The next one in this mini-series of my day trips from London is one of the most visited cities in the United Kingdom - Canterbury.
Canterbury is UNESCO World Heritage Site and a cathedral city located 89 km (55 miles) east-southeast of London in Kent county. Its reasonable distance from London and regular public transport connections making it for a perfect day trip to the English countryside.
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You can read about my day trip from London to Southend on Sea where I visited colourful beach huts here.
The city has a rich history and the first settlement here was established as early as in prehistoric times. Romans later settled here in the 1st century AD.
You can easily spend a day here soaking in the rich history, beautiful architecture, and enjoy strolling alongside the Great Stour river which is one of the cleanest in England.
Also, Orlando Bloom was born here which might or might not be of importance to some people. :D
Thomas Becket - The Archbishop of Canterbury
Who the heck is Thomas Becket? That was my first thought when I started looking into visiting Canterbury and this name seemed to pop up a lot. And that’s for a good reason.
Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in 1170. He was allegedly killed by the knights of Henry II, King of England, who had a dispute with him over the rights of the Church.
Becket was murdered at the altar inside Canterbury Cathedral. His body was found lying on the stone floor with a head cut open and his brain all over the place. For some reason, people who discovered his body dipped their tissues into his splattered brain and it was claimed Becket’s bodily fluids relieved people of many diseases and hardships.
The word of the healing qualities quickly spread over the country and in mainland Europe. Soon people started making pilgrims to Canterbury in hopes of being cured or relieved of their hardships and an early version of the tourism industry was booming in Canterbury.
Even though nowadays there’s (luckily) no splattered brain for people to dip their tissues in, there’s still plenty to do and see in Canterbury.
Scroll all the way to the bottom for cost the break down of the trip.
5 Things to do in Canterbury
1. Historical River Cruise
The best and also my favourite way to see Canterbury is from inside of a boat which helps you avoid busty narrow streets of the town.
I have taken Canterbury Historic River Tour that starts right next to Old Weavers House and even though it was quite a busy day I only had to wait about 10 minutes for the start of the tour.
The guides are all very knowledgeable and give you a great introduction to the city as well as the taste of Canterbury's rich history.
The tour costs £11 and is approximately 40 minutes long. You get to see some of the most beautiful sights of Canterbury which are not accessible otherwise (e.g. private gardens alongside the river).
The Ducking Stool was used in medieval times first for witch trials where they would strap people accused of witchcraft on it and dunk it into the water. If the person survived they were accused of sorcery and drowned. If they drowned during the “trial” they were proclaimed innocent…
Later on, the chair was used for punishing petty criminals like bakers who sold underweight bread and also husbands could get their “mouthy” wives dunked in (then dirty with trash from streets and houses) the river.
2. Canterbury Guided Walking Tour With
Guided walking tours depart every day at 2 PM (and 11 AM depending on the season) from The Old Butter Market and are 90 minutes long. This is a great way to learn more about the city and get some insider information from knowledgeable local guides.
Canterbury Cathedral is with 1 Million visitors one of the topmost visited spots in the UK and the main attraction of the town. If you want to visit the cathedral you will have to pay £12.50 entry fee which is quite expensive in my opinion.
This walking tour costs £10 and whilst the tour itself does not go inside the cathedral it does take you through the courtyard. The tour's path leads around the exterior of the cathedral and exits via the historic King’s School.
If I come back one day - I would probably pay the entry fee as I would love to explore the gardens surrounding it a bit more. There are some very beautiful photogenic spots around the cathedral and if you are not taking the walking tour then I would suggest you visit Cathedral on its own.
The King’s School is a boarding school for 13 to 18 year olds which was founded in 597 AD. It is the oldest continuously operating school in the world and Britain’s oldest public school.
Yearly fee for attending the college in 2018-2019 was a whooping £42,000!
3. Explore On Your Own
There are numerous side alleys full of photo opportunities.
Tiny Tim's Tearoom is independent family run tearoom voted Top tearoom in Kent and perfect place for a quick refuel stop.
Those big S signs on the houses are screws that support the construction of the houses.
”..a very old house bulging over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…” Charles Dickens, 1849
Have a charcoal latte or gluten-free treat at Kitch.
They also serve delicious brunches and cakes made from natural and local ingredients. Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options available.
5. Queen Bee Home
Queen Bee Home is independent mash-up of a store and cafe with a cute Instagrammable back garden in the heart of the town.
Just look how cute is the back garden!
How to get to Canterbury
Canterbury is about an hour car ride away from London. There are also regular train connections from all major London train stations that will take you there. The train journeys are between 1 to 1 and a half hours long.
Train Ticket: £20 - online purchase
Historical River Cruise: £11 - cash payment
Canterbury Guided Tours: £10 - buy online or at the visitor centre
GF Brownie at Queen Bee Home: £3.65
Charcoal Latte at Kitch: £3.95
Total cost: £48.6
If you are after a quick break from London city and like historic places, architecture, English countryside, and/or photography, Canterbury is a perfect day trip choice for you!
Discover more day trips from London by train here.
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