What are the best things to do in Canterbury, and why make a day trip from London to Canterbury?
If the only attraction in Canterbury was Canterbury Cathedral then it would be worth the visit alone as this is one of the finest cathedrals in the world. However the city also has several other museums, including the Canterbury Tales Museum, St Augustine's Abbey, and some beautifully picturesque old buildings and narrow streets, especially where the River Stour flows through the town (pictured here). Much of the centre of Canterbury is also protected as a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Seeing Canterbury Cathedral is not just one of the best things to do in Canterbury it's one of the best things to do in the whole country and the building forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This monumental cathedral, one of the finest cathedrals in the world, can trace its origins back to 597AD when St Augustine arrived in Canterbury, on a mission from Pope Gregory, and first established a church here. The oldest parts of the present building are from the 11th century, and it is renowned in history as the place where the Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 on the orders of King Henry II.
Canterbury River Tour
Historic boat tours on Canterbury's River Stour are a real delight. They only last for about 40 minutes but in that time you get an unusual angle on the city, with entertaining commentary by young Canterbury history students. Definitely not to be missed, and here's our experience of a Canterbury river tour.
The River Stour in Canterbury
All Photos (c) Donna Dailey
Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction
The pilgrims in Chaucer's famous collection of storiesThe Canterbury Tales were on their way to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket when their often-bawdy adventures took place. Those stories are recreated here in an attraction inside St Margaret's Church, and though they are a fairly predictable collection of recreated scenes from the tales, there is also plenty of historical detail and background information so visitors do come away educated as well as entertained.
Canterbury Tour with a Kent Greeter
Kent is the only county in England which has a county-wide Greeter scheme: the Kent Greeters. Read our account of an entertaining history-themed Canterbury Tour that we took with one of the many excellent Kent Greeter volunteers.
The Things You Discover on a Canterbury Tour
with One of the Kent Greeters
Pilgrims visiting the shrine to Thomas Becket were already plentiful in the 12th century, so the Eastbridge Hospital was founded to accommodate them. It's a Hospital in the sense of a place providing hospitality rather than medical treatment. Part of the building is the Greyfriars Chapel, dating from the 13th century, and you can also visit the Franciscan Gardens.
Canterbury Heritage Museum
The museum that tells the story of Canterbury from pre-historic times is housed in the medieval Poor Priests' Hospital, and for family visitors it also includes the Rupert Bear Museum.
Canterbury Roman Museum
The Romans had quite a large settlement in Canterbury, and this shows what life was like for them then. It includes the preserved remains of a Roman town house, with some beautiful mosaics, a reconstruction of a typical Roman market place, plenty of interactive things to keep children entertained, and some real Roman artefacts for you to handle.
St Augustine's Abbey
This abbey was also founded by St Augustine soon after he arrived here to spread the Gospel of Christianity for Pope Gregory in 597AD. It also forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Canterbury Cathedral, and is quite an extensive site. It also includes the ruins of a Tudor Palace that King Henry VIII had built here for Anne of Cleves, after he had had the abbey destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Also take a look at our page on Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey.
St Martin's Church
Also covered by the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation but slightly out of the centre of Canterbury is this, the oldest parish church in England that has been in continual use. It even pre-dates the arrival of St Augustine at the end of the 6th century, and perhaps goes back to Roman times as Roman bricks have been used in the construction of the walls. It's well worth making the short walk to see this beautiful and historic little church, which is definitely one of the best things to do in Canterbury.
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