Brittany, France and Santander in Cantabria, Spain.
As with any big city, there are some parts of it that are more unsavoury than others. If you're not a fan of the English drinking culture then you may want to avoid the city centre, particularly Union Street, on weekend evenings. Otherwise play by the same rules as you would in any other city. Saturday late afternoons might also get quite busy in town with supporters of Plymouth Argyle Football Club descending upon the area around the station.
The city is blessed in its location between the sea and some lush farmland. While there are no typical dishes hailing from Plymouth itself, the region has some fabulous produce. Of course the seafood is first class, with several crabbing hotspots where you can try and catch some yourself. The farms around also produce quality meat and have some unique breeds of cattle including Red Devon. Devon is also famous for its dairy products and it makes excellent clotted cream, yoghurt and ice cream. You should also give the regions pies and pasties a try, filled with the finest meat and vegetables all raised and grown locally.
There is no typical souvenir that one can bring back from Plymouth although is you are not travelling very far check out one of the city's markets and take back some of the excellent local produce such as seafood and veg. You could also purchase some locally made jewellery from one of the independent shops or some local art: Beryl Cook spent much of her life in the city.