Things to do in Falmouth

Things to do

Things to do in Falmouth

The bustling seaside town of Falmouth is a must for anyone visiting South Cornwall. Boasting both a university and a busy harbour, Falmouth enjoys a lovely bustling atmosphere and there’s always plenty to see and do when visiting, whether it's just for the day or a longer stay.

With museums and art galleries, independent shops, and amazing eateries lining the cobbled streets, and a selection of beautiful beaches and walks framing the coastline, Falmouth has something for everyone - not to mention all the wonderful things to do just a short drive away. The town also boasts a rich maritime history, which can be explored 

Planning a visit to this pretty harbour town? Here are our top recommendations of things to do when visiting Falmouth to get you started…


National Maritime Museum

Looking over the wooden exterior of the National Maritime Museum with Falmouth harbour in the background

Situated in Discovery Quay and set within an impressive building overlooking the harbour, the National Maritime Museum is dedicated to all things nautical. With five floors and 15 galleries, you’ll delve into the history of our relationship with the sea, discovering how it has affected our lives and culture over the years.

In the Main Hall, a flotilla of small boats hang above you, including the tiny dinghy in which the Robertson family spent (and survived) 38 days lost in the Pacific Ocean, while the RNLI Rescue Zone tells you all about sea safety (and kids can dress up). The Falmouth gallery on the second floor looks into the town’s importance as a maritime hub, being the world’s third largest natural deep-water harbour, from the Packet ships of the 17th century to the achievement of Dame Ellen MacArthur, and in the Tidal Zone, you can take a peek into the harbour underwater, watching sea life pass you by in real time.

Whether you’re a history buff or have little ones in tow, this is a fantastic, family-friendly place that’s both extremely informative and fun for kids, with a Skull Island play zone to keep them entertained and a boat pool where they can sail model boats. If you’re in need of refreshments, there’s an excellent café, while a picnic area is set up during the school holidays if you’d like to bring some food with you. The shop offers lots of nautical-themed goodies to take home to remind you of your visit.


Pendennis Castle

Looking across water and trees at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth

Said to be one of the best of England’s coastal fortresses, Pendennis Castle was built between 1539 and 1545 by order of Henry VIII to defend against a Catholic European invasion. Twinned with the fortress in St Mawes, which lies on the opposite shore of the River Fal, both buildings are circular to allow cannons to fire from all directions. At most, Pendennis would have been guarded by up to 100 men when threat was imminent. As time went by, the castle was enclosed within a much larger fortress, and later became a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War – only surrendering to the Parliamentary army after five months when food supplies ran out. In more recent history, Pendennis was the command centre for coastal defences for West Cornwall during the First World War, while in the Second World War Pendennis was manned with far-reaching guns to manage the threat from torpedo boats.

Set on a headland just outside of Falmouth, Pendennis Castle is a fascinating place to visit, offering the chance to travel back to Tudor times and see what life was like for the people who lived there. In addition, there’s a family trail to follow, various exhibitions, a soft play area for smaller children, and a café. Highlights include Henry VIII’s keep, which boasts incredible panoramic sea views and a collection of Tudor, Napoleonic, Victorian and 20th century weaponry.


Falmouth Art Gallery

The traditional stone exterior of Falmouth Art Gallery

Falmouth is well known for its vibrant art scene, which is not surprising given it has its very own art college. Pay a visit and you’ll discover a host of galleries to explore, but its biggest is the award-winning Falmouth Art Gallery situated on The Moor. With free entry, you can discover an astonishing collection of over 2,700 works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries, spanning the Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists to contemporary photography and children’s illustration. Interestingly, it’s also home to the largest contemporary collection of automata to be found in a public museum.

With inspiring collections and loans from artists, other museums, and art galleries, there’s always something new to see, while the gallery also hosts free workshops and events for children and adults alike. There’s a great shop too, where you can pick up cards, postcards, books and prints of your favourite paintings. Make sure to check their website ahead of your visit as opening times can vary depending on the season. If all that culture has left you hungry, just a few steps away lies the fantastic Boo Koos, a fantastic all-out Texan joint serving the best burgers around.


Gwithti An Pystri (A Cabinet of Folklore and Magic)

A horse's skull and various Cornish historic items at Gwithti An Pystri in Falmouth

This fascinating, bijou, and oh-so-atmospheric museum can be found tucked away in a characterful 19th century building on the High Street. Step inside Gwithti An Pystri (Cornish for A Cabinet of Folklore and Magic) and you’ll be transported to another time, taking a peek into Cornwall’s mystical past. Jam-packed with genuine artefacts and strange curiosities, the museum delves deep into the county’s folklore and magical history. 

Lovingly cared for by owner Steve Patterson, the two-storied mini-museum is home to such things as a Victorian vampire slaying kit, the mysterious ‘witches cradle’, and a wooden carving of the Mermaid of Zennor. Steve also has a small library of esoteric books, while a small shop holds quirky and unusual gifts and books to take home with you. Afterwards, stroll down the hill a little bit for a coffee and exquisite pastries at the wonderful Stone’s Bakery.


Falmouth Festivals

Three Red Arrows flying over Falmouth harbour during Falmouth Week, leaving colourful streams in their wake

Falmouth is host to a plethora of amazing festivals throughout the year, both on and off the water. As well as the big favourites such as the oh-so-Cornish Sea Shanty Festival in June, Falmouth Week (the south west’s largest sailing regatta) at the beginning of August, the Tall Ships Race at the end of August and autumn favourite Falmouth Oyster Festival in October, there’s some smaller, equally fun fests too. 

In March, the Spring Flower Festival, which has been running since 1910, always gets a green thumbs up, while the annual Food Festival in May brings all sorts of tasty treats. Alternatively, the Castle 2 Castle Swim takes place in June and sees swimmers make their way from Pendennis Castle to St Mawes Castle in an invigorating, 1-mile swim across open water that raises money for the RNLI. The bigger events are very popular, so it’s best to book your holiday cottage in south Cornwall well in advance.


Gyllyngvase Beach

Looking up the golden sands at Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth

Just a 15-minute walk from the centre of Falmouth, Gyllyngvase (or Gylly as it’s affectionately known by locals) is a sheltered, Blue Flag status beach with a wide expanse of golden sand. With RNLI lifeguard cover from May to September, a car park just a short walk away, and public toilets, it’s great for every kind of beachgoer.

If you’ve not brought a picnic, treat yourself to a bite to eat at Gylly Beach Café, which sits above the beach and boasts fantastic views and a contemporary, seafood-centric menu. Alternatively, there’s a small takeaway kiosk next door for food, drinks, and beachy goods. As with all of Falmouth’s beaches, dogs are welcome on the beach between October and the 15th of May, as well as before 10am and after 6pm in the spring and summer months. Take a stroll around the beautifully maintained Queen Mary Gardens with its subtropical plants or explore the South West Coast Path to Pendennis Point.


Swanpool Beach

Someone paddleboarding in the sea at Swanpool beach in Falmouth

Swanpool is a sand and shingle beach that’s backed by pretty beach huts, and it’s only a 25 minute walk from Falmouth centre. Great for swimming and lazy sunny days relaxing, it’s also fantastic for water sports, with stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, coasteering and kayaking all available to try. 

On dry land, there’s a crazy golf course that’s open all year, while Swanpool Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), boasts a huge lake that’s a mix of fresh and salt water, home to lots of wildlife including ducks and swans, which you can feed (please buy the specialist waterfowl food from the car park hut). You can walk around the reserve which is about a mile, or pause for a peaceful moment on one of the benches. 

After all that activity, pop into the café for a bite to eat, making sure to save room for their famous ice cream cones, which enjoy a myriad of toppings – our personal favourite is ‘The Hedgehog’, where the ice cream and clotted cream is dunked in honey roasted hazelnuts. Yum! 


Maenporth Beach

Looking across the see at the golden sands of Maenporth Beach in Falmouth

A great spot for rock pooling, swimming and sunbathing, Maenporth Beach is excellent for families. Whether you’re keen on kayaking or fancy a go at sailing, watersports equipment is available for hire at the beach allowing everyone to try out some fun filled activities. There’s a car park just behind the beach as well as toilets and a café, making beach days wonderfully easy. 


Boat trips

One of the Fal River Cruises sailing up Coombe Creek near Falmouth

Falmouth enjoys a host of ways to explore its surrounding waters, whether you want to venture out to sea or take a pootle up the River Fal. Head to the Prince of Wales Pier and you’ll find ferries crossing the harbour to the picturesque village of Flushing, while a short trip across to the Roseland Peninsula drops you off at iconic St Mawes. Head up the River Fal to the impressive National Trust gardens of Trelissick or travel all the way to Cornwall’s capital, Truro. Pay a visit to the harbour and board a boat for seabound adventures, with safaris offering the chance to spot dolphins, seals, whales, sea birds and even the elusive basking shark. Combine your boat trip with a beautiful river walk for the ultimate relaxing day out.



Falmouth highstreet, with colourful bunting hanging across the road

Falmouth has an impressive array of independent shops to explore, heightened by the student and art scene. Wander the streets and you’ll find quirky clothes boutiques, indie bookshops, and homeware hotspots to potter about in, as well as jewellers, surf shops and specialist food shops. Favourites include the Falmouth Bookseller for its great selection of holiday reads, Willow & Stone for its gorgeous homeware, The Poly Guild, which has a lovely shop showcasing the work of local artists, and Bosun’s Locker Falmouth where you can fill your boots with outdoorsy supplies. 

Foodies will love Baker Toms for fresh bread, The Natural Store for organic goodies to take back to your Cornish cottage, Falmouth Fishmongers for super fresh, locally caught fish, and Tarquin’s Gin Shop for, well, Cornish gin!


Eating out

A coffee and a pastry overlooking the beach at Gylly Beach Café in Falmouth

Whether you’ve a taste for pub grub, fine dining, or international cuisine, Falmouth doesn’t disappoint with its fantastic range of places to eat. If you arrive early, head to Stones Bakery for coffee and pastries, while Fuel Café is great if you’re after a cooked breakfast. For lunch, Sabzi is a pretty little spot for gorgeous vegetarian fare with great views over Falmouth, and it has a lovely deli too. The Pier Café on the Prince of Wales Pier has a great outdoor seating area, while there are a host of pasty shops if you fancy getting something to enjoy on one of the many benches overlooking the sea. 

Falmouth promises a fantastic supper scene as well and offers an array of evening eateries. Head to Event Square for restaurants serving everything from seafood to pizza, while in town, Pennycomequick is a fantastic gastropub. The Mulberry enjoys a tucked-away setting as is the place to go for fine Cornish dining, while for something a little different, Amanzi serves fantastic African cuisine. For some traditional (and award-winning) fish and chips, head to Harbour Lights where you can choose to eat in or take away – there’s some great benches on neighbouring Custom House Quay where you can sit and watch the twinkling lights of the harbour as you eat.


Further afield

A beautiful selection of trees around a pond at Trebah Gardens near Falmouth

There’s a host of other fantastic things to do just a short journey from Falmouth, providing endless opportunities to extend your visit. If you’re a garden lover, head to the lush and peaceful subtropical gardens of Trebah and Glendurgan, while historians can take the ferry across the estuary to St Mawes Castle.

For a peaceful walk, head to the nearby Helford River where you’ll discover lots of beautiful paths to wander, such as the woodland stroll down to Tremayne Quay. Animal-loving little ones will love The Flicka Foundation, a haven for rescued donkeys where it's free to wander around and watch them live in well-deserved peace. If you're after something adrenaline-packed, head to Via Ferrata where you can try your hand at zip wire rides, rock climbing, water sports, stand up paddleboarding and archery.


Feeling inspired? Take a look at our cottages in south Cornwall and Falmouth and start planning your fun-filled Cornish holiday today.

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