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12 Best Things To Do in Penzance, Cornwall

Penzance is a quaint coastal town located within the picturesque Mount’s Bay in West Cornwall. While maybe not as charming as the nearby St Ives, it is a great gateway to the many things that this beautiful area has to offer. 

There is also plenty to see and do within Penzance itself. Immerse yourself in the town’s rich history and architecture, walk its winding cobbled streets or take a stroll along the seaside promenade to enjoy the views of Mount’s Bay. There are also plenty of art galleries, historic pubs and excellent restaurants to explore. 

Here’s my list of the top things to do in Penzance, Cornwall.

Visit St Michael’s Mount

Penzance is a great base to see St Michael’s Mount, one of the most popular historic attractions in Cornwall. St Michael’s Mount is a picturesque tidal island that is home to a striking medieval castle and a small community. It is located in Marazion, a charming coastal town east of Penzance. 

The island can be accessed by boat or on foot across a causeway during low tide. There you’ll be able to learn about the history of the castle, stroll through the picturesque terraced gardens and enjoy spectacular views of Mount’s Bay. You can easily spend half a day exploring the island. 

Getting from Penzance to Marazion is pretty easy. There are regular buses that connect the two towns. You can check the schedule and fares on the Go Cornwall Bus website

If you have time, and don’t mind stretching your legs, you can also walk to Marazion along the South West Coast Path. This section of the path takes just over an hour to complete. Along the way you can enjoy great views, a sandy beach and even pubs if you’re after a pit stop. 

You can book your St Michael’s Mount tickets in advance via their website. General combination admission that includes both castle and gardens is £24.00 (US$31.59) per adult and £13.00 (US$17.11) per child aged 5-17. 

Visit St Michael's Mount - one of the top things to do in Penzance

Take a Stroll Along Chapel Street 

The historic Chapel Street in Penzance is definitely a must-see. The street is lined with restaurants, antique shops and small art galleries. The most unusual spot along Chapel Street is the colourful Grade-I Egyptian House. Built in the Egyptian Revival style from the 1830, it’s impossible to miss with its ornate pillars, windows and sphynx-like busts.  

While exploring Chapel Street, make sure to check out some of its historic pubs. First up is the Admiral Benbow which dates back to the 17th century. It is home to a collection of maritime artifacts salvaged from shipwrecks that are now incorporated into its unique interiors. This pub’s name was even included in Robert Louis Stevens’ ‘Treasure Island’. 

Another spot that is also steeped in history and intrigue is the Turks Head. Dating back to the 13th century, this pub still has an underground tunnel that leads to the harbour that was previously used by smugglers. Today, the Turks Head is a popular dinner destination that serves award-winning food. 

Egyptian House is probably the most famous building on Chapel Street
Egyptian House on Chapel Street

Penzance has a lively art scene with many small galleries to discover. If you’re into contemporary art, Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange should definitely be on your list. 

The gallery comprises two venues. The original building, opened in 1895, boasts a great waterfront location in Newlyn, a small town just a short walk from Penzace. In 2007, the gallery launched its second site, The Exchange. You can find it just off Chapel Street in the heart of Penzance.  

The gallery showcases contemporary work in all media by local, national and international artists. Despite its small size, the gallery offers a varied programme of events and exhibitions. Both venues also have cafes serving hot drinks and a selection of delicious cakes. 

Admissions is £4.00 (5 USD) for a seven-day pass to both venues.

The Exchange Art Gallery in Penzance, Cornwall
The Exchange Art Gallery

Enjoy Sub-Tropical Gardens

Due to its subtropical microclimate, Penzance has become home to many excellent gardens boasting collections of rare plants that you won’t see anywhere else in the UK.

Right in the heart of Penzance, you can find the tranquil Morrab Gardens. While you’re taking a stroll along its quiet walkways, you can spot ponds, a Victorian bandstand and an ornate cast iron fountain all surrounded by sub-tropical plants. 

For more exotic trees and shrubs, check out Trengwainton Gardens located in Madron, a village near Penzance. The garden stretches to 25 acres, so there is lots to explore. Walk along its shady woodland pathways, admire its renowned collection of camellias and magnolias and take in the sea views over Mount’s Bay.  

Combine modern landscaping and art at the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens. They are located just outside Penzance, in a sheltered valley overlooking St Michael’s Mount. Contemporary artists including James Turrell, David Nash and Richard Long have created art installations that complement the wooded landscape and sub-tropical planting.   

Visiting sub-tropical gardens is one of the top things to do in Penzance
A Victorian bandstand in Morrab Garden

Penlee House Gallery & Museum is another significant art destination in Penzance. It is housed in an elegant Victorian mansion set within a tranquil park. 

The gallery is famous for its collection of local art from the late 19th and early 20th century. The highlights include works by members of the Newlyn School, including Norman Garstin, Walter Langley and Stanhope Forbes. 

Penlee House also has displays on archaeology and social history of west Cornwall. It is a great introduction to the rich heritage of the area. 

Admission is £4.50 (6.20 USD). 

Explore Mousehole

Mousehole is a quintessentially Cornish fishing village with quaint granite cottages, narrow streets and picturesque harbour. The settlement dates back to the 13th century and has experienced a turbulent history. 

For instance, in 1595 it was attacked in a raid by Spaniards who burned pretty much every building to the ground. Only Keigwin Arms, a local pub, survived. Although the building is no longer a pub, it is still standing today.

While in Mousehole, you can spend the day exploring its streets, boutique shops and art galleries. If you’re after some sustenance, there is a good selection of cafes to choose from.  Mousehole is also home to a small sheltered beach which is perfect for a picnic.    

The streets of Mousehole are so narrow that you might better off parking your car on the outskirts of the village. The alternative option is to take a bus from Penzance to Mousehole. 

Mousehole is a charming coastal village near Penzance, Cornwall

Visit Land’s End

Land’s End is a popular outdoor tourist spot near Penzance. The most westerly point of mainland England, it boasts spectacular coastal views with rugged granite cliffs.  

The touristy part is represented by a leisure complex featuring eateries, souvenir shops, exhibitions, audio-visual experiences and a hotel. There is also a famous signpost which is a popular photo opportunity. However, you need to pay to have a picture taken with it. 

My favourite part of the experience was the cliff top walking trails. You can quickly leave the resort behind and take in the dramatic landscapes. I have mixed feelings about the commercialised nature of Land’s End, but it’s still worth a visit for its natural wonders. 

Entry to Land’s End is free, but if you arrive by car you will need to pay a parking charge. It is also recommended that you book your parking spot in advance. There are also buses that connect Penzance and Land’s End. That was the option that my partner and I took so we could just enjoy the scenery without the stress of navigating narrow country roads.   

Rugged coastline of Land's End
Rugged coastline at Land’s End

Go to Sennen Cove

A short walk along the coastal path from Land’s End will take you to a quaint coastal village called Sennen Cove. The highlight of the area is the stunning Whitesands Bay beach with fine golden sand and turquoise waters. It is also popular with surfers and is home to the UK’s oldest surf club. If you’d like to get away from the sun, you can find a selection of cafes, pubs and shops in the village.    

Sennen Cove is the perfect place for a relaxing day out. Getting there from Penzance is easy either by car or bus. The bus timetable is available on the Go Cornwall Bus website.

Sennen Cove
Sennen Cove

Relax at Porthcurno Beach

Porthcurno beach is another famous stretch of sand easily accessible from Penzance. Sheltered by towering granite cliffs, it is a stunning spot with near white sand and crystal clear waters. 

You can get to Porthcurno beach by car. There is a car park (charges apply) but it can get busy in the summer months. It’s best to head there early to get a spot. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Penzance. They are not super frequent, so it’s best to check the timetable in advance.

Marvel at Minack Theatre

Just up on the cliffs of the Porthcurno beach, you can find Minack Theatre, a famous open-air theatre perched on a granite cliff overlooking Porthcurno Bay. It might seem like it was built centuries ago, but it is actually less than 100 years old.

The best way to appreciate Minack and its unique surroundings is to see a show there. The theatre boasts a busy programme with over 200 performances a year including plays, musicals, opera and live music. 

If attending a show is not an option, you can still visit the theatre and explore its picturesque surroundings. You might even be able to catch a rehearsal or workshop on your visit. You can book your tickets for a specific time slot (£7.50 or 10.40 USD) on the Minack Theatre’s website.

Porthcurno Beach & Minack Theatre
Porthcurno Beach and Minack Theatre

Savour the Dining Scene

Penzance has an excellent dining scene that is sure to please many a foodie. To savour the best of local produce in a relaxed setting, check out The Shore. The restaurant serves a small tasting menu created with the freshest ingredients available on the day. It is a small operation run solely by owner and chef Bruce Rennie, so book your meal in advance. 

For an excellent pub experience, head to The Mexico Inn. Located in Longrock, just on the outskirts of Penzance, this spot offers a delicious menu of pub classics and a friendly atmosphere. Perfect for both lunch and dinner, The Mexico Inn attracts locals and visitors alike. 

Right in the historic part of town you can find Blacks of Chapel Street. This dining room and bar offers delicious food and a well-stocked cellar. Whether you’re after a light lunch, refreshments or romantic dinners, Blacks of Chapel Street have you covered.  

Take a Dip at Jubilee Pool

Located on Penzance’s promenade, Jubilee Pool is the UK’s largest sea water pool (lido). It opened in 1935 to celebrate King George V’s Silver Jubilee. Today, it is one the few remaining art deco lidos in the country.

Jubilee Pool has a triangular shape and has a streamlined appearance associated with the 1930s design. There is also a heated section powered by geothermal energy for those who are not too keen on the cold sea water. 

Adult entry to the main pool costs £6 (8.30 USD). Geothermal pool tickets are £11.75 (16.28 USD). You can book your tickets in advance on the pool’s website.


This list of top things to do in Penzance is just a starting point. There’s plenty more to explore in this beautiful part of the country. 

Have you been to Penzance? What’s been the highlight of your visit?

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