15 Things to Do in Penzance: The Ultimate Guide

15 Things to Do in Penzance: The Ultimate Guide

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You’ve just arrived at the only page on the internet you’re going to need to unlock the bountiful delights of Penzance.

A bold claim, perhaps. But in this single blog post, we reveal 15 fabulous things to do in Penzance, peppering our story with links from the Love Penzance website so you can investigate further…

So forget that list you’re compiling. Stop opening endless internet windows. It’s all here for you.

You see. Love Penzance loves you. Now love us back and start ticking off the Big 15 we’ve compiled for you below.

1) Chapel Street

Welcome to one of the most eccentric streets in Cornwall. Chapel Street looks like an architect’s cheese dream, where stately Georgian builds meet granite and redbrick shops, piratey pubs and – the crowning glory of its Alice in Wonderland vibe – the wondrously weird Egyptian House. This is an atmospheric and historic street brimming with boutiques, antique shops, and cosy spots for a local brew and fish supper. On a warm summer’s night, tourists and locals spill out of pubs and restaurants creating a vibe like nowhere else in town. One of the first things to do in Penzance? Head straight here.

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2) Jubilee Pool

If one building could symbolise everything we love about Penzance it would have to be Jubilee Pool. This open-air lido is designed in an elegant Art Deco style that is just sooo Penzance. It sits at the edge of Mount’s Bay, showcasing one of Cornwall’s most iconic views beyond. And in the loving embrace of its whitewashed walls there’s a real scene of locals and visitors meeting, eating in the café, and, of course, swimming. The new geo thermal pool gives you the chance to bathe in natural salt water heated to between 30-35 degrees by its own geothermal well. It’s something that tips the Jubilee Pool experience into sheer magnificence.

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3) Morrab Gardens

Since 1888, Morrab Gardens has been the glorious, subtropical emerald at the heart of Penzance. While its collection of azaleas, camellias, magnolias, bananas and palms really are spectacular, this famous green space is just a starting point for gardenistas. Nearby Penlee Park, with its atmospheric walled garden, is a delight. And just beyond the town’s borders lie several gardens renowned nationally and internationally. Visit Trewidden, Trengwainton, Tremenheere Sculpture Garden and St Michael’s Mount Gardens. There are so many things to do in Penzance and beyond for green-fingered visitors – you lucky, lucky plant lovers.

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Visit Penzance, Cornwall, and you'll see tropical gardens and parks Morab Gardens Penzance
Morab Gardens Penzance

4) The Promenade

You know those Victorian paintings where people stroll down long promenades and, you know, are clearly living in an era when people actually stopped to mingle and talk? And enjoy the social scene? Amazingly, something like this is happening right now on Cornwall’s only Victorian promenade. Our prom had a multi-million makeover in 2020-2021 and it’s becoming a buzzing centre for walkers, cyclists, runners, skateboarders – you name it. It really is a stunning place to take the air and because we can’t stop waxing lyrical about this gorgeous slither of Penzance we invite you to follow the link below and read more.

Read our Penzance prom post.

5) Art galleries

Since the famous Newlyn school set up shop here in the 1880s, Penzance has harboured a distinctly arty vibe. In fact, one of the most fun things to do in Penzance is peruse our galleries. Penlee House Gallery & Museum features evocative Victorian masterpieces of local fisherfolk, and the Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery display thought-provoking modern works. In between these big hitters, smaller local galleries pepper Penzance, showing off modern masterpieces from local talent. Will you pick up a well-priced work from The Next Big Thing?

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6) Golowan Festival

There might be a modern town festival that has taken off as well as Penzance’s, but we can’t think of one. Since 1991, the midsummer festival of Golowan (which loosely translates as ‘Feast of John’ in the Cornish language) has delighted locals and tourists with: fantastical parades featuring mythical creatures; music and food from across the globe; dancing (samba, Morris, you name it); and just a feeling that you are connecting with something ancient and authentic. You are, of course – Golowan has its roots in local summer traditions stretching back hundreds of years. Who knows, one day Glastonbury (which usually falls on the same weekend) might pull of something half as magnificent.

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7) Shopping

There’s a quirky kind of revolution happening on the streets of Penzance. From Chapel Street to Causewayhead and Market Jew Street, bookshops, clothes shops, artisan foodie joints, antique shops, arty-crafty galleries and much more are popping up like internet shopping never happened, bringing a unique flavour to the local retail scene. It’s distinctly different and it’s definitely high on the list of things to do in Penzance. Go on, get out there and sample a shopping experience you won’t encounter in any other town.

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8) Eating out

Move over Padstow and St Ives, PZ has been hailed Cornwall’s new gourmet capital. We’ve got top chefs in town, intimate venues tucked down cobbled alleyways and seafood joints so happening you’ll always find a queue out the door for a bit of perfectly cooked fresh fish. The fact that nearby Newlyn lands 10,000 tonnes and 40 species of fish each year can’t hurt our growing restaurant scene. And if this sounds a bit too foodie for your tastes, there are so many lovely cafes serving homemade fayre with wonky chalk board menus and plenty of warmth and character.

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9) Drinking out

You know how it is. You’re looking for a piratey pub with an atmospheric coastal setting and a whole crew of them come along at once. Penzance is the Cornish town for settling into pubs with fine drinks, good hospitality and oceans of nautical atmosphere. Some people say Penzance has more pubs per capita than anywhere in Cornwall. We have no evidence if this is true or not, but it FEELS that way – proper, welcoming pubs are such a HUGE part of our town. And visiting one (or three) is one of those things to do in Penzance not to be missed.

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10) Beaches

At low tide, Penzance has a lovely bit of beach looking over Mount’s Bay. As town beaches go, it’s a real find. But that really isn’t why we’re here. What this section wants to tell you about is the awesome Cornish beaches that lie a proverbial pebble’s throw from our town. Surfer’s paradise Sennen, picture-perfect Mousehole harbour beach, Marazion, Porthcurno, and the bewitching coves of Nanjizal and Porthgwarra are all within a 20 minute ride, or an hour tops on a bike (less on an ebike!). It’s like one of those Sunday papers top ten UK beaches lists – only they’re ALL here.

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11) Coastal drives

Imagine a ribbon of road that winds through mysterious moorland, Iron Age field systems, mining heritage and Celtic monuments – all the while hugging the wildly romantic North Coast of Cornwall where luminous sea spray crashes into towering cliffs. Yes, we’re getting all romantically Poldark on you, but why not? Penzance is thrillingly near the St Just to St Ives coastal road, which in many a Cornishman and woman’s view is the finest drive or cycle this side of America’s Route 101. And it probably beats that too. Don’t miss it. Stop plenty. Enjoy the spectacle.

Read about our mining coast drive here.

12) Theatres

Penzance may be a smallish town, but we have more than our share of standout theatres. The Acorn is an atmospheric old Wesleyan chapel that hosts theatre, dance, music, comedy and much more, with tons on for kids. Meanwhile, during the summer, a visit to Penlee Park Open Air Theatre is a must. Catch a raucous Shakespeare comedy under the stars or take in a fun-filled afternoon matinee for children. Finally, there’s the legendary Minack Theatre, teetering above the Atlantic Ocean and under 10 miles from Penzance. Breathtaking stuff, whether you’re going for a show or simply to have a wander around the site.

More on The Acorn

More on Penlee Park Open Air Theatre

More on the The Minack Theatre

13) Coastal walking

Stand on the cliffs near Treen on a sunny day and the water glows a turquoise that lifts the heart and soul. You could almost be in Greece. Actually, of course, you’re on the famous cliffs of Penwith that also offer precipitous views over the crashing North Coast, vistas over tiny fishing villages, and gentle wooded valleys leading to hidden coves full of egg-shaped boulders. This is magical country, summer or winter, and Penzance is your perfect base. A day’s walk on the cliffs, back to PZ, hiking boots off, get changed, followed by a good fish supper in town. What do you reckon?

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Walking in Cornwall

14) The Isles of Scilly

Just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly offers some of the county’s loveliest beaches and the purest light in the West Country (sorry, St Ives). It’s great for walkers, garden lovers (Tresco Abbey Gardens is a subtropical paradise), night sky watchers, bird watchers and anyone who gets their kicks from nature at its remotest and dreamiest. Crossings leave from Penzance daily in the summer months. Or take a super-zippy 15-minute ride on a helicopter. The views coming in are awesome.

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15) Hidden treasures

Sometimes, finding it for yourself is the biggest thrill of all. One of the things to do in Penzance we highly recommend is taking a walk, destination unknown, and exploring. Choose that right hand turn down Chapel Street and stumble into a picturesque Regency Square. Keep walking the path alongside Jubilee Pool and discover a perfect swimming spot at Battery Rocks. You get the idea. Penzance is the kind of town that will reward exploration, with hidden treasures aplenty. We’re a real working Cornish town that mixes the everyday with the extraordinarily beautiful. We’d love to share it with you…

Visit the Love Penzance website for things to do in Penzance. You’ll find in-depth guides to the best accommodation, restaurants, pubs, shops, local stories, and the Wild West beyond…