Buzzing with a youthful vibe due to the universities, Canterbury also excels as a historic destination. Parts of the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral date back to the 11th century. Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered there in 1170, one of of medieval Europe’s great places of pilgrimage and knowledge.
Along with the Cathedral, nearby St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church form a UNESCO World Heritage Site; walking trails and guided tours wind past extraordinary architecture, boutique shops, malls, and key attractions too: the Chaucer-themed Canterbury Tales; Norman Canterbury Castle; Canterbury Roman Museum; treasure-filled Canterbury Heritage Museum; the home of Rupert the Bear creator Mary Tourtel and the recently refurbished Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. Explore Canterbury’s hidden gems by boat with the award winning Canterbury Historic River Tours.
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Hotels in Canterbury also abound; including the fabulous Abode, the superbly-sited Cathedral Lodge and the Holiday Inn Express. Feeling hungry? Try fine dining at Michael Caines at the Abode, or the Goods Shed; a restaurant-meets-permanent Farmers’ Market that flies the flag for seasonal, local food. Meanwhile, Canterbury’s modern Marlowe Theatre, built on the river bank is emerging as one of the south east’s top theaters. It’s just one of the great things to do in Canterbury.
Who needs a trip to Africa when you can encounter big cats, elephants, rhinos, and cheeky monkeys at the Howletts Wild Animal Park south of town. At nearby Goodnestone Park Gardens discover the place where Jane Austen penned parts of Pride and Prejudice in 1796.
Less than a 7-mile cycle away at Canterbury’s coast, you can find the justly-famous Whitstable Oysters which have seen this charming port dubbed the Pearl of Kent. These days it has a funky, bohemian air, with its bustling seafood eateries, picturesque lanes, delis, artisan bakeries, boutique shops and art galleries. Soak up the atmosphere in a welcoming pub; The Old Neptune sits right on the shingle beach. Eighteenth-century Whitstable Castle has spectacular grounds, while the Oyster Festival each July is a fabulous celebration of molluscs and much more.
You can roam one of England’s largest ancient woodlands at The Blean or cycle the nostalgia-rich Crab and Winkle Way, a tranquil seven- mile route linking Whitstable with Canterbury.
Just two miles east, a few surprises await at characterful Herne Bay. A hit with visitors since the Victorian era, that legacy lingers in the bandstand, fragrant seafront gardens and distinctive 80ft Clock Tower. Still further eastward, the Reculver Towers and Roman Fort cling to sandstone cliffs; the two 12th-century church towers sitting amid the remains of a Roman Saxon Shore’ fort.