A Local’s Guide to getting the best from your visit to Canterbury
Visitors to Canterbury will find themselves immersed in the rich history and captivating charm of this quintessential English city. As they set foot in this ancient place, the allure of its architectural and cultural treasures will unfold before their very eyes. The cobblestone streets, adorned with timber-framed buildings, offer a glimpse into a bygone era that spans over 2,000 years.
Canterbury, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, captivates the imagination of all who venture here. Its captivating tales have enchanted famous figures such as Chaucer, Dickens, and Tennyson, leaving an indelible mark on their creative works. Every nook and cranny of this city is steeped in history, telling stories waiting to be discovered.
Allow me to be your guide as you explore the wonders of Canterbury. Together, we will uncover hidden gems and unforgettable experiences that will make you feel like a true resident. Immerse yourself in the local culture, savouring the finest fare and ales that Canterbury has to offer. From traditional pubs to cozy tearooms, each establishment holds its own unique charm and flavour.
As you venture through the city, prepare to be enchanted by the living history that surrounds you. Take in the sweeping views of Canterbury’s picturesque landscapes and let your imagination wander as you envision the stories that have unfolded throughout the centuries. Whether you find yourself strolling along the River Stour or exploring the grandeur of Canterbury Cathedral, the magic of this city is sure to leave an everlasting impression.
Let me take you on a journey through the heart of Canterbury, where the past and present intertwine effortlessly. Discover the secrets of the city’s past, relish in its vibrant present, and embrace the warmth of its welcoming community. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a lover of culture, or simply seeking a charming escape, Canterbury promises an unforgettable experience.
So, join me as we set out to uncover the wonders of this historic city. Allow Canterbury to cast its spell upon you, and let its stories unfold as you become a part of its living history. Step into the footsteps of legends and be transported to a time long gone. This is Canterbury as you’ve never seen it before, a city waiting to be explored and cherished. Together, let us embark on an unforgettable journey through the magic of my beloved city.
Getting the best from your visit to Canterbury
To get the most out of your trip to Canterbury, here are some tips from a local:
Explore the Canterbury Cathedral
No visit is complete without seeing our stunning cathedral. Founded in 597 AD, it’s considered the birthplace of Christianity in England. Take a free guided tour to learn about its history and architecture. Climb the Norman staircase in the northwest transept for panoramic views of the city.
Wander the historic city centre
Canterbury’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with cobbled streets and timber-framed buildings. Shop for local specialities like cider, cheese and sweets at the farmers’ market. Relax in Dane John Gardens or grab a pint at one of the traditional pubs.
Take a river tour
A peaceful way to see the city is from the River Stour. River tours depart from Kings Bridge and last 45 minutes. You’ll discover the city’s hidden secrets along the beautiful River Stour
Visit other attractions
Check out the Canterbury Tales for an interactive introduction to Chaucer’s famous stories. The Canterbury Heritage Museum and Beaney House of Art and Knowledge are also worth a visit. Just outside the city, you can see Anglo-Saxon churches, Leeds Castle and the coastal town of Whitstable.
With so much history and culture, Canterbury deserves at least a couple of days. Take your time exploring all it has to offer – you won’t regret it!
Best time to visit
Canterbury comes alive in the spring and summer, making May through September the ideal time for a visit. With warmer weather and longer days, you’ll have plenty of daylight to explore the historic city at a relaxed pace.
During spring, the parks and gardens around Canterbury burst into bloom. Stroll through the Dane John Gardens and soak in the sea of daffodils or watch the cherry blossoms float by in the river. The spring months also see smaller crowds, so you can enjoy attractions like Canterbury Cathedral and the Canterbury Tales in peace.
Summertime is a lovely season to wander the cobbled streets of Canterbury, grab an al fresco bite in the city centre, or go punting on the River Stour. But with the school holidays in full swing, the summer season also brings the biggest influx of visitors. For a quieter experience, you may consider visiting in June or early July.
As the summer crowds dwindle and the weather remains pleasant, September is an ideal time for a city break in Canterbury. The long evenings mean you’ll have plenty of time to explore after work or school. And with autumn just around the corner, hotel rates start to drop from their peak summer prices.
No matter the season, Canterbury enchants visitors with its rich history, charming scenery and relaxed atmosphere. But for smaller crowds and lower prices, aim for the shoulder months of spring and fall. A journey to this enchanting city is always a delight, whenever you choose to go!
If you’re looking for a place to rest your head during your stay in Canterbury, you have some excellent options. Here are a few of the top recommendations from locals:
The Falstaff Hotel
This historic inn located in the city centre is considered one of the premier places to stay. Dating back to the 14th century, the timber-framed building oozes character. The hotel offers comfortable en-suite rooms as well as an acclaimed restaurant featuring classic British fare made from locally-sourced ingredients.
Frequently cited as one of the leading hotels in Canterbury, the ABode is a contemporary four-star hotel located within the city walls. Accommodation options range from cosy doubles to luxury suites, with many rooms offering picturesque views of the city. Amenities include a stylish bar and brasserie as well as a wellness spa. The prime location means you’re just a short stroll from the cathedral and high street.
Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
For a truly unique experience, consider staying at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge located within the cathedral grounds. The Lodge offers secluded luxury suites, apartments and cottages surrounded by the cathedral’s ancient architecture. Wake up to the sound of birdsong and enjoy stunning views of the Norman staircase and cloisters. The Lodge’s premium location allows for unparalleled access to the cathedral and a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. Rates include a delicious English breakfast and tours of the cathedral.
With charming historic inns, modern luxury hotels and secluded lodges, Canterbury offers a variety of atmospheric places for you to rest your head during your visit to this enchanting city. Use this guide to find accommodation that suits your needs and budget.
Best places to eat and drink
When in Canterbury, you simply must try the local cuisine. Here are some of the best places to eat and drink:
The Goods Shed
This popular farmers market and restaurant sources fresh, local ingredients. Grab brunch, lunch or dinner at the onsite restaurant, or shop from local producers at the indoor market.
The Veg Box Cafe
As the name suggests, this cafe cooks up vegetarian and vegan fare using fresh, organic ingredients from local farms. They offer all-day brunches, soups, salads and meze platters. Everything is homemade, healthy and delicious.
The Dove at Dargate
For elevated pub fare with stunning views of the countryside, head to this gastropub in a 16th-century inn. They serve up high-quality, locally-sourced meat, seafood and produce in a relaxed, upscale space. It’s ideal for a long, leisurely lunch or dinner.
Socialite Rooftop Restaurant & Bar
This stylish bar and restaurant on the rooftop of the Hampton by Hilton hotel offers panoramic views of the city. They serve up cocktails, craft beers and an eclectic menu with influences from around the world. Live music several nights a week provides the perfect soundtrack for a fun night out.
From farmers markets to gastropubs, Canterbury offers diverse and delicious options for eating and drinking. Exploring the local food scene is a must to fully experience the city’s charms. With so many recommendations, you may need to extend your visit!
Best shopping spots in the city
Canterbury offers some fantastic shopping, with independent stores and high street brands. Here are some of the best spots to shop in the city:
This shopping centre has over 50 stores, including big names like Debenhams, TK Maxx and Next, as well popular high street brands. It’s a great spot for fashion, homewares, electronics and more.
Walrus & Oyster Emporium
This quirky gift shop features locally made crafts, clothing, jewellery and other unique items you won’t find anywhere else. It’s located in a historic building in the city centre, adding to the charm.
Between these shopping havens, you’ll also stumble upon charming bookshops, family-run butchers and bakers, vinyl record stores and other hidden gems throughout the city centre. Canterbury offers retail therapy for everyone, whether you prefer high street brands or supporting small local businesses. Happy shopping!
Top attractions and things to do
Canterbury is filled with attractions that showcase its history and culture. Here are some of the top things to do in this historic city:
No trip to Canterbury is complete without visiting its famous cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest Christian structures in England. Explore the cathedral’s architecture and learn about its role in history.
Adjacent to the cathedral, the picturesque Westgate Gardens are perfect for a relaxing stroll. The gardens incorporate historic city walls and offer scenic views of the cathedral. Pack a picnic and enjoy the gardens on a sunny day.
The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge
This museum, library and art gallery is a cultural hub located in a historic building. It holds art exhibits, a reference library and museum collections including local history. The Beaney House offers free admission, making it an affordable attraction worth visiting.
To see the city from a different perspective, take a boat tour along the River Stour. The tours provide live commentary on Canterbury’s history and landmarks. Spot local wildlife land enjoy an informative yet peaceful river tour.
Canterbury overflows with history, culture and natural beauty. Whether you explore the UNESCO World Heritage cathedral, stroll through the gardens, visit a museum or take a river tour, you’ll find plenty of ways to experience this charming city.
How to get there
Getting to Canterbury is straightforward, whether you’re travelling domestically or from abroad. This historic city is well connected by road, rail and air.
Canterbury has two railway stations that connect to stations in London and across Kent. High-speed trains from London St Pancras International take under 60 minutes to reach Canterbury West station, located right in the city centre. Slower trains also run from London Victoria and Charing Cross stations. Canterbury East station services east Kent and the Kent coast.
National Express coaches run direct services to Canterbury Bus Station from London Victoria Coach Station. The journey takes 2 to 3 hours depending on traffic. Local bus companies also offer coaches to Canterbury from towns and cities across Kent.
Canterbury is just under 2 hours’ drive from London and is located just off the M2 motorway. Exit the M2 at Junction 7 and follow signs for the city centre. There are over 3,000 parking spaces in Canterbury, including park and ride services to avoid city centre congestion.
In summary, whether you fancy a high-speed train ride, a leisurely coach trip or want the convenience of driving yourself, getting to Canterbury couldn’t be simpler. Explore this captivating city at your own pace, with efficient transport links ready to whisk you away on your next adventure.
You’ve strolled the cobbled streets of this ancient city, tracing the footsteps of Chaucer’s pilgrims. You’ve gazed in awe at the grandeur of Canterbury Cathedral and wandered the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, soaking in centuries of history. Now, as the golden sun dips below the city walls, you find a cosy pub and settle in. Over a pint of Kentish ale or a glass of wine from the wineries of the Weald, you reflect on the day. Canterbury has revealed itself as a place of stories, a city that has shaped England. Long after you’ve returned home, memories of mediaeval architecture, evensong at the cathedral and lazy days by the River Stour will linger. This historic city has worked its magic on you.