A city guide to Canterbury
PUBLISHED: 10:11 17 December 2018
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
It’s our county’s most popular tourist attraction and has our largest student population. Let’s take a look at the busy little city of Canterbury
With its narrow, cobbled streets and instantly recognisable skyline, Canterbury has been drawing visitors for centuries.
Famed as an important Roman settlement, then a place of medieval pilgrimage, today tourists and students are among those who make this bustling city the most cosmopolitan place in Kent.
And after all these years, the number one attraction has still got to be Canterbury Cathedral. Founded in around 600AD, it is known as the ‘mother church’ and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Thrown into the spotlight in 1170, when it became the scene of the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket, it became one of the most important religious sites in the world, with pilgrims travelling in their droves to worship at his tomb.
Nearby, English Heritage cares for the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey and, together with the ancient Church of St Martin, these three holy buildings make up Kent’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Around the cathedral is the warren of little streets known as the King’s Mile Quarter, providing homes for a rich variety of independent traders. Much of the ancient architecture remains preserved within the city walls and it’s easy to imagine Canterbury as the poet Geoffrey Chaucer would have seen it in the 1300s.
A visitor attraction, named The Canterbury Tales after Chaucer’s most famous work, also helps to bring the past alive with the sights, sounds and stories of the medieval pilgrims.
More of the city’s important history can be explored in its museums. Canterbury Roman Museum houses the mosaic pavement of a Roman courtyard house which once stood on the site.
Only discovered when a workman unearthed it in 1868, the pavement is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. There’s plenty to discover at the state-of-the-art Beaney House of Art and Knowledge too, with its fabulous collections of art and treasures from across the world.
But while Canterbury maintains a strong connection with its past, it’s not stuck there. It’s the main shopping destination in east Kent and offers high-end retail therapy in a scenic setting. The High Street is always busy and the open-air Whitefriars shopping centre is particularly tempting at this time of year, thanks to its pretty Christmas markets.
And you can’t get more modern than Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre. Completely rebuilt a few years ago, it’s a piece of statement 21st-century architecture in the heart of the old city. At this time of year, it’s packed with families for its popular pantomime Cinderella, with Harry Reid and Mister Maker, running until 6 January.
As you would expect from a city with three universities, there is plenty of entertainment and culture on offer, with live music and comedy at The Marlowe, The Gulbenkian Theatre at the University of Kent, The Penny Theatre, and numerous pubs and bars. There’s also the annual Canterbury Festival each October/November, with a host of cultural events held in various venues across the city.
Although it’s easily accessible by train, with two central stations, Canterbury notoriously suffers from traffic problems. But to make life easier, the city’s excellent Park & Ride scheme runs from car parks at New Dover Road, Sturry Road and Wincheap. Its system is being updated so that users can pay by cash, card, phone or via an app and so that regular users can set up an online account.
Mountfield Park development
Given the green light in 2016 and planned along garden city principles, Mountfield Park is the biggest housing scheme ever proposed in Canterbury.
Over the next 15 years up to 4,000 new homes will be built in the new neighbourhood, 1,200 of which will be classified as affordable homes.
The first phase of the project will start during 2019 and will deliver 140 homes. Developed by Kent-based firm Corinthian Land, it’s intended to be a balanced development with 279 acres identified for new homes, 170 acres of green infrastructure and more than 51 acres devoted to a community hub and new business investment.
The plan is to eventually provide a completely new community with housing, business space, extensive new parkland and woodland, local shops, two new schools, doctors’ surgeries and community meeting spaces. Land has also been set aside for a potential new hospital and the scheme includes provision for a new junction on the A2 at Bridge, www.mountfieldpark.co.uk
Eating and shopping
Eating out in Canterbury is a joy, with so much on offer within the compact city. Top choices among the many cafés and coffee shops include Café St Pierre, Kitch, The Refectory Kitchen, The Moat Tea Rooms, Micro Roastery and Burgate Coffee House. There are dozens of great restaurants to choose from too, including The Corner House, The Goods Shed, The Ambrette, A La Turka, Pinocchio’s, Saint Smokey’s BBQ House, Pork & Co, Azouma, Oscar & Bentley’s, Il Posticino and the County Restaurant at ABode. And one of Canterbury’s favourite eateries, the Mexican/Mediterranean Café des Amis, celebrated its 30th birthday this year.
New additions to the city include Five Guys burgers, The Parade Room at One Pound Lane and The Stag cocktail and coffee bar. Among the many good pubs and bars, seek out The Thomas Tallis alehouse, The Foundry brew pub and The Pound. Further afield, don’t miss The Tyler’s Kiln on Tyler Hill, Kathton House in Sturry, The Dog at Wingham and of course The Fordwich Arms – now proudly displaying its gleaming new Michelin star.
Keen shoppers are spoilt for choice in Canterbury, with everything you need within a short walk. Whitefriars has all the big brands, including Fenwick and M&S, with the far end of the High Street and the King’s Mile Quarter offering plenty of independents.
Some of our favourites include The Fudge Kitchen, Vinylstore Jr, 925 Silver, Queen Bee Home (see our postcard from Canterbury), Siesta, Madame Oiseau Fine Chocolates, Minster Glass Studio, The Goods Shed, Ortwin Thyssen jewellery, The Chaucer Bookshop and Revivals.
Postcard from Canterbury
My name is Emma North and along with my husband Simon, we own and run our independent vintage furniture, gift, interiors, and coffee shop called Queen Bee Home in the heart of historic Canterbury.
Queen Bee Home was established five years ago. We stock vintage furniture, gifts and accessories. We try to source quirky things not found anywhere else in Canterbury.
The idea behind it was a dream for a number of years; we both love interiors and furniture renovation. Our motto is ‘how hard can it be?’ Jolly hard actually, but enjoyable and rewarding too!
Simon is a trained chef, working in many prestigious restaurants in London and Europe over the years, so to add a coffee shop in store was a no-brainer to us. He bakes daily, producing gorgeous cakes and tasty savoury items, including gluten free and vegan options.
Canterbury is a beautiful city; the history alone makes it a pleasure to be in. We enjoy it when we arrive early in the morning, when the Christ Church Gates are closed and it is so quiet. The feeling that the city is just waking up is lovely. The High Street is pedestrianised for most of the day, making it a safe and family friendly environment.
There are a huge variety of restaurants, cafés, parks and some great shopping to be taken advantage of. We rarely have any time to eat out or go to the pub, but when we do we pop for a pizza at Chapter, or for something a little different we love The Ambrette in Beer Cart Lane.