10 great things to do in Canterbury
PUBLISHED: 11:31 10 March 2016 | UPDATED: 11:32 10 March 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
The stunning city where history meets modern life, Canterbury is still one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK
1. Shop until you drop
Canterbury is the biggest shopping destination in east Kent and with a superb mix of big brand and independent shops, there really is something for everyone. The modern shopping hub is the Whitefriars Shopping Centre (CT1 2TF). As well as backing on to the city’s busy bus station and housing its biggest multi-storey car park, the mainly open-air shopping centre features big names including Fenwick, Next and Primark. But make sure you also explore further afield. You can walk from one end of the High Street to the other without running out of interesting shops to nip into.
2. Ancient cathedral
Parts of it have stood for 1,000 years and it was the destination for millions of medieval pilgrims. Today, the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral is still the number one tourist attraction in the city. At 236 feet tall, it’s hard to miss and dominates the skyline of this beautiful city. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site – along with nearby St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church – visitors still flock to see inside one of the grandest ancient buildings in the country. See also page 44.
Some of the small lanes around the cathedral have become popular with independent shops, cafés and restaurants. Known as The King’s Mile, this fascinating independent quarter centred around Sun Street and Palace Street is like a bustling little village within the wider city. Here you can find all kinds of places to shop and eat, including some wonderful craft shops. Some of our favourites are jewellery shops Ortwin Thyssen and 9 2 5, fashion store The Clothes Horse, Milestones children’s store and the ever-enchanting Canterbury Glass Art store.
4. Taste of history
The Canterbury Heritage Museum is set in the medieval Poor Priest’s Hospital in Stour Street and is home to some fabulous exhibits, including items from writer Joseph Conrad’s study (he lived in the area for many years) and a display of original props from TV shows The Clangers, Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine, whose creators Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate also lived near Canterbury. The splendid Beaney House of Art and Knowledge is an art gallery, museum, library and café which was given a £14m refurbishment in 2012. Located in the High Street, it is hosting an exhibition called ‘Man Made’ until 20 March. Another museum well worth a visit is the Canterbury Roman Museum. Refurbished in 2013, it is built around the remains of a Roman townhouse on Butchery Lane and includes significant Roman finds. Visit www.canterbury.co.uk/museums
5. St Augustine’s Abbey
Under the protection of English Heritage, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey make up another part of Canterbury’s World Heritage Site. Founded in 598AD as a Benedictine monastery, dismantled during the dissolution, it was left to crumble until it was finally protected in 1848. Close to the centre of the city but just outside its walls, it can easily be missed by visitors but is worth taking the time to seek out. A peaceful and almost magical place away from the hustle and bustle of the modern city, the entry fee includes a fascinating audio guide which explains the important role it once played. Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk
6. Marlowe Theatre
The modern and vibrant Marlowe Theatre is another building which, thanks to its size and bold contemporary design, cannot be missed on the Canterbury skyline. Seating 1,200 people and named after playwright Christopher Marlowe, another of the city’s famous residents, it is everything a new and improved theatre should be. Rebuilt in 2011, it now boasts state-of-the-art facilities and hosts a huge range of shows, concerts and events throughout the year. This month, one of its biggest attractions will be the touring production of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, The Musical, starring Duncan James of boyband Blue (21-26 March). Visit www.marlowetheatre.com and see page 17.
7. Messing around on the river
It might be easy to miss if you’re focused on a shopping trip, but Canterbury is set on the banks of the River Stour. The best way to explore this rarely seen side of the city is to hop aboard a river cruise. The award-winning Canterbury Historic River Tours runs from Kings Bridge on the High Street and offers interesting guided tours from comfortable rowing boats. Similarly, the Canterbury Punting Company and Westgate Punts offer relaxing punting tours of the pretty little river. Ideal as a romantic treat for your loved one, you can opt for a route through the city or head off into the surrounding countryside.
8. Peaceful gardens
The highly rated Westgate Parks (CT1 2BQ) have seen a great deal of improvement work over the past year, including the creation of a new ‘physic garden’ and the extension of a path along the riverside. Made up of four distinct areas – Westgate Gardens, the Toddlers Cove play area, the riverside meadows of Tannery Field and the wild, wooded Bingley Island – it is a lovely place to escape the rat race. Similarly, the charming Dane John Gardens (CT1 2TN) at the other end of the city are a peaceful place to take time out and they boast a great view of the city from the raised mound.
9. Pilgrim’s footsteps
Famous across the world as a place of pilgrimage, medieval Canterbury was a very busy place. To get some idea of the sheer numbers of those who visited and how far they travelled to see the spot where Becket died, you can visit The Canterbury Tales attraction. Having been updated in the last year, it recreates medieval life and features actors, waxworks and an audio guide. Nearby you can see the real thing as the 12th-century Eastbridge Hospital (CT1 2BD), which was once a hostel for poor pilgrims, invites visitors to explore its beautifully decorated refectory, pilgrim’s chapel and Gothic undercroft.
10. Eating out
A thriving café culture makes places like Café St Pierre (01227 456701) and Water Lane Coffee House (01227 464797) popular choices, and the best cream tea in Kent can be had at Tiny Tim’s Tearoom (01227 450793), winner of Kent Life and Kent on Sunday’s Food & Drink Awards Tea Shop of the Year 2015. Fine dining can be enjoyed at Deeson’s (01227 767854) and The Ambrette (01227 200777), where chef Dev Biswal is our Chef of the Year; informal dining hot spots include Salt (01227 788595), Oscar & Bentleys (01227 454544) and Café des Amis (01227 464390) Mexican restaurant.