The 14 Best Things to Do in Canterbury

Canterbury is a cathedral city located in the government district of Kent, England. It is less than an hour away from London and lies on the River Stour. 

The location of this beautiful district makes it an ideal stop for vacationers traveling to South East England, whether staying for a few days or just passing through. It’s also integral to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which told the stories of pilgrims traveling from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Archbishop Thomas Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral.

With Canterbury’s historical buildings, alluring scenery, and loads of activities, it’s no wonder this UNESCO World Heritage Site sees so many visitors each year.

1. Visitor Information Centres

  • Address: 18 High Street, Canterbury CT1 2RA, United Kingdom
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Closed Monday

Before going out and exploring all this historical city has to offer, stop into one of Canterbury’s visitor centres to get a little information and even a few suggestions.

Each visitor’s centre offers a slew of guides, brochures, and boatloads of information on everything there is to know about the area and how to get around there quickly.

Here you can obtain tickets to the most popular attractions, receive maps and guides, and even book a tour guide instead of going it alone.

The friendly and knowledgeable staff are ready and eager to help you get on your way and get as much out of your stay as possible.

While a visitor information centre may not seem like an important place when exploring the country, it is the central hub to help you start your trip off right.

2. Canterbury Cathedral

Grand Goth Style Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
  • Price: Adult: £14 (inclusive of VAT), children 17 and under are free with accompanying adult
  • Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, 11:30 am to 5 pm
  • Tickets: Purchase tickets HERE or pay once you arrive

At Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury CT1 2EH, United Kingdom, you will find one of the oldest structures in England. This famous cathedral is part of the World Heritage Site and the cathedral of the archbishop of Canterbury. 

Canterbury Cathedral opened its doors in 597 AD and was constructed from Gothic, Romanesque, and English Gothic architecture.

During your tour, you will start at the Nave, sitting at the entrance of the building at the southwest door. In this room, you will see an 850-year-old window image of Adam digging in the garden of Eden.

Follow your guide through the crypt; take some time to appreciate the stone walls constructed a millennium ago. After a few more rooms and a lot more history, take the stairs up to the Quire and Trinity Chapel. Imagine the services that took place, the choirs that sang, and the people who once walked these spaces.

When entering the Quire, look up as you pass the archway; you don’t want to miss seeing the Bell Harry Tower, the tallest part of the Cathedral.

3. Enjoy the Scenery of Franciscan Gardens and the Greyfriars Chapel

  • Price: £6 per adult. Children 5-17 free (up to four children per family). Children under 5 do not need a ticket. Family packages available.
  • Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 4:30 pm 
  • Tickets: Purchase tickets HERE

Take a day trip through the same gardens as the first Franciscan friars of England hundreds of years ago.

As the seasons change, so do the plants that make up this serine space, with its beauty only amplified by the babbling water of the Great Stour River. 

This space was gifted to the Franciscans, starting small and growing to around 200 acres within two centuries. The friary was given to these people because they played a significant role in the community, helping the sick and needy.

Today you can walk about an acre and a half of the original garden space and enjoy the breathtaking gardens with fresh fruit trees, covered walkways, and a wildflower meadow. Then make a quick stop at Greyfriars Chapel and take a quick look around. 

Coast Guard Cottages at the Seven Sisters Chalk Cliffs

4. Don’t Miss Viewing the White Cliffs of Dover

Hours and Price: Varies by tour company

Tickets: N/A

The White Cliffs of Dover are a must-see when visiting Canterbury. These world-famous cliffs offer a spectacular coastal view and remind many of their role in guarding the city against its enemies. 

You can visit the location on your own or choose one of the popular tours that show you around the site and educate you on why these chalky white and awe-inspiring cliffs mean so much to so many.

You don’t have to stay on land to see this natural site. Many companies offer guided boat tours. Sail across the sea for a close-up view of the cliffs. 

5. Bike Ride Around the Canterbury City Wall

There are plenty of places to take a bike ride when visiting Canterbury. You can bring your bike or rent one while there, then travel around the portions of the city, following along some of the oldest, best-preserved defensive walls in England.

The Romans first built the Canterbury city wall between 270 and 280 AD. The structure used stone with gates linking pathways that traveled throughout the city. They were reused during medieval times, with portions being rebuilt around 1153 and in the late fifteenth century.

6. Check Out the Dane John Gardens and Park

The Dane John Gardens originated as Roman burial grounds and cemeteries between the first and fourth century AD. While you can still visit these sites today, the area was turned into a motte-and-bailey in the 11th century, then a park in the late 1700s to early 1800s. 

You will still find medieval-influenced architecture and a sundial and monument on top of the mound, which are both listed as Grade II on the National Heritage List for England.

Depending on the day, you can find bands playing in the gardens, a sculptural fountain, and long rows of lime trees perfect for a summertime stroll.

7. Beaney House of Art and Knowledge

  • Price: Free (fee may be required for some exhibits)
  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm
  • Tickets: N/A (click HERE for more information)

This is a great activity to add to your itinerary, especially for those with younger children. The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge is dedicated to teaching culture and history in fun, interactive, and creative ways. 

You can play historical games at Explorer Point to learn about people and places, with an interactive dress-up activity and its Kaleidoscope exploration point.

If you’re feeling a little creative, head over to their art section, where you can create a work of art on a free-standing easel and canvas. There is a kid’s corner where your child can let their imagination run wild, or spend time together in the family area full of fantastic crafts and activities.

College Chapel at St Augustine's Abbey

8. Enjoy Some Time Visiting St Augustine’s Abbey

  • Hours: 10am to 5pm
  • Price: £9 per adult, £5.40 per child, or save with family packages 
  • Tickets: Purchase tickets HERE

Founded in 598, St Augustine’s Abbey functioned as a benedictine monastery until its disbanding in 1538. While the original building was dismantled in 1848, parts of the monastery are still used for historical education and are part of the Canterbury World Heritage Site.

You can visit throughout the spring and summer for guided tours and enchanting views of the old monastery walls and surrounding gardens or go on haunted ghost tours during the fall. There is always something exciting happening at St Augustine’s Abbey.

9. Browse the Beautiful Art Displayed at Stark Gallery

  • Price: Free
  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
  • Tickets: N/A

Stark Gallery is a local, private Canterbury art gallery that houses all types of mediums from the temporary world. Here you will find exhibitions of all sorts, revolving every now and then. 

Whether you are into prints, painting, or photographs, you will find unique options daily at this facility, with themes across the board.

Not only can you view the beautiful artwork, but there are also many pieces to purchase, from paintings to jewelry and so much more.

10. Spend the Day with Animals at Howletts Wild Animal Park

  • Cost: Adults £22.27, children (3-15) £18.18
  • Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
  • Tickets: Purchase tickets HERE

Howletts Wild Animal Park is dedicated to protecting, saving, and introducing wild animals back into their natural habitat. At Howletts Wild Animal Park, you can get up close and personal with many of the UK’s beautiful creatures.

Howletts houses more than 390 animals, such as gorillas, African elephants, and even giant anteaters. Many rare and endangered animals also consider this conservation their home. 

This experience isn’t only about viewing the animals on the property but also learning about them and understanding the importance of conservation and reintroducing.

11. Grab Some Grub at The Goods Shed Farmers Market

Take a few moments to swing by a local farmers market that started as a small shop and became a big success in just over 20 years.

The Goods Shed Farmers Market provides customers with fresh produce delivered from the farms to the store by 8 am each morning. Once you grab your fruit and veggies, head to the butcher, fishmongers, and cheese makers. 

If you are a little hungry after shopping, take a seat at The Goods Shed restaurant, where you can select from various decadent food options and fine wines.

12. Take in the View at Westgate Tower Museum & Viewpoint

  • Hours: 12 pm to 3:45 pm
  • Cost: Adults £4, Child (5-17) £2, Under 4 Free, Family Ticket £10, Student/Concession £3
  • Tickets: Tickets are available on site

Canterbury is home to the largest and one of the most spectacular medieval gateways in England. Built during the Hundred Years’ War, this beautiful building was constructed to protect the city from intruders, once flanked by tall stone walls and a dramatic drawbridge that lowered over the River Stour.

Once the military threat was no longer a concern, the Westgate Towers became a museum. It opened again during World War I and World War II as a critical player in the city’s air defense. 

After that, the towers returned to being an educational centre to teach guests about history, with four specific exhibits: City Wars, Westgate Through History, Magna Carta & The Maquettes, and Crime & Punishment.

Tour the museum, then look at this breathtaking city from the Battlements Viewpoint. Be sure to take advantage of the photo op and get a few great photos while there.

13. Check Out Canterbury’s Nightlife

Canterbury is known for having pretty incredible nightlife. As one of the United Kingdom’s most popular cities, Canterbury keeps tourists entertained day and night with some of the best nightclubs in England. 

If you prefer the dance scene, loud music, and DJs, the Tokyo Tea Rooms and Club Chemistry are where it is at. If you like a quieter atmosphere and want to enjoy a few drinks with some good friends, you might want to try The Lady Luck or The Shakespeare Wine & Coffee House.

There is even a local joint called Houdini’s Magic Bar, where you can mix drinks, music, and magic all into one place. 

14. Go Shopping at Canterbury’s Popular Shopping Centre

Do you enjoy shopping, even on vacation? Canterbury is home to plenty of shopping centres, offering all their visitors somewhere to go for a little retail therapy.

Whitefriars Shopping Centre is a large, modern mall on 14 Gravel Walk. Stroll down the paths from store to store with a few restaurants in between. 

If you are looking for somewhere to pick up a few unique gifts or souvenirs, you won’t be disappointed with Walrus & Oyster Emporium’s handmade and unique items. 

This city also offers cheese shops, bakeries, jewelry stores, art galleries, and much more. 

Final Thoughts

With this city being one of the most famous places to visit in England, there isn’t a shortage of things to do in Canterbury, including many places to explore and Canterbury tales of your own to tell. Take a little time to see some of the sites listed above to ensure you get the most out of your upcoming trip to this UNESCO World Heritage site.

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