Canterbury in One Day from London

EXPERIENCE THE BEST OF CANTERBURY IN ONE DAY — 20+ THINGS TO DO

A Day Trip from London

I fell in love with Canterbury the moment I read about the city’s history many years ago and my visit to Canterbury for a day last week did not disappoint. Located in Kent, a county fondly known as the ‘Garden of England,’ Canterbury is home to the splendid Gothic and Romanesque styled Canterbury Cathedral. Canterbury city centre is strikingly picturesque and curious. Full of history and tradition, quaint and grand at the same time. Pleasantly charming Tudor architecture dots the medieval cobbled city centre that bustles with modern day famous name stores and exclusive boutiques. It was delightful to stroll the city of old and new sitting alongside one another. I truly believe that Canterbury makes for a perfect day trip from London and I share my Canterbury in one day, step-by-step guide with you.


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A LITTLE ABOUT CANTERBURY, KENT

Canterbury is the spiritual heart of Kent and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. A historic cathedral city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a university town, home to a multinational student population that adds to the lively youthful scene. The city is steeped in history as far back as the Roman times and is ordained with some architectural grandeur.

Canterbury is located in East Kent, about 89 km (55 miles) south-east of London. River Stour, the most historic river in England since Roman times runs through various parts of Canterbury. The city is the seat of the local government of Kent and is an important integrated transport hub for East Kent, England providing an easy link to Dover and Deal. Away from the city, Canterbury is surrounded by the rolling hills of Kent, storied countryside and endearing villages.

The medieval vibe, ancient Roman city walls, historic River Stour and a cathedral listed as one of the finest in Europe along with cobbled streets, crooked buildings, eye-catching Tudor architecture and quirky pubs as well as contemporary cafes are all reasons to visit this beautiful city called Canterbury where you can immerse in its living history.


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A QUICK LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF CANTERBURY, KENT

Canterbury is an area that has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The first known settlement is recorded as being in the first century when the Romans invaded in 43 AD. The name ‘Canterbury’ derived from the Celtic group, Cantiaci who lived here when the Romans invaded.

1 | The Romans in Canterbury

When the Romans invaded, they named Canterbury, Durovernum Cantiacorum (‘the walled town of Cantiaci by the aldar marsh’) and built it up with streets in a grid pattern, a theatre, temple, forum and public baths. In the late 3rd century, they enclosed the area of almost 53 hectares (130 acres) with a defensive wall with seven gates, to protect against the attacks from the barbarians. The Romans left in 407 AD. The Anglo-Saxons formed a tiny community within the city walls but Canterbury ceased to be a town. The area experienced great loss of lives in the Danish attacks between 842 and 1011. Thereafter, William the Conqueror came in 1066.


2 | When the Normans arrived

The Normans built a wooden motte-and-bailey castle by the Roman city wall on what was the Roman burial mound and cemetary. The mound is still visible in the Dane John Gardens. Later, they built Canterbury Castle, a stone castle, to the south-east of the city in 1070 with the construction of the Keep between 1100 to 1135. Canterbury Castle was one of the three royal castles, the other two being Dover Castle and Rochester Castle. Canterbury became the largest town in medieval Kent and an important centre for England’s Christianity.


3 | St Augustine and Christianity in England’s history

After the fall of the Romans in England in the 5th century, Rome sent Augustine to England to bring Christianity to the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Kent was chosen as the place to begin with, probably because of the powerful ruler, King Ethelberht at the time. To accomplish his mission, Augustine established an abbey soon after starting off at St Martin’s Church. St Augustine’s Abbey became one of the most important abbeys in medieval England. Augustine himself became the first Archbishop of Canterbury eventually.


4 | Archbishop Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was the Chancellor of England during the reign of Henry II. He was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 and he took his responsibilities seriously. Conflicts arose between Becket and Henry II. Henry is said to have shouted: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” which led to the murder of Becket by four of Henry II’s knights.

After the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, an extraordinary wave of miracles and miraculous healings connected to Becket were recorded. Becket was canonised and a shrine built at the spot where he was killed. Canterbury city became the centre for pilgrims.


5 | Geoffrey Chaucer and Canterbury Tales

The pilgrimage set the tone for Geoffrey Chaucer‘s, The Canterbury Tales. The Canterbury Tales were written between 1387 and 1400 and tells the story of thirty-one pilgrims while travelling from Southwark to Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Tales is popular because it represents an important medieval literature that enshrines the art of story-telling. It is poetic, entertaining and depicts the varying social classes in the Church of England. Chaucer wrote them in Middle English instead of French, at a time when French was spoken by those in power. The tales consisted of a collection of 24 stories over 17,000 lines.


6 | UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Canterbury Cathedral which is of an outstanding Gothic and Romanesque architecture has been the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Church of England for over five centuries. Following the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170, the Cathedral became a site of pilgrimage. Along with Canterbury Cathedral, St Martin’s Church and St Augustine’s Abbey were pronounced as monuments of outstanding universal value in 1988.


HOW MANY DAYS IS ENOUGH FOR CANTERBURY, KENT?

If it is just Canterbury that you are visiting, then ideally you may want to spend more than a day. Two days and a night at Canterbury is plenty of time to experience the sightseeing, the cultural theatre shows and explore some of the best eateries in town. However, if you only have a day, the Canterbury day trip should be sufficient to cover all the highlights of the city. In this guide, I share the route I took when I visited Canterbury in one day. I experienced pretty much all of the highlights of the city.

Alternatively, if you are visiting England for a few days and wish to experience more of England, you could join a group tour departing London or other cities. Group tours are great value for money as you don’t have to think about transportation or the additional costs from point to point travel. Most tours cover more than one destination which makes a great option. The downside is, you may not get to spend more time at a place. Tours are timed to ensure you, as a visitor have the maximum experience possible. Group tours are still a great choice to go for, for an all round experience.


How to experience more of England in one day

Here are some choices for you if you wish to join a group tour to experience more of England in one day:

Would you like to see more of England in one day?

Here are some ideas for you to explore. All trips are from London:

Hop aboard a superior air-conditioned coach with free wi-fi and enjoy the ride to all the attractions:

>> Day trip to Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle & White Cliffs of Dover;

>> Visit Leeds Castle, Canterbury, Dover and Greenwich in a day;

>> Discover White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury in a day;

>> Spend a full day on a small group tour to the enchanting Cotswolds;


Check availability on one of our popular tours to Canterbury, Leeds Castle and Dover which you will absolutely love:



PLAN AHEAD FOR YOUR CANTERBURY IN ONE DAY TRIP

1 | Best time to visit Canterbury

The best time to visit Canterbury is between May to September. The gardens are in bloom and the relaxed culture is undeniable. However, it is also the high season for tourists and you may encounter queues to attractions or popular places to eat. Therefore, try and avoid these peak travel times and visit around mid-September, October or November, when the weather is still mildly warm and pleasant. I enjoy off-peak travels tremendously as I do not have to meander through crowds and I can get a table to sit and ponder without the wait. Having said that, Canterbury is a destination worth visiting at any time of the year.


2 | Weather in Canterbury

Before you go, check the weather in Canterbury with the UK’s official Metoffice. England is notable to surprise us (or not!) with all four seasons in a day, so it might be worthwhile to consider layering up and to have a parka.


3 | Can you walk around Canterbury?

Canterbury is a walkable city. The city centre itself is pedestrianised. It is compact and easy to reach the various attractions in Canterbury within a ten to fifteen minutes walk, sometimes within two minutes. The furthest was about twenty minutes but then I am unhurried in my pace. Therefore, a good pair of walking shoes is essential for this Canterbury in one day activity.


4 | Self-guided or guided?

If you are on a self-guided walking tour, my trip itinerary is the best one for you. I am imparting the best of my experiences with tried and tested tips so you could have the best visit to Canterbury for a day also.

You could download the ‘best sights to visit’ city map as a guide. Alternatively, you may want to join a guided city walking tour.


5 | Start your day as early as you can

I visited Canterbury on a day trip from London by train in early October a few days ago, arriving at 10:00 am at Canterbury West. The city greeted me with clear blue skies and autumn sunshine, though it began to overcast with drizzles later in the afternoon.

This article covers the activities to do in Canterbury along with places of interest and makes a perfect Canterbury visitor’s guide for a day.

If you are in Canterbury the night before, or if you arrive early, you may want to begin your day with breakfast at the Refectory Kitchen, rated as ‘the best place for breakfast/ lunch. Refectory Kitchen opens for 8:30 and is known for its scrumptious pancakes or you might prefer Tiny Tim’s Tearoom that opens for 9:30 am which offers a quieter ambience.

Start your day as early as you can.


HOW TO SPEND ONE DAY IN CANTERBURY A SELF-GUIDED ITINERARY

What is Canterbury most famous for and the best things to do in Canterbury.

Here is an overview on how to spend one day in Canterbury.

  • 10:00 AM – Arrive at Canterbury West;
  • 10:15 AM – St Martin’s Church
  • 10:30 AM – St Augustine’s Abbey
  • 11:00 AM – Head towards the City Walls. Walk the Canterbury City Walls;
  • 11:30 AM – Dane John Gardens;
  • 11:45 AM – Explore the historic city centre;
  • 12:15 PM – The Roman Museum;
  • 12:45 PM – The Beaney;
  • 01:00 PM – Lunch
  • 01:40 PM – Canterbury Cathedral;
  • 03:20 PM – Explore Stour Street;
  • 04:00 PM – Canterbury Punting;
  • 05:00 PM – Marlowe;
  • 05:15 PM – Westgate Gardens/Westgate Towers;
  • 06:15 PM – Dinner
  • Return to London

**As you scroll through, please click on the images for a larger view and info.


1 | St Martin’s Church, Canterbury

Upon arriving at Canterbury West, I headed to St Martin’s Church, an active church for over 1400 years! I began here for logistic purposes — it was the furthest from the city centre. Walking distance from Canterbury West to St Martin’s is between twenty-five to thirty-five minutes. I took a cab. Seven minutes ride and less than £6.00 to save time.

St Martin’s Church Canterbury UK has a rich history. The Church of St Martin is an ancient church, believed to have been built before 597 AD. According to the church’s history, Ethelberht of Kent, a pagan Anglo-Saxon king married Bertha, a Christian princess from France in 580 AD. He restored the church for Bertha where she prayed regularly.

Augustine, a Benedictine monk from Rome was sent to Canterbury to spread Christianity. He arrived at St Martin’s in 597 AD and used it as his initial base for his mission, having gained permission from King Ethelberht.

St Martin’s is the oldest church in the English speaking world and is of Roman, Saxon and Medieval architecture. St Martin’s Church is still an active parish and regular Christian worship has continued for 1425 years.

Time: 15 minutes

Address: 1 N Holmes Road, Canterbury CT1 1 QJ

Open to Visitors on Wednesdays through to Sundays


From St Martin’s Church, it was all an on-foot discovery of Canterbury.


2 | Step back in time at St Augustine’s Abbey Canterbury

A couple of blocks, about seven minutes walk from St Martin’s is St Augustine’s Abbey.

St Augustine’s Abbey Canterbury was founded by the Benedictine monk, Augustine in 598 AD. The abbey was initially created as a burial place for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent and developed to become an important centre for Christianity in medieval England. It was dissolved in 1538 during King Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries.

Following the Suppression, Henry turned it to a manor house for his queen, Anne of Cleves. Thereafter, the site fell into disrepair and went into private ownership. A missionary college was built in 1848. St Augustine’s College operated from 1848 to 1947, and were then let to Kings School. Kings School is presently a thriving co-ed public school.

2.1 | St Augustine’s Abbey today

Today, most of St Augustine’s Abbey are ruins and open to the public. It is still very atmospheric. There is a museum on site showcasing artefacts excavated from the Anglo-Saxon and Roman times.

St Augustine’s Abbey Canterbury is an English Heritage site. If you are a member, your visits to the abbey are free and unlimited during your membership. Charges apply for non-members. Audio guides are available.

Time: 30 minutes

Address: Longport, Canterbury CT1 1PF

St Augustine’s Abbey opening hours are from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through to Sunday.


Useful information about English Heritage

Would you like to become a member of English Heritage trust?

As an English Heritage member, you will enjoy free year-round access to over 400 sites. You will also be entitled to free parking.

Becoming a member is easy and convenient. Read the complete guide to the benefits of being an English Heritage member.

OR

UK residents can join English Heritage by signing-up here;

Overseas Visitors can make a special purchase for 9 or 16 days and enjoy unlimited visits to most sites.


2.2 | The Walk from St Augustine’s Abbey to Canterbury City Walls

From St Augustine’s Abbey, walk through to Canterbury City Walls, towards Dane John Gardens. It takes about 30 minutes.

During the walk, take note of Zoar Chapel (predates 1845), and the different coloured bricks at the junction with Burgate. The bricks outline the structure of St George’s Gate, built around the 10th century, which is the only gate in the City Walls that is not of Roman origin.


3 | Walk Canterbury City Walls

Historians Oliver Creighton and Robert Higham consider Canterbury City Walls to be “one of the most magnificent in Britain”.

… and you shall find that this sentiment is so true.

Walk the City Walls in Canterbury which are remarkably well preserved and is a great sense of pride for the Cantuarians. Canterbury City Walls are a series of defensive walls built around the city of Canterbury with lots of towers and gates still intact. Made of Kentish ragstones, it features gunloops and cannon holes used during the war.

The Romans built the first city wall around 270 – 280 AD. When Roman England fell, the Anglo-Saxons maintained it well, defending Canterbury against the Vikings. The Normans took over Canterbury without much resistance in the 11th century.

Canterbury City Walls were restored and strengthened over a period of thirty years with twenty-four towers and many gatehouses. However, much was destroyed due to urban development and during the Second World War, leaving the Westgate and over half of the original circuit of the City Walls intact. The Westgate is the only surviving medieval gateway in England. Walking along City Walls offer great views over the city and the Cathedral in the distance.


4 | Dane John Gardens

From Canterbury City Walls, Dane John Gardens is easily accessible through a set of stone steps. Dane John Gardens is a historic park within the city walls dating from the mid 16th century. Located on the east of the River Great Stour, it was previously a Roman cemetary and burial mound (visible today) from the first century AD.

Dane John comes from the word ‘donjon’ meaning a fortified mound. The Normans built a medieval fort here before building the stone Canterbury Castle.

Climb up the mound, which is approximately 50m wide and 31.85m high, for an excellent view of the city and the gardens. The path up is defined and the climb is not strenuous. At the top of the mound is a monument dedicated to Alderman Simmons, who gifted the gardens to the city some time between 1790 and 1803.

Take a stroll through the gardens, wander through the avenue of 200-year old lime trees, see the Sundial, the ‘Font’ and the ‘Boer War‘ memorial. There are safe play areas for children, a bandstand as a venue for concerts and a refreshment kiosk.

Time: 20 to 30 minutes

Address: Canterbury CT1 2QS

Opens at 4:00 AM and closes at 10:00 PM


4.1 | From Dane John …

From Dane John, head to the historic city centre, for Christ Church Gate (presently under a scaffold), the entrance to Canterbury Cathedral. Along the way, stop and view some places of interest.

Canterbury is a city where you shall find Christian places of worship sprinkled across most streets. I stopped and visited a couple before breaking for lunch. You may be interested to see:

5 | Catholic Church & Shrine of St Thomas of Canterbury

The Church of St Thomas was founded in 1855 in what was formerly a house at the same location it is today. Subsequent extensions were built between 1874 and 1875, representing the Gothic Revival style. In 1875, a firm Catholic mission was established in Canterbury.

The church is simple, serene and houses a side chapel on the west of the church for quiet contemplation. St Thomas of Canterbury Church is the only Roman Catholic church in Canterbury and contains relics of Thomas Becket.

Time: 10 minutes

Address: 59 Burgate, Canterbury, CT1 2HJ

Opens 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday to Friday for visits.


6 | Church of St George the Martyr

Christopher Marlowe, the playwright was baptised here in 1564. The church was destroyed during WWII on June 1, 1942 and all that remains is the medieval clock tower.


7 | Explore the cobbled streets of Canterbury City Centre

Canterbury City Centre is pedestrianised. The medieval town centre boasts cobbled streets and colourful timber-framed houses and shops along with an abundance of cafes and restaurants to suit everyone’s needs. The town exudes an air of unhurried vibrancy, friendly atmosphere, and contemporary buzz interwoven with years of tradition and history.

There’s a lot to admire in this city — really cute and colourful half-timbered buildings, narrow medieval streets and numerous architecture going back to medieval times.


For art enthusiasts, a stop at the Sidney Cooper Gallery is obligatory. The Sidney Cooper Gallery is a contemporary arts space showcasing a dynamic mix of exhibitions and events. The gallery hosts works by international artists and graduating students from Canterbury Christ Church University.

Address: 22 St Peter’s Street, Canterbury CT1 2 BQ


9 | The Crooked House at 28 Palace Street Canterbury

Perched at the end of Palace Street and around the corner of Kings Mile is the famous half-timbered crooked house built in 1617. The 17th century house is known as Sir John Boys House, and looks like it is about to tumble over.

Damage was due to some clumsy renovations to an internal chimney. The building is held together by an internal steel frame, preventing it from further movement. The sight gives a dizzying effect.

Charles Dickens in 1849 described it as:

“… a very old house bulging over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…”

The crooked house has seen many uses, from bookshops, galleries, to school uniform shops. It is presently used as a charity shop for homelessness.


Georgina: Note 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 above were about 30 minutes. The city centre is compact and every important street including the High Street, Mercery Street, St Margaret’s Street, The Old Buttermarket, Stour Street are all within 2 minutes of each other.


10 | Visit Canterbury Roman Museum

Canterbury Roman Museum is the only Roman Museum in Kent. It is a place to immerse in two-thousand years of history.

In 1868, workmen dug some trenches underneath the street for a new drainage system. They unsuspectingly uncovered a beautifully preserved Roman floor mosaic. Following WWII bombings, more excavations revealed an underfloor heating system, wall paintings, and the site of a very large Roman house from the 3rd century.

The Roman Museum features the original Roman mosaics of an original Roman Town House — UK’s only in situ Roman pavement mosaic.

Time: Suggested time is an hour but I took much less, 30 minutes. It is worth visiting if you are into Roman architecture.

Address: Butchery Lane, Canterbury CT1 2JR

Canterbury opening times: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Entry charges apply.


11 | The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

The Beaney is a wonderful art gallery to explore and is also the Visitor Information Centre as well as the city’s library. Housed in a striking Tudor Revival building, the museum is bright, airy and radiates a welcoming environment to immerse in history, heritage, art and culture.

As a great fan of Rupert since childhood, I was especially drawn to the Rupert Bear Centenary Exhibition on the third floor. There was a display of Rupert Bear’s Annuals and snippets of tales of Rupert, which brought back great memories. Interactive games, along with many original collections and artworks made an interesting display also. A corner of the room was dedicated to Mary Tourtel, the creator of Rupert Bear. It was fascinating to learn that the tale of Rupert Bear was deeply rooted in Canterbury and the Caldwell family.

Address: 18 High Street, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2RA

Hours: Tuesday through to Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

*Closed on Mondays

Admission: Free

12 | Break for Lunch

I stopped for a quick lunch for about one o’clock at Tiny Tim’s Tearoom. Tiny Tim’s is the only traditional English tearoom in Canterbury. They serve light breakfast, light lunches and high-tea. The atmosphere was perfect to sit, relax and enjoy the music in the background after a few hours of walking. They offer an extensive range of teas and coffees along with their friendly service. Located just 2 minutes from Canterbury Cathedral, which was my next stop.

You may want to try the Lost Sheep Coffee & Kitchen at Sun Street – located steps away from Canterbury Cathedral.

The Goods Shed is a farmers market, foodhall and restaurant all in one stationed in a 1830s era railway depot. It is a wonderful restaurant with outdoor seating in a pretty garden or indoor seating that overlooks the delightful market. The menu is seasonal and is crafted from locally sourced ingredients. From freshly baked pies to gourmet sandwiches, and cocktails, the Goods Shed offers a unique experience.


I planned ahead to visit Canterbury Cathedral after lunch because I wanted to join their tour group which is usually scheduled for 2:00 pm. I arrived early and explored the gardens and the Cathedral before joining the tour.


13 | Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral — the monumental building that is world renowned sits at the heart of Canterbury city centre. Often described as ‘England in Stone’ because its history is intrinsically linked to the country’s history. The Cathedral is the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It offers so much to see. A UNESCO listed and one of England’s oldest cathedrals is unlike any other. Perhaps best known as the place where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered, thereafter a focal of pilgrimage attracting pilgrims from far and wide, had withstood bomb raids in WWII and continues to be a big draw to Canterbury a thousand years later — all these and more makes Canterbury Cathedral a special place to visit.

Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest places of worship and longest in use.

The main Cathedral area is split into various areas. The beauty of the Cathedral is impressive and surreal. I love the intimacy of the Quire. Canterbury Cathedral has the most incredible Cloisters and Chapter House.

The height and length of the Nave are beyond belief. Stunning jaw-dropping slender columns rise up to form pointed rib vaulted arches above. The stained glass windows throughout the Cathedral are magnificently beautiful especially in the Trinity Chapel.

Trinity Chapel is where you shall find a candle that continues to glow, marking the spot where Becket’s shrine was placed before Henry VIII ordered its destruction. The tomb of the Black Knight is also placed here.

Canterbury Cathedral is the masterpiece of Gothic and Romanesque architecture and it must be seen to be believed!


Recommended read: The Complete Guide to Canterbury Cathedral – has all the corners, secluded corridors and the pretty ceiling that you need to look out for, so you don’t miss the highlights when you visit


13.1 | Canterbury Cathedral visiting tips

While construction work appears eternal, and the scaffolding over Christ Church Gate does not seem to come down anytime soon, Canterbury Cathedral makes a great destination to spend a couple of hours even for the fee they charge. English Heritage Members enjoy a 20% discount.

Canterbury Cathedral opening times are generally from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily except on Sunday, when it is 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM

If you have the time, book a tour. It costs £5.00 in addition to your entry. It is led by knowledgeable volunteers. I found the tour to be informative, thorough and unhurried. It lasted an hour. Alternatively, you could explore with an audio guide.

Address: Canterbury Cathedral, Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, CT1 2EH


14 | Explore Stour Street towards St Mildred’s Church and Canterbury Castle

Before embarking on your punting experience, explore Stour Street. Stour Street is a historic street that runs parallel to the River Stour which was an important transport hub during Roman times. There’s an array of shops and boutiques along with Grade II listed buildings. Canterbury Heritage Museum and Greyfriars Monastery are also along Stour Street.

The Foundry Brew Pub is a unique craft brewery, distillery, restaurant and bar. They offer dine-in only as well as tours.


15 | St Mildred’s Church

St Mildred’s Church is partly Anglo-Saxon and is suspected to originate from the 11th century. It is the only surviving pre Norman conquest church within the City Walls. St Mildred’s has been Grade I listed since 1949. It is located close to Canterbury Castle.

Address: St Mildred’s Church, 2 Church Lane, Canterbury CT1 2PP


16 | Canterbury Castle

Around the corner from St Mildred’s is Canterbury Castle. Canterbury Castle is a Norman Castle built between 1085 and 1125. It was one of the three Royal Castles of Kent, the other two being Dover and Rochester castles. At present, Canterbury Castle is not accessible and is cordoned off for safety reasons. It is nice to take a look, and to complete Canterbury in one day itinerary.

Address: Canterbury Castle, Canterbury, CT1 2PR


17 | Punting in Canterbury

One of the best ways to learn about Canterbury’s medieval past is to go on a shared guided punt tour of the historic River Stour. Unwind and glide through the Stour on traditional handcrafted wooden boats with live commentary. The tour lasts 45 minutes.

The Canterbury Punting Co., does Haunted River Tours. If you wish to learn about the ghoulish tales of Canterbury’s dark folklores, this is the activity for you. They also run a pub/restaurant, ideal if you need a pre-punting drink.

Address: Canterbury Punting Co. Water Lane, Canterbury, CT1 2NQ

Alternatively, Canterbury Historic River Tours located by ASK depart from the Old Weaver’s House – you will find the promotional kiosk tended by helpful and friendly staff nearby and you’ll be taken to the back of the restaurant for your punting experience.

Address: by ASK restaurant, The Kings Bridge, St Peter’s St, Canterbury CT1 2AT


Activity charges apply. It was £20.00 in October 2022


18 | The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury

The Marlowe Theatre takes its name after the playwright, Christopher Marlowe. It is a modern theatre that offers musicals and stand-up.

Watch the musical phenomenon of Victor Hugo, Les Misérables or Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone for a memorable evening out. Select from a vast range of events available to book beforehand.

Address: The Friars, Canterbury, CT1 2AS


Marlowe was a breeze through activity on this occasion for me as I did not plan to watch a play or stay too late in Canterbury. Marlowe was on my walk back towards Canterbury West.

Near Marlowe’s, there is a lovely medieval church, St Peter’s. St Peter’s Church dates back to the 12th century and has a beautiful Nave and pointed arches. Take a quick peek inside. Entry is free.


19 | Westgate Gardens Canterbury

Westgate Gardens is a beautifully landscaped garden of 4.5 hectares (11 acres) set around the Westgate Tower along the Great Stour River in the historic city of Canterbury. It has been a public open space since the Middle Ages and is one of England’s oldest parks. Westgate Gardens is a peaceful picturesque garden and is great for a stroll. There is a huge tree that attracts a lot of attention. The tree has a massive trunk, looks like a troll and is believed to have swallowed an iron seat that surrounded it. According to Visit Canterbury, this tree is 200 years old. It has a girth that is almost nine metres!

The Westgate Gardens forms part of the larger Westgate Parks and includes Toddler’s Cove, Tannery Field and Bingley Island.

Address: St Peter’s Street, Canterbury, CT1 2BQ

Open Monday to Sunday, dawn to dusk.

Admission: Free


20 | Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint

Westgate Towers is the largest surviving medieval gatehouse in Canterbury. This 18 m (60 ft) high offers spectacular views of the city of Canterbury from the battlements viewpoint. The exhibition is a journey through history, city wars and crime & punishment. Has an Escape Room as well.

The Westgate was built during the One Hundred Years War to defend the city from foreign attacks. As the threats of foreign incursion diminished, the tower became a prison. In the early 20th century it was a museum and played a key role in the city’s air defences during both world wars.

The only access is via narrow stairs of five flights. Doorways are narrow as well.

Address: 1 Pound Lane, Canterbury, CT1 2BZ

Entry charges apply.


21 | Dinner in Canterbury

While Canterbury is well known for its magnificent cathedral and the city’s history along with its universities, the foodie scene is almost unheard of. Walking around the city was an opportunity to appreciate the foodie-haven this town really is! Canterbury offers a range of restaurants and pubs, from locally grown organic and vegan menus to gastro pubs, indie cafes and some of the top name brand names.

I sat down at the atmospheric former prison and police cell for a quick meal before catching my train back to London. It was only a 10-minute walk to Canterbury West Railway Station. Set in Canterbury’s Westgate Towers, One Pound Lane is hard to beat for atmosphere. Serving throughout the day are some amazing traditional dishes and burgers. A meal can be enjoyed at the bar, the old jail cells or at the inviting terrace on a walk-in basis.

The Old Weaver’s Restaurant or The Parrot are great choices too. Both have medieval origins and are reputed to serve up hearty, delectable meals


WHERE TO STAY IN CANTERBURY

For all its fame and antiquity, Canterbury is relatively a small city which can be explored in a day, or over a long weekend. There’s a lot to do around this part of Kent and, no matter how long you stay, you will only take home wonderful memories of Kentish hospitality.

Here are some suggestions for you to consider:

1 | Stay at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge.

Located within The Precints, and owned by the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, this contemporary building offers one of the best views of the awesome Cathedral.


2 | ABode Canterbury

A historical and quirky property located just steps away from the Cathedral. Contemporary decor complements the 12th century building. Renowned for its refined cuisine and highly rated for a comfortable stay.


3 | The Pilgrims Hotel, Canterbury

A charming 16th century historic building situated within the Roman City Walls is an ideal place to if you wish to catch a show at Marlowe’s (located just around the corner) and explore the city. The Cathedral is just 5 minutes away. Family run.


4 | The Victoria Hotel, Canterbury

Located a little out of the Canterbury city centre, the Victoria Hotel is set amidst quaint gardens and offers plenty of parking spaces. About 15 minutes walk to Canterbury City centre.


HOW TO GET TO CANTERBURY FROM LONDON | CANTERBURY DAY TRIP

Travelling from London to Canterbury is convenient by train, bus or self-drive.

By Train — Travelling by train from London to Canterbury is convenient and is one of the best ways to travel. Trains depart regularly from Kings Cross St Pancras International to Canterbury West; London Victoria Station to Canterbury East; and London Bridge to Canterbury East.

Both Canterbury West and East are located within 10 minutes of walking distance from Canterbury town centre. I would recommend the Javelin from St Pancras International to Canterbury West — the journey time is 55 minutes and is ideal for a day trip from London.


TTS Pro tip: Whatever time or day of the week you wish to travel, plan ahead and avoid disappointment. Save money by travelling off-peak or take advantage of advance ticket deals.


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By Car — Provided you can navigate the chaotic traffic in London city, your journey by car is pretty straightforward. Take the A2, a dual carriageway and then it is the M2 all the way. Parking in Canterbury is plentiful. Check the official Canterbury City Council for the best options.


By Bus — Travelling by bus is a viable option but know that the journey may take 2+ hours depending on traffic and roadworks enroute.

National Express buses depart regularly from Victoria Coach Stations. Advance booking and off-peak travel will certainly lead to some savings.


ADD TO YOUR ITINERARY – NEARBY PLACES TO VISIT IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN A DAY

When you have more than a day in Canterbury, consider the following places to visit.

1 | Chilham

A picturesque village in Kent Downs, Chilham is great for outdoor activities. There are many footpaths, bridalways and country lanes to explore. If outdoors is not your theme, you may like the exceptional views across Stour Valley and the medieval gem of timber framed Tudor houses along with a 16th century church. Chilham Castle is open to the public in the summer months.

Distance from Canterbury: 8 km /5m | Driving time: 13 minutes


2 | Whistable

Whistable is a seaside town acclaimed for its fresh oysters and a farmer’s market. There is an oyster festival every July.

Distance from Canterbury: 9.6 km/6m | Driving time: 19 minutes


3 | White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle

Explore the iconic White Cliffs of Dover and the mighty Dover Castle with its wartime secret tunnels on an exciting day out.

Distance from Canterbury: 31 km/19.4 m | Driving time: 27 minutes


4 | Deal

Deal offers scenic views over the English Channel, along with fisherman’s cottages and Georgian houses.

Distance from Canterbury: 39 km/24.2m | Driving time: 34 minutes


5 | Maidstone and Leeds Castle

Maidstone is known as the main city of Kent and offers a mix of artisan stores and high street favourites.

Just 6 km (4 m) south of Maidstone is Leeds Castle, one of the most preserved historic castles. Leeds Castle is known for its beautiful landscaped gardens, and medieval gatehouses.

Distance from Canterbury: 38 km/23.7m | Driving time: 38 minutes


6 | Hever Castle

Hever Castle is a little further away but it is well worth a visit. Famously known for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the wife of Henry VIII, Hever Castle is a magnificent 13th century moated castle. The stunning grounds are home to statues, fountains and a Loggia at the Lake

Distance from Canterbury: 100 km/62 m | Driving time: 1 hr 12 mins

Read: The Magnificent Hever Castle


finally…

I was pleasantly surprised at how compact the city was — each street was of historic relevance and opened up like chapters in a book. Cobbled streets flowed like happy rivers, Oak of ancient times in a marriage of hues, both bold and pastel, along with happy sounds of chatter. Canterbury in one day was a brilliant day trip from London.

My sincere wish is that you have found this guide on Canterbury in one day to be helpful in planning your trip for a day trip from London . If so, I would love to hear from you along with your experiences in Canterbury. In the meantime, you may like some of our best read articles about England and/or Scotland. Take a dive into our guide on cultural cuisines and/or uncover the histories of Britain.

Have a splendid time in Canterbury.

Georgina xx


Timeless Travel Steps is supported by our readers. This article and related articles are sprinkled with affiliate links. This means that we may earn a commission from qualified purchases and bookings at no additional cost to you. These links have no influence on the editorial content TTS produce. We only recommend products and services that we use personally and believe these will add value to our readers’ choices.


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By Georgina

Travel Writer. Content Creator. An Escapist.

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