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What to Do in Canterbury: Your Ultimate Handbook

Welcome to Canterbury: a vibrant and place to live and visit in England, UK. You’ll find attractions, shops, cultural spots, and great food in Canterbury’s town centre and throughout this beautiful city. Get ready to dive into our ultimate guide, where we’ll take you on a journey to discover the best things to do in Canterbury.

Must-See Canterbury Attractions

If you’re unsure about what to do in Canterbury, don’t worry! There are plenty of must-see attractions in Canterbury waiting for you. Let this guide help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in this charming city.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral, England’s first cathedral, has a history spanning over 1400 years. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury and hosts the remains of saints and royalty. Visitors are drawn to its medieval stained glass windows, including the oldest in Britain, and intricately carved tombs. Exploring the Cathedral’s Cloisters and green spaces offers tranquility, with occasional sightings of nesting peregrine falcons adding to its allure.

Canterbury Cathedral is a centre of spirituality and community. Its magnificent Gothic architecture and stunning interior leave visitors in awe of its grandeur and beauty. Beyond its physical attributes, the Cathedral serves as a place of worship and pilgrimage for Christians from around the world, hosting regular services, concerts, and events. Additionally, the Cathedral’s close proximity to other historic sites and charming streets makes it a focal point for tourists exploring the enchanting city of Canterbury.

Canterbury Cathedral

St. Augustine’s Abbey

St. Augustine’s Abbey, located just outside Canterbury’s city walls, is a historic Benedictine monastery founded in 598. As part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site, it was initially a burial site for Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. Today, visitors can explore its tranquil ruins and learn about Kent’s Christian revival post-Roman era. The abbey’s serene atmosphere also makes it perfect for dog walks or family picnics. While booking ahead isn’t necessary, it’s best to secure tickets online for the best price and guaranteed entry.

St. Augustine's Abbey

River Great Stour

While London’s River Thames and Cambridge’s River Cam might be more famous for river rafting, Canterbury’s River Great Stour offers a fantastic experience too. Flowing gently through the Canterbury town centre, the River Stour enhances the city’s charm with its peaceful waters and beautiful surroundings. You can admire Canterbury’s historic architecture as you float along, and the river isn’t too wide, making it easy to appreciate the green spaces and flowers on both banks. With its lush greenery, historic landmarks, and cozy riverside cafes, the River Stour provides an enchanting setting for both visitors and locals to enjoy. Taking a river tour is highly recommended—it lasts about 45 minutes and offers fascinating insights into Canterbury’s rich history.

Westgate Gardens

Located along the peaceful banks of the River Stour, Westgate Gardens exudes timeless elegance and natural beauty, offering a serene escape. As one of England’s oldest parks, it’s an ideal spot for a relaxing picnic in picturesque surroundings. Towering sycamore trees, standing for over two centuries, provide shade and tranquility. The clear, sparkling river enhances the scenery, especially during spring and summer when vibrant flowers bloom. Nearby snack stations, an ice cream parlor, and a children’s rest area ensure a delightful visit for all.

Canterbury City Wall

The Canterbury City Wall has ancient roots, dating back to the Romans in the late 3rd century. Remarkably, it endured through Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods, surviving a Viking raid in 835. Today, about half of the original walls remain, encircling Canterbury’s center. Visitors can stroll along the wall, enjoying dramatic views and gaining insight into the city’s history

Canterbury Castle

Canterbury Castle, located adjacent to Canterbury East railway station, stands as one of Britain’s ancient fortresses, historically serving as a defensive stronghold. As one of Kent’s three royal castles, it holds significant historical importance. Although much of the castle was ravaged during wartime, visitors can still explore its remains, partially restored to reveal the original Roman walls.

Galleries and Museums in Canterbury

When planning things to do in Canterbury, be sure to include visits to its diverse array of galleries and museums. Explore these cultural treasures to gain insight into Canterbury’s past and present.

The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, nestled in Canterbury town centre, is a vibrant cultural institution housing an art gallery, library, and visitor center. Its rich collection showcases local artworks and historical treasures, offering a captivating journey through Canterbury’s heritage. Originally established through the generosity of Dr. James George Beaney to support the working class, the Beaney House stands today as a Grade II listed building. As a beloved destination in East Kent, it serves as a welcoming haven, uniting art, literature, and information services for all to enjoy.

The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

Canterbury Roman Museum

The Canterbury Roman Museum is also situated in Canterbury town centre. It offers a fascinating glimpse into Roman life in Britain. Housed within a reconstructed Roman townhouse, the museum showcases an array of artifacts unearthed from archaeological excavations in Canterbury, known as Durovernum Cantiacorum during Roman times. Visitors can explore well-preserved Roman mosaic floors, intricate wall paintings, and everyday objects such as pottery and jewelry. Highlights include the intricate Hypocaust heating system and the remains of a Roman marketplace. Interactive exhibits and multimedia displays provide engaging insights into the daily lives, customs, and occupations of the Roman inhabitants of Canterbury.

Canterbury Heritage Museum

The Canterbury Heritage Museum is a treasure trove of local history and culture. Visitors can explore the city’s evolution from ancient times to the present day, delving into topics such as medieval life, the Canterbury Tales, and wartime experiences. The highlights of this museum include artifacts from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, fascinating reconstructions, and audiovisual presentations. The museum also offers insights into famous Canterbury figures like Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Becket.

The Kent Museum of Freemasonry

The Kent Museum of Freemasonry stands as a beacon of Masonic heritage, showcasing a remarkable collection of exhibits with both national and international significance. It houses a distinguished collection of Masonic artifacts, including rare pieces like an ancient Egyptian Maul. Accredited by the Arts Council, it maintains high standards in collection care and visitor services. Admission is free, with voluntary donations appreciated, ensuring accessibility to all who wish to explore Freemasonry’s rich heritage.

Theatres in Canterbury

Canterbury boasts some great theatres. They offer an enriching cultural experience for locals and visitors alike.

The Marlowe Theatre

The Marlowe stands as one of the UK’s premier theatres, renowned for its stellar programming featuring acclaimed artists and companies. Regularly hosting esteemed entities like the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, and Glyndebourne Touring Opera, as well as performances by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and the Philharmonia Orchestra, it offers a diverse range of cultural experiences. With three distinct spaces, including The Marlowe Studio dedicated to new writing and creative endeavors, The Marlowe Kit housing performances, an Escape Room game, and a Canterbury writers’ exhibition, the theater caters to varied interests.

The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, Kent, England

The Malthouse Theatre

The Malthouse Theatre in Canterbury is a bustling arts complex that caters to a variety of creative pursuits. Boasting a seating capacity of 384, it offers adaptable stage setups, an orchestra pit, and top-notch technical and backstage facilities. Serving as the epicenter of drama activities at the school, the Malthouse also hosts professional events throughout the year. Guests can indulge in dining and drinks at the onsite bar, conveniently utilize the cloakroom and box office services, and admire captivating art exhibitions in the foyer. With its multifunctional spaces, the Malthouse Theatre provides a vibrant venue for artistic expression and cultural experiences.

Gulbenkian Arts Centre

Gulbenkian, the University of Kent’s Arts Centre, is dedicated to providing innovative and high-quality arts activities for the public, staff, and students. With a strong commitment to public engagement, it focuses on empowering children and young people creatively. The center features a 340-seat theater, a 300-seat cinema, and a café with a cabaret-style space for live music, comedy, and slam poetry. It offers a diverse programme including music, comedy, theater, dance, and film.

Green Spaces and Parks in Canterbury

Howletts Wild Animal Park

Howletts Wild Animal Park is located in the scenic Kent countryside. It is a renowned wildlife sanctuary and conservation centre in Canterbury. Founded by John Aspinall in 1957, the park is home to over 400 animals from 50 different species, all part of the Aspinall Foundation’s efforts to protect endangered wildlife. Visitors can explore themed zones representing diverse habitats, getting up close to elephants, primates, big cats, and more. It’s an ideal destination for families and nature enthusiasts looking to connect with animals and support global conservation efforts.

Dane John Gardens

Dane John Gardens sit right on the edge of Canterbury town centre, making them easily accessible from all the main tourist spots. It’s a really pleasant place, definitely worth a visit if you want to chill out after exploring the city. The garden has a spiral mound called The Simmons Memorial, where you can climb up and get a great view. Plus, there are plenty of benches scattered around, perfect for taking a break. You can wander along the paths that go all around, and there’s a nice tree-lined area with a fountain in the middle. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the café in the garden for a bite to eat or a cuppa.

Franciscans Gardens

Franciscans Gardens is a historic site dating back to 1224 located in the heart of Canterbury. It marks the location of the first Franciscan settlement in England. Spanning 1.5 acres, the gardens feature a picturesque 13th-century chapel, open to the public, overlooking the River Stour. Offering a tranquil retreat from the bustling high street of Canterbury, the gardens provide a serene environment to explore the monastic lands, observe wildlife, and immerse oneself in 800 years of history. Visitors could also find benches with back support would enhance their experience.

Shopping in Canterbury

Whitefriars Shopping Centre

Whitefriars Shopping Centre serves as Canterbury’s prime destination for fashion and retail. Anchored by the premier department store Fenwick, it boasts over 70 leading fashion and lifestyle retailers, offering top brands and must-have looks. In addition to essentials, visitors can enjoy coffee and snacks from regular open-air street traders, adding to the vibrant shopping experience. Whether you’re seeking the latest trends or everyday essentials, Whitefriars Shopping Centre provides a diverse array of options to satisfy your shopping needs in a convenient and welcoming environment.

Canterbury’s West End

Canterbury’s West End is framed by the iconic Westgate Towers. It offers a welcoming introduction to the city for many travelers arriving from Canterbury West station. Home to The Goods Shed farmers market and restaurant, visitors can savor culinary delights in a quarter renowned for its acclaimed restaurants, cocktail bars, and historic real ale pubs. Additionally, the West End boasts a variety of independent retailers, including jewellers, art galleries, and vintage shops, adding to its eclectic charm.

The King’s Mile

The King’s Mile is a vibrant shopping and dining area situated alongside the cathedral and the prestigious King’s School. This collection of linked streets combines historic charm with modern amenities, offering visitors a unique experience where new meets old. Here, you’ll discover a diverse range of independent shops and traditional traders, each offering their own specialties. From handcrafted jewellery and fresh produce to arts, crafts, games, and gifts, there’s something to appeal to every shopper. Additionally, the area boasts a selection of eateries serving great food and drink, adding to the overall ambiance.

The High Street

St. Peter’s Street and The High Street serve as Canterbury’s bustling main thoroughfares, offering a wealth of retail options from both national chains and independent businesses. Amidst the shopping, don’t miss the opportunity to admire the beautiful architecture and explore the array of cafes, pubs, and restaurants dotted along the streets. These vibrant streets provide plenty of opportunities to take a break with a coffee while enjoying some people-watching. Be sure to include a visit to the striking Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, a multifaceted institution serving as the city’s tourist information point, museum, library, and art gallery. Renowned for its architectural beauty, it’s a must-see destination along Canterbury’s main shopping district.

Must-Eat Restaurants in Canterbury

Canterbury town centre and its surrounding areas offer a plethora of dining options, ranging from cozy cafes to upscale eateries. Here are some standout restaurants in Canterbury that are a must-try.

Pinocchio’s Restaurant

Pinocchio’s Restaurant on Castle Street in Canterbury offers authentic Italian cuisine with a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients from Italy and Kent. Their menu changes seasonally, featuring well-presented pasta dishes bursting with flavor. With a cozy atmosphere and top-notch service, Pinocchio’s ensures a memorable dining experience, whether you’re a fan of classic Italian dishes or seeking new flavors.

Café des Amis

Café des Amis, located on Dunstans Street, is renowned for its innovative Mexican cuisine, which combines Mexican and Mediterranean flavors. The restaurant boasts dishes like the exceptional and delicious Seafood Burrito. While prices may be slightly higher, guests can enjoy a great view of Westgate Gardens and the River Stour from the restaurant. Notably, Café des Amis is said to be a favorite of actor Orlando Bloom.

The Refectory Kitchen

The Refectory Kitchen is just a few minutes’ walk from Canterbury West station and it is a must-visit restaurant in Canterbury. Offering casual daytime dining, the restaurant serves comfort-food fare alongside quality coffee, with seasonal sidewalk seating available. Guests rave about the great breakfast burger, which is a highlight of the menu.

The Refectory Kitchen provides superb service and cozy vibes, providing a welcoming atmosphere for diners. The restaurant is known for being extremely dog-friendly, and its good table spacing ensures a great experience for all patrons. Whether you’re stopping by for a quick bite or lingering over a meal, The Refectory Kitchen offers a delightful dining experience in Canterbury town centre.


Posillipo is a standout Italian restaurant in Canterbury, known for its inviting atmosphere and delicious cuisine. Boasting a wood-fired pizza oven, the restaurant offers a tempting array of pizzas alongside locally sourced seafood dishes and vegan options, catering to a variety of tastes.

Conveniently located just down the road from the iconic Crooked House bookshop, Posillipo provides a perfect dining option for visitors exploring Canterbury’s charming streets. Guests can expect an authentic Italian experience, complemented by warm and friendly service. With a diverse menu and a specials list, Posillipo ensures there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the heart of Canterbury.

Things to Do in Canterbury FAQ

Yes, Canterbury city centre is a must-visit destination. Steeped in history, it boasts iconic landmarks such as Canterbury Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the historic city walls. The city center’s cobbled streets are lined with quaint shops, bustling markets, and inviting cafes. Visitors can immerse themselves in the city’s heritage by exploring the medieval alleyways and timber-framed buildings. With cultural attractions like museums and theaters, as well as picturesque parks and gardens, Canterbury town centre offers a diverse range of experiences.

Traveling to Canterbury, Kent from nearby cities is convenient and accessible by various modes of transportation:

  • By train: Canterbury is well-connected by train services from major cities like London, Ashford, and Dover. Southeastern Railway operates frequent services to Canterbury West and Canterbury East stations.
  • By bus/coach: National Express and other coach companies offer direct services to Canterbury from cities across the UK. Additionally, local bus services connect Canterbury with nearby towns and villages.
  • By car: Canterbury is easily accessible by car via the A2, A28, and M2 motorway. There are several car parks available in the Canterbury city centre for visitors driving in.

Yes, traveling from London to Canterbury is straightforward. Southeastern Railway operates frequent train services from London St Pancras International, London Victoria, and London Bridge stations to Canterbury, with journey times ranging from around one hour to one hour and a half. Additionally, National Express and other coach companies offer direct coach services from London to Canterbury, typically taking around two hours.

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