Penzance is the most significant westerly town in the United Kingdom and the westernmost seaside town in Cornwall. The name, Penzance comes from the Cornish word Pensans, which means “holy headland.” The town of Penzance is a historic port on Mount Bay’s south-facing beaches and it is well-known for its pirates, at least those that sing! It has one of the mildest climates in the UK and the West Cornwall area, Penzance is the major tourist and business centre. This coastal town is rich in history while providing all of the modern facilities to its residents and visitors, both local and international. Penzance is also a vibrant town for locals, with many public services, including health, education, social, and general community services. You’ll find that no matter what type of visitor you are, there are some fabulous places to see and attractions in Penzance for every kind of tourist, so keep reading to find out the best things to do in Penzance.
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The Best Things to Do in Penzance
Penzance is one of the most remote destinations in the United Kingdom, but it is well worth a trip. Right in the middle of Cornwall’s Penwith peninsula, it has the advantage of being located on a stunning stretch of shoreline and surrounded by fantastic Cornish scenery. Penzance has many beautiful granite structures, notably in the area around the town’s two prominent parks and there’s also a significant creative community present, as seen by the presence of several art galleries. The area places host to several Cornish attractions, ranging from Ancient Monuments and Historical sites to West Cornwall’s stunning beaches and cliffs and its fishing communities. Penzance also provides a diverse selection of accommodations for visitors and vacationers. (You can read more about the best places to stay in Penzance here!)
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Swim in the Jubilee Pool in Penzance
The Jubilee Pool is located on the rocks at the edge of the headland, between Penzance Harbour and the promenade, with views across the harbour. In addition to the Jubilee Pool, the art deco lido that is the biggest of its type in the United Kingdom, Penzance’s coastline is home to several other unique attractions. The Jubilee Pool originally opened its doors in 1935 and was named in honour of King George V’s silver jubilee celebrations of that same year. The lido was severely damaged by a storm in 2014, but it reopened in 2016 after a renovation effort that cost about £3 million. The Jubilee Pool is an outdoor swimming pool that is one of the most popular attractions in Penzance, Cornwall. It is divided into two sections: the open-air art deco saltwater pool and the geothermal pool, generally around 10 degrees warmer than the open-air pool. It costs £6 each session to use the main pool and £10 per session to use the geothermal pool.
Take a Walking Tour of Penzance
If you want to understand a bit more about the intriguing history of Penzance while also seeing the town’s attractions. In that case, you should take a walking tour of the area. An experienced tour guide will take you around all of the major attractions. The tour will explain in-depth the town’s fascinating history. On Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m., tours are offered for free. Tours are available at other times, although they are more expensive, costing £6.50 per person. The meeting spot is in front of Penzance Railway Station; however, you must make a reservation at this time due to limited availability.
You can also, of course, take a self-guided walking tour – there are details here.
Visit St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is perhaps the most well-known attraction in the region, and it is located just outside of town, in Mount’s Bay. Many spots in Penzance provide a spectacular view of the island in all its glory. It is a castle on an island linked to the mainland by a tidal causeway. You can take an audio tour of the castle and discover all about its intriguing history and stroll around the beautiful gardens and across the island itself, which offers spectacular views of the Cornish coastline around every corner. There is also a café and a gift store on the island to visit. Check opening times – which depend on the tide here. And read about more incredible Cornish castles here.
Eat a Cornish Pasty in Penzance
Cornish pasties are one of the most well-known British delicacies, and they have a long and distinguished history. You can read more about other elements of the best Cornish food in our guide here. The traditional Cornish pasty recipe represents the best of English comfort cuisine at its finest. It is a turnover-shaped pastry filled with meat and vegetables cooked in the oven until golden brown. A Cornish pasty should be made in the shape of a ‘D’ and pinched on one side only, not on the top as is common. According to the recipe, its contents should contain beef, swede, or turnip in Cornwall, potato, and onion, as well as a mild seasoning of salt and pepper while maintaining a chunky texture. Warrens Bakery, which claims to be the world’s oldest manufacturer of Cornish pasties, is the most popular local choice for enjoying a pasty in the area. Pay them a visit at about four in the afternoon, when they usually cut the price of their unsold pastries to half their regular prices. Warrens has locations in both Penzance and Newlyn, as well as online.
Walk down Chapel Street in Penzance
Chapel Street is likely the most well-known street to wander along in Penzance’s town centre. The street is full of history and is home to a diverse collection of structures and businesses. The majority of the street dates back to the mid-eighteenth century. However, a few remnants of a more distant past are scattered throughout. It is believed that the Chapel of St Anthony gave its name to the street. At the same time, the present-day church, St Mary’s, was constructed between 1832 and 1835 by Charles Hutchins on the former St Mary’s Chapel site. The site has been there since the 14th century. Located on Chapel Street, the Egyptian House and the Turk’s Head is one of the most notable establishments in the neighbourhood. The Wesleyan Chapel is just across the street from this location. It was initially constructed in 1814 but has undergone several restorations and ‘improvements’ throughout the years. The entrance of the building, with its white colonnade and paved courtyard, is pretty pretentious for the area!
Walk part of the South West Coast Path near Penzance
The South West Coast Path is the longest footpath in England and is designated as a National Trail. At 630 miles in length, it spans from Minehead in Somerset, down the beaches of Devon and Cornwall, and all the way to Poole Harbour in Dorset. The section of the path between Land’s End and Penzance offers some of the most spectacular and magnificent vistas over its whole length. On this part of the path, you’ll travel by several scenic attractions, such as Enys Dodnan Arch (Bob’s Arches), Carn Les Boel, and Logan Rock. Aside from that, there are other beautiful tiny hidden coves and shores along the road where you can stop for a meal on the beach. The beach in Nanjizal, in particular, is a hidden treasure.
Visit the Admiral Benbow Inn in Penzance
Penzance is home to plenty of quirky pubs worth stopping into for a drink. The Admiral Benbow, a 17th-century building on Chapel Street that stands out for its whitewashed facade, bright yellow windows, and flying pirate flags, is perhaps one of the most attractive. In the Captain’s Cabin restaurant, a magnificent reconstruction of a deck from a historical ship, complete with a superb stern plate from a Portuguese Man O’ War, provides a memorable dining experience. Several recovered ship figureheads can be seen in the Lady Hamilton lounge, which contains a cannon! Large windows in the upper bars provide panoramic views of Penzance bay and St Michael’s Mount. The pub has a lengthy history of smuggling and is now notable for having a famous pirate monument perched atop the building. In the past, the inn was owned by Roland Morris, a well-known wreck diver who lavished the inside with treasures he had discovered on shipwrecks across the world. As a result, it’s a really one-of-a-kind spot for a drink.
Visit the Penlee Museum and Gallery
Penlee House is a museum and art gallery in Penzance, It is home to a large collection of paintings by members of the Newlyn School, including works by Stanhope Forbes, Norman Garstin, Walter Langley, and Lamorna Birch, among others. The museum, which is set in a Victorian manor house, is dedicated to the study of history from the Stone Age to the present day. The Penlee House Gallery does not have a permanent display. Instead, it organizes exhibits that rely on its set of local art. The gallery is generally closed between exhibitions and is open on weekends and holidays. The granite Penlee Cross, which was sculpted in the 11th century and previously stood at Penzance’s Green Market, is located in front of the house in the area. When it comes to summer hours, the museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and when it comes to winter hours, it is available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum is open from Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.
Visit the Morrab Gardens
Green areas can be found in abundance throughout Penzance, hidden amid the town’s historic landmarks, shops, and restaurants. In particular, Morrab Gardens, which has been a beloved landmark of the town since the 19th century, is one of the most gorgeous. Morrab Gardens’ enormous variety of sub-tropical plants has been acquired over many years and is still growing. Because no greenhouses were selling exotic plants in the 1880s, unlike today, the initial planting was the outcome of donations from nearby estates, as opposed to today. In addition to the greenery, some Grade II listed structures are to be found. Keep an eye out for the Victorian bandstand in the middle and the fountain, and a monument to the Boer War. The garden is entirely free to visit. It is a beautiful place to come if you are looking for a little peace and quiet amid lush greenery.
Go to the Tremenheere Garden Gallery
Art exhibits at Tremenheere Gallery include displays of paintings and prints by globally recognized and emerging artists and artists who live and work in Cornwall. They are mostly for sale. Tremenheere Gardens, like Morrab Gardens, uses the moderate micro-climate of West Cornwall by planting a variety of exotic plants with the traditional magnolias, rhododendrons, and camellias. The gardens are also elevated, and you can see St Michael’s Mount in the bay through the trees that line their border. There are two beautiful walled gardens, including the kitchen garden and a smaller lawned garden that serves as a home for the tearooms. The top gallery, which usually presents a rotating mixed exhibition of work by the gallery’s stable of artists, is noted for showing work inspired by the sculpture gardens and the surrounding countryside. You can enter a particular area where many of the most prestigious permanent pieces are on display, mixed throughout the environment and surrounding buildings, for a £9 entry fee.
Go to Tanglewood Wild Gardens
You can see more of the outstanding plant life supported by Cornwall’s climate four miles west of Penzance in an informal garden designed to attract animals such as butterflies, bees, herons, and kingfishers. The garden is located on the outskirts of a natural reserve. Tanglewood Wild Garden is a nine-acre park with four ponds and a pondless waterfall, a natural garden, and forests. Woodpeckers, snipes, buzzards, owls, and jays are among the many species that live in the woodlands. Many ducks may be seen enjoying the ponds in the spring and summer. The wild gardens are as popular for those seeking peace and quiet as they are with families going for a picnic, and children enjoy the rope swing on the grounds. There’s plenty of room for everyone! The garden is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.
Go Wine Tasting in Penzance at Polgoon Winery
While there are other great vineyards in Cornwall, Polgoon Vineyard is one of the most well-known and often visited. The vineyard and orchard, owned and operated by a local family who were formerly fish merchants, produces a variety of artisan wines, ciders, and juices. Polgoon is available for tours and tastings throughout the year, and their store is open all the time. Almost all of their products are vegan-certified and you can also buy them from the vineyard’s website. At the Vine House Kitchen, you can enjoy a glass (or more) of wine and a light meal, whether it’s an array of freshly prepared charcuterie or strawberries and cream from the surrounding area. There are two alternatives for visiting: a guided tour or a self-directed tour. Both involve a stroll around the vineyard and a sample at the end. A self-guided tour costs £10, while a guided tour costs £15. Book through Polgoon Wines.
Things to do near Penzance
If you’re making Penzance your base while spending time in Cornwall, then there are some great places to visit nearby, here’s a selection of the top things to do near Penzance.
Mousehole (pronounced “Muzzle”) is a tiny picture-perfect fishing village. Many people believe that the name Mousehole derives from the Cornish word “Moeshayle,” which translates as “young woman’s creek.” Today, it’s a lovely community on the coast, dubbed “the finest place in England” by literary giants such as Dylan Thomas. The maze of small lanes is home to cottages constructed of local granite used as tearooms, local family-run businesses, and art galleries. It’s a glorious traditional place to visit and even better to stay around after the day-trippers have gone home.
Visit Land’s End
Land’s End is considered one of the most beautiful spots in Cornwall. It is the most southern point in the United Kingdom, about 970 kilometres from the Scottish town of John O Groats at the northern end. Land’sEnd has been developed to include a complex of stores, entertainment, dining, and a hotel. There is, also, of course, the famous white signpost, which has been here since the 1950s, with miles displayed to various locations. It is well-known among those who have completed the famous journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End – known as the End to Enders and who have had their photograph taken at this location. These days, there’s heaps to do here – from Merlin’s Adventure to the miniature village, or you can just stand at the very end of the country, overlooking the roaring sea. There’s loads more in our guide on Land’s End.
Visit Trengwainton Garden
Trengwaiton Garden, located on the grounds of a country home on the outskirts of town, is planted with exotic plants and trees that are well-suited to Cornwall’s moderate climate. It also has spectacular views across Mount Bay and over to the Lizard. These wonderfully maintained gardens, filled with brilliant flowers, meandering woodland walks, wide-open spaces, and spectacular sea views from various vantage points, are perfect for an afternoon stroll. The National Trust has been in charge of the estate’s care since 1961, but the estate’s walled gardens date back to Elizabethan times and include flora that is not seen growing anywhere else in the UK. Several areas have been designated as “silent zones,” where you may sit and reflect on the natural world’s beauty. You can drive here or take the 18 bus from Penzance town centre to Trengwainton Garden, which is around 7-minutes by road from the town. It’s one of the best gardens to visit in Cornwall!
Go to PK Porthcurno – the Museum of Global Communications
PK Porthcurno, the museum of Global Communications is to be found in the small village of Porthcurno. This was the point where many of the underwater telegraph cables arrived in the UK, from the USA and other locations. Eastern House, which was at the heart of the telegraphy station site was refurbished after World War II and opened as a training school as well as a telegraph station, which eventually closed in 1970, 100 years after the first cable was received here. The training school stayed open until 1993. The museum that’s there today contains collections of still working gear that was designed for the sending of telegrams. There are displays on the history of cable-laying ships and various undersea cable designs that have been used throughout history. The museum is open from 9 April until 30 October from 10:00 until 17:00. Admission is £10 for adults and £6 for children. There are family tickets available and if you pre-book (here), there’s a discount.
Explore a Beach near Penzance
There are a lot of beaches to enjoy near Penzance and here are our favourites.
- Pedn Vounder Beach – It’s a secluded sandy beach known for its turquoise water that can only be accessed by climbing down a steep cliff. Unfortunately, there are no parking spaces near the beach, and you must walk 45 minutes to get there.
- Long Rock Beach – Located midway between Penzance and Marazion, it is a safe family beach with sand and stones. It is the most widely available sandy beach in town.
- Mousehole Beach – Mousehole Beach is a tiny, kid-friendly beach in a protected portion of the harbour that is well-liked by locals and tourists alike.
Like beaches? You’ll love our guide to the beaches of the west of Cornwall.
Go to the Minack Theatre near Penzance
You absolutely CANNOT come to Penzance and not visit the Minack Theatre. You don’t need to go to a performance (tickets sell out very quickly!), but do come for a visit and to explore! One of Cornwall’s most prominent tourist sites, the Minack Theatre, is set in the seaside town of Porthcurno. The Minack Theatre is a stunning open-air theatre built into the cliffside. Summer season productions include 20 plays presented by theatre companies from throughout the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.
Buy tickets for performances WELL in advance, and to visit and explore the theatre it costs £10 to enter, and tickets for the open-air theatre must be booked in advance, particularly during the summer months. The views here are spectacular and are one of our best views in Cornwall, come and see the rest here!
Where to stay in Penzance
Penzance has some lovely places to stay – and we’ve picked the best holiday cottages in Penzance, the nicest hotels, a lovely hostel, and the most lovely B&B’s in our guide on places to stay in Penzance here – here are our top picks for Penzance B&B and Penzance Holiday Cottage.
Regent Cottage, Penzance.
This charming holiday cottage is located on the outskirts of Penzance, just a few minutes from the harbour and town. The cottage has a fabulous mature garden and is decorated in a contemporary fashion inside. It is light and airy, with gorgeous furnishings. The kitchen is superbly equipped and there is plenty of room here for the four people that Regent Cottage sleeps. Regent Cottage is set back inside mature gardens, which makes it a great retreat after a day of visiting all that Penzance and West Cornwall have to offer. There is one double bedroom at this holiday cottage in Penzance, and one twin bed. With an offroad parking space and this great outside space, it’s a treat to be able to relax here! You can see the rates for Regent Cottage here.
For an airy, lovely quiet retreat of a holiday cottage in Penzance take a look at Regent Cottage here.
The Hotel Penzance, Penzance
This fabulous townhouse hotel in Penzance features great seascape views of the horizon and a big, open sky. The rooms with a view of St Michael’s Mount are incredible (take a look here!) Hotel Penzance was originally the residence of merchants for wealthy ship owners, and remains an Edwardian townhouse, but is now your ‘home away from home.’ The exquisite rooms include complimentary Wi-Fi and tea/coffee making amenities. All rooms have a TV and a work desk, and some offer incredible views of St Michael’s Mount (one of Cornwall’s most incredible castles). See more information on Hotel Penzance here
Hotel Penzance is set back from town and offers a quiet retreat with coastal gardens surrounding a glorious terrace, where you can dine alfresco with stunning sea views. If you feel like a lazy day away from the things to do in Penzance, then head for the poolside loungers and the stunning swimming pool. For cooler days, a quiet guest lounge with open fireplaces and artwork is a splendid retreat.
The elegant restaurant here features a covered terrace and provides a sophisticated European menu with local ingredients, the owners here truly embrace the idea of “farm to fork”. This is an incredibly special hotel in Penzance and you’ll want to return time and time. See what other guests say about the Hotel Penzance here.
- Hotel Penzance Address: Britons Hill, Penzance, TR18 3AE, United Kingdom
- Is there parking at the Hotel Penzance? – Yes, on-site private parking is available (reservation required) and costs £8.95 per day.
- Is there a restaurant on-site at the Hotel Penzance? Yes
- Is there free Wi-Fi at the Hotel Penzance? Yes
- Is breakfast available at the Hotel Penzance? Yes
The Hotel Penzance has superb sea views, a glorious pool and gardens and is a magical place to stay in Penzance. Check rooms and rates here!
Travel Tips for Exploring Cornwall
- Read about Cornwall in these incredible books
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- Rent a Car with Discover Cars
- Never get lost with the Ordnance Survey Maps App
- Find the right accommodation for you via
- Plumguide – for exclusive luxury accommodation
- CoolStays – for unique places to stay
Final Words on the Best Things to do in Penzance
This West Cornwall town has a lot to offer visitors, from magnificent beaches to medieval castles and pubs with a rich historical background. Despite the fact that it is not as polished or as busy with visitors as its sister town St Ives, it has just as many museums, bars, and restaurants to explore. Apart from the beaches and nearby picture-perfect villages made of local grey granite, the region also has galleries, a sculpture park, and the stunning Minack Theatre, among other cultural attractions. So come on down to West Cornwall and explore, it’s a stunning part of the world!
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