10 reasons you should visit Canterbury

View of typical houses and buildings in Canterbury, England. Flowers and trees along the canal in su

Flowers in full bloom along the Great Stour in Canterbury - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

One of Kent’s top tourist attractions, with an iconic World Heritage Site, exciting cultural scene and great shopping and dining, there’s little to rival the ever-popular Canterbury

1. Ancient Architecture

Canterbury is one of the most beautiful historic cities in the country and, as home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracts history lovers from all over the world. It’s something that you probably take for granted if you live or work there, but a relaxed stroll through the streets reveals all sorts of historical buildings of note.

Westgate Towers, for example, is one of the main gates to the ancient walled city and, at nearly 640 years old, is England’s largest medieval gateway. In the heart of the city is Eastbridge Hospital, a former pilgrims’ hostel with incredible architecture dating from 1190. Going back even further still, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey - now managed by English Heritage - in part date back to 613 AD.

Canterbury westgate towers, Great Britain

Canterbury westgate towers, Great Britain - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

2. Stunning cathedral

The most impressive of all Canterbury’s treasures is Canterbury Cathedral. With parts dating from the 11th century, it has long stood watch over the city and has been visited by millions, from mediaeval pilgrims to modern-day tourists. At some 236 feet tall at the highest point, and with stunning architecture ranging from Norman to Romanesque and Gothic, it is an awe-inspiring building and is still Canterbury’s number one visitor attraction. It is well worth the entry fee for a walk around what Anglicans refer to as their ‘mother church', but as a working church still, there are frequent closures, so be sure to check before you set off. Visit www.canterbury-cathedral.org

Canterbury Cathedral dates back in parts to the 11th century

Canterbury Cathedral dates back in parts to the 11th century - Credit: Manu Palomeque

3. Shop until you drop

A visit to Canterbury may feel like stepping into the past, but if shopping is your priority, this city offers a thoroughly modern shopping experience too. Whitefriars is an open-air shopping centre with everything from Zara and Next to Primark and M&S.

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A flagship Fenwicks store is the heart of the centre and with the town’s busy bus stop just behind it, it makes nipping into the shops a lot easier. But the city also boasts numerous independent shops and businesses - the majority of which can be found in the King’s Mile area.

The King's Mile boasts tempting independents like master jeweller Ortwin Thyssen

The King's Mile boasts tempting independents like master jeweller Ortwin Thyssen - Credit: Manu Palomeque

4. Celebrate the arts

As you would expect in such a cultural city, the arts feature heavily among Canterbury’s attractions. The Marlowe Theatre was rebuilt in 2011 and now boasts an eye-catching contemporary design in the city centre. Named after the area’s most important playwright, Christopher Marlowe, it seats 1,200 and plays host to all sorts of exciting shows, plays and concerts. Visit www.marlowetheatre.com and www.thegulbenkian.co.uk for all the latest programming.

The Marlowe Theatre

The Marlowe Theatre - Credit: Manu Palomeque

5. Foodies Paradise

To dine in Canterbury is a gastronomic experience of epic proportions, with every kind of chain restaurant and independent eatery you could imagine. Some places to try include Il Posticino for a little slice of Italy in Canterbury, Notorious B.R.G for what is heralded as 'the best burger in Kent', or perhaps you want to indulge in everyone's favourite afternoon pastime at Tiny Tim’s Tearoom.

Prepare to be amazed by The Ambrette, a restaurant that will take your tastebuds on a journey through contemporary Asian cuisine and Café des Amis for some delicious Mexican dishes. For cocktails in a unique setting, try The Pound Bar & Kitchen, one of the city's most loved bars, and one could never pass up the opportunity to grab a pint and a bite to eat at The Shakespeare.

6. Step back in time

In a city so steeped in history, it’s no surprise that Canterbury boasts some wonderful museums. The Canterbury Roman Museum explores the influence the Romans had over the city and is built around the remains of a Roman townhouse.

Meanwhile, the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge features state-of-the-art galleries, a library and excellent learning facilities. The museum itself is housed in a gorgeous Tudor Revival building that could quite easily become part of the attraction of visiting if you're something of an architecture buff. Visit www.canterbury.co.uk/museums

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury, Kent

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury - Credit: Helmut Zozmann / Geograph (CC BY-SA 2.0)

7. Tempting tours

A popular tourist city, there are several tours on offer to its many visitors. A couple of our favourites include the award-winning Canterbury Historic River Tours, which operate in the warmer months and offer rowing boat trips up and down the city’s narrow River Stour, and Canterbury Ghost Tour. A quirky yet informative way to see the ancient city at night, the ghost tour is a popular 75-minute guided tour of the city at night, with a few chilling tales thrown in along the way. Visit www.canterburyrivertours.co.uk and www.canterburyghosttour.com

8. Peaceful green spaces

At one end of the city is Dane John Gardens, once part of a former Roman cemetery. The raised mound that dominates the gardens is thought to be a remaining burial mound from the 1st or 2nd century. To the other end of Canterbury are the much loved Westgate Parks - made up of Westgate Gardens, the Toddlers Cover play area, the riverside meadows of Tannery Field and the wooded Bingley Island. A great place to let your little adventurers explore, these parks are always very popular with families.

Dane John Gardens were once part of a former Roman cemetery

Dane John Gardens were once part of a former Roman cemetery - Credit: Manu Palomeque

9. Wild animals

There can only be a handful of people in Kent who haven’t visited the famous Howletts Wild Animal Park at least once. Along with its sister park Port Lympne, Howletts is one of Kent’s most popular attractions. With a strong focus on conservation these days, it has shrugged off the term ‘zoo’ and is a successful breeding sanctuary for some of the world’s most rare and endangered animals. Its less well-known but equally wonderful neighbour is Wingham Wildlife Park. A smaller operation specialising in exotic birds and small animals, there are a few larger surprises too for animal lovers great and small. Visit www.aspinallfoundation.org and www.winghamwildlifepark.co.uk

A Tiger at Howletts Wild Animal Park Canterbury, Kent

A Tiger at Howletts Wild Animal Park - Credit: Anup Shah / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

10. A treat for tots

If it’s more animal magic you’re looking for, then try Druidstone Park in Blean. The 12-acre site features woodland walks, adventure play areas and a whole host of friendly farmyard animals which are bound to delight young children. A relaxing day out which won’t break the bank, it’s a little hidden gem of a place that is often overshadowed by some of Canterbury’s more impressive attractions. Visit www.druidstone.net

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