Canterbury in the spotlight
PUBLISHED: 15:37 20 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:23 20 February 2013
What better place to be in the festive season than Canterbury, home of the finest cathedral in Europe, the oldest church in England and an abbey founded by Britain's first Christian?
A festive fling
What better place to be in the festive season than Canterbury, home of the finest cathedral in Europe, the oldest church in England and an abbey founded by Britains first Christian?
The River Stour meanders through the centre of this beautiful city, history pervades the streets and buildings, yet the town is steaming into the 21st century with all guns blazing.
In October 2011 the brand new (25m) New Marlowe Theatre opened its doors, while only weeks ago the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge reopened after a spectacular 14m refurbishment (see feature on page xxx).
The noughties saw the opening of the new Whitefriars Shopping Centre (2005) and in 2007 the Kings Mile area (Palace Street/Guildhall Street/Sun Yard) was transformed into a playground of retail delight and caf culture, with new street furniture and widened pavements.
Shop and walk
The entire city centre is pedestrianised, and there are fine independent and chain stores along the High Street leading to Whitefriars open-air precinct, hosting all the major retail names.
The Buttermarket is central, but The Canterbury Visitor Centre is now based at The Beaney
The lovely Old Weavers Inn (now a restaurant) in the High Street sits on the riverbank. The Kings Mile has more than 100 shops and businesses, including jewellers, antiques, boutiques and cafs.
Improve your mind
The Marlowe Theatre, The Friars, CT1 2AS
Take a tour, see a show, enjoy a bite to eat in the restaurant of this newly built theatre thats named after the acclaimed Elizabethan playwright
Canterbury River Tours, St Peters Street, CT1 2AT
Take a 40-minute punt along the clear, fast-flowing River Stour to discover the hidden parts of the city
The Canterbury Tales, St Margarets Street, CT1 2TG
Step inside St Margarets Church, and join Geoffrey Chaucer and his colourful characters from the 14th century, as they follow the pilgrimage route from London to the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral
The Beaney, House of Art and Knowlege, High Street, CT1 2RA
Browse permanent collections of Ancient Egyptian and Grecian artefacts, Anglo-Saxon objects, birds and butterflies, stained glass, sculptures, paintings and drawings, displayed in newly refurbished galleries (see also page xxx).
Canterbury Roman Museum, Butchery Lane, CT1 2JR
Walk back in time through the impressive pillared entrance near the Cathedral, and uncover a wealth of Roman history thats lain hidden for thousands of years beneath Canterburys streets, houses and shops.
Museum of Canterbury, with Rupert Bear Museum, CT1 2NR
Housed in a medieval hospital built in 1373 for poor, sick and retired priests, the museum explores Canterbury's history, from millions of years ago to the present day, through interactive displays, including Anglo-Saxon treasures, Joseph Conrad's study, Stephenson's original Invicta railway engine and the Rupert Bear story
Dine in style
Fine restaurants include Michael Caines Restaurant (01227 826 684) at the Abode Hotel, Deesons British Restaurant (01227 767854), Augustines Restaurant (01227 453063) and The Foundry Restaurant and Microbrewery (01227 458 599).
All thats holy
St Martins Church, North Holmes Road, CT1 1PW -
Canterburys UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses St Augustines Abbeys scenic ruins in spacious gardens, St Martins, the oldest parish church in the English-speaking world, built using layers of reclaimed red Roman bricks sometime around 570AD, pre-dating St Augustines arrival in Kent on his mission of conversion by more than 25 years, and Christ Church Cathedral (01227 762862), a working and living church, used for regular worship in addition to hosting concerts and events.
In the Cathedral grounds theres Cathedral Lodge (01227 865350), that can be booked for B&B accommodation.
We took, and can highly recommend, a Cathedral guided tour. Key impressions were the sheer size of the building everything is larger than life while the Romanesque crypt has astonishing wall decorations, astounding ceilings, and an air of expectant hush. The cloisters are particularly magical, while in the main areas there are incredible magnificent tombs, amazing medieval stained-glass windows and lovely smooth foot-friendly stone to walk on. Our brilliant guide, Nicola, gave a fascinating fact-packed commentary that brought this ancient building alive.
Rest and reflect
Greyfriars 13th-century estate spans the river and houses the remains of Greyfriars Friary, the first Franciscan settlement in Britain. Its chapel, which is set within a peaceful Franciscan garden, dates back to the 1200s and has an exhibition on its lower floor. Eastbridge Hospital in the High Street is still a magnet for pilgrims, and has a fascinating undercroft, refectory and two restored chapels.
Canterbury Historic River Tours (07790 534744) allow you a unique below-street level vista of the city: see the majestic gardens of The Greyfriars, rear of the Dominican Priory and splendid views of the Cathedral. The Canterbury Tales Visitor attraction (01227 479277) presents the sounds, sights and odours of Chaucerian Canterbury, along with tableaux, waxworks and medieval scenes depicting Chaucers tales.
Christmas market at Whitefriars Shopping Centre, 23 Nov-23 Dec
New Marlowe Theatre 01227 787787
Sleeping Beauty, 30 Nov-20 Jan 2013. Studio theatre: Marlowe Comedy Cabaret, 8 Dec
Christ Church Cathedral
Advent Carol Service, 2 Dec, Demelza Carol Service, 6 Dec, Canterbury Choral Society: family carols, 14 Dec, Crib service (24 Dec, check availability
Gulbenkian Theatre 01227 769075
Midsummer Nights Dream, 1 Dec, Funny Side Comedy club (5 Dec) , A Christmas Carol (6 Dec) Phil Cool (7 Dec ), Grand Gala Concert (9 Dec), Tall Stories, Snow Dragon (various dates).
Canterbury Heritage Museum
Exhibition Christmas through the ages, 7-9 Dec
STAY WITH US
The House of Agnes
Sandie de Rougemont is manager of centrally located The House of Agnes (01227 472185), a 1400s Grade 11* listed building that offers excellent B&B accommodation (recently favourably featured on Channel 4s Four in a bed).
It has a large, walled garden, free off-road parking and all rooms are stylishly furnished with TV, DVD player and free Wi-Fi.
Our guests appreciate our cleanliness, friendliness and comfort, says Sandie. We have reduced all midweek rates for December and January (closed 24-26 December). A stay with us is like being in a boutique hotel, with all the added advantages of a warm welcoming country home.
She adds: What I love about Canterbury is its incredible history, great restaurants, fun bars and live music.
The Abode Canterbury
Natasha Doyle is events co-ordinator at The Abode Canterbury (01227 766266), a stylish boutique hotel where splendid contemporary design is grafted seamlessly onto ancient period features.
Centrally located opposite The Beaney and just a few minutes from the cathedral, it has 72 luxurious bedrooms, some with private suites. Guests especially like our Vi-spring beds, with hand-made mattresses, says Natasha.
If youre coming to stay with us, Id say bring a camera to record the fabulous sights that are everywhere. Children under five eat for free in our Fine Dining Restaurant and the Old Brewery Tavern.
What I like about the city is that everything is within walking distance, the cathedral is beautiful, and the shopping facilities are tremendous.
Canterbury is in eastern Kent, around 61 miles from London, joined via the A28 to the A2/M2 for London or Dover. There are two mainline stations with frequent trains to London and rest of Kent.
Satnav postcode: CT1 2UD
Martyn Barr, director of Impact
Tell us a bit about you
I am the director of Impact PR and Design and we look after the public image of the Whitefriars Shopping Centre. Ive lived in the area with my family since 1988, and have written three books, including The Young Persons History guide to Canterbury, which is suitable for adults as well as children.
What does your work involve?
The full gamut of marketing services, from producing magazines, posters and leaflets to websites, events organisation and PR. I even dressed up as Father Christmas one year!
Tell us about your history book
I felt there was a gap in the market for an entertaining, factual linear history guide to the city that would appeal to young people fortunately adults like it too. Im currently planning my fourth book, which also has a Canterbury theme.
Favourite palces to eat?
Fenwick for breakfast, Canteen for lunch and Wagamamma for dinner. With so many places to eat and drink in Canterbury, foodies really are spoilt for choice.
Tell us about your current home
Ive got the best of both worlds. Our village is just 10 minutes to Canterbury city centre and the coast at Whitstable, and we have hundreds of acres of nature reserve at the foot of our woodland garden great for walking our dog.
What do you love about Canterbury?
Its such an amazing city. A 2000-year heritage, vibrant cultural scene, and Im always discovering something new. I like its friendly compactness, and I never stop marvelling at the beautiful cathedral at its heart.