The 14 Best Things To Do In Canterbury – Attractions, Sights & Tours

(Last Updated On: January 19, 2023)

The stunning historic city of Canterbury can be found in the southeast of England, and is famous for its rich history and beautiful architecture.

The city is home to three universities and has a thriving nightlife, both of which contribute to its status as a popular destination for young adults and students.

The historic district of the city is known for its picturesque cobbled streets and array of quaint shops, pubs, and dining establishments.

In addition, there are a great number of parks and other green areas to visit, as well as a number of museums.

Canterbury is the ideal location for a visit with friends or family, regardless of the time of year.

Things To Do In Canterbury

1. Canterbury Cathedral

Located in Canterbury city centre, Canterbury Cathedral is both one of the nation’s oldest and best-known places of Christian worship and architecture.

This famous Cathedral is known as the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In addition to being a Unesco World Heritage Site, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England.

Augustine of Canterbury established the cathedral in 597, and between 1070 and 1077 it was completely reconstructed after being destroyed.

Famous as the place of the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170 by four of King Henry ii knights, today is marked by a simple stone bearing his name.

Canterbury Cathedral is open to visitors year round and some of the highlights include the stunning stained glass windows, the Romanesque nave, the Choir and St. Michael’s Chapel.

Address: Canterbury Cathedral, Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury CT1 2EH

2. Howletts Wild Animal Park

John Aspinall laid the groundwork in 1957 for what is now known as Howletts Wild Animal Park.

The park first welcomed visitors in 1975 and quickly became well-known for it’s large family groups of western lowland gorillas.

Howletts Wild Animal Park is now home to over 390 animals including the largest herd of African elephants in the UK.

Located in 90 acres of beautiful ancient parkland, with enclosures that have been designed with animal well-being in mind, it includes an open-top monkey enclosure and free-roaming lemurs.

This fantastic place is ideal for a great day out in Canterbury with the entire family.

Address: Howletts Wild Animal Park, Bekesbourne Ln, Bekesbourne, Littlebourne, Canterbury CT4 5EL

3. Canterbury Roman Museum

The Canterbury Roman Museum is an excellent location to visit if you are interested in Canterbury’s Roman past.

A Roman pavement that has been designated as a scheduled ancient monument is a highlight of the museum.

The Canterbury Treasure, an important late Roman silver hoard, is one of the many interesting artefacts that are on display.

Canterbury Roman Museum is a relatively small museum but well worth a visit, it provides a fascinating look into life in Roman Britain.

Address: Canterbury Roman Museum, 11A Longmarket, Butchery Ln, Canterbury CT1 2JR

4. St. Martin’s Church

The Church of St. Martin in Canterbury is the oldest church still in continuous use anywhere in the English-speaking world.

It is included in the list of sites that make up Canterbury World Heritage Site, along with Canterbury Cathedral and St. Augustine’s Abbey.

It is thought that the oldest part of the church was built during Roman times and contains reused Roman bricks and walls of Roman tiles, however the largest part of the building is Anglo-Saxon.

Visitors can see inside St Martin’s Church from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 3pm.

Address: St. Martin’s Church, 1 N Holmes Rd, Canterbury CT1 1QJ

5. Westgate Gardens

The Westgate Gardens in Canterbury are a stunning public garden laid out alongside the banks of the River Stour.

The garden encompasses a total area of 4.5 hectares (11 acres) of land and is centred around a Tower House, a medieval bastion that was built to protect the city walls.

In addition to a large number of different kinds of plants and trees, the garden is home to two memorials that are dedicated to past wars.

An Oriental Plane tree that is approximately 200 years old and has a girth of nearly nine metres is a highlight of the gardens.

If you are visiting it is highly recommended that you pay a visit to this tree because it is a stunning natural attraction that you should not miss.

Address: Westgate Gardens, St Peter’s St, Canterbury CT1 2BQ

6. The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge serves as Canterbury’s primary cultural institution, housing the city’s art gallery, library, and museum.

The structure is a Grade II listed building that was renovated and reopened to the public under its new name in September of 2012.

The gallery is well-known for the collection of works created by local artists, such as Thomas Sidney Cooper and his relatives Thomas George Cooper and William Sidney Cooper.

In addition there are European oils dating back to the 16th century and works by some of the Old Masters.

Anglo-Saxon grave jewellery from Kent is also included in the original collections alongside European and English ceramics, as well as oriental porcelain.

This interesting museum and gallery is free for visitors, but there may be a charge for special exhibitions and events.

Address: Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, 18 High St, Canterbury CT1 2RA

7. St. Augustine’s Abbey

In the course of England’s history, the Abbey of St. Augustine played a significant part; today, it serves as a tourist attraction in the city of Canterbury.

In the year 598, Saint Augustine established the abbey, and it functioned as a monastery until 1538, when it was dissolved as a result of the English Reformation.

The ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey were saved and are now included in the Canterbury World Heritage Site with the cathedral and St Martin’s Church.

Visitors can enjoy the museum and free audio tour, and there is also a virtual reality experience which allows you to see the abbey as it would have been in the early 1500s.

Address: St. Augustine’s Abbey, Longport, Canterbury CT1 1PF

8. Dane John Gardens

The Dane John Gardens is a historic park that was established in 1551 and features a mound that, according to historical documentation, has been in that location since the first century.

Visitors can stroll along the city walls that border one side of the gardens, and once you’ve reached the top of the mound, you’ll have a fantastic view of the city below you.

In addition, there is a monument commemorating the fact that Alderman James Simmons gave the gardens to the people of Canterbury right on top of the mound.

The City Walls and an avenue provide lime trees with a sense of enclosure and an escape from the bustling shopping centre and busy road that are only a few yards away.

There is also a play area for children, a bandstand for concerts in the summer months, a refreshments kiosk, and a fountain.

Address: Dane John Gardens, Canterbury CT1 2QU

9. Christ Church Gate

The Christ Church Gateway serves as the primary entrance for visitors to the Canterbury Cathedral precinct.

The gateway was first constructed in 1502 as part of the festivities commemorating the marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, to Catherine of Aragon.

It is lavishly embellished and decorated with heraldic motifs, including coats of arms and mythical beasts.

Christ is depicted in a very large form at the centre, directly above the entrance arch.

This is an updated version of the statue, which was erected to replace the one that was vandalised by Parliamentary forces during the Civil War.

After passing through the gate there is a sizable door to the right, and the second much more modest portal to the left.

Both doors have intricate heraldic designs carved into them, making them look absolutely stunning.

Address: Christ Church Gateway, The Precincts, Canterbury CT1 2EE

10. The Kent Museum of Freemasonry

The Kent Museum of Freemasonry is located in St. Peter’s Place in Canterbury, and is a museum that houses a collection of Masonic artefacts that are both nationally and internationally significant.

The museum details the history of Freemasonry from its beginnings to the present day, with a particular focus on Kent and the various Lodges that can be found there.

It is possible that it has the finest collection of Masonic material outside of London in the United Kingdom.

The Museum can be found in the centre of Canterbury’s tourist route, and can be reached on foot in just five minutes from Canterbury Cathedral.

Visitors can visit daily from 10am to 4pm and admission is free although donations are welcome.

Address: Kent Museum of Freemasonry, St Peter’s Pl, Canterbury CT1 2DA

11. Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint

The Westgate, located in Canterbury, was constructed in the latter part of the 1300s as a defensive stronghold to protect the city from invasion.

This medieval gateway, which stood at a height of sixty feet, could only be reached by means of a drawbridge that spanned the River Stour.

The military danger subsided over the course of time, which allowed for the Westgate to be repurposed as a city jail.

It was converted into a museum in the early 1900s, and its collections include displays titled City Wars, Crime and Punishment, Westgate Through History, and Magna Carta & The Maquettes.

Westgate Tower also hosts ‘Escape in the Towers,’ that is an escape rooms experience with a bar and restaurant.

Address: Westgate Towers Museum & Viewpoint, 1 Pound Ln, Canterbury CT1 2BZ

12. Canterbury City Walls

The city walls of Canterbury were initially constructed by the Romans, most likely between the years 270 and 280 AD.

Stone was stacked atop an earthen mound to form the walls, which were surrounded on all sides by a ditch and wall towers for defence.

There were at least five gates built into the walls that provided access to Roman roads located in various parts of the region.

Canterbury fell into disrepair after the collapse of Roman rule in Britain, but the walls remained standing.

Today only part of those Roman walls remain, but large sections survive of the medieval walls that replaced them.

Canterbury’s city walls are some of the best preserved in the country, and well worth a wander when you visit Canterbury.

Address: Canterbury

13. Franciscan Gardens

In 1224, when the first Franciscan Friars arrived in the city of Canterbury, they laid the groundwork for what is now known as the Franciscan Gardens.

The garden is an oasis of tranquilly and reflection.

Following the dissolution of the garden’s ownership by Henry VIII in 1538, the garden has had a tumultuous history, characterised by a variety of owners and uses.

During the 20th century, the garden was used as a flower nursery to supply the busy Canterbury market and other areas.

In the year 2000, Eastbridge Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr purchased the gardens and, after conducting extensive renovations, made them accessible to the general public.

Visitors can now see plants that the first Franciscans cultivated for their medicinal properties which can be found in the cutting garden of the Franciscan Gardens.

The gardens are a well-known destination for tourists, and they provide guests with the opportunity to learn about history while also appreciating the beauty of nature.

Address: Franciscan Gardens, 60 St Peter’s Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2BE

14. Marlowe Theatre

The Marlowe Theatre is located in The Friars, just off Canterbury High Street.

This 1,200 seater Theatre hosts many national productions that include musicals, comedy, live music, opera and dramas.

Visitors can purchase tickets online for performances or take a 90-minute tour of the theatre which includes a fascinating look at backstage.

Address: Marlowe Theatre, The Friars, Canterbury CT1 2AS

FAQ

What is The Canterbury Tales?

The Canterbury Tales was written by Geoffrey Chaucer and are a collection of twenty-four stories.

The Canterbury Tales tells the story of a pilgrimage to Canterbury and of the pilgrims whose aims were to reach the shrine of Thomas Becket.

Is Canterbury good for shopping?

Whitefriars Shopping Centre is a shopping area in Canterbury that is the biggest shopping centre in East Kent.

Canterbury also has a pedestrianised main street known as St George’s Street, The Parade, High Street and St Peter’s Street, but altogether known as The High Street.

This busy high street has good shopping areas for the entire length.

Where can you watch cricket in Canterbury?

The home of Kent County Cricket Club is The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence in Canterbury.

Author

  • Tamara M

    Hey there! My name is Tamara, welcome to my little world! I’m a 20-something-year-old from Toronto, Canada (though I’m rarely there) and I’m super passionate about exploring the world, photography, and cooking delicious plant-based recipes. I created this blog to share my favorite places, adventures, restaurants, accommodations, and travel tips with all of you and keep a bit of a travel diary for myself.

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