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Canterbury is one of the most popular day trips from London. The main attraction of the medieval city is Canterbury Cathedral. It’s also filled with other pretty historic architecture. It’s close enough to London that you can easily take a Canterbury day trip & even combine it with other nearby places such as Dover. You can either do a day trip to Canterbury on your own or via a group tour. This Canterbury travel guide contains details on how to get there, things to see & do in Canterbury, where to eat & drink, & more.
Getting to Canterbury from London
Public Transportation from London to Canterbury
There are frequent trains from London St. Pancras to Canterbury West, with the shortest journeys taking less than an hour. Slower trains also travel between London Victoria & Canterbury East. Book ahead for the cheapest fares. Buses are available from London Stratford, but with a journey time of about 2.5 hours, they aren’t a good option for a Canterbury day trip.
Once you get to Canterbury, the city centre & main points of interest can be easily covered on foot.
Canterbury Tours from London
There are plenty of Canterbury day trip tours leaving from London. These tours are often combined with Dover, Leeds Castle, and sometimes Greenwich. Find the best Canterbury tours here.
Things to do in Canterbury (Tourist attractions, museums, tours, activities, & more)
There are plenty of great things to do in Canterbury on a day trip. In addition to all of the Canterbury highlights below, the city has lots of narrow streets where you can wander between historic buildings. There are also lots of small local shops, restaurants, and pubs. Here are the best Canterbury activities, including churches, archaeological sites, museums, tours, gardens, boating, & more.
Canterbury Cathedral is one of the most beautiful & important cathedrals in England. Founded in 597, the current church structure dates back to the 14th century. Canterbury Cathedral is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England. Notable former archbishops include Dunstan, Thomas Becket, & Thomas Cranmer.
Canterbury Cathedral is the centerpiece of Canterbury’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the other two locations being St. Augustine‘s Abbey & St. Martin’s Church. The cathedral is part of many Canterbury day tours, or you can visit it on your own.
St. Augustine’s Abbey
Former Benedictine monastery St. Augustine’s Abbey sits just outside Canterbury’s city walls. St. Augustine founded the monastery in 598. The abbey was open until 1538, serving as an important place of learning until its dissolution by King Henry VIII. Today, English Heritage manages the remaining ruins.
St. Martin’s Church
St. Martin’s Church is the oldest church in Britain that is still being used as a church. It was first built sometime before 597, although the building has been expanded some since. The expansion used some materials dating back to Roman times. While the church’s opening times are limited, you can still view it from the outside if it is closed.
Back when medieval cities were surrounded by walls, gates allowed access inside. As the walls became obsolete, most of them disappeared, along with the gates. In general, they only live on through street names. However, one of Canterbury’s seven medieval gates still stands.
The Westgate is the largest city gate still remaining in England. It’s the most impressive view as you enter the city from Canterbury West. Today Westgate Towers is the home of a museum & viewpoint. There’s also a restaurant next door.
Not far from Westgate is one of the most popular places in Canterbury for spending time outdoors. The park & gardens are located along the Great Stour, the river that runs through Canterbury. Westgate Park has a children’s play area and also frequently hosts events.
Boating on the Great Stour
The Great Stour flows through the heart of Canterbury. Boat rides down the river are one of the most popular Canterbury activities.
They are a great way to see the city’s historic architecture from a different perspective.
The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge
The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge is a multi-purpose building that serves as Canterbury’s visitor information center, central library, museum, and art gallery.
The Marlowe Theater
Along with the Beaney House, the Marlowe Theater forms the center of Canterbury’s cultural quarter. The theater is named after Christopher Marlowe, who grew up in Canterbury. The 1,200-seat venue hosts musicals, plays, opera, ballet, dance, stand-up comedy, concerts, and more.
Christchurch Gate – Burgate – The Canterbury War Memorial – Butter Market
Right outside the Christchurch Gate entrance to Canterbury Cathedral sits a historic plaza that’s one of the most picturesque places in Canterbury.
At this intersection along the busy Burgate, you’ll find the Canterbury War Memorial as well as plenty of souvenir shops. The space was formerly home to the Butter Market, which lives on as a pub name today.
Canterbury Roman Museum
The Canterbury Roman Museum houses artifacts from the Roman era of Canterbury. Highlights include the remains of a Roman house, including pavements. These mosaics were discovered after World War II bombings & preserved along with other items that have been found both on this site and around Canterbury.
The Crooked House
The Crooked House, also known as the Sir John Boys House, is the result of each subsequent floor of a building having been built taller, followed by internal chimney renovations that made the whole building slant.
Don’t worry, the building has been re-enforced, so it’s safe to enter or stand near. The Crooked House is currently a bookshop, making it the perfect spot to purchase a copy of The Canterbury Tales or a book by Charles Dickens, who spent a lot of time in Canterbury & referenced it in his work, including David Copperfield.
Canterbury City Wall
The first Canterbury City Wall was built by the Romans. It was then replaced by a medieval wall. Today, several sections of the city walls remain.
In addition to the aforementioned Westgate, you can see large sections of the Canterbury City Wall to the north of Burgate along Broad Street, along St. Radigund’s Street near Northgate, and in Dane John Gardens.
Canterbury Castle was first constructed in 1066 after William the Conqueror invaded Britain. All that remains nowadays is part of the stone tower, which was constructed in the late 11th century & early 12th century.
The castle was never particularly significant, serving mostly as a local jail before falling into ruins. It has been closed to visitors since 2018 due to falling masonry but could reopen someday pending repairs.
Dane John Gardens
Dane John Gardens sits just inside the Canterbury City Walls. Inside the gardens, there is a mound that likely served as the motte of Canterbury Castle.
Places to eat & drink in Canterbury
Canterbury has plenty of food options, though with so many tourists coming to town on day trips, the restaurants can vary in quality. Pork & Co. (photo below) has fantastic sandwiches, along with craft beer. Notorious BRG is a highly-rated spot for burgers. For breakfasts & lunches, head to The Refectory. For British cuisine, try The Corner House or The Pound. Il Posticino is a popular Italian restaurant.
There are several great places for craft beer in Canterbury, including the Thomas Tallis Alehouse, Pegasus Tap Room, and Floc. Brewing.
Here are some great Canterbury tours & activities & other things to see & do in Canterbury.
If you’re looking to stay longer than a Canterbury day trip, check out these Canterbury hotels.