Active frontages are often advocated in best practice guidance and by local planning authorities. However, little research has been carried out to establish what benefits, if any, active frontages offer. Previous research in this area has been limited to examining observed behaviour rather than analysing public perceptions. This article aims to improve the understanding of the relationship between the quality of an active frontage and public perceptions of the public space the frontage addresses. The research was carried out through a combination of a critical literature review and a questionnaire survey that engaged 152 participants. The participants' perceptions of a range of public spaces in relation to a number of frontages were investigated using comparison and correlation. The results suggest that the quality of an active frontage can significantly affect people's perceptions of a public space in terms of its safety, comfort, sociability and liveliness. Good-quality active frontages can contribute to creating successful public spaces, which can help deliver far-reaching benefits for towns and cities. The findings contribute useful evidence to enhance our understanding of the role of active frontages in urban design and planning.