Penzance (Cornish: Pennsans) is the most south-westerly town in Cornwall. Famous for its association with the Gilbert and Sullivan opera (now often played as a musical) 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 the main link with the Isles of Scilly via the spring and summer-only ferry.
1 Cornwall Newquay Airport (NQY IATA) has flights from London (Gatwick & Stanstead), Dublin, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff. It's about 30 miles (48 km) away from Penzance by A3075 and A30, reckon 45 min by car. Its two disadvantages are (i) most flights are summer only; (ii) public transport is tricky as first you have to get the bus into Newquay (last bus around 6:30PM), then rely on an infrequent bus or branch-line train for connections to Penzance.
There are flights to the Isles of Scilly from 2 Land's End Airport(LEQ IATA) at St Just TR19 7RL, 6 miles (10 km) west of Penzance. Flights operate year-round M-Sa and in summer are every 30 min; flight time is just 15 min so day-trips are feasible. The "Skybus" aircraft are small fixed-wing twin-props (e.g. Twin Otter or BNF Islander) so your total baggage limit is only 15 kg, and flights can be grounded by weather that wouldn't bother an Airbus or 737. There's also a helicopter service, using a 10-seater AW169. Adult fare is from £80 each way, day-trip £120 by "Skybus" and from £120 each way, day-trip £220 by helicopter. (For other transport routes, see Isles of Scilly "Get in".) A bus runs hourly between Penzance railway station and the airport to connect with flights: 20 min, £6 each way, book it along with your flight. By car follow A30 then B3306, long-stay parking is available.
There are plans for a new helipad just outside Penzance, to run helicopters year-round to St Mary's and Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, including on Sundays. This is intended to start service in 2019 but at present is not confirmed.
Direct trains run to Penzance from London Paddington (8 daily, 5 hours), Exeter (8 daily, 2 hours) and Plymouth (15 daily, 2 hours). There are frequent connections to Bristol (4 hours), Birmingham (5 hours) and the north, with one direct service to Sheffield, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
There is also an overnight sleeper train, The Night Riviera. This runs Sunday to Friday from London Paddington around 11:30PM, reaching Penzance by 8AM (on Su by M 9AM). The return train leaves Penzance Su-F around 9:30PM to reach Paddington at 5AM; you can stay aboard until 7AM. Book via Great Western (www.gwr.com), with airline seats, or single or double sleeper cabins available.
Other nearby destinations along the main line, served by hourly trains between Penzance and Plymouth, are St Erth (for St Ives), St Austell (for Eden Project), Par (for Newquay), and Bodmin. See National Rail for times and fares; advance booking is usually much cheaper. A Ride Cornwall Ranger is good value for local travel. It allows unlimited off-peak travel within Cornwall, and between Cornwall and Plymouth, by all trains and most buses. "Off-peak" means M-F after 9AM, and all day Sa Su & holidays. An adult day-ticket is £13, children and concessions around £10.
3 Penzance railway station is at the bottom end of town by the bus station, and a short walk from the ferry terminal. There's not much within the station, but cafes and other facilities in town nearby.
National Express coach NX404 runs overnight from London Victoria (8 hr) via Heathrow Airport, Bath, Bristol Airport, Exeter, Torquay and Plymouth. NX315 runs daily along the south coast from Eastbourne via Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastbourne, Exeter and Plymouth.
First Kernow bus T1 runs every 30 min between Penzance and Truro (1 hr 45 min), via St Erth, Hayle, Camborne, and Redruth. Change at Truro for Newquay, St Austell and Bodmin. Reaching Plymouth and Exeter by bus is not worth the bother, take the train.
Penzance is a 5- to 6-hour drive from London via M4, M5, and A30. It's a long way and at some point you'll need to refuel. Don't be paying motorway prices, there's supermarket petrol at (amongst others) M5 jcn 28 (Cullompton Tesco), A30 Bodmin (Asda, Launceston Rd Bodmin) and A30 Penzance (Tesco).
A ferry plies between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly, daily from mid-March to October. The ferry (Scillonian III) leaves Penzance around 9AM to reach the main island of St Mary's at noon; it returns at 4:30PM for 7:15PM. Only foot passengers are carried. Day-trips allow enough time to visit Tresco, where the Abbey Gardens are the islands' main draw. Booking strongly recommended, and see Isles of Scilly: "Get in" for other ferry practicalities.
For long-stay parking in Penzance while you visit the islands, check Islesofscilly-travel for options, which include:
- For a day-trip, the Council-run long-stay car parks at the Harbour and St Anthony's Gardens charge £8 for 24 hours. They're pay & display so you can't use them for longer stays.
- IOS Parking and Scilly Parking are two firms offering secure long-stay parking, both near the harbour and off-site with shuttle transfer. They're about £5 per day.
Walking is the best way to get around town in Penzance. Newlyn, Mousehole and St Michael's Mount are within hiking distance for healthy adults, but use the bus for those places if there are children, luggage, or dodgy knees or hips involved. Take the bus for:
- Land's End: bus A1 hourly via Newlyn, Lamorna and Porthcurno, one hour, from 7AM to 6PM.
- St Ives: bus A2 hourly via Marazion, St Erth and Lelant, 45 min, from 9AM to 10PM.
(Bus A3 runs hourly between St Ives and Land's End along the B3306 via St Just, Pendeen and Zennor, but doesn't serve Penzance.)
These "A"-buses, operated by First Kernow, are blue open-top double-deckers in summer. For bus travel plus rail, a good deal is the Ride Cornwall Ranger (adult £13) described above. For bus only, buy a Day Rider for £12 (child £6) from the Bus Station or from the driver on boarding - contactless bank cards accepted. Bus drivers also issue Ride Cornwall Rangers, but only for full price, go to the station for concessions.
Penzance is a fine example of a Cornish granite working town. It's not touristy like St Ives, so there's space to enjoy its 18th/19th-century architecture, harbour and sea views. Grand buildings grace Chapel Street, Regent Square, Morrab Place, Market Jew Street and Alverton Street; and then there's the wacky Egyptian House on Chapel Street. The harbour area is busy with small fishing vessels and pleasure craft, and passenger and freight ships sail to the Isles of Scilly. The promenade, built in the 1840s, stretches all the way to Newlyn. Along it admire the cool white Art Deco of the Jubilee Pool, and the tumult of waves breaking at Battery Rocks.
- 1 Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Morrab Rd, TR18 4HE, ☏ . Apr-Oct: M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Nov-Mar: M-Sa 10AM-4:30PM. The Newlyn School was an art colony based in nearby Newlyn from the 1880s to the early 20th century. They sought naturalistic scenes of fishing and harbour life, their leaders being Stanhope Forbes and Walter Langley. Penlee House is a Victorian mansion adapted to showcase their work. Though the "School" no longer exists as an art movement, Newlyn continues to inspire art - see that page for classes and its own gallery. Adults £5, concs £4, under 18s free.
- 2 Morrab Gardens, TR18 4DA (in the centre of town). Dawn until dusk. A fine example of a sub-tropical public garden, opened in 1889. "Morreb" is Cornish for "besides the sea". Free.
- 3 Chysauster Ancient Village, Newmill, Penzance, Cornwall, TR20 8XA (Newmill, 4 miles north of Penzance), ☏ . 10AM-5PM. A village was made up of stone-walled homesteads known as 'courtyard houses', found only on the Land's End peninsula and the Isles of Scilly, dating from 100 BC-300 AD. adults £4.60, children £2.80, concessions £4.10.
- 4 St Michael's Mount, Marazion (2.5 hour walk east of Penzance). Su-F, closed Sa. An abbey, then fortified home on an island offshore. At low tide, you can walk across a causeway. At high tide, frequent boats will take you across for £2 each way (£1 for children). For castle/garden/both: adult £9.50/7.00/14.00; child £4.50/3.50/6.50; 2 adults & 3 children: £23.50/n.a./34; 2 adult & 3 children: £14.00/n.a./20.50.
- See Newlyn, an hour's walk or ten minute bus ride, where the Gallery and Fishermen's Memorial Statue are the main sights.
- Land's End is an overpriced tourist trap. If you've come all this way from John O'Groats (e.g. by unicycle, for charity) then you've no option but to continue to the bitter end. But for cliff-top walks and scenery, you'll do better elsewhere, e.g. towards Sennen Cove or the Lizard.
- Hike town trails. 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.
- 1 Morrab Library, Morrab Pl, TR18 4DA, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. For those interested in all things book-related, Penzance has an excellent private library consisting of more than 60,000 volumes, archives and photographic collections. Think floor-to ceiling book cases, leather chairs, and sea views. A book-lover's paradise. Day membership available at £3. The library is in the Morrab Gardens.
- [dead link] 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. Late June. 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. Montol is a celebration of the Cornish traditions of Christmas and midwinter, held on 21 December each year. Follow lantern processions of the costumed "guise dancers" beginning at 4pm and 6pm, then visit the pubs in the town centre to see appearances from the guise dancers performing music, plays and traditional games. Guise dancing is a tradition already called 'ancient' in its first mention in a newspaper in 1804. At 10PM a torchlit procession moves along Chapel Street down to the seafront beacon for a folk custom known as "Chalking the Mock". Expect fabulous costumes, fire, noise and dancing in the streets.
- 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 and join in with the procession of people dressed in white and green, decorated with leaves and flowers as they 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'. In 2019 this begins at the Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn, at about 7:15PM. Ends in the Admiral Benbow for Cornish music and dance on the first floor. Visitors welcome.
- Guldize. Annually in 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 is a centre for folk music, with many lively clubs and sessions playing tunes from Cornwall and the other Celtic nations. You will often find musicians in pubs, busking in the town, or processing during Penzance's many Cornish celebrations. The Acorn theatre provides a small (230 capacity) venue for live music and theatre, but many pubs will offer live music throughout the week.
- 2 The Acorn, Parade Street, Penzance, TR18 4BU, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This converted chapel is home to Penzance's largest live music and theatre venue. There is a varied programme of events throughout the year.
- 3 The Studio Bar, Bread St, Penzance TR18 2EQ, ☏ . 9PM-late. Hidden away in a back street is this small but popular live music venue, hosting bands every night of the week. Music is usually indie, rock and punk. Open very late, it's small, crowded, but very popular.
- 4 Cornish traditional music session (at The Admiral Benbow), Chapel Street, Penzance, TR18 4AF, ☏ . 8-10PM. Every Thursday musicians gather to play traditional Cornish music in this atmospheric nautical pub. Hear tunes from Cornwall's rich musical heritage as well as those from today's Cornish Celtic music scene. Listen, dance, enjoy. Visiting musicians welcome. Free.
- 5 Celtic music session (At the Fountain Tavern), St Clare St, Penzance TR18 2PD (At the top end of town, just beyond the top of the Causewayhead shopping street.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tuesdays 8-10PM. Cornwall has a rich traditional music scene. Listen to traditional Cornish, English, Scottish and Irish music performed informally in a pub by local and visiting musicians. Free to attend, just buy a drink and enjoy. Visiting musicians welcome. Buy a drink for the players and enjoy it even more! This is the session previously held at the Pirate Inn. Free.
- 6 Penzance Folk Club, Bath Inn, Cornwall Terrace, TR18 4HL (Tucked away in a lane off the Promenade, behind the Queens Hotel.), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 8-11PM. Held on alternate Wednesdays. See "Diary" section of the Penzance Folk Club website for dates. Free.
- Open mic session at the Crown (see below for details) each Monday. Very popular, with a range of folk and acoustic acts in this small local's pub.
There are several other folk sessions in Penzance, which are listed on the Folk in Cornwall website, and at the events listed above.
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 is an excellent choice. 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, see "Drink" listing.
- 1 Archie Browns, Old Brewery Yard TR18 2EQ (off Bread St), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM. Health-food store downstairs, vegetarian cafe upstairs, with home-cooked meals, cakes and refreshments. The café is also an art gallery.
- 2 Blacks of Chapel Street, 12 Chapel St, ☏ . M-Sa 10:30AM-3PM & 6:30-11PM, Su 6:30-11PM. Freshly sourced local Cornish produce for lunchtime and evening dining. Fish is from the nearby fish market in Newlyn. Mains £8.
- 3 Lavenders, 6A Alverton Street, TR18 2QW. M-Sa 9AM-5PM. Excellent Cornish pasties. A large pasty is very large, don't expect to do much after eating one!
- 4 Market Plaice Fish Bar, 37 Causewayhead TR18 2ST. M-Sa 11:15AM-8PM. Long-standing fish & chip shop, take-away with some cafe tables.
- 5 Waterside Meadery, Wharf Rd, Penzance TR18 4AB, ☏ . Daily 6-9PM. Meaderies are medieval-themed restaurants which have become a Cornish tradition. They serve simple food, such as "chicken in the rough" (chicken and chips in a basket), and serve jugs of mead and other fruit wines, all produced locally. Did we mention the serving "wenches"? No bookings, so you may have to queue. Other meaderies in the region are at Newlyn, Trewellard, Redruth and Newquay.
- 6 Sea Palace Ltd, 19 Quay St, Penzance TR18 4BD (just above harbour), ☏ . Daily 5:30-11PM. Popular restaurant serving Cantonese and Peking cuisine.
- 7 Taj Mahal, 63 Daniel Place TR18 4DU. Tu-Su 5:30-11:30PM. Serves Nepalese and Indian cuisine. Great food in a modern setting, just a stones throw from the sea front.
- 8 The Cornish Barn, 20 Chapel Street, TR18 4AW (Foot of Chapel Street, by the Methodist Chapel), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 8AM-11PM. They've given up on being an American diner and shifted upmarket, though BBQ ribs are still on the menu. It's mostly Med cuisine nowadays. Starters £7, mains £15.
- 9 Maria Chica, 24 Market Jew Street, Penzance TR18 2HR, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Small Portuguese café and chocolatier serving great coffee, hot chocolate, pastries, cakes and hot cheese breads and chorizo breads with a friendly atmosphere. Free WiFi.
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.
- 1 The Admiral Benbow, 46 Chapel St, Penzance TR18 4AF, ☏ . M-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-11PM. Eccentric and friendly pub and restaurant containing a jumble of maritime objects from boats or wrecks. The dining room at the rear of the pub is a replica of an 18th century ship's "mess" - ask if you wish to be seated there or just to look. Traditional British food.
- 2 Dolphin Tavern, Quay St TR18 4BD (Facing harbour, next to ferry office), ☏ . Bar is full of character and has a great jukebox; restaurant; small hotel.
- 3 The Crown, Victoria Square, Bread Street TR18 2EP (near corner with Adelaide St), ☏ . Su-Th noon-11PM, F Sa noon-midnight. 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.
- 4 The Lamp and Whistle, 2 Leskinnick Place, Penzance TR18 2EZ (Corner of Bread St), ☏ . Daily noon-11PM. A tiny back-street pub serving a large array of craft beer, also with a huge selection of rums and bourbon whiskies. Quirky decor. A friendly place where you can meet with locals and visitors alike.
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.
- 1 Blue Seas Hotel, 13 Regent Terrace TR18 4DW, ☏ . Guest house overlooking the sea and the promenade. Good breakfast.
- 2 Mounts Bay Caravan Park, Green Lane, Marazion TR17 0HQ (5 km east of Penzance facing St Michael's Mount). 5-star small, family-run park.
- Penzance Backpackers, The Blue Dolphin, Alexandra Rd, TR18 4LZ, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A central youth hostel. Reception is open 9AM-noon and 5-10PM. Dorm £16, private room £40.
- 3 The Queens Hotel, Western Promenade TR18 4HG (On the promenade), ☏ . Victorian style hotel at the beachfront. Parking £5 per day.
- 4 Union Hotel, Chapel Street TR18 4AE, ☏ . Stout 17th-century building steeped in history - which means no lift to upper floors. The same management run the White Hart in Hayle and the Angel in Helston. B&B doubles from £95.
- 5 [dead link] Shoreline B&B, 17 Marine Terrace, The Promenade TR18 4DL, ☏ . On the seafront near harbour.
- YHA Penzance, Castle Horneck Rd, Penzance TR20 8TF (2 km west of centre), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Youth hostel, reception is open 8-10AM and 4-10:30PM. £18 dorm bed, £39 private room.
- YMCA Backpackers Hostel, YMCA Cornwall International House, The Orchard, Alverton Rd TR18 4TE (1 km west of centre), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hostel with 24-hr 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 Wi-Fi. Some computer shops offer a few computers for public use, as do many of the bed and breakfast establishments. The Public Library is in St John's Hall, Alverton Street, TR18 2QW.
Good base for trips to Hayle, St Ives, St Just, 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 mi (14 km) from Penzance - lovely beach, busy in summer.
|Routes through Penzance|
|END ←||W E||→ Redruth → Truro|
|Land's End ← Crows-an-Wra ←||W E||→ Hayle → Exeter|