Fun things to do in Canterbury

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    Cathedral from the cloisters
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    Cathedral west and south
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Canterbury

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    Steady the Buffs.

    by planxty Updated Aug 24, 2013

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    you may have heard the expression "Steady the Buffs", but do you know who or what the Buffs are? This is the place to find out.

    The Buffs was a nickname given to the East Kent Regiment of the British Army, formerly the 3rd of Foot (indicating considerable seniority in the Army), the term Buffs deriving from the buff coloured facings on their uniforms. They were originally raised in 1572.

    The Buffs served continuously for almost 400 years, distinguishing themselves in many corners of the world.

    Like many another county or local regiment, it has long since been subsumed in a series of amalgamations and is now, I believe, part of the Queens Regiment. The website provided is a good resource of the history of the Regiment.

    The museum itself is housed in one large room, behind the rather grand facade pictured, and has a good collection of medals (including the Victoria Cross, the highest bravery award in Britain) from many different campaigns. In addition, there are some interesting photographs, old uniforms, mess silver and many other reminders of yet another "lost" regiment. On a quiet afternoon, you can almost hear the tramp of the boots and the bellowing of the sergeant!

    Admission is free, open 1000 - 1700 Monday to Saturday. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access.

    Update August 2013.

    It is amazing how difficult it is to keep VT tips current and this tip is one such case. I should point out that the original tip above was written in 2005 and much has now changed. I provide this addendum in order that people will not be using out of date information but I am leaving the original tip as a reminder of a great visit.

    The Royal Museum (see seperate tip on this page) has had a serious makeover and is now called the Beaney Institute, whatever that might be. As part of this "improvement", the Buffs Museum has effectively left it's home in Canterbury and been moved lock, stock, barrel, medals, silverware and centuries of history to the National Army Museum in London. Don't get me wrong, I love the National Army Museum but I do find it sad that, in addition to the named Regiments all being subsumed into some new super-regiment with no local affiliations, the Regimental Museum has also been transplanted so far away from it's natural home. A sign of the times I suppose.

    There was talk of a representative selection of exhibits being returned to a much smaller space in this location in late 2012 but I can find no confirmation of this. I will contact the N.A.Museum and update this tip again in due course. The attached website explains the situation.

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    Tell me a tale of long ago.

    by planxty Updated Aug 23, 2013

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    This tip refers to the Canterbury Tales experience, one of the multi-media attractions that seem to be becoming more popular in tourist destinations. Basically, it is a self-guided tour, accompanied by a pre-recorded commentary. It is intended to portray a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury from London as told by the characters form the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer and is a series of automated tableaux. The smells are particularly authentic!

    Allow about 40 minutes for the tour. Admission is £6:95 for adults. Fully wheelchair accessible.

    Update August 2013.

    I am currently in the process of attempting to update my tips here on Virtual Tourist and came upon this one with what was a "dead" website link, incorrect 'phone number etc., all which I have now amended. This tip was originally written in 2005 and stands as such. I would strongly urge the reader to find more recent information here on Virtual Tourist but I leave this (amended) tip here as a memory of a trip I made and hopefully as an overview for the potential visitor.

    Current information as follows (taken from website).

    Admission prices.

    Adult £8.50
    Child (5-15 Years) £6.25
    Senior Citizen £7.50
    Student (with proof of identity) £7.50
    Family (2 adults & 2 children) £25

    Opening times.

    January-February 10.00am - 4.30pm
    March-June 10.00am - 5.00pm
    July-August 9.30am - 5.00pm
    September-October 10.00am - 5.00pm
    November-December 10.00am - 4.30pm

    Accessibility (again from the website)..

    "We extend a warm welcome to all our visitors. However, the historic layout and design of the site means access may be difficult for some visitors. The attraction has ramps, lifts, a hearing loop and wheelchair accessible toilet facilities.

    Please note, due to current fire health & safety legislation, we are only able to accommodate one wheelchair user at a time within the attraction."

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    Museum of Canterbury, featuring Rupert the Bear!

    by planxty Updated Aug 23, 2013

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    Even if there was not a single exhibit in this building, it would be worth a visit. The building, as I hope you can see from the photographs, is quite magnificent. It used to be the Poor Priests hospital in days past, although it served a number of other functions over the years.

    As it is, there are exhibits a-plenty, and very interesting they are. The entire history of Canterbury and surrounding area is here, dating from pre-Roman times when the surrounding land was owned by the Cantii tribe. This eventually gave the City it's name.

    I don't propose to list all the exhibits here, but a particular favourite area of mine was the Second World War gallery, where local people recount their experiences of the Blitz on audio tape loops.

    There are quite a number of "hands on" exhibits for children.

    Adjoining the main Museum is the Rupert Bear Museum, situated here in honour of Mary Tourtel, Rupert's creator, who was a local resident. There is everything you could possibly want to know about the little bear with the checked scarf. Kids of all ages will love it.

    Situated between the two is an exhibition which will appeal to people of a certain age (mine!). It is an exhibition of the work of Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate. These names may not be familiar to you, but they were the creators of numerous childrens animations in the 60's and 70's. Such shows as the Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Pogles Wood all came from them. I believe Oliver Postgate still lives nearby in Broadstairs. A trip down memory lane indeed.

    For the literary minded, there is a good display about Joseph Conrad, the author, who lived nearby. This includes a recreation of his study as it was during his heyday, and an interview with his son.

    The Museum is open all year, Monday - Saturday, 10.30 - 17.00 (last admission 16.00).
    Also open from June to the end of September on Sunday 13.30 - 17.00 (last admission 16.00).

    Update august 2013.

    I am in the process of updating a lot of my tips as most of them contain inaccuracies, specifically long-defunct websites. I would note that this tip was originally posted in 2005. I have now amended the website and added some further details and also note here that admission prices have risen steeply since I first posted this tip. They currently stand at

    "Adults £8.00 (it was £3:20 when I originally wrote this tip!)
    Discounts (senior citizens, students, people with disabilities - proof of status may be required) £6.00
    Children - free to a maximum of 2 per paying adult, £1.50 per child thereafter.

    Free entry (except for some special events) for Canterbury Residents Card holders.

    The Museum is open

    Wed 2 Jan 2013 - Tue 31 Dec 2013 Mon - Sun 10:00 to 17:00

    I would urge the reader to seek out more recent information on Virtual Tourist and trust that this entry does not mislead anyone.

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    A decent pub.

    by planxty Updated Aug 23, 2013

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    Update August 2013.

    I have revisited this tip some eight years after I wrote it to amend the website which I had noticed not to be working as the parent brewery has considerably changed it's werbsite. The tip was originally written in September 2005 and so I caution the reader that it is not as recent as it may appear. Hopefully other members will have more up to date information.

    Original tip.

    The title of the tip says it all really. I popped in here in the afternoon for a quick pint and found a decent bar with friendly staff. I get the impression it is probably geared towards a younger crowd. There is occasional live music, including a local artist called Jed who I can thoroughly recommend, having seen him elsewhere.

    There is a big emphasis on beer, and they sell various Belgian fruit beers as well as having Leffe on tap.

    The place looks like it may have been recently refurbished and has a pleasant interior.

    Recommended.

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    Walk The Cobblestone Streets

    by cleocat Written Mar 13, 2013

    There are various department stores and retailers, but also hidden gems between the Costa's and Debenhams.
    Take a slow walk through the city center area, next to the cathedral and find some rare shops. There are a variety of art, gift and antiques shops. Just follow the High Street and you will find them.

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    Enjoy the architecture.

    by leics Updated Jan 14, 2013

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    Central Canterbury (the bit inside the city walls) has largely retained its Medieval street layout and, I was very pleased to see, has also kept much of its older and most interesting architecture.

    As well as the obvious sights such as Eastbridge Hospital, Westgate Towers, the Beaney House, the Old Weaver's House...all of which deserve separate tips of their own (and have them) just wandering the streets will give you lots to look at enjoy...from very early Medieval timber-framed buildings to later timber-frames with overhanging storeys, from twiddly plasterwork to herringbone brickwork, from flat-fronted yellow brick Georgian 'cottages' to clapboarded frontages to crenellated rooflines....

    Do take the time to just stroll the streets and enjoy.

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    The Old Weaver's House

    by leics Written Jan 12, 2013

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    A lovely example of very early English architecture, worth taking a closer look at as you wander Canterbury's High Street.

    The building dates from around 1500, although there is evidence placing a building at this site from the 1100s. It should not, of course, be black and white..that is a Victorian fashion. Next time it is renovated it will return to its original colouring of natural wood and cream plasterwork. apparently, restoration in the early 20th century means many of the exterior woodwork is actually floorboards which were bolted on for decorative purposes. They too will, hopefully, be removed eventually.

    The building got its name from the Flemish and Hugenot weavers who fled from persecution in mainland Europe and who were housed in the building. They were welcomed to the city of Canterbury and, although they were still classed as 'strangers, Queen Elizabeth l gave them the right to live and practise their businesses there.

    The Weaver's House now houses three restaurants. I give the website of one below, partly because its 'history' section is very detailed and partly because, had I not felt so ill, I would definitely have eaten there.

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    The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

    by leics Written Jan 12, 2013

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    I thought this was such a wonderful building I just had to make a tip about it!

    The Beaney Museum is a riot of Victorian Gothic twiddliness, set on Canterbury's High Street. It 's been recently restored and renovated, and only re-opened its doors to the public in September 2012.

    Dr James Beaney died in 1891 (you can see his memorial tablet inside Canterbury Cathedral) and is a fascinating character. Born in Canterbury to an ordinary labourer he somehow became an apprentice to a surgeon (a truly amazing event for a working-class boy), studied medicine in Edinburgh and Paris (ditto) and later emigrated to Australia, where he became a well-known and somewhat flamboyant surgeon at Melbourne Hospital.

    When he died he left money to the city 'for the building of ‘an Institute for Working Men'. The council decided to build the Beaney Institute (as it was originally known) and it opened in 1899. There were (and are still) libraries, works of art, stuffed animals, fossils, random curiosities.....

    I wish now that I'd gone in, but time was short and I felt lousy from a very heavy cold. I suspect I would have loved the Beaney with its mummified cat, its art works, its sheer random-ness...

    You can't miss the building...it is simply so extravagant..but do venture inside as well. There's a cafe....

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    Walk the riverside.

    by leics Updated Jan 8, 2013

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    The River Stour flows through the historical centre of Canterbury in two channels, one of which runs to the north of where the city walls once stood. This is a particularly pleasant stretch to wander, with greenery and trees and flowerbeds at Westgate Gardens and Greyfriars gardens.

    You can, if you wish, take a much longer walk for the Stour Valley Walk will take you 50+ miles into the heart of Kent:

    http://www.kent.gov.uk/leisure_and_culture/countryside_and_coast/walking/stour_valley_walk.aspx

    or make a much shorter (5km) walk or cycle ride from Canterbury to Chartham:

    http://www.canterbury.gov.uk/main.cfm?objectid=1515

    I didn't do either of those walks during my rather grey January visit, but I did enjoy wandering through Westgate Gardens with the lovely Westgate Tower House (see next tip) and Greyfriars Gardens, on the other branch of the river, with its beautiful early Medieval chapel (1200s) The latter is a particularly quiet corner in a bustling city, as I imagine it was even when the Greyfriars Abbey stood there.

    Don't be misled by the colour of the water in my photos: the UK had had a vast amount of rain and both sections of the river were still running very high and very fast indeed, carrying plenty of mud and debris. I'm sure the water is usually far more attractive!

    Enjoy a quiet moment or two by the riverside....

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    Greyfriars Chapel

    by leics Updated Jan 8, 2013

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    Unfortunately, this rather lovely and very ancient chapel was not open when I visited.

    It is the only building which still exists from the first Franciscan abbey ever built in England, following the arrival of the monks in 1224.

    Services still take place in the chapel throughout the year, but it is also open to the public for visits from Easter to September, 2pm-4pm Monday to Saturday. Entrance is free but donations for the upkeep (which is considerable on any ancient building) are appreciated.

    If you visit when the chapel is closed you can still get a glimpse of it from Greyfriars Gardens, open all year from early morning until 5pm or dusk (whichever is earliest).

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    Westgate Park.

    by planxty Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    A very pleasant park, and a nice place to avoid the hurly burly of the City Centre. As the plaque in the second picture shows, the gardens were laid out and donated to the public in 1936 by a very philanthropic chap called Williamson, whose family had lived in the adjoining Tower House for 50 years and in Canterbury itself for 150.

    The building is now used as the Mayor's office and is not generally open to the public.

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    Canterbury Ghost Tour

    by bobthomas Written Feb 20, 2011

    Having read several reviewson various websites about the tour I decided to join on yesterday, a cold dreary day ended up being cold but clear. I called the information line on their webiste www.canterburyghosttour.com 0845 0519267 and spoke to a friendly lady who told me I did not have to book and could just turn up. It was the first Saturday in half-term and there was a really good turn out. We were treated to a very interesting tour with lots of great humour, I realised that I knew very little about the haunted past of Canterbury, and was intrigued by the many areas which were pointed out. I have been to Canterbury before but now I can see a new side to the city.
    There were quite a few people on the tour who had been on ghost tours in other cities and after the tour i asked them for thier opinion, the response was generally very good, some said their could have been more ghosts, but most said they would certainly recccomend it as do I. If you happen to be in the City on a Friday or Saturday night starting at 8pm check it out for yourselves. I reckon you will not be dissapointed.

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  • Punting boat ride

    by ashlez1 Written Dec 20, 2009

    You could go on either a Haunted river tour or a Day time historic tour, which we chose. There were several boat companies, but we chose this one because the boats seemed more traditional and the staff were dressed smartly.

    It was an exiting tour because most of the river was hidden from the public view by medieval buildings.

    We were given a commentery which was interresting, but had questionable historic accuracy.

    Well worth it, and cheaper than venice, gave the guid the guid a tip.

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    The heart of the city: the Cathedral

    by Landotravel Updated Sep 17, 2009

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    Trespassing the beautiful stoned Tudor age gate previous payment of some pounds, you enter the place where stands this beautiful and impressive building: Canterbury cathedral, a splendorous great gothic XI century building, true heart of the city, head of Anglican Church and the place where in a given past time England's kings were crowned.

    When passing through the gate made by time of king Henry V's ruling you can smell the stone and the history inside. The height of these gothic arcades and columns, the light passing through the coloured stained glass windows, the lenght of the main hall and, in the middle, the amazing Bell Harry, the central tower erected about XV-XVI century. To understand and to enjoy the many dozens of architecture and historic details inside is highly recommended to get some tourist guide; it's really worth; otherwise you'll ignore really interesting and unique pieces of history. The most important is, undoubtly, the martyrdom place of Thomas Beckett, Canterbury Archbishop, killed in 1170 by knights of king Henry II, former friend and latter enemy. This fact turned Beckett a Saint so, years after, Canterbury became a main pilgrimage place for all Christianity.

    But being Beckett's killing place the most famous one, you may discover here, for example, the first gothic arch found to be built at England, the collection of remaining XII century stained glass windows with Biblic themes, medieval tombs, romanic wall paintings inside the crypts, the burial place of "The Black Prince": one of the most famous England warriors ever, never defeated, with all of his funerary tools preserved -helmet, scud, sword, gloves-; the older gothic England chorus, the chorus wall from XV century showing detailed figures of six Plantagenet kings such as Henry V, Richard II, Ethelbert or Edward 'the confessor', the architectural reinforcements added in XV century to erect Bell Harry tower over the more ancient structure, etc. etc.

    Being here is undoubtly visiting one of the key places of english history. And it's fine!

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    Wandering through the streets

    by Landotravel Written Sep 17, 2009

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    Around the cathedral, in the very center of the city, many streets are preserved as originally with lots of medieval and ancient houses around. And in some places, the small Stour river flows through them allowing tourist shippings. Wandering here and there becomes a pleasure for your eyes while going from one visit to another one. Crowds of people from every country think the same for all of them keep walking the central areas or sit to take a break in one of the many pubs or restaurants here.

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