Welcome to Truro, Cornwall's only city. The diminutive city isn't the county town (that's still Bodmin) and isn't even the county's largest town (step forward St Austell). However, it's Cornwall's administrative centre, and a very nice little city to spend time in.
For locals, Truro is the place you come to shop, study or have a good night out (and, rather less appealingly, to go to hospital). It's also a lovely place to meander, with its neat Georgian streets, cobbled lanes and pretty green spaces. Look out for the leats along the streets; locally known as kennels, these Victorian channels that once kept the streets clean and the horses watered.
Truro may be small, but its cathedral isn't, and it has one of the tallest spires of any church the UK. Truro Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary) is largely Victorian and Edwardian, and was built after Truro had already gained city status in 1877.
The History of Truro
Truro's story as a significant settlement began in the 13th century, when a castle was built overlooking the river (nothing remains of this today apart from the hill it stood on and the name of a street). Within a century, it has become one of Cornwall's five stannary towns, where copper and tin were brought to be assayed. This was pretty much a guarantee of a town's prosperity in the Middle Ages with all the business done in Coinage Hall in the very centre of Truro.
Truro as a Port Town
The city's heritage as a market town and port dates back over 800 years, and the town boomed during the tin mining era. Sat at the head of a navigable stretch of the River Fal, Truro was within easy reach of the sea but more protected than Falmouth downstream.
Today, the port is mostly used for pleasure cruises along the tributaries of the River Fal to Falmouth and St Mawes. However, in the not-too-distant past, Truro was a bustling working port. Tales abound of the unsavoury characters and goings-on along the quayside, with press gangs and rogues aplenty. As a result of all this nefarious activity, there's no shortage of ghost stories from the wharfside; and supernatural goings on have long been reported at the Radio Cornwall studios on Phoenix Wharf.
These days, much of the wharfside has been turned into offices and apartments (meaning that Charlestown had to play Truro's part in BBC's Poldark wharf scenes). The only industrial activity is on Lighterage Quay's long quayside, where cargoes such as scrap metal and cement are still loaded.
Truro in the Civil War
During the Civil War, Truro declared for the Royalists. For a short time, it housed the Royalist mint. In those days there was constant rivalry between Truro and Falmouth, particularly over control of the river. Prosperity was short-lived though, and when the Parliamentarians took the town, the mint was moved to Exeter. Control of the river was divided with Falmouth.
A Quick Tour of Truro
In spite of its early history, few very pre-18th-century buildings remain today, and most of the town centre dates from Truro's Georgian, Regency and Victorian heydays. You'll see many fine examples of 18th-century architecture in Princes Street, notably the Mansion House and Princes House. There are also elegant Georgian houses on Lemon Street, which climbs up from the city centre to the Lander Memorial. This is a column erected in 1835 to commemorate the local Lander brothers, explorers who discovered the source of the Nile.
At the bottom of Lemon Street (after the excellent cinema and appealing shopping arcade), the houses open up into Lemon Quay, home to the theatre, market and shops such as M&S. This is the modern town square, where markets and major outdoor events are held.
Boscawen Street, River Street and Kenwyn Street are some of the main shopping areas - keep looking out for diverting little alleys and courts, because you'll find some of the most interesting shops down these.
Because the city is so compact, the best way to see it is to explore by foot. Follow the river to see where it takes you, or head for pretty Boscawen Park (the perfect place for a picnic).
As mentioned, Truro isn't actually the largest town in Cornwall; there are several larger agglomerations. However, the city employs more people than other towns, with the major employers being the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro College and Cornwall Council. As a result, the city suffers from a level of traffic congestion little seen in the rest of Cornwall (tip: use the Park & Ride if you're driving to Truro).
What to do in Truro
It's very easy to spend time in Truro, especially if you love to shop. The compact city is also a real pleasure to visit if you love a relaxed urban amble.
Shopping in Truro
Truro remains a market town at heart and is Cornwall's main shopping centre. There's a large indoor market on Lemon Quay and regular farmers' markets close by. Much of the city centre has been converted to pedestrian areas, making it an easy place to shop. As well as the major high street names like Marks & Spencers and TK Maxx, you'll still find some lovely independent shops in Truro's narrow streets.
Truro's most obvious feature is its Cathedral, with its green spire and striking gothic appearance. Built at the turn of the century, Truro Cathedral dominates the skyline with its 250 foot-high towers and has some interesting Victorian stained glass windows. The south aisle of the cathedral is what remains of St Mary's Church, said to be one of the finest pieces of medieval architecture in Cornwall. Its decorative style contrasts with the simplicity of the new part of the cathedral.
Hall for Cornwall
Hall for Cornwall is the premier entertainment centre for the county, hosting a range of performances from opera to live comedy. The recently renovated theatre reopened in 2021 with the world premier of the Fisherman's Friends musical. Hall for Cornwall is a lively hub in the centre of town, with plenty of space to eat and drink as well as catch a show.
The Royal Cornwall Museum (RCM) in River Street has a fine geological collection and many other interesting exhibits on Cornish history and culture. Of particular interest is the 6th century 'Arthur's inscribed stone', found at Tintagel Castle and a real Egyptian mummy! In addition to the permanent collections there are frequent other interesting temporary exhibitions.
RCM is free for under 18s; and thanks to its programme of kid-friendly events and trails, it's a great place to come with the family.
Pannier Market is just down the road from the theatre, and honestly, you really can buy anything here. The indoor market has been trading here near Lemon Quay since the 1970s, and is a proper, old-school marketplace. Its specialist stalls include butchers, florists and haberdasheries, as well as all sorts of fascinating and quirky offerings to explore.
You can catch a boat at Truro that'll take you along the river to Falmouth or Trelissick. Truro River Cruises and Enterprise Boats both run this route (just be aware that it's high tide only, so plan your trip in advance).
Places Close to Truro
Truro is in a great, central location. You can be in the wild west within half an hour, the rolling countryside of the Roseland Peninsula in 20 and either coast won't take much longer. It is worth noting, Truro is about as far inland as it gets in Cornwall, so there aren't any beaches. That said, it's only about 15 minutes to the nearest beach, Loe which sits on the banks of the River Fal. It's also less than a 30 minutes' drive to Falmouth, or pick up the branch line from Truro railway station.
Trelissick is a beautiful National Trust garden with sweeping views and woodland walks (and as you'd expect from the Trust, a very nice cafe…). As we mentioned earlier, you can actually take a river boat from Truro to Trelissick, which makes it a really lovely day out.
If you want to explore St Mawes and the pretty Roseland Peninsula (and we really do recommend you do), the quickest way to get there is by taking the King Harry Ferry. The car ferry is also an experience in itself, and is just 6 miles from Truro, in Feock.
You can walk along the river to Malpas from Truro - and as there's not much parking in the riverside village, walking here is a good idea. Once you've arrived, the best thing to do in Malpas is ensconce yourself in the famous Heron Inn.
This is another pretty village that's close to Truro city centre. Visit St Clement to explore its medieval church and enjoy its gently wooded, riverside setting. The town seems a million miles away.
The Bissoe Trail is a coast-to-coast cycling and walking path that stretches from Portreath harbour to the old river port of Devoran. It follows the original mining tramways, which happily means that it's nice and level most of the way. The coasts are close at this point, so the whole trail is just 11 miles long.
Annual Events in Truro
As you'd expect from Cornwall's bustling little city, Truro hosts a range of events throughout the year. Its famous food festival is no more, but keep an eye out for the regular farmers' market in Lemon Quay, which is a great place to pick up some Cornish produce. In 2021, Truro also held a successful Oktoberfest - watch this space…
This annual event celebrates life on the river, with events taking place in Truro, Falmouth and in various places on the Roseland. The River Fal Festival is typically held in late May/early June.
Truro City of Lights
Truro doesn't just switch on its Christmas lights - it holds a whole evening of spectacular lantern parades and entertainments. If you're in Cornwall in late November, Truro City of Lights is a must see event.
Christmas Fairs and Markets
Truro holds a variety of markets in the run-up to Christmas, such as a local artisan market, a Victorian fair, and the traditional primestock market. The atmosphere at all these events is amazing, especially when combined with the city's late-night shopping evenings.
Truro: Good to Know
Looking for some practical information about visiting Truro? Here's what you need to know.
Getting to Truro
Truro's central location makes it an easy place to get to (the trick is to avoid the traffic…).
Truro by Road
Like most places in Cornwall, your drive to Truro starts with the A30, then take the A390 at Chiverton Cross roundabout. If you're just here for the day, leave your car at Langarth Park & Ride, which is between “Chivvy Cross” and the city centre.
Truro by Rail
Truro has a mainline station: see GWR's website for details. The railway station is about a 15-minute walk from the centre, so you may want to pick up a bus or a taxi.
Truro by Bus
As Cornwall's admin and shopping centre, Truro is better served by buses than a lot of the county. Take a look at buses to Truro here.
Parking in Truro
Truro has several large car parks, including Garras Wharf, Moorfields and NCP Highcross. These can get busy at the weekend and during the school holidays, so the Park & Ride services (Tregurra and Langarth) are a good bet at these times.
Truro is a great place for lunch or dinner, or simply to pick up some street food to take to the park. Try Sam's in the City for seafood or The Old Grammar School for delicious small plates. Hub Box Truro is an easy option for families, with great burgers and fries (served in a splendid old chapel setting). Kathmandu Palace is a real locals' favourite for a curry, while the Yak & Yeti serves authentic Nepalese cuisine.
Looking for a gastropub? As well as the Heron Inn in Malpas, The Rising Sun is a popular choice, or try The Thomas Daniell. If food is the side serving to the rest of your night out, The Old Alehouse offers a great choice of beverages and has a fantastic programme of live music.
Where to stay in Truro
Truro doesn't have the wide accommodation choice that a more traditionally touristy town (such as St Ives or Newquay) has. However, there is a selection of chic AirBnBs and boutique guesthouses to choose from, and there are plenty of self-catering options in the villages outside Truro.
The elegant Alverton is probably Truro's best-known hotel, housed in a former convent just outside the city centre. For somewhere stylish (with a great bar and restaurant), head for Mannings, which is right in the middle of town.
Search our Cornwall accommodation listings to find out more about accommodation in and around Truro.