It is situated at the head of a side creek off the Carrick Roads, the estuary of the River Fal. It was the major port in Cornwall until superseded by Falmouth in the 17th century.
The attractive main street contains the prominent Town Hall, built in 1839.
The Penryn Legend concerns a wealthy young man who was murdered by an elderly couple who stole all his money. It was only later that they discovered he was in fact their long-lost son who had intended to give them a lovely surprise the next day.