Canterbury is a charming small city in the county of Kent in South England. Being a small city, it’s the perfect option for a day trip to Canterbury and you can really get a lot done during 1 day in Canterbury.
The Cathedral City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has existed as a settlement in England since the 1st Century AD.
Signs of the city’s extensive history can be seen throughout the city with its extensive historical architecture, beautifully preserved cathedral and timber framed houses.
A Canterbury day trip is a perfect opportunity to see the main sights in the city, as well as discover a few of the city’s hidden gems. And whether you’re planning one day out in Canterbury or you’re planning a longer weekend in Canterbury, hopefully this Canterbury travel guide will give you plenty of inspiration for planning your trip.
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When is the best time to visit Canterbury?
Being in the UK, Canterbury is of course not immune to the famous British weather which is unpredictable even at the best of times.
A visit in the summer gives you the opportunity to explore in the (hopefully!) better weather, you can take a boat trip on the River Stour and see the gorgeous Westgate Gardens in bloom.
However the city is also a beautiful place to be during the festive season, with the historic streets and houses decked out in festive decorations.
A visit in the spring, winter or autumn also means fewer crowds and an opportunity to see the city at its most quiet and serene – as long as you don’t mind wrapping up warm for the weather!
Hotels in Canterbury: Where should you stay?
If you are planning to stay in Canterbury overnight, here are a few options for places to stay in Canterbury – it’s a great base if you plan to do a few day trips from Canterbury or days out in Kent on a South England road trip
For a budget friendly and boutique hotel in Canterbury, consider The Hugo Hotel Concept Canterbury. This is a room-only hotel with access to the property that is communicated with you beforehand. The location is in the heart of the city centre just steps from the Cathedral.
If you prefer to stay in a recognised hotel name property, the Hampton by Hilton hotel is just 400 yards from the Cathedral and has breakfast included with all the modern amenities you could need for your stay.
For a unique place to stay in Canterbury, why not stay at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge in the heart of the city with breakfast included and beautiful rooms to choose from.
If you’d prefer to stay in luxury and be a little further outside the city, Broome Park Hotel is located in its own stunning estate around 7 miles from Canterbury city centre. With log cabins, fine dining restaurants on site, breakfast available, a golf course, indoor pool and a sauna.
What to do in Canterbury for a day
Get brunch at the Goods Shed
This is such a great foodie spot if you’re looking for places to eat in Canterbury and maybe Canterbury hidden gems too!
Located right by Canterbury West train station, it’s a great spot to fuel up for your day of exploring.
This is a country market style food hall, with its own butcher, bakery and farmers market too. The open kitchen really lends itself to the country farmhouse feel and you’ll be so tempted by a lot of the menu choices and the takeaway food options and market purchases too!
All the restaurant food is sourced from the farmer’s market so all product is fresh and locally sourced.
The wooden vaulted ceilings and rustic decor all add to the artisanal feel.
Even if you don’t want to dine in the restaurant, pick up a freshly baked focaccia or sausage roll. Or perhaps coffee and fresh doughnuts from Enzo’s. There’s also a breakfast market at the Wild Goose in the market or epic custard tarts from Gill’s in the market too.
Take yourself on a self-guided walking tour of the city
I’m all for seeing a new city in a budget friendly way, and a walking tour does exactly that. Plus when you’re planning what to do in Canterbury, the city is extremely walkable and easy to navigate.
Start your Canterbury self-guided walking tour at the Westgate Tower entrance to the city.
The Westgate Tower itself is one of the gateway entrances to the historic city and was built in 1830. You can also visit the museum inside and climb the tower, but for this walking tour, you’ll take a right immediately before the tower and go into Westgate Gardens.
In the spring and summer, these gardens are in full bloom with an array of stunning flowers with the river running alongside them. You’ll also see the Canterbury punting and boating passing along this section of the river.
Even in the winter, these gardens are idyllic alongside the River Stour. Entrance to the gardens is free.
Follow the short path through the gardens and take the exit on to St Peter’s Place.
Walk back towards the tower and turn right along St Peter’s Street which becomes the High Street.
Here you’ll see historic architecture, beautiful buildings and modern shops and eateries all mingled together!
Make sure to stop at the Kings Bridge to see the river and the boat tours here.
If you want to skip to the next item on this Canterbury itinerary – now is the time to do it! From here you can join one of the Canterbury river tours.
Or continue on to see the Beaney House of Art Knowledge. This is also listed as a stop further on in this guide and feel free to stop here now (or scroll down for more details on this free museum)
Continue along the High Street until you reach Butchery Lane where you’ll turn left. This charming cobbled laneway offers views of the Cathedral with many quaint shops and cafes tucked away here.
You’ll also see great views of the cathedral from neighbouring Mercery Lane where you’ll find the Old Buttermarket and you’ll emerge onto Burgate.
Follow the road until you converge on Sun Street and the majestic Christchurch Gate, one of the gateways to the Cathedral.
This is your opportunity to visit Canterbury Cathedral.
We were personally quite shocked at the price of £14 per adult and decided not to visit. Children under 17 are free and you can also get a discount if you’re a student or English Heritage member. However, the majestic cathedral can be just as easily admired from the outside without spending that amount of money to go inside!
Go punting or take a boat ride down the River Stour
This activity could be done halfway through your walking tour if you wanted to break the walking up a bit.
But there are a couple of options depending on what kind of boat you’d like to travel on and the time of year.
Canterbury punting tours are 45 minutes long and run all year with guided commentary. There are shared tours, private tours, nature tours and even haunted tours available! Tickets are £10-£20 per person.
Alternatively, Canterbury River Tours offers guided commentary tours in larger boats for up to 12 passengers. These are £15 per adult with concessions available.
See the Crooked House and check out the bookstore inside
A personal favourite is a visit to Sir John Boys’ House, aka the Crooked House of Canterbury.
The house was built in 1617 and is one of the best surviving examples of half timber architecture in Canterbury.
It served as the home of MP, Sir John Boys, in the early 17th century and was also an inspiration for Charles Dickens who wrote about many similar buildings and in particular the Sun Hotel in David Copperfield.
The house wasn’t always slanting, it started to lean due to a heavy chimney added to the side which weighed the house. The chimney eventually collapsed in the 1980s and the building was saved by the Council with steel supports added to the house to stabilise it.
The building is now home to a bookshop which is beautiful to visit and the building is fascinating to explore from the inside too. The ground floor is the smallest with each floor above being slightly bigger which exaggerates the leaning effect. This is because when the house was built, you were taxed based on the amount of land your property covered. So it was common at the time for houses to be built wider at the top than the bottom.
Visit the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge Museum
If you’re on the hunt for free things to do in Canterbury, the Beaney House is a great free museum in Canterbury, with an art gallery, exhibitions, visitor’s centre, library and workshops available.
There’s a lot to see and do at the museum for a variety of ages. But even if you’re not a museum fan, seeing the building just from the outside is highly recommended as the building itself is incredibly striking.
The museum is praised for having so much to do under one roof and for being free, making it a great option for days out in Canterbury with kids or if you’re looking for things to do in Canterbury in the rain.
Check their website for details of the latest exhibitions and what’s on.
Summary: Canterbury one day trip itinerary
Hopefully this Canterbury visitors guide gives you plenty of inspiration for things to see in Canterbury and Canterbury places of interest for your day trip to Canterbury.
The charming, walkable city is a great option as a day trip to Canterbury from London or simply as a day trip in Kent if you’re from nearby.
Pin for later to plan your future trip!