Aligned with half-timbered buildings, medieval structures, and cobblestone streets is the picturesque town of Canterbury. Situated in the heart of Kent, the city is known for its historical landmarks and well-preserved architecture.
Whether you are only visiting for the day or choosing to spend a weekend, this guide will provide you with the top things to do in Canterbury.
Christ Church Gate
As you make your way to the Canterbury Cathedral, you will most likely walk through the beautiful Christ Church Gate, built between 1504 and 1521.
The gate was built in honor of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s elder brother, who was to be married to Catherine of Aragon (1501). However, shortly after his marriage, he died, making Henry VIII the next in line to become King of England. He, too, married Catherine several years after his brother’s death.
At the top of the gate is the coat of arms of the Tudor Dynasty, along with other coats of arms for several members of the Royal family.
The world-famous Canterbury Cathedral dates back to 597 AD when St. Augustine first landed on the shores of Kent as a missionary and later became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
Like the Rochester Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral became a pilgrimage site from all over Europe that would travel here to pay their respects to Saint Thomas Becket. As a result, the Cathedral has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and welcomes millions of visitors each year.
- Hours: Mon. – Sat. 9:00 – 17:00, Sun. 11:30 – 17:00
- Admission: Adults £15.50
St. Augustine’s Abbey
Near the Canterbury Cathedral lies St. Augustine’s Abbey. Before becoming a monastery, it was a burial site for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. Sadly, like many monasteries at the time of Henry VIII, they were abandoned, ransacked, and in ruins.
Today, you can see the remains of this historical 16th century site and learn more about what took place through virtual reality headsets to walk about in the abbey.
- Hours: 10:00 – 16:00 (check website for schedule)
- Admission: Adults £9
This is an art gallery, library, and Visitor Information Center situated in the heart of Canterbury. The building earned its name from Dr. James George Beaney, a native who studied medicine before emigrating to Australia. Upon his death in 1891, he left money to the city to build an ‘Institute for Working Men.’
- Hours: Tue.- Sat. 10:00 – 17:00, Sun. 11:00 – 16:00, Closed Mon. (Museum & Galleries)
- Admission: Free
The Church of St. Martin
The first church was founded in England (6th century), and the oldest parish church in continuous use is the Church of St. Martin. This church was used as the major headquarters when Augustine arrived in Canterbury. St. Martin’s Church is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Although this church is on the outskirts of the city center, it is worth a visit. Here you can see some of the most beautiful tombstones and take a quick tour of the inside of the church with a fascinating history!
Canterbury Roman Museum
The Canterbury Roman Museum tells the story of the Romans who arrived in Canterbury long before the pilgrims. The museum is filled with artifacts found on Butchery Lane, mosaic tiles, and proof that the Romans used to heat their flooring!
Take a step back in time by visiting the Roman Museum for a unique glimpse into life during Roman Britain.
- Hours: Monday – Sunday 10:00 – 17:00
- Admission: Adults £9.60
One of the oldest schools in the world, King’s School, was founded in 597 AD. Shortly after St. Augustine arrived in Canterbury, the school was founded and named after King Henry VIII.
While much of the school is off limits due to students, you can see the Green Court and the buildings surrounding it.
The Crooked House
The weird shape house is near the end of Palace Street, where you will find many half-timbered houses lining the cobblestone streets. Although no one knows precisely how it came to be, it has become one of the attractions in Canterbury.
St. Thomas of Canterbury Church
This Roman Catholic Church was built between 1874 to 1875 in the Gothic Revival style and located on the corner of Burgate and Canterbury Lane. It is the only Roman Catholic church in Canterbury, built on the site of a medieval church, the old St. Mary Magdalen’s Tower was retained. Inside you will find a relic of Thomas Becket.
The Old Buttermarket
Outside the Cathedral is a busy little square called The Old Buttermarket. It is a great place to find a bite to eat or take a break while sightseeing. Sit outside and enjoy people-watching or grab a pint to quench your thirst!
The Old Weaver’s House
The Old Weaver’s House, a popular restaurant serving delicious homemade pies and classic British food, is a charming 16th-century building in Canterbury.
During the 16th century, the weaving industry took off in Canterbury, earning the name ‘The Canterbury Weavers.‘ The Huguenot refugees settled in the area bringing with them the talents of weaving fabrics. It is believed this building was used as a place of work for many of the weavers.
St. Peter’s Church
The original church stood on this site for the local Christian community in Roman Times. It was rebuilt by St. Augustine and his monks in Anglo-Saxon days. St. Peter’s Church tower you see today is from the 10th century and houses four ancient church bells, cast between 1325 and 1599.
Poor Priests Hospital (Marlowe Kit)
The hospital was founded in 1217 to provide care and shelter for sick and needy priests. It was built on the banks of the River Stour, as were other similar buildings in Canterbury. It now houses a museum.
Eastbridge, or the Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr, Eastbridge is not a hospital as we use the word today. However, it was and still is a hospital, in the original sense of the word, a place of hospitality.
Founded in the 12th century, the Archbishop of Canterbury was the patron created to provide pilgrims visiting the tomb of St. Thomas Becket for over 800 years, providing shelter and help to those in need. It is currently closed until 2023.
Canterbury Westgate Towers
Inside Canterbury, Westgate Towers is an escape room where you can choose from three rooms. The Westgate Towers are the largest surviving gateway towers in England. You can also go to the Viewpoint to see the city’s lovely view.
- Hours: Mon. – Sun. 12:00 – 15:45, Closed on Sat. ( currently)
- Admission: Adults £4 to visit the museum and Viewpoint. Visit the website for the escape room prices.
Canterbury River Cruise
One of the most popular activities in Canterbury is taking a scenic river cruise along the River Stour. Floating along in a traditional punting style is the best way to escape the hustle and bustle of the High Street while you admire the city’s finest architecture.
Go to King Bridge near High Street between 10:00 – 17:00 and will find operators there to arrange for a guided cruise down the river. The river cruises are only open from March 1st through October 31st.
Canterbury Tales Tour
Canterbury is tied to the famous author Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote The Canterbury Tales. If you want a unique experience exploring Canterbury, take a Canterbury Tale Tour led by costumed guides that take you on a 40-min. Journey through the medieval streets of the city. To purchase a ticket, visit the St. Margaret’s Street site near the town center. The tours operate daily.
- Admission: Adults £12.00