What to Do on A Perfect Day Trip to Canterbury

Taking a day trip to Canterbury from London is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the capital, and to discover a historical town in the countryside. And not just any historical town, but the one with the oldest churches and buildings in the country. In Canterbury, the centuries blend into each other harmoniously through the century old churches, the Tudor timber framed architecture, the medieval old centre and the ruins of the old Roman walls. 

Even though it is quite small, there are plenty of things to do on a day trip to Canterbury. The old town centre is quite compact, with all the touristic attractions being within walking distance of each other.

I decided to visit Canterbury just before the August bank holiday. I combined the trip with a visit to Botany Bay and Whitstable, making Canterbury my base for the night.

How to get to Canterbury from London

Getting from Canterbury to London is extremely easy by public transport. There are several trains departing London St Pancras International towards Canterbury every hour. The direct train takes 54 minutes, and the prices start at £11.30 each way, booked in advance.

By car from London, you can reach Canterbury in just over one and a half  hours.

If you prefer to travel by private transport and have a guide for your day trip to Canterbury, check out the day tours below:

Where to Park in Canterbury

A photo of a multi-storey car park. There are only a few cars parked inside. The ceiling is quite low and on the ground, on the left hand side, there is a red path marking the pedestrian path.

I parked at the multi-storey car park, just next to the train station. It was only a 2 minute walk into town, and reasonably priced at £3.30/day.  This was a temporary price cap due to the pandemic, the price is currently £7.70/day. The car park recognises your number plate at the entrance, so you don’t have to take a ticket as it calculates the fee automatically when you leave. Click here for directions to this car park.

Where to Stay in Canterbury

A photo of a Travelodge room, towards the bed. The bed is made and at the end there is a small blue cover over the sheets.

There are plenty of hotels to stay in Canterbury. I stayed at the Travelodge, which was an affordable option for the middle of summer because it offered free parking. However, if you would like a more traditional/historical experience, check out the suggestions below:

Budget: The Hugo is a concept hotel that offers compact but modern rooms in the centre of Canterbury. A room here starts at £59 and doesn’t include breakfast. You can read reviews about this hotel on Tripadvisor or click here to check the latest rates on Booking.com.

Mid-range: The Canterbury Cathedral Lodge is located on the Cathedral’s grounds and offers beautiful views of them from most rooms. The price per night starts at £100 and includes breakfast. You can read reviews about this hotel on Tripadvisor or click here to check the latest rates on Booking.com.

Luxury: The Corner House is a lovely rustic hotel with large rooms featuring wooden beams, exposed walls and free standing baths. A deluxe room here starts at £150 a night and includes breakfast. You can read reviews about this hotel on Tripadvisor or click here to check the latest rates on Booking.com.

Things to See in Canterbury in a Day

Visit the Canterbury Cathedral

A wide angle photo of the interior of the Cathedral, that includes the columns and the arches on the ceiling. In front there is a red carpet leading towards the altar. The stones the cathedral is built from have a sandy colour.

The Canterbury Cathedral is without a doubt the number one must see in Canterbury. I highly recommend you book your tickets in advance, as at the moment, due to social distancing, there are limited tickets released at the gate. I was travelling alone on a weekday, so I was lucky to be able to buy a ticket on the spot. However, I did notice that larger groups of 3-4 were turned away and asked to buy a ticket for a later time. You can also book a private tour of the Cathedral, which is well worth it as there is so much to see and learn about inside. You can check this tour for more details.

Canterbury Cathedral is massive, and it will take a good few hours to explore, so plan accordingly. I went first thing in the morning, which was great as it was still quite empty. Make sure you check the opening hours before you plan your trip, as sometimes the Cathedral can be closed for private events. You can check the closures by clicking here.

A lateral view of the interior of the cathedral, showcasing a very large stained window enclosed by a black Gothic window frame.

An adult ticket to visit the Cathedral costs £14 and includes access to the nave, the cloister, the crypt, the quire, the Trinity Chapel and of course, the grounds. Visiting the Cathedral on the inside is a must on your day trip to Canterbury.

Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion. It was built in 597 over old Roman ruins and reconstructed in 1070 after it was set on fire during the Norman Conquest. Since the Middle Ages, when archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered here on Henry II’s orders, the Cathedral has been an important place of pilgrimage, not just in England but also in Europe.

An imagine of the crypt of the cathedral, with low ceiling, all built in a gothic style. On the ceiling there are metal chandeliers with electric candles. In front of the photo there are two rows of basic, brown chairs.

The architecture of the Cathedral is spectacular, with so many different combined styles. The stained windows are breath-taking, some of the largest I have ever seen. They are perfectly embedded into the Gothic window frames, reaching high towards the ceiling arches. The statues, sculptures and paintings are so beautiful, everywhere you look there is something amazing to see. 

A view of the outside of the cathedral, from the interior yard.

Some parts of the Cathedral were under renovation during my trip to Canterbury, but even so, the visit was spectacular. 

Don’t miss the 12th century ruins of the Norman Infirmary chapel, part of the monastery that later became Canterbury Cathedral. They are located in the North of the Cathedral, just before the walled gardens.

See the Ruins of St Augustine Abbey

A close-up of the ruins of St Augustine Abby. The bottom part of the ruins is sandy yellow, whilst the top a ruby red colour.

Located just outside the historical walls of Canterbury, the St Augustine Abbey was a burial place of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. The Abbey was founded in 596AD by St Augustine, who was sent from Rome to bring Christianity to the South of England. The abbey was left in disrepair after Henry VIII’s dissolution of monasteries in 1936, during his bid to destroy the monastic system in England after his divorce from Catherine of Aragon was refused by the Pope.

The site has two parts: the ruins, and the museum which holds the archaeological finds which were unearthed during the excavation works.

A ticket to see St Augustine Abbey costs £7.90. It is best to book online, as the daily slots are limited. Currently the Abbey is only open during the weekends.

Take a Tour Around Canterbury

The best way to learn about the long and complex history of Canterbury is to take a tour. There are two specific tours that I highly recommend, especially when you only have a day in Canterbury and want to learn more about the places you are about to visit later.

The Historic Tour of Canterbury

A photo of the cathedral tower seen from one of the lanes nearby. The lane is filled with different shops and cafes

The historical tour of Canterbury takes place every day at 11am and it’s a great introduction to Canterbury. The 90 minute guided tour goes through the medieval lanes of the city, its famous historical figures and famous people, bringing the history to life.

In order to take part in this tour you must book it in advance. Here is the link for the booking page.

The Historic River Tour

A photo of the small River Stour with a brown punt on it. There are five people sitting down in the boat, and a man wearing a brown vest standing up, pushing the stick in the water to move it. The river is very shallow, flanked by one side of red brick houses and on the other by green vegetation.

Cambridge must be the first city that comes to mind when you hear about punting. However, you can take a punt historic tour in Canterbury as well. The tour lasts 40 minutes and goes up and down river Stour. The guides are very knowledgeable and fun too, making the trip a relaxing dip into the history of the city. I would say it’s a must to do on a day trip to Canterbury.

At the moment, because of the pandemic, they only run private tours, which means that if you are travelling on your own, the only way to experience this tour is by booking a boat for yourself, which costs £50. You can check their website for more updates regarding their schedule, and to book a boat. Alternatively, you can go for a punting experience, which costs £15/person in a shared boat.

Check Out the Westgate Gardens

A view of the park, with the river passing through the middle of the photo. There are paths on each side of the river, with a few people walking along it.

Westgate Gardens are a lovely place to rest, have lunch on to go, or just to enjoy a little bit of nature in the city centre. The entrance to the Gardens is just off Westgate Tower, with the River Stour passing through the centre of the greenery.

Glance at the Westgate Tower

A photo of the Westgate Tower. A car is passing through underneath the tower.

After I parked my car, Westgate Tower was the first thing I saw, spectacularly standing in the middle of the road leading to the centre of Canterbury.

The tower was part of a defence system which had 7 gates, built in 1380 during the One Hundred Years War, to protect the city from invaders. It stands at 18 meters high, and it is England’s last surviving medieval gateway. In its glory days, the tower was flanked by high walls and it had a drawbridge across the River Stour.

Today the tower is home to a small museum as well as an epic escape room. If you want to play, note that you must book this experience online, ahead of time.

Have Lunch in the Street Food Market

A small street with food stalls on the right hand side. There is a Caribbean food tent, next to a red pizza stall which sells pizza, next to a black tent that sells Spanish churros. There are a few people around, walking of checking out the food.

I was lucky to be in town during the street food market and enjoyed a nice lunch from one of the stalls. Located on Orange Street, the City Feast Street Food pop-up market offers plenty of choices, from Pad Thai to Greek Gyros, from wood-fired pizza to Filipino chicken, from Caribbean wraps to churros.

Go for a Beer Tasting

A photo of the outside of the Foundry Brew Pub

Because, why not? The Canterbury Foundry Brew Pub is a craft brewery and distillery producing 16 different ales, lagers and ciders, and 9 spirits. The brewery is located in a beautiful Victorian Industrial factory, which makes having lunch/dinner here an experience in itself. 

Visit the Roman Museum

The outside of the Roman museum. The facade has two white round columns, and two orange flags with a Roman helmet and the name of the museum on them.

The Roman Museum on Butchery Lane, hosts a fantastic collection that tells the story of Durovernum Cantiacorum, the settlement established by Romans back in the 1st century. The museum was built around the ruins of an original Roman town house, and has the only remaining Roman pavement mosaics left, from when it was first discovered.

The ticket to the Roman Museum costs £9.30 and can be pre-booked in advance on the museum’s website.

Stroll Around the Historic Centre

A view of a small street in Canterbury. At the ground floor there is a green shop selling jewellery. Above it, there is a sign for the Sun Hotel, written with a medieval font.

Canterbury is such a beautiful city, with plenty of things to discover around every corner. The small lanes leading to the Cathedral offer postcard worthy angles for photographers. The High Street is not only home to some gorgeous timber framed Tudor style buildings, but also to gorgeous establishments, such as the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, the Canterbury Pilgrims Hospital of Saint Thomas and the Queen Elizabeth Guest Camber.

When in the High Street, don’t miss the statue of Geoffrey Chaucer, dressed as a Canterbury pilgrim.  He wrote Canterbury Tales, a collection of 24 stories, considered one of the most important works of medieval literature. If you want a challenge, try reading the Canterbury Tales before you visit Canterbury. I must say though, it’s not an easy read.

The statue of Geoffrey Chaucer holding a paper with writing on it

Also, whilst officially Canterbury has one Crooked House, similar to the one in Windsor, if you look closely you will also find others, The Moat Tea Rooms being one. 

Don’t miss Love Lane, just outside the historic walls of the old town. The pastel-coloured cottages here lead to a beautiful street art mural. 

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22 thoughts on “What to Do on A Perfect Day Trip to Canterbury

  1. Linzey says:

    What a beautiful little town! The river tour and street market look amazing. And that cathedral? So stunning! This is a great list; thanks for taking the time to put this together. I’ll keep this handy for when we fly to London!

  2. LindaJane says:

    I lived in England for a few years but never went to Canterbury. I really wish I had! The cathedral looks amazing! Thanks so much for sharing!

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