Every time I visit Canterbury, I think about writing a post about it…and then I get swept up doing something else (booking holidays, drinking wine, taking pictures of my cats) and forget. But today I’ve just come back from a holiday and can’t afford to book another one, have been drinking all week so don’t need wine, and have already hit my daily quota of cat pics. So voila, here’s a blog post on Canterbury, a cracking city in the heart of Kent.
I went to college in Canterbury, and back in those days I didn’t really appreciate its charms because my ventures into the centre usually involved buying a sandwich in Tesco Metro, or spending my sandwich money in H&M. But, fast forward a few years (forking hell, 12! 12 years!) and now it’s one of my favourite places in Kent to visit and play tourist.
For me, it takes about an hour to drive to Canterbury, so recently I actually made a trip of it and stayed the night so I could see and do a bit more. And drink wine, of course.
For anyone looking to visit, here’s how to spend 24 hours – or longer – in Canterbury…
The city is a great place to explore on foot, with lots of little lanes and passages to discover. On a sunny day, take a walk along the river – if you park in St Radigund’s car park and walk along Mill Lane you can take a stroll through Abbot’s Mill Garden, where there are bridges and waterfalls. Eventually you’ll emerge by the Marlowe Theatre, and then into the city centre itself.
Hands down, Canterbury is one of the best places in Kent to shop. Down the little side streets you’ll find independent fashion boutiques, booksellers and gift shops, while at the top of the city centre there’s the Whitefriars complex with all the high street stores you could want, including a bloody massive Primark, a Zara and a Fenwick to name but a few.
The city also has multiple markets worth checking out – The Goods Shed has a farmer’s market six days of the week, and there’s also markets that take place in the city centre. If you head to the fruit and veg stalls towards the end of the afternoon there are some bargains to be had too – I got eight avocados and six peppers for £2. TWO POUNDS! If that’s not living, I don’t know what is.
Escape rooms have become all the rage lately, and I bloody love them. Canterbury has a few different options, so if you have some time to spare or the weather’s a bit rubbish, get booked in to an escape game instead. I recently tried Escape Kent‘s Kidnapped room and it was brilliant – I’ve done a few different escape games now and this was easily the best I’ve tried. They also do an outdoor game where you can solve clues around Canterbury, which I’d imagine is a great way to see a different side of the city.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to see many productions at the Marlowe Theatre, and it really is worth visiting if you’re in Canterbury (or making a trip to if you’re in the area). Some of the biggest and best productions come here, including Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake which I saw last year and loved. I’ve also just spotted on their site that there’s a Sing-Along Grease night later this year. AND a Tina Turner tribute night. *Books tickets immediately…*
There are so many good places to drink in Canterbury that this section really deserves its own blog post. But, judging by how long it took me to get around to writing this one, I think I’ll just try and keep it brief…
For really awesome cocktails in a cool, speakeasy setting, head to Bramley’s, where not only are their drinks delicious, most of them are two for £10 between 6pm and 8pm. Normally places will offer a selection of maybe four or five signature cocktails to have on offer but here pretty much every cocktail – and there are a LOT – make the cut.
One Pound Lane or ‘The Pound’ is also great for cocktails, wines and beers and the setting is pretty unique – it’s a former city gaol and you can even book to sit and drink in the police cells.
In the warmer weather, head to Citi Terrace – they have a fab outside erm, terrace and their espresso martini is one of the best I’ve ever had. And I’ve had quite a few (for research purposes, obviously.)
Much like the drinking thing, there are so many great places to eat in Canterbury, and each time I visit I try to eat somewhere different.
A great pub lunch can be found at The Old Buttermarket – they also have an outside courtyard dining area opposite the cathedral entrance where in the summer you can sit and watch the world go by. Or, for some awesome chicken with a Caribbean twist, visit Saint Smokeys BBQ House.
Now, on to dinner – again, there are loads and loads of places to try, but I’m going to use the following space to relentlessly gush about how amazing The Korean Cowgirl is. It’s pretty tiny inside so you’ll need to book, but it’s so worth it. The picture above just doesn’t do the food justice – the menu is all smoked meats, Korean fried chicken, bao buns and all kinds of other deliciousness. AND they charge the same price for all their still wines which is virtually unheard of. Order one of their platters to really get a feel for what they do – trust me, the only thing you’ll be disappointed about is the fact you’re too full for dessert.
Formerly a 15th century coaching inn, The Falstaff, which can be found right near the Westgate Towers now has 46 bedrooms, a restaurant and a very stylish cocktail bar. The prices are pretty reasonable for a hotel so well situated – it’s right opposite The Pound and within five minutes you’ll be right in the centre, close to the cathedral, theatre and shops. I can vouch for the bed being comfy, a top notch bathroom (always important, right?) and the staff being super helpful.
The only downside was a delivery being made to a nearby pub at 6am the following morning, so if you don’t like your wake up calls too early, maybe request a room away from the street.