With its magnificent cathedral, fascinating museums, famous literary connections, fine food and stylish shopping, Canterbury is a perfect destination for a break
Why visit Canterbury?
The city of Canterbury is steeped in history and has many wonderful attractions. Its makes an ideal base for exploring the glorious Kent countryside and coastline, and with great shopping and an abundance of fabulous restaurants it’s a perfect destination for a weekend away with family and friends. At its centre is the stunning cathedral, which along with St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church forms the Canterbury World Heritage Site.
Canterbury’s fascinating museums chart the development of the city and you can see reconstructed Roman rooms, discover hidden treasure and admire beautiful mosaics at the Canterbury Roman Museum. Explore the city’s famous literary connections as Chaucer’s tales are brought to life by costumed characters at the Canterbury Tales visitor attraction in the historic St Margaret’s Church. Another great way to see the city and learn more about its history is by taking a tour along the river Stour in a punt.
The Canterbury Heritage Museum is great for families with displays dedicated to the much-loved children’s characters Bagpuss and Rupert Bear. Kids will also love Howletts Wild Animal Park and the enchanted woodland at Druidstone Park.
Canterbury is a great destination for shopping and is home to many fashion retailers. The cobbled streets of the King’s Mile, near the cathedral walls, house some wonderful timber-framed buildings where you’ll find independent shops selling a great mix of antiques, art, clothing and jewellery. Foodies should head for The Goods Shed, an indoor farmer’s market and food hall that stocks the very best in local produce.
The city has a thriving café culture and a wealth of fabulous restaurants, so whether you’re looking for a romantic meal for two or a lively party with friends you’ll be spoilt for choice on your weekend break. The city is also well known for its vibrant nightlife and has a great choice of historic pubs – serving the finest local ales – as well as many stylish modern bars.
Canterbury is home to two wonderful theatres. The Marlowe Theatre offers a varied programme of music, drama, comedy, opera, ballet and West End musicals while Gulbenkian, the arts centre of the University of Kent, presents regular performances of theatre, film and dance.
A brief history
The Romans occupied Canterbury from the 1st century AD until their withdrawal from Britain in 410. Their city was built on a grid system and was surrounded by walls. Its buildings included a temple, a theatre and public baths. The remains of a Roman townhouse and many artefacts from the period can be seen at the Canterbury Roman Museum.
Saint Augustine was appointed as the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 597 and the city became the centre of Christianity in England. He first worshipped at St Martin’s Church and soon after founded St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. These three buildings form the Canterbury UNESCO World Heritage Site. Canterbury became the focus for thousands of pilgrims following the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 and provided the background for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The city’s development from prehistory to the modern day can be explored at the Canterbury Heritage Museum.
When’s a good time to visit Canterbury?
The historic city of Canterbury is easily accessible from London and is a great base from which to explore the beautiful county of Kent. It also hosts some great festivals and events so why not plan your short break in Canterbury to coincide with the celebrations?
The bohemian seaside resort of Whitstable lies just seven miles to the north of Canterbury and the Whitstable Oyster Festival in July is one of the area’s most popular events. It is a heady mix of wonderful local produce, music and comedy.
The annual Canterbury Food and Drink Festival takes place in September. Set in the beautiful Dane John Gardens, the festival features hundreds of food stalls as well as two live music stages, a kid’s entertainment area and a large beer tent serving some of the county’s favourite ales.
The Canterbury Festival is one of the biggest cultural events in the South East and runs over two weeks in October. It features a wide range of musical events, from opera and classical to world music, jazz and folk as well as performances of theatre, comedy and dance.
For some festive cheer head to the Whitefriars Christmas Market, which runs from the end of November until Christmas. It features 40 cabins selling a variety of gifts, seasonal produce and festive foods.
By train: Regular services run from London Charing Cross and London Victoria. The journey time is approximately 90 minutes.
By road: Canterbury is easily accessible from the national motorway network, and local road links are excellent.
By coach: National Express coaches run to Canterbury from London Victoria Coach Station.
Getting around: Canterbury has an efficient local bus service with frequent services running to Whitstable and Herne Bay on the coast.
By air: London Gatwick and Heathrow are the closest airports.
Take a look at our hotels in Canterbury and see what this beautiful city has to offer.