The Ultimate Guide to Canterbury
The Ultimate Guide to Canterbury

The Ultimate Guide to Canterbury

The Canterbury Digest guide to this wonderful, historic Cathedral city. Find out what to do if you're a tourist, or discover new things as a local.

Introduction

Table of contents

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Having spent my years growing up in Canterbury, I often have people ask what they should do when they visit. In my spare time I've discovered even things I didn't know about the city for the 20 years I've lived here. This guide will be updated regularly to showcase the best places to eat, things to do, areas to visit, how to get around, notable local businesses and more.

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Want something added to the guide? Email me here and I'll update as necessary.

Location

Canterbury is a small city, easily walkable and packed with culture, history and a thriving community. It's located in North East Kent, just 8 miles from the seaside town of Whitstable. Most people make their way into town through the train stations, Canterbury East & West, both with direct links into London. The main part of the city is based within the walls, with a pedestrian section right through the middle. If you go further up the hill towards Blean, you'll find the University of Kent with fantastic views of the city.

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Getting Around

Moving around Canterbury is pretty easy, but if you don't have a car you're going to be relying on buses. That being said, the main part of the city is easily walkable, especially inside the city walls.

šŸšŒ Bus

Getting a bus from the bus station, located at the south east of the city (or top end of town), it probably your best bet from getting out of the main city up to the universities or surrounding towns. Buses aren't immensely cheap, with it costing about Ā£6 from Canterbury to Whitstable, but it's convenient.

šŸš† Train

Canterbury is served by two local train stations, Canterbury East and Canterbury West. Canterbury West has the high-speed service to get to St. Pancras in just 53 minutes through Ashford International, and Canterbury East will take you on a more leisurely route into London Victoria.

šŸš Park and Ride

To avoid parking in town, which can be expensive, you can also use the Park and Rides. There are 3 in Canterbury, one in Sturry, Wincheap and New Dover Road. They're dirt cheap (Ā£2 Ā£3.50), very regular (every 15 mins) and don't take too long to get into town (5 mins).

šŸ‘Ÿ Walking

As mentioned, Canterbury is very walkable, with the full high-street being less than a 15 minute walk from top to bottom. It's almost completely pedestrianised inside the walls so you'll have no trouble with cars. If you're planning to walk up to the the Uni's or the Crab and Winkle, you might want to get a pair of walking boots as that could take 30-40 minutes up a hill. I'd always opt for the bus.

šŸš˜ Driving

Driving is how most locals will get around. There is a ring road around the city and traffic isn't too bad (apart from our rush hour, around 3pm when the school kids are released). You can get the bus to pretty much anywhere but it will take you a fair bit longer and probably cost a little more too. It's also getting harder and harder to find parking in the city, with the council selling off a few of the central ones.

šŸš² Cycling

Although Canterbury is very cyclable in terms of size, the city isn't really made for it. There are no obvious bike lanes around the walls and the main high street is pedestrianised. However, if you want to go outside of Canterbury, you can go on the Crab and Winkle Way to get to Whitstable or the Great Stour Way to Chartham.

Education

The majority of Canterbury's economy is actually supported by three Universities, Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), University of Kent and University of Creative Arts (UCA). You'll see bits of the uni's dotted around the place, especially CCCU, where the main campus is located about a 5 minute walk from the city walls at Longport. You might notice the huge CCCU library standing proud opposite the city gates (and entrance to bus station). The University of Kent is propped up on the hill north of the city, with fantastic views over Canterbury Cathedral and the Marlowe Theatre.

There are also a bunch of schools in Canterbury, including 3 grammar schools and 3 private schools. Try to avoid town around 3pm when they all diverge onto the streets.

Westgate Towers by James McKinven (aka me)
Westgate Towers by James McKinven (aka me)
Universities
  • University of Kent
  • Canterbury Christ Church Uni (CCCU)
  • University Creative Arts (UCA)
Schools
  • Barton Court Grammar
  • Simon Langton Boys
  • Simon Langton Girls
  • The Kings School šŸ’ø
  • Kent College šŸ’ø
  • St. Edmunds šŸ’ø
  • Archbishops
  • St. Anselms
  • Canterbury College
  • Canterbury Academy

Nightlife / Pubs

Being a student town, Canterbury has a pretty good nightlife, with bars and clubs scattered around. On a Saturday night, around 11pm you might notice a bus turn up outside the Thomas Ingoldsby Wetherspoons (top spoons) to take the students to the local Club Chemistry for them to enjoy their evening.

There are a huge amount of pubs both in the city walls and out. I've listed a select few below worth checking out, but there is a more comprehensive list on the local business directory. A pub crawl around town is pretty fun!

Bars & Clubs
  • Club Chemistry
  • The Cuban
  • Ballroom
  • Brewery
  • Toyko Tearooms
  • Loft
  • Privy
  • The Pound
Pubs
  • The Penny
  • Cricketer
  • Seven Stars
  • Old City Bar
  • Black Griffin
  • Cross Keys
  • The Bell and Crown
  • The Dolphin
  • Thomas Becket
  • The Cherry Tree
  • Top Wetherspoons (Thomas Ingoldsby)
  • Bottom Wetherspoons (West Gate Inn)

Things to do

There is plenty to do in a city that has so much cultural significance. I'm surprised I have gotten this far without talking about the beautiful Canterbury Cathedral that towers over it's surroundings. Wikipedia explains it better than I can.

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Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. It forms part of a World Heritage Site. It is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, currently Justin Welby, leader of the Church of England and symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Canterbury Cathedral, by James McKinven (aka me)
Canterbury Cathedral, by James McKinven (aka me)

Once you've visited the Cathedral and you want to get your moneys worth from the Ā£50 train fare, here's a few more things you can do:

  1. Wander down through town, enjoying the cobbled streets and quirky shops to Westgate Towers and be impressed by one of the last standing city gates.
  2. You're probably tired by spending the morning at the Cathedral, so cross the road by the Westgate Towers and stop off at Cafe Des Amis for an exceptional mexican lunch.
  3. Your belly is full, so saunter over to Westgate Gardens and have a picturesque gander through the park or..
  4. If you're brave enough you can opt for the punting.
  5. Walk back up through town and take a look at the Marlowe Theatre, completely rebuilt in 2011.
  6. Then you've had a long hard day, stop for a pint at one of the many local pubs, maybe the Seven Stars.

Food

Eating in Canterbury is pretty easy. You've got all your usual establishments that you'd expect to find in a city, all within walking distance. So you can get your fix of McDonalds, Starbucks, Nando's, Five Guys or the like.

However, Canterbury has so many incredible local restaurants for you to try! I've left some options for you below to explore.

Restaurants
Coffee Shops

Cafe des Amis is a marvelous mexican
Cafe des Amis is a marvelous mexican

Green Space

There isn't a vast deal of green space in Canterbury, but after you've taken a walk through Westgate Gardens you could visit Dane John Gardens by the bus station and bordering the city wall.

You could take a break here for a picnic, walk along the wall next to it, or even scale the mound for a nice workout and some cool views of Canterbury.

There is also Greyfriars Gardens, sitting between Dane John and Westgate, which can often be a peaceful place to have a picnic.

If you're looking for a play park with kids, you could try Toddlers Cove, a little outside the city.

The mound...
The mound...

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From this point on, the guide is unfinished. I'll be adding links and more detail to the information above, but below needs a little work. Feel free to email me if you have any suggestions.

Shopping

  • Whitefriars

Arts / Entertainment

Theaters
  • Marlowe
  • Gulbenkian
Cinemas
  • Curzon
  • Odeon
Libraries
Museum

Sport

  • Cricket ground
  • Polo Farm
  • Canterbury Academy
  • Canterbury Squash Club
  • University of Kent