With ancient walls circling a medieval town and timber-framed houses lining cobbled streets, Canterbury is a beautiful city bursting with character. Enjoy one of the most history-packed centres in England on this fascinating day trip.

By: Paul Healy | Published: 2 Oct 2023

St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, put the city on the map when he made it the base of Christianity in England.

After Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral for defending the privileges of the church, Canterbury became the most important pilgrimage site in England.

Almost a thousand years later, Canterbury remains a charming medieval city. Walled by the Romans and designed in the Middle Ages, it’s an ancient canvas with a modern edge.

Half-timbered buildings, ruined abbeys, and ancient churches provide a connection to the past. Independent stores, cool cafes, and quirky pubs add to the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

WHY GO TO CANTERBURY?

The medieval city of Canterbury has earned UNESCO World Heritage for 3 remarkable sights. Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Priory – the oldest church in the English-speaking world.

Charming laneways, picturesque gardens, and interesting architecture make it an alluring destination.

Canterbury is not just a significant city in the story of England, it’s also a very beautiful place to visit.

st martins church gate in canterbury
ST MARTIN’S CHURCH

CANTERBURY DAY TRIP // MORNING


The morning covers all the best things to do in Canterbury that we think you shouldn’t miss on a day trip. We’ve put them in the right order so you can see everything without too much backtracking.  

1. THE GOODS SHED

Start the day at The Goods Shed, right next to Canterbury West Train Station.

This cool farmers’ market is housed in an old brick shed with local producers including a butchery, a bakery, and a vegetable store. There are a few cafes and restaurants with some great options to start the day.

Grab a coffee from the Wild Goose stall and a pastry from the Little Sugar bakery.

If you’re looking for something more substantial, breakfast or brunch at The Refectory Kitchen is a great way to start the day. It’s about a 5-minute walk from the Goods Shed.

2. WESTGATE TOWER

Standing at the northern entrance to the walled city of Canterbury is the Westgate Tower. This medieval gatehouse is the largest surviving city gate in England.

Built during the Hundred Years War, it was one of the 7 gates that surrounded the city and the only one still standing.

Inside, the tower houses a museum covering the city’s wars, the history of the tower, and an exhibition on the Magna Carter.

Climb the narrow stairs to the top of the tower for fine views over the city.

DETAILS | WESTGATE TOWER


hours – 12 pm to 3:45 pm (Mon – Sun) | cost – £4 adults, £2 children (5-17)

3. WESTGATE GARDENS

The Westgate Gardens are located just beside the Westgate Tower.

This 11-acre ornamental garden set along the banks of the River Stour is the perfect place for a quiet stroll in the city.

A lovely patch of greenery is framed by manicured flower beds and wonderfully old trees. The gentle flowing river is overlooked by medieval houses. It’s one of the most beautiful areas in Canterbury.

Don’t miss the 200-year-old, 25-foot-wide Oriental Plane tree. It is said to be so wide because it absorbed a circular iron seat that used to surround it.

4. CANTERBURY HIGH STREET

Next, head to Canterbury’s High Street which is packed with interesting oddities. Here are a few we love:

The Old Weavers House was built in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 16th. It provided shelter for religious refugees in Tudor times. Today the black and white, half-timbered building is one of the most photographed in Canterbury.

The larger-than-life Geoffrey Chaucer Statue represents the author as a Canterbury pilgrim. His famous novel, The Canterbury Tales, tells the story of pilgrims travelling from London to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket.

Eastbridge Hospital is a historic almshouse that provided accommodation to poor pilgrims. Founded in the 12th century, it’s one of the oldest surviving examples of a medieval hospital in England. You can visit the chapel, great hall, and cloisters.

Beaney House of Art & Knowledge is an attractive building that was built in 1897. Today it houses a mix of museums, art, and a library. Pop in and see what’s on. Entry is free.

5. CHRIST CHURCH GATE

The Christ Church Gate is the main entrance to the Canterbury Cathedral Grounds (Precincts).

This Grade I-listed gate was completed in 1520. It features intricate carvings and gilded stonework across its facade. 

The vibrant coloured carvings of mythical beasts, angels, and heraldic shields are now displayed in all their glory after an extensive renovation was completed in 2022.

The gate is free to see but tickets are required to enter the rest of the Canterbury Cathedral Precinct.

christ church gate canterbury
CHRIST CHURCH GATE

6. CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL

The highlight of a day trip to Canterbury is Canterbury Cathedral, founded in 597 CE and rebuilt between 1070 and 1077.

It’s the infamous location where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by the knights of King Henry II. Becket was hailed as a martyr and canonized in 1173. His shrine in the cathedral became the most important centre of pilgrimage in England.

Forming part of Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral contains a wealth of wonderful points of interest.

The nave’s towering columns soar towards the heavens. The Bell Harry Tower fan vaulted ceiling is one of the finest in the country. There are cloisters and a chapter house to explore as well as the spot where Thomas Becket was murdered.

DETAILS | CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL 


hours – 9 am to 6 pm (Mon-Sat) | cost – £17 adults, children under 17 free when accompanied by an adult | audio guide – extra £5.

7. LUNCH IN THE MEDIEVAL STREETS

It’s time for lunch and the old streets of Canterbury hide a few fantastic places to eat.

The Old Weaver’s Restaurant is all about traditional pies and roasts.

For something a bit lighter Café No. 35 does a great selection of dishes using local, family-run suppliers.

The Veg Box Café has the best vegan and vegetarian options in the city.

For coffee, Garage Coffee Roasters on Sun Street blend their beans to perfection. Just across the road, the cool Teastones has every conceivable tea variety.

garage coffee canterbury

CANTERBURY DAY TRIP // AFTERNOON


The morning covers all the best things to do in Canterbury that we think you shouldn’t miss on a day trip. For the afternoon, pick off a few of the other great attractions in the city that interest you the most.

8. PUNTING ON THE STOUR

The Stour River meanders gently through the streets of the medieval city. One of the best things to do in Canterbury is a punting tour down the river, gently passing the iconic architecture.

Knowledgeable guides from Canterbury Punting Company tell the city’s history as they guide you down the picturesque river.

Tours last 45 minutes and cost £25 per adult at peak times (off-peak: £22.50).

Tours leave from their cute Mooring Cafe & Bar on Water Lane.

HAPPY MOORING


Even if you don’t intend to punt, Mooring Cafe & Bar is a beautiful spot to grab a coffee right on the water. Alternatively, down two cocktails for £12 between 5.30 pm and 8.30 pm.

9. CANTERBURY ROMAN MUSEUM

Roman history buffs should head to the Canterbury Roman Museum.

It houses the remains of an original Roman Town House and contains one of the only remaining in situ Roman pavement mosaics.

The museum also details life in Roman Britain and features a reconstruction of a Roman town.

DETAILS | CANTERBURY ROMAN MUSEUM


hours – 9 am to 5 pm (Mon-Sun) | cost – £10.50 adults, £5.35 children (age 5-15)

roman museum canterbury
ROMAN MUSEUM

10. ST AUGUSTINE ABBEY

St. Augustine Abbey is one of Canterbury’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

It was founded in 598 CE by St Augustine, shortly after he arrived in Britain. The building functioned as a monastery for nearly a thousand years until its dissolution in 1538.

Today the abbey sits in ruin just outside the city walls.

The crumbling structure is an atmospheric reminder of the past. Information boards scattered across the sight attempt to bring it back to life.

DETAILS | ST AUGUSTINE ABBEY


hours – 10 am to 5 pm (Mon–Sun) | cost – £7.70 adults, £4 children (age 5-17), English Heritage Members can visit for free.

st augustine abbey canterbury
ST AUGUSTINE ABBEY

11. ST MARTIN’S CHURCH

The third of Canterbury’s UNESCO Heritage sites is St Martin’s Church.

This hidden historical gem is 10 minutes’ walk east of the walled town. It’s the oldest church building in Britain still operating as a church and the oldest church in the English-speaking world.

Originally built in Roman times, it became St. Augustine’s first base in England in 597 CE.

The remarkable thing about the building is that you can still see the Roman bricks used in the original construction. The rest of the walls are Saxon, while the tower and roof are Norman.

DETAILS | ST MARTINS CHURCH


hours – 11 am to 3 pm (Wed-Sun) | cost – free

12. ST GEORGE’S TOWER & CITY WALLS

Canterbury has been a walled city since Roman times.

Originally, they would have consisted of stone on top of an earth bank, protected by a ditch and wall towers.

After centuries of decay, the walls were restored towards the end of the 14th century. They formed a rough oval about 3,000 feet long and up to 20 feet high with 24 towers added as protection.

The best section remaining today is on the southeastern side of town.

Just inside the wall, you’ll find the 15th-century St Georges Tower. It’s the only remaining section of a church that was severely damaged by bombing in World War II.

13. KING’S MILE & CROOKED HOUSE

The King’s Mile is the creative and independent quarter of Canterbury.

Here you’ll find cute independent stores, art galleries, and a cluster of good cafes housed in medieval architecture.

Don’t miss Sir John Boys House also known as the Crooked House. The slanted door frame is great for Instagram and the bookshop inside helps raise money for those living on the streets of Canterbury.

14. THE PARROT

Originally known as St Radigund’s Hall, The Parrot is one of the oldest pubs in Canterbury. 

Wooden beams date back to the 14th century and real fires have been crackling in the grate ever since.

There’s always a lot of walking on any day trip, so it’s a great spot to take a break. Rest the feet and try one of the award-winning local beers from Kent brewer Shepherd Neame.

15. MARLOWE THEATRE

The famous playwright Christopher Marlow was born and attended school in Canterbury.

The theatre named after him hosts a mix of Shakespeare, musicals, and stand-up comedy. 

It’s a great cultural experience in Canterbury and an opportunity to see something different. Check what’s on for your visit on the Marlow Theatre website.

marlowe theatre canterbury
MARLOW THEATRE

MAP | DAY TRIP TO CANTERBURY

All our favourite things to do in Canterbury are on the below map.

In the morning you should be able to cover all of the attractions in red.

In the afternoon choose between punting, perusing the shops, or exploring more history – marked with brown icons.

Suggested brunch, coffee, lunch, and pub stops are in purple. 

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


HOW TO GET TO CANTERBURY

Canterbury is an excellent day trip from London. Here’s how to get here.

BY TRAIN

There are two train stations at Canterbury – Canterbury West and Canterbury East.

Both are just outside the walled city centre and only a few minutes’ walk from all the main attractions.

The fastest route to Canterbury by train is from London St Pancras Station. Direct trains leave hourly and take about 55 minutes. Indirect trains also leave hourly and only take a few minutes longer (1 hour and 5 minutes) changing at Ashford International Station. Both arrive at Canterbury West.

DEPARTTIMECHANGEARRIVAL
St Pancras55 minDirectCanterbury West
St Pancras1 hr, 5 minAshfordCanterbury West
Victoria1 hr, 30 minDirectCanterbury East
London Bridge1 hr, 30 minDirectCanterbury West
Charing Cross1 hr, 40 minDirectCanterbury West
bulkhead statue in canterbury
BULKHEAD STATUE

BY CAR

It takes roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive from central London to Canterbury. Times can vary substantially as traffic in and around London and Canterbury can be slow.

There are several car parks surrounding Canterbury’s walled city centre just a few minutes’ walk from the main attractions. Most take payment by card or the RingGo App.

BY TOUR

A tour is an easy way to combine the best things to do in Canterbury with other highlights in the southeast of England. Here are some other attractions that are easily combined on organised tours.

Leeds Castle – Built on an island in a lake, Leeds Castle is possibly the most beautifully romantic castle in England. Beginning life in 857 CE, it has been a Norman stronghold, a royal residence, and a royal palace.

Dover – Dover Castle is a medieval stronghold founded in the 11th century as a key Norman defense. It is an imposing fortress, with a fascinating history. The castle stands beside the towering white cliffs of Dover, an iconic landmark in the UK.

WHERE TO STAY IN CANTERBURY

If you decide to extend your Canterbury day trip into a weekend break, here are some accommodation recommendations from us.

CONTEMPORARY

CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL LODGE

This modern remodeling of an old building is set within the grounds of UNESCO-listed Canterbury Cathedral. The location could not be better, and it is surprisingly affordable.


OUR PICK

HISTORIC B&B

HOUSE OF AGNES

This historic B&B was where Charles Dickens took his rest. Old school stylings in cosy rooms come with a great breakfast and a pretty garden. It’s conveniently located next to Canterbury West train station.


APARTMENTS & ROOMS

THE HUGO

Located next to the High Street, this room-only accommodation has modern, 2-bedroom apartments. It’s clean and comfortable and access is via self-checkin.


THANKS FOR VISITING // WHERE NEXT?



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