Canterbury is one of the most well-known cities in England, full of historic charm and culture. It is a hub for restaurant goers, pub crawlers, and independent shoppers. Canterbury is an ideal spot for a little weekend break, easily accessible from London and offers a more relaxed option to a city break.
How to get to Canterbury?
Canterbury is easily accessible by train from London, you can catch a train to either of the two stations in the city, Canterbury East, and Canterbury West. The quickest way, departing St Pancras International, will get you into Canterbury West in about fifty minutes on the highspeed train. Alternatively, trains run from Charing Cross station to Canterbury West, and from Victoria station to Canterbury East and West.
If the train isn’t your thing, head to Canterbury by coach using the National Express Service from Victoria Bus Station – look out for 007. Or drive down to Canterbury via the M2, there’s ample pay and display parking in the city or Park & Ride options on the outskirts.
Things to do in Canterbury
Canterbury is steeped in literature, history and architecture and the best things to do in Canterbury reflect this. Spend your weekend exploring cobbled streets with independent shops, medieval wonders that enrich the city, and picturesque gardens in full bloom.
Canterbury’s signature landmark is Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Founded in 597AD by missionary St Augustine, England’s largest cathedral is rich in history. Well known as the place Thomas Becket was murdered by the knights of King Henry II, the cathedral has survived fire, the Restoration, and the Second World War. With gothic towers and beautiful stained-glass windows, the Cathedral is Canterbury’s gem and remains as impressive today as it was a thousand years ago.
Take a riverside walk along the impressive Westgate Gardens, linking the urban and rural landscape with the river Stour’s rich heritage and wildlife. During the spring and summer months you’ll find the garden in full bloom, where you can sit back along the riverbank with a picnic or a good book. You can also take a punt along the river with Westgate Punts a perfect way to spend the afternoon as you watch the world go by. Choose among a variety of different trips of varying lengths to relax along the river.
Canterbury has plenty of retail options for you to choose from if you’re in need of some retail therapy. Explore the King’s Mile for a wide selection of independent and local businesses offering something for everyone, from book shops to specialty cheeses, pet supplies and artistic galleries. Canterbury has plenty of independent store and hidden gems to spend an afternoon exploring.
Seaside towns near Canterbury
It’s quite easy to spend the entire weekend in the city itself but there are plenty of picturesque seaside towns to visit nearby.
Twenty minutes away from Canterbury, Whitstable is a seaside town famous for its oyster heritage. This quaint small town is a walker’s delight, you can easily explore the entire town by foot. Take a stroll down to Whitstable’s famous working harbour where you can watch fisherman’s boats coming and going while checking out the fresh fish and seafood.
As you walk along the harbour you can find several black huts selling gifts and local artwork, on the weekend you can explore the Whitstable Harbour Market, with extended hours during the summer months. There’s even a pop-up bar at the market during the summer serving local tipples.
Check out The Sportsman, located by the seafront, serving tasty food in relaxed and informal surroundings. With a rich history surrounding the area with evidence of an inn dating back to 1642, The Sportsman serves local food and homegrown ingredients. Since 2008 The Sportsman has held a Michelin star and offers a five-course tasting menu which is comprised of small, seasonal dishes showcasing the local environment.
If you’re wanting a lighter bite head to Harbour Street Tapas, highlighting the finest ingredients with small plates inspired by culinary traditions of Spain’s many regions. Emphasising locally sourced produce, seasonality and quality, this slice of Spain is sat on a scenic corner of Whitstable’s Harbour Street.
Bask in the sun as you walk along the pebbled beaches and taste the salt in the air.
A forty-minute drive away or a short thirty-minute train journey from Canterbury, Margate is a timeless English seaside town combining old world charm with 21st Century culture. With its sandy beaches, a world-class art gallery, café culture and retro shops, uncover something different in this quaint town.
Explore the internationally acclaimed Turner Contemporary gallery named after JMW Turner, displaying contemporary arts. The gallery also collaborates with local artists to enhance your experience. A place to explore new artists, expand your creative potential and discover new ways of thinking.
While you’re enjoying your time by the sea, take the time to visit Haeckels House. Based where the business began, explore their original retail space, or book in for some relaxation and full treatments. Located on the clifftops of Margate, relax, recover, and return to the outside world in a peaceful and calm way. With a Japanese-inspired treatment room specialising in Thalassotherapy and treatments highlighting the benefits of the ocean, Haeckels House is the ideal place to relax and benefit the sea.
Since you’re by the sea, enjoy some delicious seafood in the Bouy & Oyster, a family run seafood restaurant overlooking the beach in Margate. Since 2019 they have achieved 2 AA Rosettes for their high-quality food and drink in the relaxed and stylish seaside setting. Using local and fresh ingredients in a seasonal changing menu, there is always something to discover.
If you’re wanting some Italian cuisine head to Bottega Caruso. Using artisanal produce from Sannio in Campania to create fresh pasta and other beautiful Italian foods. The small family business uses their family recipes with the best ingredients they can find in Campania and Kent. Enjoy this Italian flare in this cosy and heartfelt restaurant.
Where to stay in Canterbury?
Canterbury and the surrounding areas have plenty of accommodation options whether it’s a historic building with charming character or something more contemporary, there is always something to suit your needs.
If historic charm and city centre location is what you’re after, The Falstaff Hotel is a perfect choice. Dating back to 1403, this traditional 15th century coaching inn has been a focus for hospitality in Canterbury for over 600 years. A few steps from Canterbury’s medieval Westgate Towers, it is the ideal location if you want to explore Canterbury’s cobbled streets and Norman Cathedral.
Get a room with a view of Canterbury’s famous landmark, the Cathedral at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge. Situated in the inspirational grounds of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this hotel offers stylish contemporary rooms with unique views. The perfect getaway if you’re wanting a weekend trip enriched with Canterbury’s history.
Get out of the city to the tucked away historic village of Bridge, just three miles south of Canterbury, The Pig Hotel offers the perfect refuge away from the city. With far reaching views of the Kentish countryside and rooms finished with their signature style. Offering local and home-grown food in their kitchen garden and relaxing treatments in their Potting Sheds to unwind after a day exploring.
Photograph from The Pig Hotel by Jake Eastham
Where to eat breakfast in Canterbury?
Canterbury has plenty of tucked away cafes serving local produce and great coffee, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat before exploring the city.
The Refectory Kitchen offers a unique take on iconic breakfast favourites. This popular spot just outside the city walls has been cooking up breakfasts and lunch dishes for 8 years. With homemade waffles and perfectly poached eggs, you’ll find something to tingle your tastebuds in this quirky café.
If you’re looking for a hearty local breakfast head down to The Goods Shed food market near Canterbury West train station. Explore the market for a quick bite and browse the best of British produce and culinary delicacies. Visit the Wild Goose located inside The Goods Shed for local and seasonal dishes using the best quality produce. We would recommend the eggs benedict with homemade hollandaise while you sip a milky latte and watch the market come to life.
Fringe and Ginge Coffee House is a friendly café located just along the King’s Mile behind the Cathedral. A relaxed café serving great coffee, fresh pastries, and hot sandwiches. Hailed by many locals as the best place to get your caffeine fix, but if coffee isn’t your thing, we would highly recommend the hot chocolate for some serious chocolatey goodness!
Where to have dinner in Canterbury?
Canterbury and the surrounding areas have plenty of culinary delights to tingle your tastebuds. Whether you choose to dine in the city and uncover its hidden gems or venture a little further out to try the best in local food that Kent has to offer.
Il Posticino is Canterbury’s best hidden Italian restaurant, tucked away behind the Odeon cinema you’ll find this little slice of Italy. Serving up traditional Italian cuisine in a cosy and rustic atmosphere using the best quality ingredients locally sourced where possible or imported directly from Italy for that authentic taste. You won’t find any pizzas here, instead inspired authentic Italian dishes using a seasonal and ever-changing menu. The all-Italian drinks selection includes interesting beers and cocktails as well as an extensive wine list where the Barolo or the Primitivo are our firm favourites. Spend an evening here sipping the fine Italian wine after a full day exploring the city.
Take a seat in Canterbury’s favourite Mexican restaurant Café des Amis, with an extensive menu offering a selection of Mexican delicacies. Set with quirky décor and colourful artwork, this is a unique and relaxed place for a spot of dinner. We would recommend the fajitas which come out sizzling and served alongside warm tortillas and a selection of toppings. Check out their frozen cocktail menu if you’re wanting a boozy start to your evening.
Set in Fordwich, Britain’s smallest town, the Fordwich Arms offers refined British cuisine inside tastefully decorated rooms, combining tradition with light modern touches. Chef-patron Daniel Smith was voted The Observer’s Young Chef of the Year 2016 and has been using his skills with local Kentish ingredients to create culinary delights. If visiting in the summer, make sure to take advantage of the riverside location with beautiful dining terrace and garden with views of the river Stour. Awarded a Michelin Star in its first year, it is well worth a visit to sample the extensive seasonal menu highlighting the best of Kentish produce.
Set in the charming village of Wickhambreaux overlooking the quiet village green, The Rose Inn champions local ingredients and seasonal dishes. Billy Stock, the Chef and Publican, has been refining his skills since the age of sixteen, learning in some of London’s top restaurants: St John, The Marksman, and Rochelle Canteen at the ICA. Handed the keys in 2021 to The Rose Inn, Billy creates seasonal dishes using locally sourced produce. Even at the bar you’ll find a collection from Kent’s finest breweries and winemakers.