Top ten things to do in Penzance
Recently voted as the top place to live in Cornwall, Penzance is one of Cornwall’s most vibrant, creative communities, an eco-minded hub full of art and culture, independent shops and galleries, top notch places to eat, plus a beautiful coastline and some amazing gardens and visitor attractions to visit nearby. If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s our top ten things to do in Penzance.
Cross the causeway
You can’t go to Penzance and not visit St Michael’s Mount, the imposing medieval castle and church set on a tidal island just off Marazion beach, in Mount’s Bay in West Cornwall. Time your trip with low tide and you can cross to the island on foot via the causeway. Learn about the tale of Cormoran the giant and the history of the castle, wander around the subtropical and terraced gardens surrounding the castle (seasonal opening times), explore the harbour and village, visit the art gallery or enjoy afternoon tea at the Harbour Loft at the top.
Peruse Penzance’s indies
This is west Cornwall’s arty capital and you could easily spend a whole day popping in and out of Penzance’s boutiques, secondhand clothes stores, independent bookshops, and lifestyles, beauty and interiors shops. Some of our favourites include Circa 21, which sells lovely things from 30 local makers, from jewellery to lampshades and pottery, and antiques shop Choughed To Bits, which specialises in Cornish studio pottery. We Cornish Kiddies is the place for sustainable children’s clothes, whilst natural skincare shop Pure Nuff Stuff is a treasure trove of locally made smellies. For interiors, head to &Living for a curated collection of homeware or the beautiful Handworked Shop where you’ll find beautiful clothing and textiles made by local artisans and lots of other interesting items.
Visit sub-tropical gardens
The beautiful Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens on the outskirts of Penzance are home to 22 acres of exotic, sub-tropical plants and inspiring art, sculpture and installations, like the James Turell’s Sky Space — plus a restaurant, plant nursery, shop and the Tremenheere Gallery (one of the largest purpose built galleries in Cornwall). Also worth a visit are the gardens at Trewidden House between Penzance and Newlyn, with over 300 magnolias and camellias and a maze of pathways meandering and small gardens such as the rock garden, the pond garden and the walled garden. There’s a great little tea room/art gallery and gift shop on the grounds serving light lunches and artwork.
Scoff and quaff
Renowned for its exceptional food, fine wines, and flawless service, The Shore Restaurant should be top of your list. Make sure you also check out the stylish Cornish Barn located at the Artist Residence on Chapel Street and the super cosy Totti for tasty pizzas, nestled in the heart of the town. For the finest coffee in town, head to The Cornish Hen, an award-winning deli that sells an assortment of local deli treats. Finally, if you’re seeking a lively atmosphere then 45 Queen Street, a newly established bar and kitchen, is the place to go. They place a strong emphasis on locally sourced food, craft beers, fine wines, and creative cocktails, including those made with their signature gin, Tinkture.
Bathe in geothermal waters
The Jubilee Pool is the UK’s largest seawater pool, housing a staggering 5 million litres of seawater. The separate geothermal pool at this Art Deco lido, which is right on Penzance’s seafront, first opened in 2020; since then, it has welcomed thousands of visitors to bathe in the warm waters, which come from a geothermal well nearly half a mile below. The Jubilee Pool Cafe offers locally sourced, seasonal fare, along with a selection of craft beers and wines.
Visit a gallery
It’s no surprise that a town with such a creative heart has a plethora of art galleries dotted amongst its narrow lanes. First up, the Exchange — the sister gallery to Newlyn’s Art Gallery just down the road — which has a packed schedule of exhibitions of local artists throughout the year. Also in Penzance you’ll find the wonderful art gallery and museum of Penlee House, set within sub-tropical gardens with cafe, which houses collections of contemporary Cornish artists. Other galleries include and Cornwall Contemporary, one of Cornwall’s leading art galleries, and the Lighthouse Gallery, whose collections also include ceramics and glass, jewellery and sculpture. Take yourself on a self-guided art trail around the town, which takes in all the galleries, art shops and studios around Penzance.
Go on a coastal adventure
There’s no end of things to do in, on or under the sea in Penzance. Those after an adrenaline hit can take to the water on a kite surf, windsurf or paddleboard from the team at Hoxton Special in the neighbouring fishing village of Marazion, whilst those wishing to fling themselves off rocks into the sea (and the rocky coastline here is a great place to give it a go) can try coasteering with Kernow Coasteering. Or join local photographer and snorkel instructor Katie on one of her tailored snorkelling trips which help educate people about marine conservation and introduce snorkellers to Penzance’s underwater world.
Explore by eBike
Pick up eBikes at Penzance train station and set off to explore west Cornwall on two wheels. The three-mile route along the seafront to St Michael’s Mount is a great place to start — it’s flat and traffic free, and a good route to get to grips with riding an eBike if you haven’t tried it before. Running from Land’s End to Bude, The Cornish Way passes through Penzance before heading north towards Hayle. It’s largely traffic free and has some glorious sea views along this stretch of the route. The recently opened West Kernow Way is a 150-mile figure-of-eight route weaving between coves, clifftops and fishing villages, including Penzance, via a network of bridleways and quiet backroads, including some previously ‘lost’ ancient tracks. Tackling the entire route on holiday is unrealistic for most but from Penzance you can do a stretch and loop back to make a nice day or half-day ride.
Visit a vineyard
With the warmest climate in the UK, it’s no surprise that vineyards have popped up all over Cornwall in the last few decades. Sitting on a sunny hill above Mount’s Bay, Polgoon Vineyard produces a range of award-winning still and sparkling wines for ten years. Visitors can book in for a tour of the vineyard, orchard and winery where you’ll learn how the wines are made and enjoy a glass of wine at the end. There’s a shop selling all of their wines, as well as the Vine House cafe selling light lunches under vine-covered canopy.
Catch a show
Penzance’s creativity extends to the performing arts, with a number of theatres and venues putting on performances and events throughout the year. Cornwall’s most famous theatre, the Minack Theatre, has to be the UK’s most dramatic performing arts venues, set on a clifftop a half-hour drive from Penzance. In the centre of town, the Acorn Penzance has a packed programme of live music, comedy and theatre from local, national and international performers. If you want to catch a flick, the Newlyn Filmhouse in neighbouring Newlyn is an independent cinema housed in a converted fish cellar and smokery. The restaurant downstairs is a great spot for a meal beforehand.
Like the sound of Penzance? Have a look at our holiday cottages in Mount’s Bay in West Cornwall