10 Thrilling Ways to Experience Christmas in Cornwall

10 Thrilling Ways to Experience Christmas in Cornwall


Christmas in Cornwall.

Yes, it is as magical as it sounds.

Join us as we pull back the veil on our West Country wonderland. You’ll go ice skating. Experience a frosty forest theatre. Overlook shimmering harbour lights in famous fishing villages.

If you’ve been good, you might even get to see Santa on a steam railway.

So – wrap one hand around a hot toddy (non-alcoholic versions available) and start scrolling with the other. Christmas in Cornwall is a-coming…

See the Christmas lights

Mousehole Harbour Lights is the big one. A dazzling display wrapped around one of the world’s prettiest harbours. But don’t end your Christmas lights tour here. With its working fishing boats illuminated to impress, nearby Newlyn puts on a magnificent show.

Meanwhile, Penzance looks fabulous dressed to the nines in lights. Spots to look out for include the Dickensian-looking Arcade Steps, with its shops crammed into the narrowest of alleyways; the historic Chapel Street, which features a mish-mash of adventurous architectural styles; and the perfect little tree dripping with lights in the Greenmarket. The centre of the show, of course, is the area around the Market House in Market Jew Street – think neoclassical columns lit up in regal purple and a proper Christmas tree bursting with lights.

Cosy up in a fireside pub/ restaurant

For some, the sound of the festive season is Noddy Holder screaming ‘IT’S CHRISTMAS!’ on a loop. For others, it’s the serene pop and crackle of a glowing fire, while the aroma of mulled wine drifts in the air.

If you’re in the latter camp, Christmas in Cornwall offers a bevy of cosy, traditional pubs with open fires. In these gloriously low-key spots the spirit of overcommercialised Christmas is someone else’s cheese dream.

Artist Residence in Penzance brings a log-burner glow to a gorgeous space best described as ‘Georgian chic’. The Tinners Arms in Zennor offers a rustic vibe with good drinks, proper food and toasty spots to shelter from the wild moors beyond. Or try the Victoria Inn at Perranuthnoe with its award-winning food and roaring fire. Cosy. Yum. Yay!

Visit Santa… by steam

Move over Rudolph, there’s a new present-and-Santa-pulling force in town –  the steam train. Christmas in Cornwall offers several opportunities for kids to meet the big man on board historic engines. ‘Choo-choose’ your Santa and steam experience at Bodmin and Wenford Railway, Lappa Valley railway or Helston Railway.

Go ice skating at Eden

With its record-breaking visitor numbers and iconic summer music events, the Eden Project has earned a place in the heart of Cornwall culture. During Christmastime, ice skating at Eden (and falling in a heap on the ice) is very much a tradition. Entry to the rink includes access to the magnificent domes, too.

Watch the Humphry Davy lantern parade

Sticklers might tell you this lovely little parade isn’t about Christmas in Cornwall at all. True, but Davy was born on 17 December and the event celebrating Penzance’s most famous son is held plonk in the middle of the festive build-up. With the town wrapped in glittering festive lights and beautiful Davy-inspired lanterns on show, we defy you not to feel a cinnamony warmth from head to toe. Some of the lanterns are created by local schools following workshops with Golowan, which runs the famous summer festival. The event also includes a Christmas market and street entertainment (weather permitting).

Get some festive retail therapy

On the same date and still in Penzance, 17 December also happens to be the Big Day for late-night shopping. This town is getting a reputation for its ever-growing array of independent shops and boutiques. If you’re the kind of thoughtful present-buyer looking for something artisan and unique, come tonight for the atmosphere and a great opportunity to pick up a memorable gift. Special shout out to the independent traders of Causewayhead, who are coming together to make this a beautiful retail experience.

Meanwhile, you’ll find stunning markets across the county – many in picturesque harbourside settings. Held in the historic cathedral city, Truro Christmas Market is a favourite. Expect anywhere between 50-100 traders selling locally produced foods and gifts. Meanwhile, Eden holds a Christmas fayre featuring an abundance of produce, gift, home accessories, clothing and jewellery. Book ahead for this one.

Have a merry pagan Christmas

Santas. Trees. A Fairytale of New York playing on the radio for the umpteenth time. Sometimes, Christmas gets a bit a lot samey. That’s why you have to know about Montol. This annual winter solstice festival held in Penzance on 21 December is strikingly different from anything else you’ll see – anywhere – at Christmas. The townsfolk dress up in haunting costumes and masks, and parade to the local recreation ground to light a beacon and continue the dance. Thrillingly strange. Find out more.

Experience a Christmassy show

If your idea of a festive theatre experience is red velvety seats and shouts of ‘he’s behind you!’, Christmas in Cornwall is going to deliver. The Hall for Cornwall and (just over the border) the Theatre Royal in Plymouth put on the pantomime pizzazz every year. Look out for the smaller venues too. The Acorn in Penzance is an absolute gem with wildly inventive shows. Meanwhile, Rogue Otherworld does something completely different – immersive dramas in the depths of Tehidy Woods.

Explore a Cornish night garden

Why wait for spring? Cornish gardens are taking on a new life during the depths of winter – at night. Various famous gardens and historic houses around the county are creating magical and enchanting winter experiences with lantern-lit trails winding through the crisp Cornish night. Look for events at Trebah, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trengwainton and more. Book early!

Take a festive plunge!

Do we mean in a nice spa-type setting with candles?

That’s a negative. We are talking full immersion into the frigid ocean in December and January.

What, at first glance, might appear to be some kind of cry for help is actually one of the most exhilarating communal activities a Christmas in Cornwall can offer.

With its popular spots at Battery Rocks, the harbour slipway and Wherrytown, Penzance offers several picturesque locations for a dip. You can almost always find a spot out of the prevailing wind.

County-wide, events include:

Christmas Day swims: Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth; Hayle Bay, Polzeath; Watergate Bay, Newquay; Sennen; Crooklets Beach, Bude.

Boxing Day swims: Porthminster Beach, St Ives; Poldhu Beach, Lizard Peninsula; Portreath Beach, Portreath.

New Year’s Day swims : Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth; Readymoney Cove, Fowey; Gorran Haven, Gorran Haven; Newquay Harbour, Newquay.

This is just a selection of what’s on offer. Be safe. For some tips, check out our post on wild swimming in Penzance.



Looking for a base for your Christmas in Cornwall adventures? Almost all of the attractions listed in this post are within a 40-minute drive of the stunning port town of Penzance – most much nearer.

Visit www.lovepenzance.co.uk to discover perfect places to stay, award-winning eats, Christmas shopping and more cosy pubs than any town should probably admit to.