There are lots of great things to do in Penzance, Cornwall, a pleasant fishing town in the far southwest of England. With miles of golden, sandy beaches nearby, a charming harbor, and a town center, you won’t be stuck for places to visit in Penzance.
I’ve visited Cornwall almost every year since I was born and think of the place as a second home. Although I prefer the rugged north Cornish coast, there’s no denying the beauty and tranquility of the fishing villages and towns along the south coast such as Penzance.
Whether you want to try your hand at paddle boarding, sunbathe on the beach, or enjoy a Cornish treat such as cream tea, in this article you’ll find the best Penzance attractions, nature walks, and things to do near Penzance.
Top 20 Things To Do in Penzance
Below you’ll find a mixture of things to do in Penzance from enjoying the beaches, ocean, and coastal paths, to exploring galleries, museums, and traditional pubs.
Penzance is a great seaside destination and also has a great selection of restaurants that serve the freshest seafood straight from the boat.
1. Learn to Surf
Cornwall is synonymous with surfing and has some of the best surfing beaches in Europe. The biggest waves are found on the north Atlantic coastline, however, for learners, the secluded bays around Penzance are the perfect place to have a go at this fun activity.
This class at Praa Sands Beach Surf School is just 8.5 miles from the town and is one of the best things to do around Penzance.
One of the first things I do when I get to Cornwall is hit the waves and I can assure you it’s a lot of fun!
2. Eat Fish and Chips at the Dolphin Tavern
The rustic Dolphin Tavern sits right on the harbor’s edge offering fantastic views of the bay and town. As you’d expect for somewhere so close to the sea, the menu is big on seafood; offerings dishes such as squid and the classic fish and chips.
Enjoying a pint (try St. Austell’s Tribute) and a taste of the sea is one of the things that keeps me coming back to Cornwall year after year. The Dolphin’s Tavern is definitely one of the best places to visit in Penzance for a hungry traveler.
3. Take a Dip in Jubilee Pool
Taking a dip at the Jubilee Pool is one of the best things to do in Penzance for families as it’s much safer than the open ocean for small children. Jubilee is the biggest lido (open-air swimming pool) in the UK and a great place to spend the day.
I do love a day at the beach, but sometimes it’s nice to have a swim without getting sand everywhere (and you’d be hard pushed to find a jellyfish in there too!).
The pool overlooks the south coast with stunning views of the ocean beyond.
4. Have a Go at Paddle Boarding
This two-hour paddle boarding session in the calm waters of Abbey Basin right next to the harbor is one of the best things to do in Penzance for those looking for a little adventure.
You’ll learn the basics of using a standup paddleboard (SUP) and have a lot of fun trying to get your balance (I’ve not tested my SUP skills yet but I’m excited to have a go).
5. Visit the Exchange Gallery
The Exchange Gallery is a large contemporary art space in the center of town and one of the most quirky things to do in Penzance. It forms part of the wider Newlyn Art Gallery and is a great place to explore some interesting exhibitions or take part in a workshop.
The gallery is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm during the summer months and from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday to Saturday from October 1st. A ticket costs £7.00 and is valid for one year.
6. Go on a Cornish Foraging Wildlife Walk
Unleash your inner Bear Grylls on this fabulous foraging walk along the beautiful Cornish coastline. The tour starts with a foraged tea from the local hedgerows and can also include seaweed diving and tasting of some traditional wild foods.
You’ll also have the chance to look out for dolphins, basking sharks (I’ve seen one myself from the Cornish cliffs), and other wildlife along the coast before finishing up with a glass of elderflower champagne. This is one of the great things to do in Penzance for couples and nature lovers.
7. Penlee House
Penlee House is a large art gallery and museum set within acres of tropical gardens and is one of the most famous Penzance tourist attractions. The onsite Orangery Cafe is the perfect place to indulge in a classic Cornish cream tea with cream from a local dairy.
The museum and gallery are open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm during the summer, and from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm during the winter months.
Admission is £6.00 for adults and £3.00 for children. Penlee House is definitely one of the top places to see in Penzance.
8. Craft a Set of Silver Rings
This fun three-hour workshop will have you crafting your very own set of sterling silver rings to take home.
You don’t need any experience in jewelry making and the class will have you cutting, filing, and texturing personal pieces while learning all about traditional jewelry-making techniques.
The course takes place near Hayle, less than thirty minutes by car from Penzance, and is the perfect idea for a rainy day in Cornwall.
9. Take a Trip to Mousehole
The small fishing village of Mousehole is one of the best attractions near Penzance thanks to its picturesque harbor and rich history. You’ll find narrow, cobbled streets filled with artisan shops, galleries, welcoming pubs, and cafes.
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (I recommend listening to his play Under Milk Wood) described Mousehole as “quite the loveliest village in England” as he honeymooned there after getting married in Penzance. Be sure to visit his favorite pub – The Ship Inn – for a pint of Tribute.
10. Visit Longrock Beach
A day at the beach is one of my favorite Cornwall activities and a visit to Longrock is one of the great things to do in Penzance with dogs, the family, or with your significant other. Longrock beach is dog-friendly year-round so it’s a great option if you have a furry friend with you.
This stretch of sand is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing thanks to its stunning views across to St. Michael’s Mount. It’s just under a mile away from Penzance and so is easily walkable if you fancy some exercise. Visiting the beaches is also one of the great things to do in Penzance for free.
11. Throw a Cup on the Potter’s Wheel
If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at pottery and make your own cup or coffee mug, this is the perfect class for you. The studio is located in a fisherman’s net loft in the small village of Porthleven a few miles from Penzance.
The two-and-a-half-hour session will have you “throwing” a cup on the potter’s wheel and crafting your very own kitchenware. Your creation will stay behind to be fired in the kiln and then posted to your address to cherish forever – it’s a great way to take a piece of Penzance home with you.
12. See the Incredible Minack Theatre
The Minack Theatre is one of the best places to visit near Penzance for its clifftop and ocean views. You can take in a show, tour the theater and gardens or have a bite to eat at the associated cafe. This experience really sounds like one of Cornwall’s most impressive sights and should not be missed.
Check the official website to see what’s currently playing or to book a tour. I’ve not yet visited myself as I only recently became aware of this hidden gem, but I’m itching to get over there to see an open-air performance under the stars.
13. Walk Around Morrab Gardens
The area of western Cornwall around Penzance has its own microclimate that’s warmer than most other parts of the UK. As such, you’ll find tropical and sub-tropical plants such as palms, bamboo, and olive in the beautiful Morrab Gardens which stretch from the town to the coast.
The Morrab Gardens are one of the best things to see in Penzance if you want to get back to nature and see some interesting plants that you wouldn’t normally associate with the UK. It’s also a great place for a picnic.
14. Visit St. Michael’s Mount
The iconic castle at St. Michaels’s Mount can be seen from the beaches and coast around Penzance. The castle is built on a tidal island in Mount’s Bay across from the town and visiting is one of the best things to do in Penzance.
I’ve visited St. Michael’s Mount (and France’s very own Mont Saint-Michel) and exploring the castle, village, and small harbor makes for a memorable day out. It’s possible to walk to the island at low tide, or you can take a boat from nearby Marazion if the tide is in.
15. Visit Trengwainton Garden
The beautiful Trengwainton Garden is run by the National Trust and covers an area of over 25 acres of countryside between the moors and the coast. Here you’ll find walled gardens and woodland paths with stunning views across the rolling hills to the sea.
Trengwainton makes for a great day out for the whole family and dogs are welcome too. There’s an onsite cafe, a bookshop, and public toilets. The gardens are open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and entrance costs £10.00 for adults and £5.00 for children.
16. See Cornwall’s Ancient Standing Stones
Cornwall is a place steeped in history, myth, and legend. From King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table to the witches of Boscastle, pirates, and smugglers. Some of the most impressive sites across the county are the many ancient standing stones dotted around the fields, clifftops, and moors of Cornwall.
As these stones are scattered across a wide area they aren’t easily accessible by public transport so you’ll need your own vehicle to see these ancient marvels.
17. Visit Polgoon Vinyard
Thanks to the mild climate of Cornwall and the southwest, it’s the perfect place for Britain’s burgeoning winery and vineyard industry. Polgoon Vinyard is an artisan winery that produces wines, ciders, and juices using locally grown fruits and ingredients.
One of the best things to do in Penzance is to visit this wonderful family-run vineyard for a tour and tasting. Learn all about the wine-making process in a wonderful setting close to the Cornish coast, and finish off with tastings of some of Polgoon’s finest products.
Visit the official website to book tours, which start at just £10.00 per person including tasting.
18. Hike the South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Pass encompasses 630 miles of hiking paths along the cliffs, beaches, and coves of Devon and Cornwall. The section from Penzance to Marazion is just 2.7 miles and takes in some stunning coastal scenery overlooking Mount’s Bay and St. Michael’s Mount.
Another option is to walk to Mousehole which is a slightly more taxing 3.6-mile hike, but with impressive views that make the extra steps seem worthwhile. You won’t have to hike back (unless you want to of course) as there are buses from both Marazion and Mousehole back to Penzance.
19. Visit the Penlee Lifeboat Station
In December 1981 the entire crew of the Penlee Lifeboat was lost at sea while attempting the rescue of passengers and crew from a stricken vessel.
The rough winter waters off the coast of Cornwall can be treacherous and it’s a testament to the bravery of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) that they still go out in all conditions to help those in trouble.
It’s possible to visit the Penlee lifeboat which is based in nearby Newlyn a couple of miles from Penzance. I love visiting the lifeboat stations across Cornwall and learning about the stories of the brave men and women that help keep the nation’s seafarers safe.
20. Take a Boat to the Scilly Isles
Penzance is the only place in England where you can take a boat to the beautiful Scilly Isles off the coast of Cornwall (there are also flights from Exeter and Newquay but by boat is far better in my opinion!). This island archipelago is a haven for nature lovers and those wanting to escape to somewhere with a slower pace of life.
The crossing is made by the Scillonian ferry and takes just 2 hours and 45 minutes meaning a trip to the islands can be done as a day trip from Penzance. As you journey across you’ll get to experience the Cornish coastline from a unique perspective and see sights such as the Minack on your way.
Quick Travel Itineraries For Penzance
Penzance is a very small town with a population of just over 20,000 people. With this in mind, it’s easy to explore all the best places to visit in Penzance on foot. For some of the attractions a little further afield, it’s best to hire a car as public transport in Cornwall is not always the most reliable.
1 Day in Penzance Itinerary
If you have just one day in Penzance then head to Longrock beach for a day at the seaside. In the evening head back to the town and enjoy dinner in the harbor with fantastic views of Mount’s Bay.
2-3 Days in Penzance Itinerary
With more time, take a trip to Penlee House and Gardens, the Minack Theatre, and St. Michael’s Mount. You can hike a section of the South West Coastal Path and consider visiting Newlyn to the west and Marazion to the east, which are both just short walks that can be done in a day.
1 Week in Penzance Itinerary
Follow the above itineraries to include all the top things to do in Penzance. For a week’s stay, you’ll be able to visit all the top attractions in the town and also have time for a day trip to charming Mousehole and the Scilly Isles on the Scillonian ferry.
Where to Stay in Penzance
Penzance is a small town and all the accommodation options are within walking distance of the shops, restaurants, harbor, and beaches.
Where to Stay in Penzance for Budget Travellers?
This one-bedroom private room in a converted loft is a great option for budget travelers and offers fantastic views of the bay. Penzance town center is a 15-minute walk from the property.
Where to Stay in Penzance for Families?
This two-bedroom house is a fantastic choice for small families or a group of friends as it sleeps up to 4 people. The seafront, town center, and Morrab gardens are only a few minutes away on foot.
Where to Stay in Penzance for Couples?
This cozy one-bedroom home is perfect for couples and is a few minutes walk from the town center, seafront, and harbor.
Best Restaurants in Penzance
Don’t miss these great places to eat in Penzance. If you’re looking for things to do in Penzance at night then dining at one of the many restaurants in the town is a great option.
Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar
No trip to Cornwall is complete without sampling seafood fresh from the sea. The Mackerel Sky Seafood Bar is one of the best places in the county to tuck into locally caught fish such as mackerel (obviously), crab, scallops, and mussels. If you’re feeling decadent, the lobster comes highly recommended.
Lamorna Pottery Cafe
It would be a crime to visit Cornwall and not indulge in one of its most famous treats, the cream tea. This humble dish of scones, Cornish clotted cream, and strawberry jam is one of my favorite reasons to visit and the Lamorna Pottery Cafe is the perfect surroundings in which to enjoy it.
If you’re looking for something a little different then Mermaid Alley’s central restaurant specializes in Asian-inspired street food made with locally sourced produce. This is a great option for vegetarians and vegans and is budget friendly too with dishes ranging between £4.00 and £12.00.
FAQs About Things To Do in Penzance
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Penzance.
Penzance is most famous for the comic Pirates of Penzance which is loosely based on the Cornish legends of pirates and smugglers.
Summer is definitely the best time to visit Penzance. June to August are the best months to enjoy the beaches and activities such as surfing, swimming, paddle boarding, and hiking.
Penzance is definitely worth visiting for its charming harbor, beaches, parks, and coastal walks. It’s also in a great location for exploring some of Cornwall’s top attractions from the Minack Theatre to St. Michael’s Mount.
Yes, Longrock beach is within walking distance of the town. There is also the tiny Lamorna beach which is made of pebbles as opposed to sand like the larger Longrock beach.
Both Penzance and St Ives are beautiful coastal towns and have plenty to offer. If you’re looking for a quieter time in Cornwall then Penzance is preferable thanks to its sheltered beaches and relaxed pace.
There are direct trains from London to Penzance and the journey time is between five and six hours depending on the service. Penzance is easy to reach by car from the rest of the UK via the A394 and A30.
Now you know what to do in Penzance you’re all set for a trip to this beautiful Cornish fishing town. The Cornish coastline is one of the most beautiful parts of Great Britain and one that benefits from some of the mildest climates in the country too.
Whether you want to spend time at the beach, explore the bays and inlets around the coast, or visit top attractions like St. Michael’s mount there’s plenty to see and do in this charming seaside town.
Cornwall remains one of my favorite places in the world and I’ll keep going back time and again.