Cornwall is renowned for its beautiful beaches, quaint seaside towns and, of course, its pasties. From surfer-friendly beaches to the world-famous Eden Project, it’s easy to see why it has become such a popular holiday destination.
Cornwall is a large county with loads on offer, so it’s important that you know where you want to stay. To help you out, we’ve put together this breakdown of Cornwall’s best towns to stay in.
Fancy a cracking Cornish getaway? See the best holiday cottages in Cornwall. If you’ve left everything a little late, but are still dreaming of seeing the South West, worry not! Just take a look at the best last-minute cottages in Cornwall.
Best for: Museums, Culture & History
Penzance is tucked away in the heart of Mounts Bay and is the most westerly town in all of Cornwall. In this coastal beauty of narrow streets you’ll find historic castles, museums and World Heritage Sites, making it the perfect town for history-buffs.
Make sure you check out Trengwainton Garden, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, and the Minack Theatre for a truly cultured Penzance trip.
The town is also surrounded by areas of outstanding natural beauty and is under 10 minutes’ drive from the famous St Michael’s mount island, so there’s lots to explore just outside of town.
Best place to drink: The Turks Head is a great spot to unwind with a drink after a busy day of sightseeing. The pub is the oldest in town and has fantastic historical decor, a wide menu of drinks and a beautiful covered beer garden.
Best place to eat: As you’d expect, there are plenty of great seafood restaurants in Penzanze but the Shore takes some beating. Chef Bruce Rennie has worked with some of the best in the business and really knows how to get the most from the daily catch. Bruce’s cooking is rightfully getting the attention it deserves so it’s best to make a reservation.
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Best for: Surfing & Family Fun
Newquay is the undisputed UK capital of surf, and for good reason! Here you’ll find some of the best surfing opportunities in Europe with consistently good waves and amazing sandy beaches.
There’s nothing quite like a romantic evening stroll by one Newquay’s iconic harbours during the summer and, if you’re with children, there’s lots to keep them occupied with the popular Newquay Zoo and aquarium.
Being a traditional fishing village on the north coast means that you can get some of the freshest fish in chips in the country here. Plus, you can finish the day off with freshly-made ice cream on the epic Fistral beach.
Best for: Surfing & Family Fun
Best place to drink: Whiskers bar and live music venue is a local institution. If you’re looking for a quiet night you can enjoy one of their punchy cocktails in the snug at the back of the bar or if you’re feeling adventurous you can head down to the front to enjoy some live music.
Best place to eat: Lying just off the beach, Flounders, is the perfect spot to pick up some traditional fish and chips before plunging back into the Newquay surf. The friendly staff serve delicious fresh fish in large portions, to enjoy in the restaurant or take-away. Perfect for families!
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Best for: Independent Art, Coastal Walks & Galleries
A wonderful Cornish town, St Ives is one of the most beautiful places in the county and is ideal for a last minute cottage break. With its world-class beaches, quaint cobbled streets and vibrant art scene, St Ives is an awesome place to stay.
The small town is home to the world-famous Barbara Hepworth Museum, the Tate gallery and lots of independent art galleries, making it one of the most cultured towns in the whole county.
Head out to enjoy the nearby coastal walks, including the famous South West Coast Path, and you will see why so many have been inspired to depict St Ives in their artwork.
Best place to drink: If you’re looking to enjoy a drink to break up a day’s walk, look no further than the Tinners Arms. Located along the coastal path between St Ives and Zennor, the 700 year old pub is a popular spot with walkers and serves a fine selection of local ales, wines and spirits. Car parking is also available.
Best place to eat: The award-winning Cellar Bistro offers fantastic modern European food at affordable prices. The friendly staff will be sure to look after you and are happy to make suggestions based on the seasonal menu, which includes vegetarian and vegan options.
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Best for: Shopping & Sightseeing
Truro is the most southerly city on mainland Britain. Complete with countryside, culture and the famed cathedral, it is the perfect place to stay all year round.
Truro is the only city in Cornwall and is the county’s main shopping hub so make sure you seek out the traditional, independent shops hidden away in the backstreets.
There’s also great daytime activities for the whole family, including the Lappa Valley Steam Railway and the picturesque Tregothnan house only a short distance away.
Best place to drink: In the heart of town, the lively William IV is a great spot to relax after a busy day of shopping. The pub has recently been refurbished and the ambience here is informal and friendly. Dogs are welcome and there is also an outside area for the kids to run around .
Best place to eat: The Cornish Vegan offers an exciting and varied menu for vegans and non-vegans alike. The home-style comfort food is made in house and is bound to leave you wanting more. There is also a kids menu to keep the little ones happy.
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Best for: Historic Landmarks, Country Houses & Epic Countryside
Bodmin is one of Cornwall’s oldest towns and is home to some of the most significant events in the history of the county, including the famous Cornwall uprisings in the 15th and 16th century.
Luckily, today the town is more tranquil than its tumultuous past but the relics remain, leaving several amazing attractions worth visiting. The most famous attraction is the old Bodmin jail, which has been described as one of the most haunted places in the whole of the UK.
For those looking for something a bit more outdoorsy, then there’s lots of nature reserves within driving distance and of course, the stunning Lanhydrock House and Bodmin Moor.
Best place to drink: The Hole in the Wall is in the centre of town and offers a fantastic selection of local ales, lagers and all your favourite wines. The characterful pub has a real sense of history and the back garden has a feature that you certainly wouldn’t expect to find in Cornwall…a taxidermy lion!
Best place to eat: When out and about and looking for a quick bite, you can pop into the Woods Cafe for some fantastic grub. The cafe specialises in locally sourced produce and the lunch menu is popular with walkers looking to refuel. You can’t go wrong with the sausage sandwich and their pork pies are hard to beat!
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Best for: Independent Restaurants & Harbour Views
No guide to Cornwall would be complete without mentioning Padstow. Home to Rick Stein’s legendary restaurants, shops and cookery school, the city has often been dubbed ‘Padestein.’
The harbour in the heart of Padstow is a must-see while you stay here and, given the amazing cafes and restaurants that line its shore, you might not want to leave.
If you want to get properly stuck in with marine life you can also jump on a ferry to the upmarket village of Rock or travel slightly up the cost and visit Port Isaac, one of the smallest and most picturesque fishing villages in the county.
Best place to drink: With views over the harbour, award-winning beers and fantastic service, it’s no surprise that the Shipwrights is so popular with locals and visitors. The atmosphere here is fantastic and the pub is known for its Cornish hospitality.
Best place to eat: Padstow offers such a wide selection of fantastic dining experiences it feels unfair to single one out. If you want to splash out, why not try the Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at No 6. The well-known TV chef’s restaurant has been turning heads since he arrived on Rick Stein’s patch in 2005.
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Best for: The Eden Project, Independent Shops & Lively Bars
St Austell is an old market town with a rich architectural and agricultural past. Now one of Cornwall’s biggest towns, it is home to bustling streets, independent shops and some of the county’s best bars and restaurants.
But there is one attraction in St Austell that is far and away the most popular: the Eden Project. Just 2 miles from the town’s centre, it’s the county’s most famous attraction. It boasts the largest indoor rainforest in the world and is the perfect choice for a truly memorable day out.
Best place to drink: Set in a beautiful valley just around the coast, the Polgooth Inn has character by the bucket-loads. You can enjoy the locally-brewed St Austell Ale by a cosy open fire or overlooking stunning views of the coast and there is often live music over the weekends to keep you entertained.
Best place to eat: The family-owned Kingswood Bar and Restaurant specialises in steak and seafood and is a great place to sit back and relax after a busy day of activities. The staff are welcoming and friendly and the great children’s menu and relaxed and welcoming environment make this a popular spot for families.
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