Where to Go, What to Eat & Do in Canterbury, England: A Comprehensive Guide
September 20th by Benn — guest writer for WhichCity
Canterbury is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in the United Kingdom.
I still remember my first and only visit there to-date, some 26-odd years ago, during the last leg of my European trip. My visit to Prague was also quite interesting, and you can read a bit more about it here.
Today Benn presents a comprehensive travel or tourist handbook so that you can know what to do, eat, or see in Canterbury.
I hope you enjoy!
Canterbury is considered to be the most religiously significant travel destinations in England, with staggering cathedrals that may literally take your breath away.
Canterbury is much more than a church city, however.
So what is there to do in Canterbury?
It is home to many historical landmarks, while also benefiting from the youthful energy of Canterbury and Kent University. The area is therefore culturally diverse and full of art, hosts a bounty of beautiful and peaceful walking tours and trails, and is just a stone’s-throw from the Kent coastal line–and let me not forget about the excess of amazing and diverse restaurants!
All in all, Canterbury is the perfect weekend getaway for families, groups of friends, backpackers, and anyone else who just wants to get away to a different, historical, and quiet place.
Below is my comprehensive guide of everything to do in Canterbury, England. This guide will tell you what to see, how to get there, where to eat, and even where to sleep at night.
Let’s get started!
What sights are there to see in Canterbury?
In short, there is no shortage of sights to see in Canterbury.
It is truly a premiere travel destination for your eyes—and for your legs as well. The city is so compact that it is easily walk-able, but it manages to cram an amazing amount of history and culture inside its walls.
Seeing everything on this list is completely doable in a short weekend, plus there are many more attractions to fit your fancy.
You can always do your own thing and be your own guide; however, in my opinion the following are absolutely the best Canterbury has to offer.
I would be remised if I did not mention the world famous Canterbury Cathedral.
The massive structure serves as the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and also as the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is both a place of devout worship and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Famously it houses the shrine to Thomas Becket. The immense building is more than just a church to gaze inside, however. Take a guided tour to explore the Romanesque crypts, world class medieval stained glass, and picturesque gardens.
Location: Canterbury Cathedral, The Precincts, Canterbury, CT1 2EH
Canterbury Tales Visitor Center
Take a guided look back over 500 years when Geoffrey Chaucer and his zealous posse traveled on a pilgrimage from London to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket.
This tour is a theatrical mix of information and whimsy as tales of love, lust, intrigue, courtship and death are reenacted by some of Canterbury’s finest. This living tour gives you an immersive experience into one of the most beloved religious treks of all time.
The tour will start at The Tabard Inn and leads you right inside Canterbury Cathedral. During this tour, five distinct characters will have you howling as they compete for your attention.
As a TripAdvisor must, this tour is a riot for people of all ages.
Location: The Tabard Inn, St Margaret’s Street, Canterbury, CT1 2TG
Canterbury Guided Walking Tour
What could be a better way of getting to know the city besides going on a comprehensive, guided tour?
Canterbury is admittedly a small place and it will only take you about 90 minutes to get a good feeling for the area and what it has to offer.
The entertaining and theatrical tour guides will lead you on a fascinating journey through historical streets and precincts; this may be a good or even the best place to start as I guarantee it will give you a long list of points of interest you will probably want to take a closer look at after the tour.
These tours are also dog friendly and available in several languages.
Location: Christ Church Gate, The Precincts, Canterbury, CT1 2EE
Canterbury Historic River Tours
Phew! Are your feet starting to get a little tired? How about you sit back, kick your feet up, and let the water do the work for a bit?
Boating has been a mainstay pastime of Canterbury as far back as people can remember. By this time, the locals have gotten very good at it.
The Canterbury historic river tours are a multi-award winning series of tours that bring you all around the city while your boat captain dispenses intriguing information.
This tour flows through the heart of Canterbury and gives a unique perspective on the city’s most important history and architecture.
Location: Kings Bridge, St Peter’s Street, Canterbury, CT1 2AT
Howlett’s Wild Animal Park
Now that’s quite enough touring for now! It is time to strike out and explore the area for yourself.
Among all the history and architecture in Canterbury is something you might not expect: wildlife.
Howlett’s Wild Animal park is set inside 100 acres of historic parkland which is marked with wooded trails and pathways that allow you to explore and interact with animals of all kinds.
The park boasts over 450 animals including some of the rarest and most endangered species on the planet, like the baby black rhino.
This is a perfect excursion for wilderness fanatics of all ages.
Location: Bekesbourne Road, Bekesbourne, Canterbury, CT4 5EL
Herne Bay Central Beach
If the weather is nice, there is nothing better than a day at the beach, right?
Herne’s Bay Central Beach stretches for about two miles along the coastline and offers plenty to do, including walking, relaxing, swimming, and much, much more.
You can walk the Oyster Bay trail, grab some fish and chips, go for some ice cream, or get a drink at one of the many seaside pubs. There are also two piers along the stretch for you to get the perfect photos.
Keep in mind that here there are no dogs allowed. If you have one, try Whitstable West Beach nearby, which is dog friendly.
Location: Western Esplanade to Central Parade, Herne Bay, CT6 8RG
What Museums, Art, & Culture does Canterbury offer?
Although it is small and somewhat secluded, Canterbury definitely has no shortage of culture.
There are many galleries, museums, and theatres to entertain you and your group. After reading over this list, double-check with the local venues prior to your travel in order to see what shows will be playing when you plan to visit.
The Marlowe Theatre
When night falls, one of the many popular night time destinations is the Marlowe Theatre.
The Marlowe is a world-renowned venue which offers the some of the best and brightest touring companies and productions. These include West End musicals, international opera and ballet, classical music, and stand-up comedy—there are also a number of children’s shows available.
Try to get there early as the theatre features a couple of different bars and cafes, each with their own unique view of Canterbury.
Location: The Friars, Canterbury, CT1 2AS
The Gulbenkian is an innovative 300-seat theater featuring a diverse slate of modern entertainment.
It is situated inside the University of Kent and therefore features an electric and youthful grab bag of live music, comedy, and slam poetry. The theatre also features modern cinema and world-class sound system for your listening pleasure.
Location: University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NB
Conquest House Gallery
The Conquest House Gallery is a humble art gallery housed inside an historic 17th century home.
Although it is one of the oldest buildings in Canterbury, gallery owner Kathryn Rennie uses it to introduce many emerging artists, and inside you will find both traditional and contemporary pieces.
The quaint architecture of Conquest House evokes an intimate feeling between yourself and the artist that isn’t common for most art galleries and therefore I highly recommend it.
Classes are also available for beginners, visiting artists, and specialists alike. Entry is free!
Location: 17 Palace Street, Canterbury, CT1 2DZ
Whitstable Museum and Gallery
Canterbury is home to several impressive museums and some like this one aren’t about art.
If you have any interest in maritime history, the Whitstable Museum is a must stop. The exhibits color in the many different ways the town of Whitstable came to be what it is today and they explore unique Atlantic history from archaeological dives to the history of shipbuilding.
There are countless wonders to explore for all ages!
Location: 5 Oxford Street, Whitstable, CT5 1DB
The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge
Inside the heart of Canterbury lies the Beaney house, an art museum and library stuffed to the rafters with unique rooms and displays.
This award-winning facility offers state-of-the-art (rim shot) galleries, educational experiences, and programs which everyone to enjoy.
It was founded by Dr. James George Beaney, a Canterbury born man of meager means who worked his way up in the world through the world of medicine. He left behind the art house to be an “Institute of the Working Man”, for people from all backgrounds to come, learn, and be well.
It has an amazing amount of things to do and all under one roof.
There is a saying: the Beaney is a building for everyone.
Location: 18 High Street, Canterbury, CT1 2RA
The Roman Museum
Finally, there is the Roman Museum, a truly unique experience which takes you deep into the trenches of history.
The Roman Museum’s own history started in 1868 when workmen unwittingly discovered beautiful Roman Mosaics while digging. The peculiar site was left until more excavation was needed in the aftermath of World War II.
Archaeologists then discovered heating systems, paintings, and intricate Mosaic tunnels. Since then, the underground area has been turned into a museum to preserve and give life to the Roman Britain that once was.
Location: Longmarket, Butchery Lane, Canterbury, CT1 2JR
What are the best places to stay in Canterbury?
Canterbury is definitely a tourist destination and it has the lodging to match. My choices are:
- The Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
- The Corner House Canterbury
- Adobe Canterbury
- The White House
There are many chain hotels of course, but if you are going to stay in such a quaint and historic city, I think the rooms you stay in should reflect the atmosphere, don’t you?
With this in mind, is more detail of the best and most breathtaking historically significant hotels and inns for you to retire to in the evening.
Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
The Canterbury Cathedral Lodge is without a doubt the most centrally located hotel in the city.
It is located inside The Precincts, which are the UNESCO World Heritage Site Cathedral grounds. Owned by the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury, this modern building is built to reflect the breathtaking Gothic architecture of the nearby Canterbury Cathedral.
Other listed attractions such as the Marlow Theatre, Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, and Canterbury historic river tours are only a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel.
Location: Canterbury Cathedral, The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2EH
Price: approx £100 per night.
The Corner House Canterbury
The Corner House is right outside the city walls and offers a unique, old-timey inn experience.
It is a pub for most people, but if you can book one of the three unique rooms it will be worth your while.
Overall it is only a five minute walk from the cathedral and city center, and it dates back to the year 1574, when it was known as the Three Musketeers.
The three rooms are the Dickens (named after Charles Dickens who was rumored to stay there from time to time), the Tourtel, and upstairs there is the attic room. Each room is cozy but offers full amenities including a fireplace for each room.
Location: 1 Dover St, Canterbury CT1 3HD, UK
Price: approx £79 per night.
The Adobe is an historical and quirky inn that is only a few steps away from the Cathedral.
Like the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, the location is impeccable as it is only a short walk away from almost everything Canterbury has to offer, including cafes, shops, and the starting point of many city tours.
The only drawback is that its urban location means some rooms are overshadowed by newer, taller buildings.
The Adobe manages to feature the signature style of the Brownsword hotel group while still fitting in with the history and heritage of Canterbury.
Downstairs is the County Restaurants, one of the cities’ finest. You can enjoy a six-course meal of world class delicacies with exquisite wine pairings for a perfect romantic evening.
Location: 33 High Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2RX
Price: approx £90 per night.
The White House
This adults-only bread & breakfast takes place in a breathtaking regency townhouse.
Set in a perfect location, the Marlowe Theatre is literally a couple steps outside, and a few more steps will bring you to many other Canterbury attractions.
At the same time, it has the perfect balance of peace and quiet at night.
The house was allegedly built as the retirement home for Queen Victoria’s head coachmen, and the grandeur of the windows, staircases, and ceilings all seem to support this.
In all the White House has 6 guest beds available. Breakfast is served every morning in the dining room and lounge which boasts beautiful natural lighting.
In my personal opinion, this truly is the perfect place to stay for a romantic weekend away!
Location: 6 St Peter’s Lane, Canterbury CT1 2BP
Price: approx £110 per night.
Where to Eat–Restaurants near Canterbury
This was the hardest part of the guide to write!
Canterbury is surprisingly one of the best culinary cities in all of England. Not only is the quality of the food exquisite, but the diversity is astounding.
I have compiled a list of local favorites, but I encourage you to go out exploring and sample anything that may appear interesting or different. There are too many good places to name on this list however, but the following are almost mandatory for my taste and therefore I recommend them to everyone.
Deeson’s policy is plain and simple: fresh and local ingredients.
The restaurant actually has a farm right outside the city where they grow their own produce. In a matching style, the setting is rustic, and although it has the appeal of fine dining it doesn’t come off as too fancy.
Perfect for both a romantic dinner for two or a meal for the whole family, no one will be disappointed with the dishes that Deeson has to offer.
Location: 27 Sun Street, Canterbury
Despite its deep English heritage, Canterbury is home to some of the best cuisine from all over the world.
Pinocchio’s, which serves traditional and authentic Italian food, is located in-between a number of inferior chain restaurants. However, it stands out both for its taste and architecture.
The restaurant owner, Massimo Fierro, comes from Naples and it definitely shows on the menu. Specials change every month, but favorites such as pizza pie and pasta dishes are always available and definitely always delicious.
Location: 64 Castle Street, Canterbury
As Canterbury brushes up against the seaside, it is best you get some quality sea food during your stay, if seafood do be your thing!
Chapman’s is owned by a fish wholesaler, so it comes as no surprise that the selection is delivered fresh every day. Every local fish and shellfish of the region is available on the constantly rotating menu which is designed to only offer the freshest and latest catches.
In addition to the seafood, Chapman’s boasts an impressive selection of wine and each server is specially trained to pair it with your meal. So, if you like to have a sip of wine but aren’t the connoisseur, then no worries! They’ve got you covered.
Location: 89 St Dunstans Street, Canterbury
Tamago is Canterbury’s premier Asian restaurant, which primarily serves Japanese soul food.
The flavors are more vibrant, tangy, and tasty than the other traditional Asian delicacies the city has to offer. However, don’t be swayed by the low-key atmosphere.
Tamago actually has some of the best mouthfuls Canterbury offers. From ramen to sushi to bento boxes, the fresh ingredient from skillful chefs will have you planning a return trip with your taste buds.
This is the perfect option for an upscale lunch or a laid back dinner.
Location: 64 Northgate, Canterbury
Cite Crepes is the perfect breakfast, lunch, or mid afternoon snack for anyone near Longmarket square.
It mainly sells crepes—namely, the best crepes you have ever had outside of Tokyo.
As one of the best cheap eats Canterbury has to offer, it is currently the #2 ranked restaurant in the whole city on trip advisor.
Just make a note that you will be looking for a cream-colored food truck, not a brick and mortar restaurant!
Location: High Street, Longmarket Square, Canterbury
Pork and Co
Pork and Co has a reputation as one of the best sandwich makers in all of Southeast England.
The pigs used are free-range local and well-cared for, and the bread is baked in-house from scratch.
Each Kentish pulled pork dish is slow-cooked for around 14 hours. The result is nothing short of tasty, savory sandwiches will have you day dreaming of bites long after you have left.
If meat or pork is not your thing, then never fear because you can still visit this location with that meat-eater you love. Vegetarian options are available as well!
Location: 27 Sun Street Canterbury
The Penny Theatre
In my opinion, The Penny Theatre is one of the two premiere pubs in Canterbury.
If you are not staying in the Corner House (my other pick), then find your way down on a weekend night because the atmosphere is just electric.
As you would expect, the craft beer selection is top notch, and while the menu has your pub mainstays such as burgers, grilled cheese, and onion rings, it somehow just tastes better than most places.
Vegan options are also available.
Check the schedule online as there are usually shows every weekend.
The bottom line here is that you are sure to have a great time!
Location: 31 Northgate, Canterbury CT1 1BL
Transportation–How can I get around Canterbury?
If you plan and select your stay just right, you can find most of what Canterbury has to offer on foot.
To put it in perspective, the entire centre can be crossed in just 15 minutes’ walking. However, if you want to trek out to the coastline or give your legs a little rest, there are a couple options available to do so.
Cycling or Riding a Bike in Canterbury
For the most part, cycling is prohibited in the inner city, though many people tend to anyway.
However, there are a number of bike paths and coastline areas that make cycling ideal for getting around. You can rent bikes at Canterbury Cycle Hire or Downland Cycle.
Renting a Car in Canterbury
There are two car rental companies locally, Kendal Cars and Enterprise.
Just note that driving inside the city is not recommended. It is built to be a pedestrian center and therefore the streets are rather narrow. Furthermore, traffic is also far from ideal! To add to an already potentially miserable experience, parking lots are few, far-between, and pricey.
I would not recommend renting a car for use locally unless it is just absolutely necessary.
Taking the Bus in Canterbury
Canterbury actually has a great bus system run by Stagecoach.
In some cities or areas, buses may not run often enough or late enough; here, however, there is no shortage of buses, and there are a number of different types of tickets.
Here is the information on each type courtesy of TripAdvisor:
- Explorer – This is for unlimited day travel throughout Kent & East Sussex.
- Dayrider – This is for unlimited day travel within the Canterbury city zone only.
- Nightrider – This is for unlimited evening travel throughout Kent, valid after 7pm.
- Megarider – This is for unlimited weekly travel within the Canterbury city zone only.
- Megarider Gold – This is for unlimited week-long travel throughout Kent & East Sussex
Since the city is so compact, I would definitely recommend walking as much as possible and picking up an explorer ticket at the city center bus station in St. George’s Lane.
If you don’t live in a large city and aren’t used to walking so much, then I highly recommend that you begin a regular, daily walking regimen in order to prepare for what lay ahead!
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide of all things Canterbury!
You probably already know it, but this dreamy little historic town is an absolute must visit.
The city knows this and does an exceptional job of welcoming, taking care of, and entertaining tourists.
If you ever find yourself slightly near South East England or are going to be traveling in the area, then I highly recommend popping in for a day or two.
Thank you for your time and best travels to you, no matter which city you may visit!