A city guide to Canterbury

PUBLISHED: 09:42 13 December 2016 | UPDATED: 09:42 13 December 2016

Cobbled streets typify Canterbury

Cobbled streets typify Canterbury

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

With its towering cathedral and pretty cobbled streets, Canterbury is a vibrant city which seamlessly blends history with modern-day convenience

Canterbury Cathedral saw more than 950,000 visitors through its doors in 2015Canterbury Cathedral saw more than 950,000 visitors through its doors in 2015

Its narrow, ancient streets are probably our county’s most famous and beautiful Canterbury has been attracting tourists since before tourism was even invented. Home of the Church of England and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the jewel in Kent’s crown is a city bursting with history, culture and charm.

And although some things haven’t changed over the centuries – Canterbury Cathedral continues to be one of the main attractions with more than 950,000 visitors through its doors in 2015 – there are plenty of other reasons visitors now head to Canterbury.

The shopping is some of the best in Kent, with a superb mix of big name brands and lovely independents, and the place is bursting with restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs.

In the run up to Christmas the city takes on a nostalgic atmosphere, with chestnuts roasting and brass bands playing on the streets. There are Christmas Markets at Whitefriars Square throughout December to warm up even the most Scrooge-like and family entertainment in the shape of Dick Whittington at the Marlowe Theatre.

Whitefriars Christmas MarketWhitefriars Christmas Market

If you want to delve into the city’s history a visit to The Canterbury Tales attraction, Canterbury Heritage Museum or Eastbridge Hospital are highly recommended, and the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge is a great museum, art gallery, library and café.

And it’s not the time of year for it, but in the warmer months one of the top things to do in this riverside city is take to the water and see Canterbury from a unique angle. Canterbury River Tours, Westgate Punts and the Canterbury Punting Company offer rowing boats and punts along the tiny River Stour.

With so much to offer it’s an unsurprisingly busy place and driving into the city centre is not for the faint-hearted. It is notorious for its traffic jams and its medieval streets were never designed to handle the number of vehicles it attracts these days. If you can, visit by train or take advantage of the city’s excellent park and ride facilities.

Canterbury Christ Church UniversityCanterbury Christ Church University

A student city

It’s not just the tourists that make Canterbury a vibrant place to live. With the campuses of four universities based in the city and student numbers up to 40,000, it’s also a place buzzing with young people in higher education.

The oldest of Canterbury’s universities is the University of Kent. Built in 1965 on 300 acres of hilltop farmland overlooking the city, it’s unusual in that it was originally a collegiate establishment with most students living and learning within one of the four separate colleges on campus – Eliot, Darwin, Rutherford and Keynes. While they remain, and in fact another two colleges – Woolf and Turing – have been added, changes over the years meant this concept was abandoned for a more traditional way of doing things. With around 20,000 undergraduate students, it’s a huge operation and boasts the superb Gulbenkian arts centre and Templeman library on campus. The university celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

With around 17,000 students, Canterbury Christ Church has been operating longer than its neighbour, having opened in 1962, but was only granted full university status in 2005. Originally a teacher training college, it still primarily focuses on educating those going into public services: teacher training, health and social care and the emergency services. Founded by the Church of England, classes were originally held within a priory in the heart of the city but later moved to land adjacent to St Augustine’s Abbey. The latest former college to be given full university status is the University for the Creative Arts. It was formed when several colleges and university colleges (including Canterbury’s Kent Institute of Art and Design) – merged.

Dick Whittington is at The Marlowe TheatreDick Whittington is at The Marlowe Theatre

Eating and shopping

Places to eat and drink abound in this cosmopolitan city. Try Dems Brasserie (01227 769018), award-winning Indian restaurant The Ambrette (01227 200777), Deeson’s (01227 767854), Mexican favourite Café des Amis (01227 464390), Chapman’s seafood restaurant (01227 780749), Oscar & Bentleys (01227 454544), Japanese soul food at Tamago (01227 634537) and Farmers’ Market and food hall The Goods Shed (01227 780793). New to Canterbury are The Corner House (01227 780793), The Skinny Kitchen (01227 634562) and The Tyler’s Kiln gastro pub (01227 471912), our 2016 Pub of the Year in the Kent Life and Kent on Sunday Food & Drink Awards.

The main shopping areas are Whitefriars, with stores including Fenwick and M&S, the High Street and King’s Mile, filled with quirky independents, café, bars and restaurants.

If you’re looking for sale bargains, then it’s worth a visit to The Designer Bed Company in Wincheap. To kick off its 40th birthday celebrations, the 40th anniversary sale (27 Dec-15 Jan) will offer an impressive range of designer beds, www.designerbedsltd.co.uk.

Kathryn Rennie, Conquest House Gallery

Tell us a bit about you

I am artist in residence at Conquest House where I have my working studio, teaching studio and art gallery. After attending Camberwell College of Art, I’ve worked for 25 years as a commissioned and project artist.

I’ve worked in a variety of mediums and subject matter including sculpted portraits in clay/bronze, portraits, equestrian and abstract painting in oils, pastels, watercolour, charcoal and chalks - also murals and decorative art work in houses.

In Canterbury I have worked in The Canterbury Hotel, The Pilgrims Hotel and Dems Restaurant.

What is Conquest House?

Conquest House Gallery, on Palace Street in the King’s Mile, is one of the oldest medieval venues in Canterbury. The gallery exhibits works by both local and international artists, representing classical to contemporary works.

Exhibited artists demonstrate a dedication to skill, and have an intimate relationship with their medium while communicating a strong contextual narrative.

It’s only been open for eight months and although still in its early stages of development has recently managed to win Best Small Business 2016 from The Kent Independent Traders Awards.

What else happens here?

It is more than just a gallery, with a famous 1066 Undercroft in the heart of the building and a historical association with St Thomas Becket as the four knights are said to have met here. The Undercroft is now a venue for medieval banquets, music and merriment, with board game evenings and other folk, jazz and cabaret style events. The Canterbury Medieval Pageant day in July was a great success, as was the Medieval Halloween evening with music and ghoulish tales. For upcoming events, see: www.artincanterbury.co.uk or www.conquesthousecanterbury.co.uk


25 Nov to 8 Jan: Dick Whittington

The Marlowe Theatre kicks off the Christmas season with this family pantomime starring Stephen Mulhern and Marlowe favourites Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett. Book tickets via 01227 787787 or www.marlowetheatre.com

26 Nov to 24 Dec: Christmas Market

This year’s Whitefriars Christmas Market features more than 35 colourful cabins selling seasonal produce, gifts, decorations, and food and drink.

3 Dec to 24 Dec: Meet Santa

The ever-popular Santa’s Grotto experience returns to Whitefriars Square this Christmas. Book online at www.whitefriarschristmasmarket.com

3 Dec: St Nicholas Parade

St Nicholas will be paying his annual visit to the city and aims to raise money for organisations and charities that benefit young people, both locally and further afield. The parade starts at 12 noon at Westgate Hall and will pass through the city before arriving at the Cathedral.

Christmas Eve: The Lord Mayor’s Charity Carol Service

This event, held in Rose Square and usually presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, attracts thousands and starts at around 6pm.

Property prices

Canterbury is a very desirable area despite its distance from London. Expect to pay upwards of around £190,000 for a one-bedroom flat, between £210,000 and £315,000 for a two-bed terraced property and between £250,000 and £425,000 for a three-bed semi. Larger detached properties are available up to £1.1million.

Getting there

Canterbury is off the A2/M2 linking London to Dover and has great rail connections via two town centre stations. Parking can be challenging but the local park and ride scheme is highly recommended with parks at three sites around the city: New Dover Road (CT1 3EJ), Sturry Road (CT1 1AD) and Wincheap (CT1 3TY).

Sat nav: CT1 2TF

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