Canterbury, located in the South East of England, is absolutely jam packed with history and culture.
This quintessentially English city is not only famous for its centuries old Church connections and literary references.
It’s also home to two universities, the oldest operating school in the world, and perfectly-preserved medieval architecture on every corner. All of this is just a stone’s throw from Novel’s very modern student accommodation in Canterbury.
Here’s a rundown of our favourite things to do in this historic city.
1. Canterbury Cathedral
This iconic UNESCO World Heritage site is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bell Harry Tower is the largest landmark in the city, and has a fascinating history.
It was here that Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170, and it is now England’s principal Christian monument.
You can still visit the tomb of St Thomas Becket, and enjoy the sublime blend of architecture from different centuries. Take in the 14th-century choir screens, the 15th-century cloisters, Romanesque side chapels and stained glass windows from the 12th-century.
The cathedral forms part of the Pilgrim’s Way, a pilgrimage route between Winchester and Rochester.
You can get a guided tour, which we reckon is the best way to get the most out of your visit.
2. St Augustine’s Abbey
This sixth century abbey was founded by St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
The abbey was destroyed in the 16th-century during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry 8th, but portions of the original architecture still remain.
You can see St Augustine’s tomb, alongside traces of the Anglo-Saxon St Pancras Church.
3. Beaney House of Art & Knowledge
On Canterbury’s High Street in the city centre you can visit this Tudor Revival house. It’s a museum, art gallery, and library.
This attraction is named after James George Beaney, a Canterbury surgeon who got into politics.
Inside you can see works by the Victorian landscape painter Thomas Sidney Cooper, who came from Canterbury. You can also see a few Old Masters, such as a piece by Anthony van Dyck.
The museum is like a curiosity shop of Egyptian and Greek artefacts, Anglo-Saxon pieces, minerals and natural history specimens.
4. St Martin’s Church
Close to the cathedral and the abbey you’ll find St Martin’s Church, the oldest church in the English-speaking world.
It dates back to the 6th-century, with even earlier Roman elements such as the brickwork. It’s the oldest church in the English-speaking world and for that reason has come to be known as the ‘mother church of England’.
In the graveyard you can pay your respects to Mary Tourtel, the creator of legendary British fictional character, Rupert the Bear.
5. Canterbury City Walls
Make sure you check out the Roman wall which has surrounded Canterbury since the 3rd century.
The circuit of walls has remained more or less unchanged throughout the many changes that the city has undergone through the centuries.
You can see 24 medieval towers that are still standing, and at the former Queningate, pieces of the excavated Roman wall are displayed..
The Norman-era Canterbury Castle is one of the oldest of Britain’s castles. Once used as a prison, now it’s a great place to enjoy beautiful views of the ruins.
You could take the City Wall Trail, which consists of a three-mile route around the wall and take in many of Canterbury’s monuments, including the Westgate.
This is one of the last of seven remaining medieval city gates in Canterbury.
The 18-metre Westgate was constructed in the 14th-century.
Located alongside the River Stour, it has a drawbridge still marshalled by a portcullis and wooden doors.
7. Westgate Gardens
The Gardens, among England’s oldest, are the perfect place to chill out with friends on a sunny day.
It’s a serene spot on the banks of the Stour as it flows towards the Westgate.
So sit back, relax, and watch the punters and the ducks go by on the river.
8. Christ Church Gate
The cathedral’s main gateway dates back to the 16th-century and looms over the Buttermarket.
Take some time to scrutinise the coat of arms of the Tudor dynasty, including those of Catherine of Aragon who was Henry 8th’s first wife.
There was originally an image of Christ in the central niche but it was vandalised by iconoclasts in the 16th- century. Since 1990, a bronze replacement sculpture has sat in its place.
9. Stour Boat Trip
Enter into the medieval world with a boat trip along the Stour. You pass below a replica ducking stool near the High Street on a 40 minute trip which Canterbury Historic River Tours provides 40-minute trips from March to October.
On the trip you will see some of Canterbury’s medieval monuments from the water.
You’ll see the 13th-century Greyfriars’ Chapel and pass below the 12th-century Eastbridge and King’s Bridge. As the tour trundles on you’ll also revel in views of weavers’ houses and Blackfriars’ Dominican priories from the 14th-century.
10. Howletts Wild Animal Park
Just 15 minutes away from Canterbury lie 100 acres of historic parkland, and a former manor house.
This land is home to Howletts Wild Animal Park, where you can see 44 species of animals.
One of the most impressive species is the country’s largest family of western lowland gorillas. The largest breeding herd of African elephants are a must-see too.
You can also see Northern Chinese leopards, lemurs, lions, wolves, black rhinos and many many more!
Definitely up at the top of the list of things to do in Canterbury!
As if all of that wasn’t enough, here are some bonus activities to get your teeth into.
The annual Canterbury Festival, known as ‘Kent’s International Arts Festival,’ is held in October for two weeks.
It attracts audiences of up to 70,000 people, 200 activities including classical music, contemporary dance, comedy, world music, theatre, lectures, and visual arts.
The venues include impressive sites such as Canterbury Cathedral and the Marlowe Theatre, alongside a marquee.
You should also check out the Stour Music festival. It’s a 10-day event which falls in June. At the festival you can enjoy opera, choral, and chamber concerts, as well as recitals.
On Mercery Lane, make sure you visit The Chequer of the Hope. It’s the site of the pilgrim hostel mentioned by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales.
We could go on, but there are so many things to do in Canterbury that we’d be here all day!
Last Updated on June 15, 2022