CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

10 good reasons to visit Rochester

PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 December 2015 | UPDATED: 15:00 18 December 2015

Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

A delight for lovers of history and culture, with its iconic landmarks, literary connections and unique shopping and dining options, this city offers something to explore around every corner.

Rochester AlmshousesRochester Almshouses

1 King of the castle

Last year Rochester’s most popular attraction marked 800 years since one of its defining moments. The siege of Rochester Castle took place at the time of Magna Carta and saw rebel barons under attack by King John. The defenders initially held on to the castle but a two-month siege eventually starved them out. It would not be the only siege Rochester Castle endured but it was certainly the most notorious. Today the towering remains of the ruined fortress are maintained by English Heritage and offer visitors a glimpse into its long and complex past. Visit

2 What the Dickens?

It’s hard to escape the ties between Rochester and one of Britain’s greatest authors. Shops, restaurants and even some of the area’s streets carry Dickensian names, thanks to the writer who set many of his stories here. Visitors can still see some of the buildings he knew and loved, including Restoration House, College Gate, Eastgate House – where Dickens’ own Swiss writing chalet is set in the garden (closed for refurbishment until later this year) – and Mr Topes House (now Topes restaurant). Dedicated fans can also drive out to the nearby village of Cooling to visit St James’ Churchyard, the inspiration for the opening chapter of Great Expectations.

3 Unique shopping

Rochester is unique in its plethora of charming independents shops to explore, including fashion, art and antiques, bric-à-brac and curios. It’s home to the UK’s largest second hand bookshop, Baggins Book Bazaar, and the excellent Francis Iles Galleries, a family business run by three sisters, with two outlets specialising in fine art, art and craft materials. The Rochester Flea, a monthly flea market, is held at the Gordon House Hotel on the last Saturday of the month and every third Sunday there’s the Rochester Farmers’ Market.

4 Food for thought

There’s also plenty of choice when it comes to places to eat and drink. With everything from world food, cafés, tea rooms, pubs and bistros to fine dining restaurants and big chain names, all just within a short walk of each other, there really is something to suit all occasions. 
Favourites include Bruno’s Bakes (01634 780506), Topes (01634 845270), Café Moroc (01634 405682), Elizabeth’s (01634 843472), Mrs Tickit’s Pantry (01634 811212) and Brettington’s (01634 400192).

5 Ancient cathedral

Another inescapable landmark is set just across the road from the castle. Rochester Cathedral was completed in 1130AD but it replaced an earlier church which had been founded in 604, by Justus, the first bishop of Rochester. The building is one of the most important cathedrals in the UK and attracts visitors from all over the world. Certain areas are closed to 
visitors until later this year while the library is renovated and a new permanent exhibition space is created in the crypt, but you can still admire the splendid Norman architecture, visit the gift shop and enjoy a pot of tea and a slice of cake in its superb tea room. Visit for more details.

6 Nearby attractions

There are several big visitor attractions close to Rochester. A little further downriver, Chatham Historic Dockyard ( is a brilliant day out, with historic buildings and boats to learn about and explore. Across the road from the dockyard is Fort Amherst (, Britain’s largest Napoleonic fortress with miles of underground tunnels to explore and a famous live action horror event each Halloween. Diggerland (, a theme park for children and adults with a love of dumper trucks and JCBs, is just across the river in Strood.

7 New museum

For lovers of all aspects of history, there is a new museum on the upper floors of Rochester’s Visitor Information Centre. The Huguenot Museum is the only museum of Huguenot history in the country and tells the important story of Britain’s first refugees, as well as the crafts, trades and skills they brought with them and the impact their contribution had on the country. The museum’s main attraction is the French Hospital Collection, which includes paintings, documents and personal items. Visit

8 Charming Upnor

A short drive away from Rochester is the equally historic but much smaller village of Upper Upnor. Here you’ll find Upnor Castle (, built during the reign of Elizabeth I to protect the dockyard on the other side of the river. The castle’s car park is set a short walk away but it offers the opportunity to explore the tiny village. The cobbled High Street leads past historic buildings and pubs, right down to the riverbank and to the castle. Meanwhile its twin village, Lower Upnor, faces the river and has pubs, yacht clubs and the Arethusa Training Centre. Walk along the riverside path and you’ll find a muddy river beach to explore.

9 Annual events

Rochester loves a good party. Throughout the year there are a number of exciting events and festivals which celebrate the historic significance of this area. In May there is the Sweeps Festival, a pagan celebration of the coming of spring, with chimney sweeps, Morris sides and folk dancing. Charles Dickens and the Victorian era are remembered each year with the famous Dickens Festival in June, and again each December with the Dickensian Christmas Festival. Not to mention the outdoor summer concerts in the castle gardens and Rochester’s Christmas markets. Visit

10 Historic buildings

The cobbled streets are lined with historic buildings and many of them, some unchanged for hundreds of years, are open to the public. Some of note are The Guildhall, built in 1687 and home to the fascinating Guildhall Museum; the Corn Exchange, built in 1698; Eastgate House, dating back to the 1590s; Restoration House, originally two medieval houses joined together around 1650; and the Poor Travellers House, believed to date to the 1400s and used by the local Richard Watts Charity to offer a night’s lodging to poor travellers between 1586 and 1940. w


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Kent Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Kent Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Kent Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

On the banks of the Medway and boasting great shopping, dining and cultural attractions, our county town is great to visit at any time of year

Read more
December 2018

In the final month of the 50th Anniversary of the Kent Downs AONB and 40th of the North Downs Way, we’ve chosen 25 places to visit and enjoy in the Kent Downs this winter

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

This walk is the best way to take in the majestic beauty of the Weald of Kent, linking the North Downs Way at Trottiscliffe with the South Downs Way near to Eastbourne

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Counteract all that festive over-indulgence with a winter walk through National Trust-owned Kentish countryside

Read more

This characterful little country town draws history lovers from near and far. Let’s explore Churchill’s beloved Westerham

Read more
November 2018

From Napoleonic forts and wartime shelters to ancient chalk mines, we explore some of Kent’s underground visitor attractions

Read more
Friday, November 16, 2018

Wandering through a festive market with mulled wine in hand is one of the pleasures of the season, so we have picked some of Kent’s best Christmas markets to do just that

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Steam trains, vineyards, tea rooms and a surprising maritime history. We take a look at all this and more on offer in tempting Tenterden

Read more
October 2018
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Being so rich in history, it is hardly surprising that Kent is also a hub for hauntings and ghostly activity. We have gathered 9 of the spookiest locations in Kent to visit if you dare!

Read more

It may have been swallowed up by Greater London, but it still feels more like an idyllic Kentish village

Read more
October 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards 2016. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life