Canterbury is old. After the first century AD, Romans captured the area from a Celtic tribe and rebuilt the city. Even now, there’s a very visible historic presence in this area.
And there’s tons to see.
I had a total of one afternoon in Canterbury with a friend to take in as much as possible.
First up: Canterbury Cathedral.
One of the oldest Christian structures in England (founded in 597), the cathedral is actually part of a UNESCO Heritage Site. Here I would definitely recommend booking a tour to get the full history of the place (which is extensive!) You will have to pay to visit the church and take the tour, but it’s worth it. You’ll learn all about the murder, destruction and protection of the cathedral over thousands of years.
After spending a few hours wandering the cathedral and grounds, next up was the Canterbury Roman Museum. Word to the wise, this place is pretty small and can be easily missed from the street (we walked passed it) so keep your eyes open. While it’s not very big and shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes, this museum shows actual Roman architecture that had been buried under the current city. It was only discovered after bombings during WWII and is really neat to see.
The streets around Canterbury are those classic winding cobblestone roads surrounded by Shakespearian-looking homes. There are tons of cute cafes, restaurants and pubs just about every few steps. We had a lovely dinner at The Old Weavers’ which itself is full of history. You can still see homes, like the Old Weavers’ used to be, that belonged to Hugenots during their migration to England around the 1700’s. These homes have large horizontal windows on the top floor to allow enough light in to weave which was a common profession.
We also did a quick stop at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. Apart from being in a beautiful building (and free) this place is a mash up of artifacts, art, books and food. What’s different than your usual museum is that this holds specific personal collections from explorers and their journeys around the world. There’s also rooms and rooms of paintings and special exhibits (that you can pay for). When we were there, the special exhibit was all about the art of Star Wars.
Canterbury is also home to the Canterbury Christ Church University which has beautiful sprawling grounds around the city and definitely gives the area a university-vibe.
Heads up: while this city is historical and beautiful, it also comes with a price tag. As expected, it can be expensive to live in as it’s one of Kent’s wealthiest towns but it is totally pretty. That makes up for it, right?