Truro is one of Cornwall’s best-kept secrets. As the county’s only city and administrative centre it is a hub of activity, but it is often overlooked as a tourist destination. With fascinating history, some magnificent architecture, an independent shopping scene, great places to eat and drink, and close proximity to some of Conrwall’s most beautiful countryside, it makes a compelling alternative to the likes of nearby Newquay and Falmouth. Here are some of the best things to do in Truro to make the most of your trip.
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Is it worth visiting Truro?
We’re often asked if it is worth visiting Truro. Yes, it is! Cornwall’s county town might not have the same tourist reputation as places like Newquay or St Ives, but it will surprise you with how much there is to see and do in the town.
Not only does Truro have attractions like Cornwall’s tallest building, Truro Cathedral, the town is also a launchpad for seeing some of Cornwall’s lesser-known natural beauty areas, such as the nearby Roseland Heritage Coast.
Truro’s central location with good transport links makes it a perfect base for a road trip in Cornwall. Newquay, St Ives, Padstow, Penzance, Falmouth, Land’s End and the Eden Project are all within an hour’s drive from the town.
Things to do in Truro: food, drink and shopping
1. Find art and crafts at Lemon Street Market
Lemon Street Market is at the heart of the lively independent shopping scene in Truro. Set inside a bright market hall over two floors, it brings together an assortment of creative outlets, including gift shops, homeware, an artisan liquor store and an art gallery.
Every shop offers something different and imaginative, and you never know what to expect. It’s a fun place to wander around for a couple of hours, especially if you’re looking for a souvenir to take away from your trip, or a gift to buy for someone.
The shopkeepers are full of enthusiasm and very happy to give recommendations. I had a friendly chat with the Hamiltons Liquor Cellars owner, who showed me some of the Cornish gins and wines he had in stock, and told me about the stories behind them.
There are two cafés inside the complex, so it’s perfect to drop in for lunch or an afternoon coffee and cake.
2. Enjoy a cuppa and local produce at The Old Cheese Shop
The Old Cheese Shop is a charming family-run deli and café on the quiet outskirts of Truro between the railway station and the city centre. More than just a shop, you can sit down here and enjoy one of the best coffees in the city, and all sorts of delicacies sourced from local producers.
Whether you are looking for some specialty Cornish cheese, cakes, pastries, chutneys, coffee or tea – you will find it here, and you can eat in or take away. The lovely Victoria Gardens is right across the road, so you could stock up here for a Cornish-style picnic in the park.
You’ll be made to feel at home as soon as you enter. The team welcomed me with a smile and helped me choose some cheese – I ended up buying some delicious Cornish yarg. It’s dog friendly too, so you can bring your four-legged friends along.
3. Stop by for a coffee at Lily’s of Truro
Throughout Truro city centre you will find quirky cafés and coffee houses. Lily’s of Truro is a local favourite, with a creative buzz about the place and a relaxed, homely feel.
The café has quite a large rustic interior, with a mishmash of upcycled furnishings arranged stylishly, with wood art hanging on the walls, and plants and flowers strewn around.
The food offerings are full of colour too, whether it’s an interesting homemade cake, a plentiful salad bowl or wholesome soup. I had a delicious brownie washed down with a freshly roasted coffee.
Lily’s of Truro is a place where you’ll feel at home hanging out with friends or just enjoying a good book with a mug in hand.
4. Have an artisan burger in a converted church at Hub Box
Another example of the imaginative use of space in Truro is Hub Box, where an old church has been transformed into a hipster-ish burger shack.
In place of the old nave and pews, the space has been filled with big wooden tables and comfy cushioned booths. Decorative lights hang down from the ceilings and colourful artwork is plastered on the walls.
Hub Box is set over two floors, and there is a beer garden outside too. In additional to the tasty burgers, the menu features more American diner-style meals, such as fried chicken, hotdogs and dirty fries, with a range of craft beers to wash it down.
5. Shop for art supplies at Truro Arts Company
If you have a passion for art, you will be in heaven at the Truro Arts Company, situated next door to the Royal Cornwall Museum. This huge independent art shop stocks an extensive range of creative supplies for beginners and pros alike.
The centre holds events throughout the year, such as workshops for people of all abilities, and ‘arty parties’. Lots of creative fun is to be had here if you’re visiting Truro with kids.
There is also an arts café attached to the centre that has comfy seating as well as an outdoor terrace area.
Things to do in Truro: sights and activities
6. Visit the stunning Truro Cathedral
Standing majestically at 76 metres tall, Truro Cathedral is Cornwall’s tallest building and one of the architectural jewels of the county. It towers above the Truro rooftops and can be seen from many miles around.
Truro Cathedral was completed in 1910, which actually makes it one of the most modern cathedrals in the UK. Even so, it has a grandiose gothic style that is more reminiscent of the stunning cathedrals built during the medieval era.
The cathedral has some peculiarities in its design. It is one of only three cathedrals in the UK to be built with three spires. It also features some exemplary stained glass work.
You can enter and explore the cathedral for free, and it is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, and 11:30am to 4pm on Sundays.
7. Browse exhibitions at the Royal Cornwall Museum
At Truro’s Royal Cornwall Museum you can learn about the story of Cornwall through the ages, from its archeological roots through to the present day.
The museum features a collection of minerals that gives insights into Cornwall’s mining history, as well as artwork and book collections that reflect the county’s cultural heritage.
There is a regular programme of temporary exhibitions, which often have locally inspired themes. See the Royal Cornwall Museum website to see what’s coming up. The museum is open 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday, and it is £7.50 to enter.
8. See a show at the revamped Hall for Cornwall
Freshly reopened after a massive two-year refurbishment project, Hall for Cornwall is the county’s largest theatre and performance space, set inside a 19th-century Grade II listed building.
Shows are staged at its 1,000-seater auditorium on most days of the year, including plays, gigs, musicals, operas and ballets, often showcasing local talent, and sometimes featuring household names. See the Hall for Cornwall website for the upcoming schedule.
9. Have a picnic in Victoria Gardens
Tucked away at the edge of the city centre, Victoria Gardens is a beautifully cultivated green space. The sloping gardens are filled with interesting features, from ornate flower beds and exotic plants to a hydraulic-powered water feature.
A traditional-style bandstand at the centre of the gardens hosts performances in the summer.
From the upper end of the gardens you can catch a view of the viaduct, which was built in 1904 and replaced a previous version constructed by the legendary Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
10. Spend an afternoon at Truro Bowl
If you’re looking for something more active and entertaining, then an afternoon or evening bowling session at Truro Bowl is one of the most fun things to do in Truro.
This bowling alley has eight lanes and is situated very close to the city centre. There’s a restaurant and bar on site where you can grab a light bite and a drink, and arcade games, pool and air hockey to fill in the gaps between games.
Coworking in Truro
11. Hire a desk for the day at Workbox
If you need to get some work done during your trip or you are visiting on a workation in Cornwall, then Workbox is the perfect option in Truro. This friendly coworking space offers a hot-desk for a day for £25, or £70 for a week.
The coworking space is set across a three-story townhouse with plenty of facilities, including a communal kitchen, outdoor hangout area and breakout rooms. Its location is great too, right next to Victoria Gardens for a peaceful stroll, and it’s also just a short walk into the city centre.
See our guide to the best coworking spaces in Cornwall for more great remote working options and communities around the county.
Things to do near Truro
12. Explore the beautiful Trelissick Gardens
Truro is a launchpad for exploring the desolate, breathtaking scenery of South Cornwall. Just a few miles and a 15-minute drive outside of the city you will find Trelissick Gardens, an estate and gardens with gorgeous views over the River Fal as it widens towards the sea.
The 30-acre estate dates back more than 250 years, but was only opened to the public in 2012. It is now run by the National Trust, and you can park up for the day for £5 and enter the grounds for £14 (£7 for children). The grounds feature a café, plant shop, second-hand bookshop and craft gallery.
13. Take the King Harry Ferry to the Roseland Heritage Coast
Across the River Fal from Truro lies the Roseland Heritage Coast, a sweeping peninsula that is adorned with some of Cornwall’s most breathtaking coastal scenery.
The most direct way to reach the peninsula from Truro is to take the King Harry Ferry, which is an experience in itself. This 19th-century chain ferry runs every 20 minutes and can carry up to 34 cars at a time. It is one of only five chain ferries of its kind in England.
It doesn’t cost anything to ride the ferry – you can just arrive at the port and park up. There are a couple of sharp bends just before you reach it. The crossing takes about 10 minutes, and then the Roseland Heritage Coast is yours to explore.
The pretty seaside fishing village of St Mawes is about 15 minutes’ drive down the peninsula, and is a good base for exploring. This involves navigating rural Cornish country roads, so see our guide to driving in Cornwall before you set off.
Experiential places to stay in Truro
14. Stay in a 19th-century grade II listed estate
There are many places you can choose to stay in and around Truro, but none quite as special as The Alverton. It is the city’s only four-star hotel and also features a double AA-rosette award-winning restaurant, all in the surroundings of a historic Grade II listed building dating back to 1830.
The Alverton has a fascinating history. Since it was built in the 19th century, the building has been used as a manor, a library and a bank. It served as a convent for more than a century before being converted into a hotel in the 1980s.
Today, the hotel is set within peaceful grounds among green lawns and trees, while still being a few minutes’ walk away from Truro city centre.
Map of things to do in Truro
You can find the locations of the various sites and activities featured in this article on the map below:
If you are thinking of visiting out of season, see our complete guide to Cornwall in winter.
Have you visited Truro before? Let us know if you have any tips in the comments below.