Penzance is the most south-westerly town in Cornwall. Famous for its association with the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Pirates of Penzance, the town is an ideal base for exploring the Penwith area of Cornwall. It is increasingly attracting those interested in cultural tourism due to its long association with the arts.
Penzance is also the home of a major link to and from the Isles of Scilly via the spring and summer-only ferry.
Penzance is a 5-6 hour drive from London via the M4, M5, and A30 (including the new piece of dual carriageway by the Newquay turn which should alleviate traffic jams in the summer).
Trains run daily from London Paddington (8 daily, 5 hours, £105 return) and Plymouth (15 daily, 2 hours), also via Bristol (4 hours), Birmingham (5 hours) and onwards to the north of the UK (Crewe, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh (1 daily, 16 hours) and Glasgow (2 daily, 16 hours)).
There is also an overnight sleeper train, the The Night Riviera. This excellent service is arguably the most relaxing way to Penzance. It runs Su-F nights to/from London Paddington. (Have a night out in the West End of London, before jumping in a taxi to Paddington, get the 23:50 sleeper train to Penzance, wake up at 08:00 as the train pulls into Penzance and the sea air will quickly get rid of any hangover from late night boozing in the train bar!)
National Express or Megabus Coach services from London Victoria (8–9 hours). Tedious, but can be a cheap option (National Express have fun fares from £1 and Megabus fares start from £1 (+50p booking fee)).
Penzance and the surrounding area are well served by local bus services. Most bus services leave from the Bus Station, which can be found next to the Railway Station. Information is available from First Bus Cornwall. Sunday services can be quite limited. Routes catering to tourists often run only in the summer months.
- Newlyn and Mousehole - villages 2–4 miles away on Mount's Bay
- Trips to the Isles of Scilly via the The Scillonian III, or fixed-wing aircraft from Land's End airport (with links to Penzance).
- Fishing and sailing trips from the harbour.
- Bus service to Land's End (Service 1 and 1A)
- Fishermen's Memorial statue - Newlyn Promenade.
- First's 300 service is an open-topped double-decker tourist bus that travels around Penwith, from Penzance to Land's End via Mousehole and Newlyn and then back to Penzance via Cape Cornwall, Pendeen, and Zennor. The grand coastal and moorland scenery along the north coast is breathtaking.
Throughout the town there are numerous examples of Regency and Georgian Architecture.
Penzance is home to a lengthy promenade built in the 1840s. Admire the cool white art deco Jubilee Pool and see the "ballet of the waves" as they crash into the sea wall (particularly spectacular opposite the handsome Queen's Hotel which is worth visiting for its splendid paintings from Newlyn School artists.)
Penzance has an array of interesting buildings including the Egyptian House, built in an Egyptian-style and the Market House, described as one of the finest examples of regional architecture in the UK. The walk down Chapel Street towards St Mary's Church and the harbour is a delight! Look for the quaint Turk's Head Inn and the pirate on the roof of the Admiral Benbow pub!
- Morrab Gardens (in the centre of town). a fine example of a sub-tropical public garden.
- Union Hotel, Chapel Street. was allegedly the first place in Britain where the death of Admiral Lord Nelson was announced. At the rear of this hotel were the remains of a Georgian theatre, but they have not been preserved.
- St Johns Hall (Penzance's Town Hall). is one of the largest purely granite structures in the world
- Penlee House Museum. Home to a wide selection of paintings from the Newlyn School of painters including Stanhope Forbes.
- Chysauster Ancient Village (Newmill, 4 miles N of Penzance), ☎ +44 7831 757934. An Iron Age settlement. adults £3.60, children £2.20, concessions £3.20.
- St Michael's Mount, Marazion (east of Penzance).
- Hike. The Penzance, Newlyn and Mousehole town trail maps are available from the Penzance Town Council offices and local outlets. These planned walks are an excellent way to see the unique history of the area.
- Marine Discovery. Wildlife boat trip for a dolphin-watching and basking shark-watching sea safari tour on a sailing catamaran.
- Morrab Library. For those interested in all things book-related, Penzance has excellent private library. Includes a Celtic Studies section.
- Tennis. Excellent facilities are available at the Penzance Tennis Club.
- Western Discoveries. Guided walks. Historical and folklore-based tours of Penwith's ancient monuments.
Penzance is home to many ancient folk customs and festivals. They can be a colourful spectacle, with costumed participants processing through the town, often accompanied by musicians.
- Golowan Festival. Week-long festival every year at the end of June. The festival is part revival of ancient midsummer customs practiced in the Penzance area (and throughout Cornwall) and part arts festival. The two busiest days are Mazey Day and Quay Fair Day where many streets are closed to traffic and the town fills with tens of thousands of people for the processions, traditional dance, and musicians from many Celtic nations.
- Montol Festival. A celebration of the Cornish traditions of Christmas and midwinter, culminating on 21 December each year with Montol Eve. Follow the costumed lantern processions to the ancient hillfort of Lescudjack overlooking the town, see the lighting of the beacon, dancing, and the Lord of Misrule. Walk with the the crowds back to St John's Hall for a more dancing and a concert before the 10pm torchlit procession along Chapel Street down to the seafront for the second beacon, and a folk custom known as "Chalking the Mock".
- St Pirans Day Parade. Annually, 5th March. Cornwall's largest St Piran's Day parade. Watch thousands of people, including most of the local schools, parade through the streets in traditional costume and colours, accompanied by dancing and music, to celebrate the life of St Piran, Cornwall's patron saint. Starting at 10.15am at the top of Causewayhead, it be seen from most of the major streets in the town. Follow the procession into the Morrab Gardens for a short play on the life of St Piran.
- The May Horns. Annually, 1st Sunday in May. The ancient custom of "bringing in the summer". Watch the procession of people dressed in white and green, decorated with leaves and flowers make their way from Newlyn into Penzance making a great noise as they process with horns, whistles and drums to 'Drive out the Devil of Winter and call in the warmth of Summer'. Expect dancing, an appearance from the Queen of May, and the guise beast 'Old Ned'. Begins at the Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn at about 7.30pm. Ends in Admiral Benbow for Cornish music and dance on the first floor. Visitors welcome.
- Guldize. Annually, late September. Penzance's traditional celebration of the Harvest Festival. Gather outside the Yacht Inn for the "Crying of the Neck" ceremony followed by a procession of musicians to the Admiral Benbow where there is traditional Cornish music and singing on the first floor. Visitors welcome.
Penzance has a reasonable selection of shops including national retail chains and small independent outlets.
- Good secondhand bookshops in Chapel Street. New books from shops in Market Jew Street and Chapel Street.
- Penzance has an increasing number of retro and antiques shops. Most of these can be found along the picturesque Chapel Street and at the lower end of Market Jew Street.
- Art galleries (shops) in Causewayhead, Market Jew Street and Chapel Street.
For those seeking to eat a Cornish pasty, Lavenders and Pellows are excellent choices. Countless other bakeries, shops and cafés also sell them, hot and cold. (Tip: it is correct to eat pasties from the end, not in the middle!)
- Admiral Benbow, 46 Chapel St, ☎ +44 1736 363448. Pub with restaurant offering traditional British food. Huge collection of historic maritime objects on display in every conceivable location.
- Archie Browns, Bread St, ☎ +44 1736 362828. Excellent range of healthily-made home-cooked meals, cakes and refreshments available in the café upstairs. Walk into the shop, turn right, and go up the stairs. The café is also an art gallery.
- Blacks Dining Room & Bar, 12 Chapel St (Half-way down Chapel Street, you can't miss it.), ☎ +44 1736 369729. Freshly sourced local Cornish produce for lunchtime and evening dining. Fish is from the nearby fish market in Newlyn.
- Lavenders, 6A Alverton Street, TR18 2QW (Alverton Street). Excellent Cornish pasties. A large pasty is very large. Do not expect to do much after eating one!
- Market Plaice Fish Bar. Serving the community with fish & chips for 50 years.
- The Meadery. There are several meaderies in Penzance. These restaurants started as medieval-themed eating places but have evolved into almost a Cornish tradition. Recommended is the Waterside meadery next to Penzance Harbour.
- Pellows, 95, Market Jew St, Penzance, TR18 2LE (Market Jew St), ☎ +44 1736 331582. Excellent Cornish pasties, both made and baked on the premises. Also a good old-fashioned bakers selling bread, buns and cakes made on the premises. Try the Cornish 'hevva cake' or saffron buns.
- Poolside Indulgence, Jubilee Pool, Wharf Rd (Next to the open air Jubilee Pool along the seafront), ☎ +44 777 999 8590. This is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. The home made cake is a must.
- Sea Palace. Cornwall's No.1 destination for traditional Cantonese and Peking Cuisine, offering an excellent dining experience in a truly unique atmosphere. Reservations recommended to avoid disappointment.
- Taj Mahal. Serves Nepalese and Indian cuisine. Great food in a modern setting, just a stones throw from the sea front.
- The Cornish Barn (The Cornish Barn), 20 Chapel Street, TR18 4AW (At the lower end of Chapel Street, close to the Methodist Chapel.), ☎ +44 1736 874418, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 18:00 - 23:00. American style food in a contemporary setting (think burgers, buttermilk chicken, gourmet hot dogs, craft beer and cocktails in jars). Very trendy and popular, with a newly opened garden (May 2015) at the rear with an outdoor bar. Meals from £5.
Penzance and the surrounding area have a large number of pubs. Particularly good is the Turk's Head in Chapel Street, Penzance's oldest pub. Live music happens at the Acorn Theatre, and there's an excellent monthly comedy night there as well. Late night drinking is normally confined to a handful of night clubs which are normally open until 3-4AM at weekends.
- The Dolphin, ☎ +44 1736 364106. Right by the harbour wall is full of character and has a great jukebox!
- The Crown, Victoria Square, Bread Street, TR18 2EP (At the bottom of Bread Street, parallel to Market Jew Street), ☎ +44 1736 351070. For those wishing to try local beer, this small pub has its own brewery, "Cornish Crown", brewing seasonal beers. Popular with locals, on sunny days the crowds spill outside onto its terrace which catches the afternoon and early evening sun. It also serves meals made with local produce.
- Sound, 68 Market Jew St (Near the train station), ☎ +44 1736 331211. Nightclub. Sometimes live music and big name DJs. Really one for the young ones.
Various B&Bs all over the town, the best are in Regent Terrace facing the sea and some in Alexandra Road. Penzance Tourist Information Centre (TIC) +44 1736 335530 can check availability for you.
- Blueseas Hotel, 13 Regent Terrace, ☎ +44 1736 364744. Guest house overlooking the sea and the promenade. Well known for their breakfasts.
- Mounts Bay Caravan Park (Marazion near Penzance). 5 star small exclusive, family-run park.
- Penzance Backpackers, The Blue Dolphin, Alexandra Rd, TR18 4LZ, ☎ +44 1736 363836, e-mail: email@example.com. A central youth hostel whose reception is only open from 09.00-12.00 and 17.00-22.00. £16/dorm bed, £36/priv room.
- Shoreline Guest House, 17 Marine Terrace, The Promenade, ☎ +44 1736 365821. On the seafront with amazing sea views.
- YHA Penzance, Castle Horneck, Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8TF, ☎ +44 845 371 9653, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Youth hostel whose reception is open from 08.00-10.00 and 16.00-22.30. £18/dorm bed, £39/priv room.
- YMCA Backpackers Hostel, YMCA Cornwall International House, The Orchard, Alverton Rd, TR18 4TE, ☎ +44 1736 334820, +44 1736 365016, e-mail: email@example.com. Hostel with 24hr reception which includes a light breakfast. £19.25/dorm bed, £46/twin room.
There are no longer any dedicated internet cafés in Penzance, however most cafés and even some pubs offer free wifi. Some computer shops offer a few computers for public use, as do many of the bed and breakfast establishments.
Good base for trips to Hayle, St Ives, Marazion, Porthleven, Helston, Truro, Redruth, and Camborne.
- Isles of Scilly - day trips or longer stays available via ferry or fixed-wing aircraft.
- Sennen beach - about 9 miles from Penzance - lovely beach, busy in summer.