Things to do in Canterbury – history hotspots and sightseeing

Although Canterbury isn’t the largest city on Britain’s map, there are reasons why this city is one of the most popular hotspots for tourists in the UK. Explore, and delve deeper into Canterbury’s rich history and heritage by exploring Canterbury’s unique attractions and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

World Heritage Sites

Canterbury Cathedral is the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and is where the Archbishop of Canterbury resides. This Cathedral is a focal point of Canterbury, it is the reason why Canterbury has been labelled a city and it has been embedded into England’s history since 597 AD. Entry is free on a Sunday and it is a magical site for a Christmas service.

Check out places to eat and drink in Canterbury here.

St Augustine's Abbey marks the rebirth of Christianity in Southern England. It was originally created as a burial ground for the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. Easily missed, but very close to Canterbury College, this Abbey offers a museum packed with artefacts and an interactive audio tour.

St Martin's Church is the oldest church in the English-speaking world that is still in continuous use. Forming the third part of the Canterbury World Heritage site (alongside Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine’s Abbey), this church was built during Roman occupation in Britain.

Other historical sites situated around Canterbury include Britain’s oldest Franciscan building The Greyfriars Chapel, which sits over the River Stour; The Eastbridge, which was founded to provide accommodation for pilgrims who wished to visit St Thomas Becket’s tomb; and Westgate Towers which provides one of the best views of the city from the battlements viewpoint.

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Canterbury Tales

Do you fancy a trip back to 14th Century England? The Canterbury Tales is one of Kent’s most popular historic attractions. You can join poet Geoffrey Chaucer and his colourful companions on their journey from London to Canterbury Cathedral as you adventure from the Tabard Inn to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. Recreating medieval life, the pilgrims’ stories of love, romance, jealousy and deceit are vividly recreated by costumed characters and entertaining audio guides. The Canterbury Tales is the only experience dedicated to Chaucer in the UK.

River Tours

Sit back and relax with a guided river boat tour, providing information and entertainment for all ages. Escape the busy city centre and discover Canterbury from a different perspective. Trips along the River Stour can be taken with Canterbury Historic River Tours (recently awarded winner of the Luxury Travel Guide’s 'Unique Tour Operator of the Year'), Canterbury Punting Company or Westgate Punts.

Canterbury's Walking Tours

Alternatively, take on the city by foot. By using apps such as ‘GPSmyCity’ and ‘Canterbury Map and Walks’ you can choose to walk an historic, cultural or orientation trail, which could lead you to unveil a few corners of Canterbury that you have missed. There is even a ghost tour for those of you who are brave enough to take on the 90 minute experience.

Gardens and Parks

There are several parks peppered throughout the city. One of the closest parks to the city centre is Dane John Gardens, a large enclosed green that offers a quiet space to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Westgate Gardens is just a five-minute walk from Canterbury West train station, and is a great setting for a stroll along part of the River Stour. Check out this sight which can be found at the main entrance to the gardens.