The ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey – a World Heritage Site
Canterbury is a tourist hotspot and there is a good reason. This small city certainly packs a punch and offers so much to do and see.
The historical Christ Church Cathedral forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage site along with nearby St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church. The cathedral crypt dates back to the 11th century, nearly 1000 years ago. That’s A LOT of history. Ever since Archbishop Thomas A’Beckett was murdered in the cathedral in 1170 it has been a place of pilgrimage to thousands of visitors.
My first visit was as a 6 year old school girl and I still remember feeling the sense of space and the age of the building. Its amazing to consider that monks would have once walked up and down the same well-worn steps. Returning as an adult, the building still leaves you feeling in awe. It does cost £9.50 for adults to get in but take your lunch in with you and spend a good few hours taking in the cathedral and then enjoy an al-fresco lunch on one of the benches in the precincts. The peaceful cathedral precincts are a perfect break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The main entrance gate to Canterbury Cathedral
If you want to see Roman Canterbury, you can visit the interesting Roman Museum or just find Waterstones bookshop in St Margaret’s Street (opposite The Canterbury Tales visitor attraction) and head downstairs to the reference section. On your left at the bottom of the stairs through the window is a bathhouse floor. The actual place where Romans bathed. You can also see a Medieval wall in the basement. This is how old Canterbury is. When the new Whitefriars Shopping Centre was being built there was a “Big Dig” with archaeologists up to their elbows in mud and Roman artefacts! We even had Tony Robinson in the city with his Time Team Channel 4 show.
So what happens when you’re exploring Canterbury and you find yourself feeling peckish? You’ll not be disappointed by the selection of food outlets. For the best sandwiches in town head to CJ’s they have the most amazing menu of filled baguettes and if nothing on the menu takes your fancy they’ll make you something else! I can recommend the hoisin duck variation. They used to have a teeny shop but the queues out the door at lunchtime saw them expand in to the bigger shop next door too. Tucked next door to CJ’s is the City Fish Bar, home to some yummy fish and chips and a lovely battered sausage.
The Beaney – home to Canterbury Library and Art Museum
There are also all the high street favourites from McDonald’s to Pret a Manger but these sit alongside independent cafes and restaurants. Canterbury even boasts its own branch of Patisserie Valerie, a Covent Garden favourite selling the most beautiful French pastries. It’s window licking good! If you’re in Canterbury around Christmas you have to take a look in Marlowe’s it’s seriously as if Christmas threw up in there! The restaurant is decked floor to ceiling in multicoloured foil and tinsel. They do a great value lunch menu so it’s definitely a good option to try.
Canterbury has plenty of green space for when you’re done walking. The Dane John Gardens run alongside the ancient city wall between Canterbury East train station and the bus station. The grassy areas are perfect for a game of frisbee or a lazy afternoon. Hiding behind the Rupert Bear Museum (yes such a place really exists!) lies a secret garden whose main attraction for me is the floral walkway to reach it.
Beautiful flowers line the way to this hidden garden
If you’re looking for a place to stay without spending loads of money. Canterbury has it’s own YHA hostel just up the road on the New Dover Road and a Travelodge really close to the centre of town. My parents stayed at the Travelodge for a couple of nights when they were visiting from their home in France. The rooms are a decent size because it’s an old hotel but they reported some noise at night because their room overlooked a lane that is a walkway from the city centre towards one of the universities. The building does not have double glazing. There was supposed to be free wifi in the cafe but it wasn’t working for us. But for just over £30 a night for a private, en-suite room in the city centre can you really go wrong?
Day visitors to Canterbury should make use of the 3 Park and Ride sites as it costs just £2.50 for a full day’s parking and the free bus in to the centre. This is cheaper than about 3 hours parking in the city centre and you get to avoid the traffic. Just a note that there is no Park and Ride on Sunday’s except on selected dates. Check the website for further details.
The River Stour
I hope this post has inspired you to visit Canterbury. It can be busy, especially in the summer with all the groups of foreign school children and in the build up to Christmas but there are always quiet spots to be found. For lots more information on places to visit and what to do in Canterbury please visit the official website Visit Canterbury.