Cornwall’s perfectly proportioned capital city offers a perfect city break. Here are the best things to do in Truro organised into an hour by hour itinerary…
The best way to take in its attractions is to wander around Truro’s network of cobbled streets and peer into the tiny ‘opes’ (alleyways) housing boutique shops and eateries featuring locally-caught seafood, gourmet burgers, and menus that use ingredients measured in food metres rather than food miles.
The name of this Bronze Age city comes from the Cornish Tri-veru meaning three rivers (referring to Kenwyn, Allen and Tinney that run into the River Fal). Although a busy trading port for centuries, it wasn’t the first choice for Cornwall’s capital city (which went to Launceston and Lostwithiel first).
But enough preamble, we’ve got a busy day planned for you, so here’s our guide to what to do in Truro.
Best Things to Do in Truro, Cornwall
Love Cornwall? You may also be interested in the 12 prettiest villages and towns in Cornwall for a day trip…
9am-10am: Start your day with breakfast or brunch
Lemon Street Market is home to the Fig café, this light-filled space is packed with giant paper lanterns used in the City of Lights Procession each November and doubles as an exhibition space.
This is the perfect spot for coffee and brunch, as the menu includes great pastries and locally made cakes.
10am-12noon: Shopping in Truro
Empty your online shopping cart and rediscover the joys of shopping on Truro’s cobbled streets where independent shops and boutiques rule over the usual high street staples.
Truro has turned shopping into a treasure hunt. The city’s many independent stores, boutiques, markets and specialist outlets are often hidden down cobbled narrow street passages, known as ‘opes’. But your efforts will be rewarded with rare finds.
At Truro’s centre is Lemon Quay which hosts farmer’s markets and craft fairs featuring locally produced goods throughout the week. Nearby Lemon Street is thought to be the finest example of Georgian architecture west of Bath.
Here you will find the two-storey Lemon Street Market shopping centre, with small shops selling arts and homewares on the ground floor, including Illustrated Living, a specialist wine merchant and florist with a sprawling café offering exhibition space above.
Opposite Lemon Street Market, Lemon Street Gallery sits over three floors in an elegant Georgian building with an ever-changing exhibition of professional artworks available to buy. Check out their latest show.
There are several other prestigious galleries worth a wander, including contemporary and surf art at the Driftwood Gallery, four centuries of Cornish fine art at the Lander Gallery and ceramics and jewellery at the Lane Gallery. Fairtrade shop Uneeka features gifts and homewares, and there is Made in Cornwall selling Cornish goodies.
In September the Piazza is taken over by the Cornwall Food & Drink Festival which boasts an ever-growing taste of Cornwall, with pop-up restaurants, foodie stalls and happenings with some of Cornwall’s many top chefs showing off their skills.
12noon or pre-lunch: Museums in Truro
Head to the Royal Cornwall Museum. If the kids are tired of shopping, take them to see Cornwall’s famous unwrapped Egyptian mummy. The Royal Cornwall Museum on the city’s River Street is also home to a world-famous collection of minerals.
There are free activities designed for children to explore the collections and learn about the history and geography, and what it is that makes the county so special.
Permanent displays are intermingled with exhibitions of modern art and eye-catching storytelling exploring Poldark’s Cornwall.
Look no further than award-winning gourmet burgers at Hub Box which began life in a converted metal container in 2012 and has since opened restaurants in more than a dozen locations.
Choose from dozens of different burgers – including six vegan options. And make sure you order one of their famous homemade shakes to wash it all down with.
The Market Inn sits snuggly under the arm of the imposing Hall for Cornwall, and it attracts plenty looking for a pre-show drink, but don’t be fooled by its small stature as the Lemon Quay piazza becomes the pub beer garden — perfect for enjoying lunch as you watch the world go by. It’s dog-friendly, welcomes families and offers a traditional menu, including a popular Sunday lunch.
2-4pm: Truro Cathedral
Time to visit the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Looming over the skyline, Truro Cathedral was finished in 1910 after 30 years in the making and has dominated Truro’s skyline for more than a century. A must visit if you’re in Cornwall for Christmas!
The imposing neo-gothic cathedral that can be seen from every spot is only 143 years old. The site was once home to the 13th-century St Mary’s church. The remains of the Tudor church are now ensconced in St Marys Aisle.
Almost a quarter of a million people visit the cathedral each year. Highlights include the world’s largest stained glass project, which tells the story of the Gospels and the history of the church in England. If you are lucky, you may hear its world-famous choir rehearsing. The choir once named Queen’s Roger Taylor among its number. The friendly staff provides tours – and there’s a café and shop to visit too. Entry is free although donations are welcome.
Combine your tour of the cathedral with soaking up more of Truro’s history using their trail. History is everywhere – many of the buildings date from the Georgian era with white-washed townhouses everywhere you look. Begin your tour of the city from the top of Lemon Street to take in the Georgian skyline before heading to the city centre.
Elsewhere, the Coinage Hall, which was built in 1848, sits on the site of the original hall that first stood there in 1351. The Crown Courts in Edward Street lie on the site of a 12th-century Norman castle and the cathedral on a 13th century chapel. Walsingham Place is one of Truro’s hidden secrets. John Betjeman, the late Poet Laureate, loved this curving parade of Georgian houses.
Visit Cornwall offers curated walks on its website.
Recover from your tour of the city in Victoria Gardens, a quiet spot minutes from the city centre which was designed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1898.
The beautiful bandstand plays host to live music through the summer and there’s a prettily bedecked snack stand serving Cornish ice cream to enjoy while sitting on the sloped lawns (which are also home to beautiful flowerbeds and sculptures).
4pm: Afternoon tea in Truro
For a touch of old-fashioned charm head to the Charlotte’s Teahouse for pots of tea served in china and plates of sandwiches, scones and cakes in a pretty restored Victorian tea room overlooking the city’s cobbled streets.
In late afternoon (depending on tide times), head down the river. Cornwall doesn’t really do landlocked, and Truro sits nine miles from the South coast. Take a cruise downriver from the city and past Malpas towards Trelissick and Falmouth. Cruises run every two hours on most days, tidal conditions permitting. Book your trip at Fal River.
6pm: Dinner time in Truro
In Truro, the locations are part of the eating experience with restaurants and bistros setting up shop in art galleries, schools and converted chapels. Locally-caught fish and shellfish are the stars on the menus of many of the restaurants, but there’s plenty of other cuisines on offer. Dinner services begin early to allow for post-shopping and pre-show crowds.
The Longstore on Lemon Street boasts Cornish Steak on its menu, and is renowned for its great cocktail menu.
Fish lovers should head to Hooked to enjoy seasonal fish dishes from locally-sourced ingredients.
Tabb’s Restaurant is often named as one of Cornwall’s top fine dining venues. The dinner menu includes fillet of beef with Smashed Jerusalem Artichokes, Mushroom Jus and Bone Marrow Butter and Pan-fried Loin of Pork loin with Caponata, Tomatoes, Red Wine and Peppers.
Sitting at the bottom of Lemon Street Quay, Mannings combines a champagne bar with a restaurant offering a wide choice of food and cuisines, as well as tasting menus of meat, fish and vegan treats.
8pm: Evening entertainment in Truro
After your pre-show dinner, head to The Hall for Cornwall for a live show. The Hall has recently reopened after a three-year hiatus to undertake a £26m overhaul of the building and its theatre – now called the Cornwall Playhouse.
The 175-year-old building is also home to a café and community facilities. Its programme includes smash hit musicals on tour, ballet, live music and comedy, as well as showcasing homegrown stars like Fisherman’s Friends. Booking is essential, and you can book here.
For a pre or après dinner drinks experience, beer fans should head to Skinner’s Brewery on the banks of the River Fal for a tour and tasting events. The brewery is home to the award-winning Betty Stogs, named Britain’s best bitter.
It’s probably an unusual thing to recommend something as everyday as a trip to the cinema on a city break. But in keeping with Truro’s reputation for combining old-world charm with a sprinkling of indie spirit, Truro’s independent art deco-style Plaza Cinema is a must.
Opened in 1936, this was the place Cornish audiences first saw the talkies, colour films and Star Wars. Today it has all the latest releases across five screens, peppered with world cinema and filmed performances from the National Theatre, as well as Pat’s Film Club which most recently hosted a sell-out double bill of Alien and Aliens and a romantic pairing of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and the Quentin Tarantino-penned True Romance for Valentine’s Day.
During the month of December, the city is turned into a magical festive experience when the sun goes down. The Magical City begins with the City of Lights Procession: an incredible show of paper lanterns turned into stunning sculptures in late November.
Hotels in Truro
If you’ve run out of time for all the great things to do in Truro, there are some beautiful historic hotels to book into. We recommend the incredible Grade II Listed Alverton Hotel. Set in gorgeous grounds a mere few minutes stroll from the city centre, the recently refurbished hotel features an incredible restaurant and beautiful rooms – perfect for a weekend break or as a base to visit Cornwall. It is rich with history – it was once a convent for the nuns at Truro Cathedral.
Or you can enjoy a luxury city-centre stay at The Royal Hotel and its sister establishment, Mannings Aparthotel on Lemon Street with holiday apartments boasting their own fitted kitchens.
Things to do in Truro
Will you be visiting Truro any time soon? Let us know if you follow this itinerary, or if you find any other hidden treasures in Truro!
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