A port town in the southwest of Britain, Penzance is the jewel of Cornwall and, thanks to its sub-tropical climate and cultural heritage, one of the country’s major tourist attractions.

Although there is evidence of a settlement as early as the Iron Age, most stories surrounding Penzance’s early history pertain to the town’s name, which was taken from the chapel of St. Anthony on the western headland (Penzance meaning ‘holy headland’). This was more starkly expressed in Penzance’s initial symbol of St. John the Baptist’s severed head. The actual recorded history of the town is dominated by a charming mix of pirate raids, fishing, markets and gradual expansion to become one of the major spots in the region.

Building on the increased profile provided by Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, the town has also established its reputation as an attractive holiday destination. With delightful beaches, good weather and plenty of culture on show, it’s easy to see why.


Replete with impressive Regency and Georgian architecture, Chapel Street plays host to some of the finest buildings in the region. Impossible to miss are The Egyptian House, with its truly outlandish 'Egyptian style' façade, the beautiful Market House and the Georgian Theatre at the rear of The Union Hotel.

Equally enjoyable for a relaxing stroll are the Morrab Gardens. Across an area of three acres, you can find numerous sub-tropical plants including many which cannot be grown anywhere else in Britain.

One of Penzance’s cultural hubs is the Penlee House Museum and Art Gallery in Morrab Road. Originally built in 1865 and formally opened as a museum in 1949, the gallery specialises in works by members of the local 19th century 'Newlyn School' like Stanhope Forbes.

Penlee House also hosts an open-air theatre in Penlee Park during the summer but, for the performing arts, the Minack Theatre has to be visited. Founded in 1932, visiting groups like the Cambridge University Gilbert and Sullivan Society make for a fabulous summertime calendar of shows.

The beaches in and around Penzance are naturally one of the central attractions. Dozens of sandy beaches against rocky cliffs can be found around the Lands End peninsula, providing perfect spots for relaxation or water-sports like surfing or windsurfing. Alternatively, Penzance’s Jubilee Bathing Pool in the town proper is one of the oldest Art Deco-style swimming baths in the country.

Annual festivals are key to Penzance’s culture. Especially important is the Golowan Festival, held each June for ten days, where you can expect a fabulous mixture of arts, street entertainment, parades and firework displays.

Although currently under redevelopment, the Penzance harbour still provides the opportunity to visit the Isles of Scilly between March and October.

Rugby union is the main sport in Penzance, with the town represented by the recently renamed Cornish Pirates. The club play in the National Division One at the Cambourne Recreation Ground.


A former market town, local arts and crafts can be found everywhere in Penzance. However, the addition of the Wharfside Shopping Centre has increased the range of outlets.

The major shopping streets are Chapel Street, the Lower and Upper Causewayhead, Central Market Jew Street and Alverton Street.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Penzance enjoys a range of restaurants and eateries providing local and international cuisine. One regional speciality, apart from the Cornish pasty of course, is Cornish Mead wine. Of the several meaderies in Penzance, the best is the Waterside Meadery next to the harbour.

Seafood is naturally emphasised in a number of restaurants, and Admiral Benbow on Chapel Street is a particularly good establishment. However, gourmet eating at the Abbey Restaurant near Chapel Street is also highly recommended.

Penzance is blessed with some 30 pubs, meaning you’re never far away from somewhere to drink. For music and dancing though, check out the town’s nightclubs like The Barn Club in Eastern Green, the smaller Bosun’s Club in Wharf Road.

Tourist Information

Penzance Tourist Information OfficeStation RoadPenzanceTel: 01736 362


The closest airports to Penzance are Plymouth City Airport and Newquay Cornwall International Airport. Although Plymouth solely provides domestic connecting flights, Newquay International is one of the fastest growing airports in Britain and provides a better choice of flights.

Alternatively, train services are available to London’s major airports from Penzance (roughly a 5 hour journey).

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