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Westgate Gardens, Kent
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The 13 best things to do in Canterbury

From its historic cathedral to some seriously old pubs, here's how to craft the perfect day trip in Canterbury

Written by
Kate Lloyd
Danielle Jones
Joe Minihane

Though Margate and Whitstable often seem to get all the glory, you’d be a fool to sleep on Canterbury, a grown-up type of town with a hell of a lot going for it. Like its neighbours, it’s got a great pebbly beach, tons of trendy food spots and lots and lots of architecture to gaze at on your long afternoon walk. 

So as certified Canterbury lovers, we’ve rounded up the very best things to do on your day trip (a one-hour train from London, just saying), your weekend or your week-long hol. We’ve got family-friendly activities, cool wine bars, trendy coffee shops and more, but what makes it really special is Canterbury’s famous cathedral. Everything on our list is ranked to help you plan the ideal day out. Here are the best things to do in Canterbury. 

☀️ A perfect day in Canterbury
📍 The best things to do in Margate
📍 The best things to do in Whitstable
📍 The best things to do in Kent

Top things to do in Canterbury

1. Canterbury Cathedral

What is it? Unmissable and right at the heart of Canterbury city centre, this epic building is world renowned for a reason.

Why go? One of England’s oldest cathedrals is perhaps best known as the place where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by knights of King Henry II in 1170. It has survived fire, the Restoration and general modernity – and yet its gothic towers and beautiful stained-glass windows remain as impressive today as they were a thousand years ago.

2. The Refectory Kitchen

What is it? Canterbury's hottest brunch spot, with Instagram-worthy dishes and a great vibe.

Why go? Canterbury has a great food scene and if it's a brunch spot you're after, then look no further than The Refectory Kitchen. Fill up on its superb pancakes and try something different with its blood orange and coconut overnight oats. There's a big focus on local ingredients with the owners, brothers Dan and Graham, passionate about where the food they serve comes from.


3. Westgate Gardens

What is it? One of England's oldest parks, this is the place to bring a picnic on a summer afternoon.

Why go? Dotted around this lush and quintessentially English space are beautiful curiosities – the Victorian Tower House with all its grandeur and Roman past and the Physic Garden, filled with plants and flowers that once used for medicinal purposes medicine, as well as the meandering River Stour.

4. Garage Coffee at Fruitworks

What is it? A café serving up locally roasted artisan coffee.

Why go? Priding themselves on producing small batch roasts from their Canterbury base, Garage Coffee’s café is the place to get caffeinated if you're down for the day. Close to the river, grab a cup of their own-blend or a single origin before heading out for a stroll along the river. One for the coffee nerds.


5. Lady Luck Bar

What is it? The rock and roll heart of Canterbury.

Why go? If you love great tunes, retro arcade games and craft ale, then Lady Luck is the place to be. Stick a few coins in the jukebox and get settled in before checking out the best in new live music and or hitting the dancefloor at one of its legendary club nights. And if you’re not keen on having a big one, there are board games, a beer garden and a decent menu – complete with veggie and vegan options.

6. Sir John Boys House

What is it? This wonky house is home to an amazing bookshop.

Why go? The unusual slant of Sir John Boys House, known locally as the Crooked House, has turned it into prime Instagram fodder. But once you’ve reeled off a few pics, head inside and visit the excellent Catching Lives Bookshop. It raises money to help those living on the streets of Canterbury and Kent. If you’re slightly concerned about its curious angles, fear not, despite appearances the structure is supported and completely safe and sturdy.


7. The Parrot

What is it? The oldest pub in Canterbury

Why go? Dating back to the fourteenth century and said to be built on Roman foundations, The Parrot is the oldest pub in Canterbury. It’s also one of the best. While its beer garden comes into its own in summer, it’s best enjoyed as the nights draw in, with open fires crackling and the low medieval beams adding to the ambience.

8. Blean Woods Nature Reserve

What is it? Ancient woodland filled with rare species.

Why go? Blean Wood Nature Reserve is home to some of the oldest woodland in England, replete with rare birds and mammals. Just outside of the city, this oasis of calm can be explored via five dedicated miles of cycle walking trails. (You can even horse ride here!) If all that exercise gives you an appetite, then head to nearby pub The Hare at Blean, formerly The Blean Tavern. 


9. Tiny Tim’s Tearoom

What is it? The best place in Canterbury to get afternoon tea.

Why go? This family-owned tearoom has a beautiful Art Deco-style frontage, 1930s soundtrack and, arguably, one of the best afternoon teas on offer in the city. Starting from just £18.95 per head, you have a range to pick from including High Tea, Afternoon Tea or Gentleman’s Tea – which comes with Kent real ale. If you fancy a lighter bite, try a scone. The recipe’s one that’s been passed down through generations of the owner’s family.

10. Level Up Games

What is it? A retro gaming emporium.

Why go? Yearn for the days of breaking out your SNES for a spot of Mario Kart. Then Level Up Games is for you. This ace spot is the place to rummage through the shelves in search of Goldeneye for the N64 or that beloved copy of Sonic you got for Christmas many years ago. They also have pristine systems for sale, so you can play any of these wonderfully reminiscent titles.


11. The Spitfire Ground

What is it? The home of Kent County Cricket Club

Why go? The Spitfire Ground, also known by its original name of the St Lawrence Ground, is one of England’s most picturesque cricket grounds. Unlike the bigger, flashier stadiums used for test matches and one day internationals, it features quaint stands and a beautiful pavilion. While away an afternoon at a county game or head here on a summer’s evening for the more vibrant vibe of a T20 match. Sadly, the St Lawrence Lime, the tree which once stood in the corner of the playing area, succumbed to heartwood fungus before finally perishing in a lightning strike.

12. The Old Weavers’ House

What is it? A quaint restaurant overlooking the River Stour.

Why go? This old building is one of the most iconic in the city. It’s exposed wooden beams and history of housing Tudor-era religious refugees, make it a must-visit on a trip to Canterbury. The building now contains a restaurant, but to get a real sense of its heritage it’s worth jumping on one of the many punts that head up and down the River Stour. Keep your eyes peeled for the ducking stool, reportedly used to test – and punish - those accused of witchcraft many years ago.


13. The Goods Shed

What is it? A farmer’s market showcasing the best in local food

Why go? If you are interested in where your food comes from and can't get enough of super fresh and hand-reared ingredients, this place will be right up your street. Pick up the perfect items for a picnic or check out the sensational in house restaurant, which has an ever changing, seasonal menu.

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