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10 reasons to visit Canterbury

PUBLISHED: 10:45 08 April 2019

Westgate Towers seen from the River Stour (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Westgate Towers seen from the River Stour (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Step back in time and discover this ancient city's important past or indulge in modern retail therapy

1. Mother Church

Originally founded in the sixth century and rebuilt in the 11th, iconic medieval Canterbury cathedral has been described as ‘England in stone’. The seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ‘Mother Church’ for Anglicans, it has long been one of the most important religious sites in the world. Medieval pilgrims flocked to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket and today tourists still come from all over the world to see the building that forms part of Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There’s plenty of culture on offer in this student city, where its main theatre is the strikingly modern Marlowe (photo: Manu Palomeque)There’s plenty of culture on offer in this student city, where its main theatre is the strikingly modern Marlowe (photo: Manu Palomeque)

2. Must-visit museums

Largest and most modern of this historic city’s excellent museums is the award-winning Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, a state-of-the-art museum, art gallery, library and visitor information set inside a Grade II-listed building. To explore Canterbury’s Roman roots, head to Canterbury Roman Museum in Butchery Lane, built around the remains of an original Roman villa.

Tempting shops nestle close the the Cathedral in the old Buttermarket area (photo: Manu Palomeque)Tempting shops nestle close the the Cathedral in the old Buttermarket area (photo: Manu Palomeque)

3. Shopping hub

Whitefriars Shopping Centre has all the big brands, including a flagship Fenwick, while the King’s Mile Quarter is home to small independents including The Fudge Kitchen, 925 Silver, The Goods Shed, Ortwin Thyssen jewellery, The Chaucer Bookshop and Revivals. And don’t miss homeware store Neptune in Wincheap.

A historic gem, but Canterbury attracts many keen shoppers for its excellent choice of big-name brands and independents (photo: Manu Palomeque)A historic gem, but Canterbury attracts many keen shoppers for its excellent choice of big-name brands and independents (photo: Manu Palomeque)

4. Heritage sites

The remaining parts of the World Heritage Site are the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church. Founded in AD 598 by Augustine, the abbey was once considered more important than the cathedral and used as a burial site for Anglo-Saxon kings. Now managed by English Heritage, its museum contains artefacts and stone carvings found during the excavation of the ruins. Nearby, St Martin’s Church is the oldest church to have been in continuous use in the English-speaking world.

The seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ‘Mother Church’ for Anglicans, Canterbury cathedral has long been one of the most important religious sites in the world (photo: Manu Palomeque)The seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the ‘Mother Church’ for Anglicans, Canterbury cathedral has long been one of the most important religious sites in the world (photo: Manu Palomeque)

5. River tours

The River Stour was once central to the city’s industries, providing a transport route and power for mills. Today, rowing boats and punts offer tourists a unique view of Canterbury from the water. Based under King’s Bridge is award-winning Canterbury River Tours. Others include Canterbury Punting Company and Westgate Punts.

Canterbury's largest and most modern is the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in the High Street (photo: Manu Palomeque)Canterbury's largest and most modern is the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in the High Street (photo: Manu Palomeque)

6. Culture fix

The Marlowe theatre seats 1,200 people and offers a diverse range of drama, dance, comedy and family shows. Named after Canterbury playwright Christopher Marlowe, it also incorporates the Marlowe Studio and the 14th-century Poor Priests’ Hospital in Stour Street, now known as the Marlowe Kit. The University of Kent’s onsite arts centre, the Gulbenkian, includes a 340-seat theatre, a 300-seat cinema and a café.

7. Eating out

Showing off café culture at its best, Canterbury offers such delights as Café St Pierre, Kitch, The Refectory Kitchen, The Moat Tea Rooms and Burgate Coffee House. Great restaurants include The Corner House, The Goods Shed, The Ambrette, Saint Smokey’s BBQ House, Pork & Co, Oscar & Bentley’s, the County Restaurant at ABode Hotel and Café des Amis. For drinks, seek out The Thomas Tallis alehouse, The Foundry brew pub, The Pound and Houdini’s Magic Bar. Also in the area are gems like Kathton House in Sturry, The Dog at Wingham and newly Michelin-starred Fordwich Arms.

8. Fabulous festival

Visit the city in autumn to enjoy the impressive Canterbury Festival. Taking place 19 October to 2 November, the city comes alive with around 200 events, including music, art, theatre, comedy, walk and talks on the streets and at different venues.

9. Animal antics

If animal parks appeal, then this area has two of the best. Wingham Wildlife Park is Kent’s fastest-growing zoo and has a huge variety of animals, including big cats, reptiles, penguins – and a trail of lifelike animatronic dinosaurs. Howletts Wild Animal Park, set up as a private zoo by John Aspinall in 1957, cares for more than 400 animals and has gorillas, tigers, elephants and an ‘animals of the ice age’ display.

10. Chaucer’s trail

Based on Chaucer’s famous stories of medieval pilgrims visiting Canterbury, The Canterbury Tales is a unique look into the past using live actors, waxworks figures and an audio guide. You’ll hear five of Chaucer’s tales while you explore the city streets, recreated as they would have looked, sounded and smelled during the Middle Ages.

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