A weekend in Canterbury, Kent: A 48-hour itinerary

A weekend in Canterbury, Kent: A 48-hour itinerary

As a long-time resident of south-west England, the south-east of the country is still a bit of a mystery to me. Even when I lived nearby in London I’d usually head west for my weekends. So I thought it was time to check out what I’d missed, starting with the city of Canterbury in Kent. Its UNESCO World Heritage historic centre and cathedral attract visitors from around the world. But as well as the traditional pilgrims, thanks to new high-speed Javelin trains which speed visitors from London in under an hour, it’s attracting a different kind of visitor – weekend breakers. So here’s my 48-hour itinerary for spending a weekend in Canterbury.

Read more: 10 Great British weekend break ideas

How to spend a weekend in Canterbury

Wonky house in Canterbury

The crooked Sir John Boys House near the Cathedral

Friday evening

Check in to The Falstaff, a traditional 15th-century coaching near to the Westgate Tower. It’s recently been redeveloped with a smart bar and restaurant, and has a mix of historic wood-panelled rooms and more modern ones in separate buildings. Rooms from £70 a night.

Or you can stay right in the grounds of the cathedral at Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, which has 35 rooms, many of which have cathedral views. Rooms start from £95 a night, including entry to the cathedral and discounts at local restaurants. Have an early dinner at Café des Amis, which mixes up Mexican and Mediterranean styles to create dishes like confit duck fajitas and pulled pork enchiladas, with homemade salsas made using 10 types of chilli.

Then join the 8pm Canterbury Ghost Tour (£10 adults, £9 children or £9.50 concessions). The tour lasts for 90 minutes and is led by local author John Hippisley – he’s easy to spot in his black top hat and cloak. With a mix of history, haunting stories and a few jokes, you’re taken through the dark city streets in search of Canterbury’s spooky side. Then call into The Shakespeare for a post-tour drink, with a choice between a spot in the pub or the adjoining wine bar.

Canterbury city centre

Exploring Canterbury

Saturday morning

Start the day with a visit to Canterbury’s most famous building – the Cathedral (open from 9am, £12.50 for adults, £10.50 for students or £8.50 for under 18s). If you get there early in the morning you’ll miss the worst of the day-trip crowds who travel down from London. England’s largest cathedral is the heart of the Church of England. It was founded in 597 AD by missionary St Augustine, and has been rebuilt by the Saxons and Normans over the years.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury’s Cathedral

You can stand on the spot where Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 as well as checking out the crypt, tombs of Henry IV and the Black Prince, and the impressive medieval stained glass windows. From the cathedral head to Kings Bridge for a boat trip along the River Stour with Canterbury Historic River Tours (£11  adults, £9.50 concessions and £7 for under 17s).

The tours last 40 minutes at a leisurely rowing boat pace. Your guide does all the hard work so you just need to soak up the views along the waterside, with gardens, the Cathedral and Greyfriars Chapel. After the tour head to The Refectory Kitchen in St Dunstan’s Street, a family-run café serving dishes like soups and sandwiches using fresh local ingredients.

Canterbury Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

Saturday afternoon

Spend the afternoon at Canterbury’s Roman Museum (£9 for adults or £7 for concessions). It takes you back to the days when the city was known as Durovernum Cantiacorum. The museum is built around the remains of a Roman townhouse complete with original mosaics that were uncovered after the city was bombed in the Second World War.

Have dinner at the Café du Soleil, in a converted 18th-century wool mill. The food is Provençal style with dishes like chicken saltimbocca and cassoulet, as well as pizzas cooked in their wood-burning oven. Then finish off with cocktails at The Pound bar. Canterbury’s former police station and jail has been turned into a cocktail bar, with plenty of design quirky touches to reflect its former life. You can reserve a private cell in winter or try the riverside terrace in summer.

The black and white Old Weavers' House

The black and white Old Weavers’ House

Sunday morning

After a leisurely breakfast, head to the Canterbury Tales exhibition when it opens at 10am (£10.95 for adults, £9.95 for students and £8.95 for children under 15). Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century book The Canterbury Tales tells the stories of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral. The exhibition’s costumed guides take you through a recreation of the sights, sounds and smells from five different pilgrims stories. It’s a bit on the cheesy side but is an interesting glimpse back in time (and a lot easier to get through than the book itself).

When you’re hungry, move on to the Goods Shed farmers’ market. Set in an old Victorian railway shed, the market sells fruit and vegetables from around the ‘Garden of England’ as well as organic meat, dairy and homemade baking. Have lunch at the restaurant above the market, which uses produce from the stalls to make seasonal dishes like roast venison and bouillabaisse.

The Goods Shed Farmer's Market Canterbury

Inside the Goods Shed – photo credit VisitEngland/VisitKent

Sunday afternoon

Burn off your lunch with a walk through the riverside Westgate Gardens and a climb up the Westgate Tower (£4 for adults, £3 for students/concessions or £2 for children under 15 – you can also get a joint ticket including the Canterbury Tales). It’s the only one of Canterbury’s original seven city gates still standing and the largest surviving city gate in England.

Look out over the city and across to the Cathedral from 60 feet up at the top of the tower. There’s also an original 1830s prison cell in the attached museum which you can take a look around. Then finish off your weekend in Canterbury with afternoon tea at Kitch (closes 5pm), a café with great homemade cakes including gluten- and dairy-free options.

The Westgate Tower at dusk

Canterbury’s Westgate

Have you visited Canterbury? Do you have any tips to add on what to see, do and eat?

Read more weekend guides

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How to spend a weekend in Canterbury in Kent, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink in a 48-hour itinerary for this English cathedral city. #Canterbury #Kent #England #VisitEngland #weekend #weekendbreak #citybreakA guide to spending a weekend in Canterbury, Kent, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink in this a 48-hour itinerary, including the cathedral, museums, ghost tours, restaurants and more. #Canterbury #Kent #England #VisitEngland #weekend #weekendbreak #citybreak

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  • Reply
    January 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Save money on the admission fee and visit the cathedral on Sunday morning for a service when it’s free.

    • Reply
      January 25, 2016 at 10:28 pm

      Good tip – thanks, will remember that for next time.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    That would be a fun weekend and just my thing. I would especially love the Canterbury Tales museum.

    • Reply
      January 25, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      I really enjoyed Canterbury – my husband was at university there so has been telling me about it for years so it was great to see it for myself!

  • Reply
    Thailand Everyday
    January 26, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Great pictures

    • Reply
      January 26, 2016 at 10:32 am


  • Reply
    Melanie Fontaine
    January 26, 2016 at 10:47 am

    I think Canterbury was the first place I visited in England, back when I was no older than 12 – it must have left an impression, because I keep on going back to the UK! 😉 I would love to visit again now that I’m older – it looks beautiful!

    • Reply
      January 26, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      How funny – and glad to bring back some good memories! It almost seems that Canterbury is more famous for international visitors as a lot of people come down from London but it took me a long while to get around to visiting.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Canterbury looks really pretty Lucy! This is a corner of England I know so little about too. This post reminds me there is so much to see in my own country!

    • Reply
      January 27, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      It was lovely – I’m keen to go and explore some more of the south-east now, I think Whitstable is going to be next on my hit list for when the weather gets a bit warmer!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    I visited Canterbury shortly after I arrived in the UK, and your post is reminding me that I need to revisit this special spot. Your photos capture it so beautifully!

    • Reply
      January 30, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      I can’t believe it took me so long to get there (especially as it’s an hour from London and I lived there for 10 years!) – reminded me how much of the UK I still have to see.

      • Noelle Hall
        February 27, 2021 at 7:18 am

        When the lockdown is over visit St. Martin’s Church on Saturday or Sunday (website St. Martin’s predates the Cathedral and still contains the Roman walls of the building given by pagan King Ethekbert to his Christian Queen Bertha c580. Augustine who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury arrived on 597 and based his mission there later building the now ruined Abbey and the saxon cathedral. The top of the churchyard gives a fine view over the city. St. Martin’s and the Abbey and cathedral together form Canterbury’s world heritage site.

      • Lucy Dodsworth
        March 8, 2021 at 5:01 pm

        Thanks for the tip, I will definitely check it out when I’m back in Canterbury!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    What beautiful pictures! It is nice that it was a sunny weekend for you in January. I’m hoping to get back to England at some point this year and would love to break away from London to explore more of the country. I remember reading The Canterbury Tales in high school and would love to see the exhibition. Seems like the perfect place for a weekend trip.

    • Reply
      January 30, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      We’ve had a real lack of cold, sunny winter days in England this winter so have to make the most of any tiny bit! With the new trains it’s a really easy trip from London now so you could easily combine them.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I visited Canterbury years ago on a day trip and I’ve wanted to go back ever since. This has definitely made me want to return even more now!

    • Reply
      January 30, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      I don’t know how I manage to miss it until now! It’d be a good one in the summer when you can combine it with a trip to the coast as well.

  • Reply
    January 29, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Now I won’t sleep before I see the crooked house with my own eyes! Canteburry goes to our “to-visit-while-living-in-Engand-list”. 🙂

    • Reply
      January 30, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      I do love these quirky old buildings, though it’s amazing how some of them manage to stay up!

  • Reply
    Lynsey - One More Slice
    February 9, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I live here and you’ve made Canterbury look so beautiful! If you ever come back I’d recommend:
    -A La Turka an amazing Turkish Restaurant
    -A visit to Elsie Mo’s Diner for great milkshakes (family run newly opened business)
    -Try a sample from the fudge kitchen
    -Cocktails at ballroom
    -Hot chocolate at the Chocolate Cafe!

    L x

    • Reply
      February 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Great thanks – sounds like some tasty places to try out, hopefully I’ll be back soon!

  • Reply
    February 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Ahhhhh Luce I feel a little nostalgic at your blog post about my home town (I’ve been in London since I was 18)…..great post, and a great itinerary 🙂

    • Reply
      February 15, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks – and glad to get the local seal of approval!

  • Reply
    April 7, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Amazing photographs. Looks like you had great time there. thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Reply
      April 8, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks, yes it was a great city!

  • Reply
    Hayley Martin
    April 29, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    I live close to Canterbury, your photos are gorgeous! I have followed your blog, looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks so much – great to hear that you liked it!

  • Reply
    Juby John
    December 22, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Lucy, Your writing style is great. I went to Canterbury few time back and I was simply in love with the city. Your amazing photographs took me back there. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      December 24, 2017 at 11:31 pm

      Thank you so much! Such a lovely city – I’m going back in January next year and really looking forward to it.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2018 at 10:33 am

    THank you, interesting!

    • Reply
      May 30, 2018 at 5:20 pm

      You’re welcome!

  • Reply
    The Humble P
    November 23, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Ahhhh so glad you loved Canterbury. I’ve lived her for 10 years and just love the City. It’s gorgeous <3

    Love // The Humble P

  • Reply
    January 31, 2020 at 10:10 am

    Beginning my postgraduate studies in Canterbury soon. And this, Lucy, gives me a great sense of what I could do when I am not studying or teaching. Thank you.

    • Reply
      January 31, 2020 at 5:57 pm

      Good luck with your studies – I was considering a Master’s course in Canterbury last year but ended up going to Glasgow instead, but it looks like a great uni, and a fab city.

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