Boats in Penzance, Cornwall, England

A mini guide to Penzance, Cornwall

Life has been hectic recently, so for my 31st birthday (hooooow?) a break was needed. I spent five days exploring Penzance and the Isles of Scilly and I couldn’t have imagined a better place to unwind. Now I’ve finally washed all the sea salt out of my hair, it’s time to roundup why Penzance is so great!

Penzance harbour, Cornwall, UKThings to do in Penzance, CornwallVisiting Penzance, CornwallHistoric Penzance, CornwallThe Cornish Hen deli in Penzance, CornwallView of St Michael's Mount from Penzance, CornwallMaking a kitty friend in Penzance, Cornwall

A birthday by the sea

Cornwall is a place that exceeds expectations. I first visited in 2010 and was amazed to find that it looks just like you expect it to: all narrow streets, old fishermens’ cottages and natural rugged beauty.

It’s unrealistic to expect a place to be so picturesque and you secretly suspect that most of Cornwall must look like the rest of the UK, with only the pretty bits shared online and in guidebooks—but it really is all so lovely. The Cornish are lucky folk.

Quaint English shops in Marazion, near Penzance, CornwallVintage moto scooterQuirky Bird Café, and other places to eat in Penzance, CornwallTips for a short stay in Penzance, Cornwall

Things to eat & Drink

Besides pirates and Poldark, Cornwall is known for its excellent local produce. The Cornish know how to do food: pasties, cream tea, fudge, Yarg, ice cream, Fairings, seafood, Stargazy pie…not to mention all the ciders and ales. It’s an excellent county to be in when it’s your birthday i.e. treat-yo’-self time ;)

We were invited for dinner at The Cornish Barn, where we opted for the tapas-style tasting plates so we could try as much of the delicious-sounding menu as possible! Every plate was incredible but the gold star goes to dessert–chocolate brownie bites with ice cream. It’s literally the best pudding I’ve ever had (and the cocktails were up there too).

My birthday dinner was at the Shore, Penzance’s number one place to eat. Every plate was a mouth-watering work of art and despite being a more fancy restaurant the service was low-fuss and friendly. The local ingredients are top quality, the flavour combinations surprising and the prices totally reasonable–what more could you want?

Places to eat in Penzance, Cornwall: The Cornish BarnFood recommendations for Penzance, Cornwall: The Cornish Barn, Chapel StreetThe most delicious dessert I've ever eaten, at The Cornish Barn, Penzance, West CornwallDelicious local food at The Cornish Barn, Penzance, CornwallStraight from "Treasure Island", the historic Admiral Benbow Inn in Penzance, Cornwall

Things to see & do

Of course as an area of outstanding natural beauty there are plenty of outdoor activities to help you burn off some calories too. While Penzance isn’t famously a surfing spot (that type of activity is found along Cornwall’s north coast), you can go horse riding, cycling and hiking, or go swimming at Britain’s largest outdoor seawater lido!

  • The 1930s Art Deco Jubilee Pool* (open May-September annually), recently restored following storm damage and a super fun tick off the bucket list!
  • St. Michael’s Mount, a short walk via the causeway at low tide or pay £2 to catch a boat
  • Egyptian House and the home of Maria Branwell (mother of the Brontë sisters), Chapel Street
  • Go shopping on Market Jew Street, Chapel Street or Causewayhead
  • Visit Mousehole, just an hour’s walk down the coast

Art Deco seawater lido the Jubilee pool, Penzance in Cornwall, EnglandPlaces to eat, drink & see in Penzance, CornwallPirates of Penzance, CornwallMaking friends with the locals in Penzance, CornwallVisiting Marazion from Penzance, Cornwall

Where to stay

Further reading

N.B. I was invited to some of the places I visited, in my recommendations below they’re marked with an asterisk/*.

Taking the open top bus to Marazion from Penzance, CornwallTips for visiting Penzance, CornwallThe strange Egyptian House, Chapel Street, Penzance, CornwallRough seas in Penzance, CornwallThe famous Admiral Benbow Inn, Penzance, CornwallPenzance, CornwallGetting the GWR Night Riviera sleeper train from Penzance to London, Cornwall

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