What to do in Canterbury
Canterbury, a busy market town with much of its medieval character still intact, is famous as the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church. Canterbury is regarded as the cradle of English Christianity. It was here that St Augustine made his first converts amongst the pagan Anglo-Saxons, and where, in 597, he became the first bishop. His burial place in St Augustine's Abbey, just outside the city walls, was a much-revered shrine until the building of neighboring Canterbury Cathedral.Designated one of Britain's Heritage Cities, Canterbury is also a cultural and entertainment destination. Shoppers will want to check out the historic streets of the King's Mile with its specialty shops, galleries, and cafés. Must-dos include The Canterbury Tales with its re-creation of the sights, sounds and smells of Chaucer's medieval England, and the Canterbury Roman Museum, a fascinating look into the city's Roman roots. Sports fans should check the schedule of the Kent County Cricket Club - their St Lawrence Ground home in Canterbury is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the country.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the striking Canterbury Cathedral reflects components of various architectural styles from different centuries. A must-visit when in Canterbury, it's famous for having been the place where Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170. Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time but had crossed paths with Henry II who responded by ordering four of his most trusted knights to commit the crime. Nearly 900 years later, it's still chilling to stand in the spot where this heinous crime was committed. The cathedral is also famous as part of the Pilgrim's Way, a route for pilgrimages from Winchester and Rochester. For a truly unique experience, plan a stay at Canterbury Cathedral Lodge. Owned by the cathedral, it combines superb views overlooking beautiful gardens with wonderful views of the Cathedral, as well as exclusive access to the Cathedral Precincts.
Address: 11 The Precincts, Canterbury
The area immediately surrounding Canterbury Cathedral - Cathedral Close - is also worth exploring. The most interesting of the buildings lie to the north of the cathedral and are grouped around Green Court. One highlight is the roofed Norman staircase leading up to King's School Hall. One of the oldest schools in the world (founded around 600 AD), King's School spawned many a famous Englishman, including dramatist Christopher Marlowe and William Somerset Maugham. Also of interest is the Norman Water Tower, once part of an ingenious water supply and sewage disposal system that ensured epidemics were virtually unknown in the Close.
St Augustine's Abbey & College
St Augustine's College (1846), an English Heritage property located just outside the city walls, is home to the remains of the abbey founded by St Augustine in 604. St Augustine's Gate and the Cemetery Gate date from the 13th century, and it where the foundations of the old abbey church and the graves of St Augustine, King Ethelbert and his wife Queen Bertha have been found. There are also excavated remains of the early Saxon Church of St Pancras, including rare Roman artifacts.
Admission: Adults, £5; Children (5-15), £3
Location: Longport, Canterbury
The pedestrianized area of Old City Canterbury is home to numerous historic timber-framed buildings. An unbroken row of particularly fine houses, with typical overhanging upper floors, can be seen in narrow Mercery Lane. Many pre-date Queen Elizabeth I. One remarkable survivor is the Tudor Queen Elizabeth's Guest Chamber with its attractive plasterwork. Located in the corner of Mercery Lane is The Chequer of the Hope, successor to the pilgrim hostel mentioned by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales. High Street landmarks include Eastbridge Hospital (1180). Beyond the bridge over the River Stour, distinctive round corner towers define the Westgate (1375).
Location: Stour Street, Canterbury
The Westgate Gardens are an extensive network of formal and informal open spaces. There is much to see and enjoy:
Westgate Gardens - once the splendid home and gardens of a notable Canterbury family. The area can be traced back to the Roman occupation of 2,000 years ago, and beyond.
Toddlers Cove - once Canterbury's water park with swimming, paddling and boating pools and possibly the site of Roman occupation. It is now a starting - or finishing - point for the Great Stour Way, a three-mile path for walkers and cyclists and now the site of a new large children's play area. Tannery Field, a riverside meadow, and woodland beside Rheims Way.
The wild, wooded Bingley Island where there is evidence that Stone Age men and women once walked. Together these sites amount to 12 hectares of historic riverside parkland - enough space for about 15 football pitches.
Canterbury Heritage Museum
Tourists eager to learn more about the history of Canterbury and the surrounding area should visit the Canterbury Heritage Museum. Located in an imposing medieval building on Stour Street, the museum includes the ancient Poor Priests' Hospital with its magnificent beamed ceilings. Displays feature Anglo-Saxon treasures, rare Tudor painted plaster, and the historic Invicta steam engine built by Robert Stephenson. The museum also houses the wonderful Bagpuss and Rupert Bear exhibit, a tribute to two of the UK's most iconic children's TV characters.
Admission: Adults, £8; Children, Free
Location: Stour Street, Canterbury
The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge
The Beaney is an art museum and library offering state-of-the-art exhibition galleries, excellent learning facilities and a varied program of interactive events for all ages. It is also home to one of Canterbury's most famous artists, the Victorian animal painter Thomas Sidney Cooper. This collection is of national importance and spans the full range of Cooper's work. Displays include over 1,000 objects which are showcased in the permanent galleries alongside special temporary exhibitions.
There are so many great restaurants and cafes in Canterbury. From Mexican and Moroccan to British, British, British, there is a restaurant to tantalize anyone’s taste buds. Go and check out its relaxing beauty for yourselves!