Are you looking for the best things to do in Truro? Let me show you what this Great Little City has to offer!
When you’re driving to Truro, it’s hard to believe that there’s a city hiding away there.
Sitting in the middle of the Cornish countryside, the landscape only starts to feel a little more urban when you’re a couple of miles from the city centre.
It’s a tiny city – only home to around 20,000 people – but it’s packed full of fascinating attractions, beautiful buildings, and wonderful stories.
As my family is Cornish, and I live just over the River Tamar in Devon, I’ve visited Truro dozens of times over my childhood and adult life.
In fact, my dad lived in a Truro suburb when growing up, and my granddad used to be a policeman in the area – and much more recently, I spent the whole of summer 2021 in Cornwall!
Truro, which is affectionately known as ‘Our Great Little City’ by locals, is Cornwall’s only city.
Despite it being the only settlement in the county to earn city status, it’s not the biggest.
Redruth, Falmouth and St Austell all have bigger populations, while Truro is only home to roughly 20,000 people.
Truro isn’t by the coast, which means that it doesn’t get anywhere near as much tourism as most of the rest of Cornwall, and it rarely hits the top of places to visit Cornwall lists.
However, there’s plenty to do for history lovers, culture seekers, architectural fans and even nature buffs (did I mention that it’s right in the middle of the Cornish countryside!).
So I’ve put together this list of incredible things to do in Truro that’ll convince you that it’s a fantastic city break.
So, let’s dig into all you need to know about planning a trip to Truro in Cornwall!
Best Things to do in Truro
the best things to do in Truro include checking out the only cathedral in Cornwall, visiting the fantastic Royal Cornwall Museum, shopping, cultural events and enjoying the cycling and hiking trails that span through the city. Also don’t miss marvelling at the buildings made of bath stone!
Truro Cathedral is what makes the Great Little City a city – so it’s definitely worth checking out while you’re there!
The cathedral was built between 1880 and 1910 in Gothic Revival style, on the site where the old Parish Church of St Mary stood.
It was built after the Diocese of Truro was established in 1876 – prior to that, Cornwall was under the Diocese of Exeter.
This makes it the heart of Anglican Christianity in the region, so it’s a must-visit for any tourists to Truro who are interested in religion, or fans of Gothic Revival architecture.
Truro is one of the only cathedrals in the UK with three spires.
Start your visit to the cathedral by walking around the outside – like many buildings in Truro, it’s made of Cornish granite and dressed with Bath stone, and boasts ornate carvings and Gothic-style windows.
If the cathedral is open, you can enter free of charge.
Don’t miss the Victorian stained glass window (one of the most impressive in the country!), the detailed baptistry and the two foundation stones.
One was laid by Prince Albert Edward and another by the Duke of Cornwall, nodding to Cornwall’s heritage as a very independent part of England.
The cathedral is open to all faiths outside of service time (services are also open to all, but you can’t walk around at your own leisure obviously). Nearly all parts of the cathedral are wheelchair-accessible.
The official opening hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Saturday (closed on Fridays) and 11:30 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday.
However, it quite frequently closes early for services and other reasons – I tried to pop in once at about 3:30 pm a couple of years back and it was already closed.
Generally, I’ve found that it’s most likely to be open in the morning, so if you don’t want to miss the Cathedral when you’re visiting Truro, head here first!
Walking Tour or Self-Guided Tour
If you want to learn a little more about Truro’s fascinating history, and how it rose from a small iron-age settlement to Cornwall’s influential capital, make sure that you’re in town on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays for a Truro Walking Tour.
Bert Biscoe’s Tours
Bert Biscoe runs the history of Cornwall tour on Mondays and the Characters of Truro Tour on Fridays.
If you want to experience a slice of local life, he’s the right guy to show you around.
He’s a local historian, councillor and poet, and he’s a Bard of Gorsedh Kernow – this is a non-political organisation that is dedicated to preserving Cornish Celtic culture and heritage.
Bert’s tours will take you all around the city, show you interesting corners and detail fascinating stories that have made it the city it is today.
Tours are at 10:00 am on Mondays and Fridays, and they cost £7.50 per person.
Little City, Big History
On a Wednesday in the summer months, the tour focuses on Truro’s history as an important trading port, how it became a diocese, its connections to Poldark and the Titanic, and its contemporary art scene.
You’ll also see lots of hidden alleyways and viewpoints in the city – Truro might not be by the sea, but some parts of the city are certainly among the prettiest places in Cornwall.
It costs £7.50 for adults and is free for children.
For either tour, you can book by popping into the visitor’s centre or by using these contact details:
- email: [email protected]
- phone number: 01872 274555
If you can’t make the tour, you can purchase a copy of ‘Footsteps around Truro’ from the Visitor centre for £2, and use it to do a self-guided walking tour.
Royal Cornwall Museum
The Royal Cornwall Museum has been dubbed ‘The UK’s best museum for Cornish life and culture’ – so if you want to learn a little more about this southwestern land, here’s your chance!
I absolutely love this museum, and think it provides such a valuable timeline of Cornwall’s origins, explanations about its Celtic roots, information about the Cornish Rebellions and the gradual loss of the Cornish language, plus the revival of not only the language but Cornish spirit!
Part of the reason I love this exhibition is that it makes me immensely proud of my Cornish heritage, but my non-Cornish partner agrees that it’s a fascinating history museum and provides an excellent snapshot of Cornwall’s past.
Exhibitions range from Cornish Images and Cornish History and Archaeology to Classical Civilisations and Fine Art.
The museum is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily, except Sundays and Mondays.
It costs £7.50 to enter.
I was devastated to read in the summer that there was a high chance the museum could close due to lack of funding, but it has since received funding and the council seems to be working towards solutions to keep it running.
But I want to implore people to please keep visiting this museum!
There are so many fascinating stories that you can learn about Cornish culture, and the museum will help you to see the region beyond its beautiful beaches.
Player Ready VR Truro
If you’re looking for things to do in Truro in the rain with kids or teenagers, I bring you Player Ready VR Truro.
With games and escape rooms, this virtual reality experience is part of the Player Ready brand which began in Truro in 2018.
Boasting four racing simulators and eight multiplayer VR stations, plus escape rooms and zombie experiences, there’s something for all ages here!
Truro’s hardly a big, bustling city – but if you do want to escape the hubbub of the centre for a little while, head to Victoria Gardens.
As the name suggests, these date back to the Victorian period (they were made for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee), and boast a traditional bandstand and various local and exotic flowers and other fauna.
The ideal place for a picnic, if you’re looking for budget things to do in Truro you could grab a sandwich from the local Sainsbury’s or Tesco and spread out here, enjoying a slice of nature in the city!
Hall for Cornwall
The Hall for Cornwall is the largest music venue in all of Cornwall.
They accommodate both local artists and international superstars – but, if you have a chance to see a Cornish act there, take it!
The Fisherman’s Friends (who also often play live in Port Isaac) are amongst some of the artists who frequent the Hall for Cornwall.
Lemon Street Market
Lemon Street Market is a vivacious, contemporary covered market – meets – shopping mall in the heart of the city.
There are a few independent shops – it’s a great place to pick up some authentic Cornish souvenirs – as well as a fantastic art gallery and cafe on the top floor.
If the weather isn’t kind to you while in the city, Lemon Street Market is definitely one of the best things to do in Truro in the rain!
But click here for my when to visit Cornwall guide, so you can hopefully avoid the rain 😉
Cycling Routes Around the City
There are plenty of cycling routes both around Truro and in its surrounding nature.
You can even leave the city centre on two wheels and shortly be in the wonderful Cornish countryside.
National Cycle Route 32 connects Truro with Bodmin and also leads to Padstow and Newquay.
Of course, you don’t need to go that far – you could just cycle a few miles out of the city and then return.
On a personal note, my grandma loved cycling when she was young, and one of the last stories she could remember when she had dementia was how she cycled from Camborne to Plymouth, went dancing, and then cycled back the next day.
I’m planning on replicating this cycle trip in her memory to raise money for Dementia UK, and because the route will have to be quite different now (as there are many more cars on the road!), I plan to take National Cycle Route 32 for some of it.
Here is some more information about cycling in Truro, including where to hire bikes!
Boat Trip to Falmouth
From Truro, you can take a scenic boat trip to Falmouth and back, enjoying the beauty of the River Fal.
The boat cruises through an AONB, with beautiful scenes on either side and places of historical interest, before stopping in Falmouth town. Some boats also call in at St Mawes.
Purchasing a Mussel Card (Cornwall’s answer to London’s Oyster Card!) offers hop-on, hop-off travel and is often the most budget-friendly option.
Note: at the moment ferries are not running all the way to Truro. Instead, you’ll need to drive 12 minutes to Tressilick, a nearby National Trust Property.
You can also take the 493 bus, which takes 25 minutes.
Truro Bowl is an epic ten-pin bowling centre right in the centre of town.
If you’re looking for things to do in Truro at night, this eight-lane bowling alley is open until 10:00 pm most evenings.
To book a lane, call 01872 222 333.
Sitting alongside the River Truro, Boscawen Park encompasses an impressive kid’s playground with swings, climbing frames, slides and more, overlooking river scenes.
For adults, Boscawen Park also features a cricket pitch, tennis courts and football pitches, a dog exercise area and a duck pond.
It’s a 20 minute walk or five minute drive from the city centre along Malpas Road to reach Boscawen Park.
Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm
If you’ve travelled in the West Country at all, you’ll know how drinking cider (or cyder, in Cornwall!) is a regional pastime.
Healy’s Cornish Cyder Farm is a 15-minute drive from Truro and is well worth a visit to get an insight of the production methods of this popular beverage.
Enjoy either a guided tour around the premises or visit the Cyder Museum, the Cellars and the Distillery on a self-guided tour.
You can also pull your own pint of Rattler Cyder for just £3 a pint! You can purchase day tickets or an annual pass, which lets you come back for a year free of charge.
If you want to enjoy a few pints and don’t have a car, there are bus links – although it takes around an hour to reach the farm from Truro.
Take the 304 bus to the stop called ‘Garage’ and then the 88 to a stop titled ‘Bus Shelter’, which is right by the Cyder Farm (ask the bus driver if you’re confused).
Trelissick, where the Falmouth cruises are currently terminating, is worth a visit in its own right.
With acres of stunning gardens, parkland and river vistas, it’s the perfect place for a walk close to Truro.
You can either drive the 12 minutes to reach the property or take the 493 bus direct from Truro.
Tregothnan is a private estate and is the largest historic garden in the county.
It has been owned by the same family since 1334.
Nowadays, it is the UK’s largest tea gardens, and Britain’s first homegrown tea was grown here (as recently as 2005!).
You can’t drop by Tregothnan, but you can arrange a private tour of the estate and the tea gardens. Rates start at £65 per person and include a cream tea.
It’s a 19 minute drive from Truro to Tregothnan, or you can take the 491 bus from Truro to The Old Rectory.
Paddleboard at Loe Beach
Loe Beach is the closest to Truro city centre, but I will warn you – it’s not my favourite in Cornwall.
It’s a small, mainly shingle beach at the start of the estuary.
Sitting 5 miles from the city, it takes between 10-20 minutes to drive there (depending on traffic) – so if you’re looking for beautiful beaches close to Truro, I’d recommend staying in your car for the extra 10-15 minutes and heading to Perranporth or Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth.
However, there is a decent watersports centre at Loe Beach where you can hire paddleboards and kayaks, enabling you to explore the pretty estuary at your own leisure.
Lessons are also available.
I’d recommend visiting Loe Beach for this reason – but if you want to check out the Cornish coast, head to some of the other nearby beaches (recommended below!)
Walk some of the South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path is a 630-mile route that spans from Minehead in Somerset, wrapping around the entire of Cornwall, before terminating in Studland Bay in Dorset.
If you’re based in Truro, you can easily get to some of the best walks on the north coast.
One of the best is to take a bus to Newquay and hike the coastal path to Perranporth (12 miles, fairly challenging), then take a bus back to Truro.
This route passes through the beautiful Holywell Beach which was a Poldark and Game of Thrones.
It also crosses Poly Joke Beach which is my dad’s favourite “local” Cornish beach (and he’s a proud Cornish man who’s been to every single one!).
Or, you can take a train from Truro to Redruth then a bus to Portreath, hike to Hayle.
This walk is 11.5 miles and it’s not too difficult.
It passes through Heritage Coastline and Godrevy Point, which is one of the best places to see seals in Cornwall.
Then you can take the train back from Hayle to Truro.
The south coast is a little more difficult to access as Falmouth has the Lizard Peninsula to its west and the estuary to its east.
So, I’d recommend using Truro’s advantageous position to focus on the northern Cornish coast path.
Visit the other nearby beautiful beaches
Of course, there are countless beaches close to Truro – this is Cornwall, after all!
Here are just some of my favourites:
- Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth: This beach has the prestigious blue flag thanks to its excellent water quality.
- Swanpool Beach, Falmouth: A beautiful white-sand beach with bright blue waters and plants behind the beach.
- Portreath Beach: A smaller sandy beach with cliffs on either side, this is another popular spot for surfing.
- Perranporth Beach: An incredible, world-class surfing destinations, close to where St Piran landed in Cornwall and the home of the only beach bar in the UK!
- Holywell Bay Beach, Near Newquay: This is an incredible beach ner Newquay that has a fraction of the crowds of those closer to the town!
Surfing at Perranporth Beach
As I mentioned, Perranporth is one of the best beaches near Truro, but there’s another reason to visit.. the surf’s up!
Perranporth Beach is a world-class surfing destination, so if you’re a fan of catching waves, don’t miss visiting it while you’re in Truro.
You can either take yourself out on the waves or do a lesson.
There are also surfing classes available at Fistral Beach, Newquay: more information here.
The beautiful gardens of Enys sit close to Penryn and are carpeted with colourful flowers and moss-strewn boulders.
The gardens are thought to be the oldest in Cornwall and were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the 20th century, they were all but left abandoned, but they’re slowly coming back to their former glory and make for an incredible walk around.
They’re about a 20 minute drive from Truro so they’re worth adding onto a day trip to Falmouth.
Take a day trip from Truro!
One of the best things about Truro is that it’s pretty much in the middle of Cornwall – the ideal location for day trips to pretty much anywhere in the Duchy!
Here are some of the most impressive places to visit near Truro:
Falmouth is my favourite town in Cornwall.
While it’s not quite as scenic as its quaint fishing villages, the town wins when it comes to character – it has a fascinating history spanning back to the 17th century.
Although the town only began in the 1600s, it quickly developed, with the Falmouth Packet becoming a mailing service that connected the town with international destinations.
This meant that the town turned into a cosmopolitan hub with sailors from all over the world!
The best things to do here are Pendennis Castle, the National Maritime Museum, the incredible food scene, shopping at independent restaurants and taking a boat over to St Mawes, where there’s another Tudor Castle.
Sitting in North Cornwall, Newquay boasts some of the most impressive beaches in the region.
With dramatic cliffs and white sand beaches, it’s a popular tourist town – but you only need to walk a little further along the coast path to find some hidden spots!
There are also plenty of shops and an aquarium to enjoy in the town!
Perranporth is one of the closest beaches to Truro and is a fantastic destination for a beach day, coastal walks and surfing.
Plus, it has plenty of excellent bars and restaurants and the UK’s only beach bar!
Redruth is just an 11-minute train ride from Truro.
While it’s not one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall, it has its charms, with mining cottages dating back to the 18th century, street art and community events.
You can also walk to the top of a hill and admire Chapel Carn Brea.
Plus, it’s close to Heartlands which is near Camborne, which is an interesting exhibition about Cornish mining history.
The Diaspora Gardens are next door – they have plants from places that Cornish people have settled.
The Eden Project is an incredible natural space that features two biomes, one of which contains rainforest flora and one with Mediterranean plants.
There’s even a waterfall and plenty of opportunities to learn about protecting the natural world!
Most famous for its high-end restaurants, Padstow is a quaint harbour town.
Rick Stein’s and Paul Ainsworth’s restaurants are among the most popular, but virtually every restaurant in this town has delicious food! I particularly love Cherry Tree’s Cafe.
Another of Cornwall’s favourite tourist destinations is St Ives.
With breathtakingly beautiful beaches that almost look tropical, St Ives is another popular surfing destination that also has safe swimming beaches.
In town, visit the TATE St Ives and Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden.
Or, take in the coastline on an easy walk to Porthkidney Beach near Hayle or a much more challenging hike to the mythical village of Zennor.
Best restaurants in Truro
Bread & Butter Cafe serves up delicious brunches and lunches made primarily with local, seasonal ingredients, and plenty of veggie and vegan options.
Located in Lemon Street Market, Fig Cafe is a local business that serves up fresh salads and sandwiches for lunch.
Hubbox is a converted church that serves up tantalisingly juicy burgers, with eight veggie and vegan options.
The Cornish Vegan serves up incredible plant-based food, including firecracker “pork”, mac and sheese, vegan carbonara and fake fish and chips.
Where to stay in Truro
The Barley Sheaf Inn is one of the closest places to stay near Truro Cathedral.
A bright and friendly guesthouse, the Barley Sheaf Inn serves a delicious breakfast every day.
All rooms have en-suite bathrooms, comfortable beds, access to high-speed WiFi and are spotlessly clean.
The County Arms has the feel of a country pub, with modern rooms upstairs.
Windows overlook a wooded valley, and it feels like you’re in a very rural setting – but the city centre is just a short walk away.
If you’re looking for luxury places to stay in Truro, I heartily recommend The Alverton.
Situated in a historic 19th-century listed building, this hotel boasts spacious and bright rooms. Some have luxury features like roll top baths.
The grounds are a stunning place to walk around and there’s a bar and restaurant on-site.
A short history of Truro
The name “Truro” is said to come from “Tri” meaning three – it either refers to the three roads (“Ru”) going into the city from the north, east and west, or three rivers (River Truro, River Tresillian and River Fal) passing through the area around the city.
Beginning life as an Iron age settlement, the town quickly grew and became a stannary town in 1327.
Its growth was thanks to its advantageous position on the River Truro, offering easy access to the Fal Estuary and ultimately, the sea at Falmouth.
In Medieval times, Cornwall was very cut off from the rest of the UK due to its geographical position. The people here were Celtic, they spoke a different language and had their own unique customs.
To cut a very long story short (there were plenty of rebellions!), the country gradually assimilated into England over the years, with the language slowly dying out (although it has had a revival!) and councils in Cornwall eventually becoming less self-governed.
Truro, in particular, saw lots of people from other parts of the UK move in.
In the 18th century, the town was home to many mine owners and sailing merchants, and lots of townhouses and entertainment venues were constructed.
In fact, many of its buildings are covered in Bath stone!
The diocese of Truro was founded in 1876, which is when the idea for the cathedral was conceived. It was built between 1880 and 1910 with its distinct three spires.
Truro was a busy port up until 1920 when silting meant that the quay needed to be covered over, as large ships could no longer pass it.
Like many places in Cornwall, Truro hosted evacuees during World War Two. American troops were based in the area and in nearby Falmouth.
Falmouth was bombed during the Blitz due to it being a military base, but Truro was unscathed.
Although, my grandma used to say she could remember the windows shaking when Falmouth was bombed, even though she lived a few miles away in Camborne at the time!
Post-war, Truro developed, along with the rest of Cornwall, into a tourist-focused city.
Today, there are plenty of fun things to do in Truro, especially for those who want to learn more about Cornish culture, see a different side of the county, and have a more local experience while holidaying in the region.
How to get to Truro
Truro is connected to destinations in Cornwall and Devon, Bristol, London and other cities in England by road, rail and bus routes.
Driving routes to Truro
To reach Truro, drive to Exeter, either on the M5 or A303.
Take the A30, and drive for around 30 miles until you reach the turning for the A39 for Truro.
Follow this road to the A390 and then turn right, and drive into the city!
Rail routes to Truro
There are direct trains to Truro from the following cities:
If you’re visiting from anywhere else, you’ll need to change in one of these cities.
Buses to Truro
There are National Express buses from most of the aforementioned cities directly to Truro.
The bus options are cheaper but take a lot longer!
Suggested Truro itinerary
One day in Truro
If you only have one day in Truro, I’d recommend that you stick to the city centre.
Start with breakfast at the Bread & Butter Cafe and then head to Truro Cathedral.
Once you’ve seen the cathedral, head to Royal Cornwall Museum.
Have lunch in Fig Cafe in Lemon Street Market, and then either walk down to Malpas, head to Loe Beach for some watersports, or visit Trelissick Gardens in the afternoon.
In the evening, go for burgers in Hubbox.
Two days in Truro
For a two-day Truro itinerary, complete the first day above and then head to some of the nearby beaches – I recommend heading up to Perranporth for surfing or visiting the hidden gem of Holywell Bay.
Three days in Truro
For three days, complete the two days above and take a river cruise down to Falmouth, enjoying the AONB of the Fal Estuary as you go.
When you reach Falmouth, explore Pendennis Castle and the National Maritime Museum, before enjoying dinner in one of Falmouth’s best restaurants – I love KinnAsia and Harbour Lights Fish and Chips, which do vegetarian fish!
One week in Truro
If you have one week in Truro, you can base yourself in the city and spend some time exploring the entire region!
Check out my one-week in Cornwall road trip itinerary for more information.
FAQs about visiting Truro
Here are some answers to the main questions that visitors have about Truro!
Is Truro in England?
Truro is in Cornwall, which technically is part of England, but many locals resist this – as a half-Cornish person who’s proud of my heritage, I think they have a point. While it technically is in England, there’s no denying that this part of the UK has a unique culture.
What is Truro famous for?
Truro is famous for being the only city in Cornwall, of course!
It’s known for its beautiful Cathedral and amazing museum.
While it’s not as visited as many of the other destinations in Cornwall, it has plenty of hidden gems that make a trip well worthwhile!
When is the best time to visit Truro?
Like all of Cornwall, Truro is at its warmest from June to August, but this is also the busiest time of year. I like Cornwall in the shoulder season, or even in winter or at Christmas – there’s plenty to do in the rain, and you might be lucky with sunny weather still
Does Truro have a shopping centre?
Truro doesn’t have a huge mall per se – if you’re looking for a large Westfield-type shopping centre, head back to Plymouth or Bristol!
But it does have a high street with stores like The Body Shop, Sports Direct, Mountain Warehouse, Schuh etc, and a small artisanal market (Lemon Street Market).
What is there to do in Truro on a rainy day?
Many of the attractions I’ve mentioned in this Truro guide are all-weather, including:
- the inside of Truro Cathedral
- Royal Cornwall Museum
- seeing a show at the Hall for Cornwall
- Player Ready VR Cornwall
- axe throwing
- high street shopping
Which is nicer Truro or Falmouth?
I mean… I’m always going to say Falmouth, because it’s my favourite town in Cornwall! But they’re different. Truro is beautiful, with historic streets and the looming Cathedral, and Falmouth is equally charming but has an incredible food scene and lots of trendy shops. I prefer the vibe of Falmouth, but that doesn’t mean Truro isn’t worth visiting!
Is Truro worth visiting?
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Truro that will help you get a sense of Cornish identity and see some more of the county away from the tourists.
From the beautiful Truro Cathedral to fascinating historical tours, you’ll learn so much about this region of the UK by visiting the county town!
So, next time you’re planning a trip to Cornwall, don’t forget Truro!