The Definitive Canterbury Day Trip Itinerary (from London)
Discover this definitive guide to a Canterbury day trip from London and start planning your perfect day out today.
Canterbury is one of the best day trips to take from London. With a slower pace of life, manageable size and full of culture and history, this small city makes for the perfect London escape. With beautiful cobble-stoned streets and medieval buildings that are steeped in history going back as back to Roman times, there’s so much to discover.
Situated in the middle of Kent and under 2 hours away from London, a Canterbury day trip is a firm favourite for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of England’s cities. Well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral, vibrant history and it’s well preserved medieval architecture, isn’t it about time you visited this incredibly beautiful city?
Keep reading for the best Canterbury day trip itinerary for all the information you need to start planning your day out in Canterbury, Kent today.
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Best Time to Go on a Canterbury Day Trip
The best time to visit Canterbury is during the spring and summer. During this time days are longer giving you more time to explore, especially on a day trip. During spring and summer temperatures are also higher and there are higher probabilities for a sunny, dry day, but then again this is England we are talking about and you never know. During this time it’s also prettier, greener and flowers and trees are in full bloom.
Visiting during autumn and winter is also possible, you’ll just need to be aware that you’ll have much less time for exploring in the light, temperatures can get pretty low, making it a bit miserable to be outside and there’s a higher chance of rain or a very grey day.
If you’re visiting Canterbury from London and you’re staying in London long-term I’d recommend keeping an eye on the weather forecast for Canterbury and then doing your Canterbury day trip on a nice, bright day. If you’re visiting London and England for just a short time you might just have to leave it to chance, weatherwise.
How To Get to Canterbury From London
There are three main ways to get from London to Canterbury; train, coach (bus) or car. All three of these ways are comfortable and easy and whichever you choose you’ll be arriving in Canterbury in no time.
One of the fastest ways to get to Canterbury from London is by train. Trains depart London Victoria or London St Pancras Stations and arrive at either Canterbury West or Canterbury East stations. It doesn’t really matter which station in Canterbury you arrive at, both are very central and equally close to all the Canterbury sights.
Trains from London to Canterbury take between 1-2 hours depending on which train you choose. High-speed Southeastern trains do the journey in just under an hour. There are other trains that take 1 hour 30 minutes or 2 hours respectively and are cheaper than the high-speed train. When booking your train ticket make sure your itinerary has zero changes- you really need not change trains to get to Canterbury from London.
You can book your train tickets via Omio, one of the easiest and cheapest ways to buy train tickets in the UK. I highly recommend buying your ticket in advance for the best deals. An open return from London to Canterbury should cost about £40.
Another great way to get to Canterbury from London is by bus. National Express Coaches depart from Victoria Coach Station and take about 2 hours 20 minutes to get to the centre of Canterbury, from which you can walk to all the major points of interest. Buses depart every hour/hour and a half and ticket prices start from as little as £5 one way.
While the bus takes just a little longer to get to Canterbury compared with the train, bus ticket prices are much cheaper making the coach the best way to travel to Canterbury for budget travellers or those wanting to save on transportation. Buy your bus tickets here via Omio.
A London to Canterbury day trip can also be done by car. If you’re a London resident with a car and you prefer to drive to Canterbury then you’ll need to get onto the M2 and later turn off onto the A2 to get to Canterbury. The journey takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes without traffic.
Parking in Canterbury is a little limited, especially at the weekend and you’ll most probably have to pay for parking too unless you visit on a Sunday.
If you’re heading out on a Canterbury day trip and you don’t have a car, I don’t recommend renting one just to come to Canterbury for the day. You won’t use it once you’re in Canterbury as everything is walkable and it’s just much easier to take the train or the bus. It’s also more cost-effective too unless you’re a large group.
Where To Eat
The Veg Box Cafe – A lovely little airy cafe right down the road from Canterbury Cathedral, this plant-based cafe is one of the best, casual places to have lunch. Serving a variety of soups, bakes, hot pots and fritters that change daily, you can opt from the day’s specials or order from their varied menu.
The cafe celebrates seasonal vegetables and ingredients as well as wholesome, healthy, plant-based food. It’s a great option for lunch!
The Corner House- The Corner House is one of the best gastropubs in Canterbury for both a drink and a meal if you fancy something really British. At the Corner House, they try to keep things as local as possible, sourcing their produce from local farmers and keeping it all seasonal.
The pub/restaurant is housed in a 16th Century coach house in Canterbury overlooking the city walls. The food is delicious, local, exquisitely British and there is always something plant-based on the menu. A great option for lunch or dinner in Canterbury.
The Goods Shed– Part farmer’s market, part deli and part restaurant the Goods Shed is a food lover’s paradise. Stroll through and check out their gorgeous selection of fruit and vegetables, cheeses, desserts and wines. You can pick up some goods to take back to London such as gourmet olive oils, tapenades, jams and wines or you can also come and dine at the restaurant.
The Goods Shed is open mainly for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday and for dinner from Thursday to Saturday. Their meals are delicious and ingredients come straight from local farms. There’s always a plant-based option on the menu.
Parrot– I’m not sure about their food, but Parrot is a must for a drink, for the mere opportunity to check out the thousand-year-old building. This is one of the oldest pubs in Canterbury, established in 1370 and getting a drink here to put up your feet for a while will allow you to also admire the wooden beam ceilings, the rustic furnishing and candle-lit fireplaces. It’s especially cosy on a cold day.
Fringe + Ginge – the best place for a coffee in Canterbury this place is effortlessly cool and minimalist. Come here for a flat white or your favourite coffee for a break while exploring. They also have street seating, perfect for a coffee in the sunshine on a sunny day.
Things to Do in Canterbury Kent
Walking around and exploring is the aim of the game on a Canterbury itinerary with so many amazingly old buildings to see and structures to photograph. Walking around will give you a chance to check out all these things to do as well as discover so new places to visit in Canterbury for yourself.
If you’re interested in photography and shooting the streets of Canterbury I’d highly recommend arriving as early as possible in the morning and starting by exploring the older, medieval streets in the center first before they fill up with people.
I have ordered this itinerary in the order I did things. Looking back I wouldn’t have personally changed anything and I think it was a really great Canterbury day trip. I also had lunch at The Veg Box and an early dinner at The Goods Shed before jumping on a train back to London from Canterbury West (right next door to the Goods Shed).
Photograph Butchery Lane
Probably the most iconic street in all of Canterbury, not only is the street incredibly old and pretty but there’s also a perfect view of Canterbury Cathedral tower peaking through this incredible architectural scene. This makes it one of the best photo opportunities in Canterbury. It’s also one of the best places to see in Canterbury.
On Butchery Lane there are a few restaurants, pubs and shops to check out but I highly recommended coming here early if you want to take a photo with no people in it. If you get there early, there won’t be many people around and all the businesses on this street will be closed but you can always come back again later in the day.
The photos below were taken at the beginning of Butchery Lane just off the High Street.
Stroll through Butter Market
Coming out of the end of Butchery Lane and turning left you’ll immediately get to Buttermarket. The Buttermarket Square is an old, historical square in the heart of medieval Canterbury. On it, you’ll find a range of shops and the Old Buttermarket Pub- one of the oldest and most popular places to grab a drink when in Canterbury.
The Buttermarket Square is a great place to relax, take a seat and people watch before moving on to some other great sights of Canterbury.
Before moving on to visit the Cathedral, whose entrance is just opposite Butter Market, follow the street directly opposite Butter Market for about 50 metres to get to The Sun Hotel. Formerly known as The Little Inn, this historical inn was built in 1503 and made famous by Charles Dickens in his travels through Kent. It’s definitely worth a peek and a photo.
Visit Canterbury Cathedral
One of the most significant religious buildings in England and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if there’s only one thing you do in Canterbury made sure it’s a visit to its world-famous Cathedral. A day out in Canterbury is not complete without it.
Canterbury Cathedral was first built as a monastery in 597AD by Augustine, a monk who was sent to England by Pope Gregory the Great, He later become the first Archbishop of England.
Canterbury Cathedral first became a center of pilgrimage just after the 1170s when after the murder of Thomas Becket, strange miracles started occurring in the Cathedral. Many people started to visit Canterbury Cathedral with the hope of healing and riches.
Today you can walk around the Cathedral, starting at the bottom of the nave and making your way up to the Quire and Trinity Chapel at the top end of the Cathedral. Once you loop back round make sure to check out the Martyrdom, go down to the Crypt- the oldest part of the Cathedral and finally outside to the beautiful Cloister.
You can also explore the grounds of the Cathedral which include a herb garden on the north side, Water Tower, and Cathedral Lodge.
Entrance to Canterbury Cathedral costs £14 per adult and the opening hours are Mon-Sat 10 am -5 pm and Sunday 12.30 am-5 pm. Audio tours are available in the nave of the Cathedral and guided tours run between 11 am-2 pm Mon-Sat.
See the Crooked House
The next stop on this Canterbury day tour is the Crooked House not far from Canterbury Cathedral. The Crooked House is also known as Sir John Boy’s House, named after a local MP of Canterbury from the 1600s. Its crooked structure looks like it could just topple over at any given moment.
You’re probably wondering two things. Why is this house so crooked and why hasn’t anyone done anything to correct its structure? Well, it is said that chimney alterations on the old house caused the house to slip sideways over many years. Apparently, throughout history, there were quite a few attempts to straighten the house but they all caused it to become even more crooked.
Today, the Crooked House is supported by a steel frame from the inside so it’s perfectly safe to visit. Inside the house, you’ll find a bookshop and I highly recommend entering to check out the equally crooked interior.
Do a Walking Tour
If you’re only doing a Canterbury day trip and you much prefer to do a tour to take in all the major sights and get a little more background knowledge about everything, the best way is to go on a walking tour.
Your knowledgeable guide will tell you about the history of Canterbury as well as some tales of murder, ghosts and the arts which really helps to put all the historical streets and buildings into context. Most walking tours of Canterbury will start at Buttermarket and you’ll see Canterbury’s medieval streets, Canterbury Cathedral and the modern Marlowe Theatre.
Click here to book your spot on the most popular walking tour in Canterbury. I highly recommend doing this in advance to secure your spot, especially if you’re planning to visit on the weekend.
Visit the Westgate Towers Museum
If you’ve come into Canterbury city center from Canterbury West Station, you may have already walked past the imposing Westgate Towers. The Westgate Towers are England’s largest gateway towers still standing today.
The Towers we see today are actually the Medieval towers from 1380, rebuilt as a replacement to the previous Roman West Gate. Whether the Towers were rebuilt to welcome pilgrims arriving into the city after Thomas becket’s death or as a defensive status symbol is still debated by historians today.
Today, inside the Westgate Towers you’ll find the Towers’ museum where you can read about the history of the Towers and Canterbury in a little more detail as well as get access to the Tower’s viewpoint at the top. There’s also a thrilling escape room experience to be had inside too- a great indoor activity if the weather turns gloomy.
Stroll through Westgate Gardens
Especially beautiful in the spring and summer, Westgate gardens is a beautiful green park/garden that follows the Great Stour River through a part of town. Located right next to Westgate tower, it’s a lovely place for a stroll, a few photos or a picnic if the weather is cooperating.
Make sure to check out the giant, 200-year-old, 7 meters (25ft) wide Oriental Plane tree before heading south and enjoying the beautiful country scenes.
Check out the Old City Wall
While it might not look like it now in most places, Canterbury was once encircled by a large stone city wall to keep out enemies and intruders.
The first City Walls were built by the Romans in about 270 AD and were constantly fortified and expanded but by the 11th century, the walls really provided no more military value and they were easily penetrated by the Normans. Since then they pretty much just declined.
In the 18th and 19th centuries due to more modern city planning and expansion, many parts of the city wall and city gates were knocked down to make way for new roads and buildings. Today only a few parts of the wall survive mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the city.
You can easily see a segment of the old wall when coming out from Canterbury East station when heading into town or when walking from Canterbury Cathedral straight over to St Augustine’s Abbey via the Burgate.
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Visit St Augustine’s Abbey
If you’ve checked out Canterbury’s city wall on its eastern side, you’ll be just a short walk away from St Augustine’s Abbey. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, St Augustine’s Abbey was founded in 598 and functioned as a Benedictine Monastery until the Reformation. Since 1848 the site has been used for educational purposes such as part of The King’s School in Canterbury. The ruins have also been preserved for their historical value.
You can visit the ruins to learn more about the history of this site throughout the years and of course, see the ruins themselves. St. Augustine’s Monastery is just a short walk away from Canterbury Cathedral.
Pick up a first edition at the Chaucer Bookshop
The Chaucer Bookshop might just be one of the prettiest bookstores in Canterbury if not England. Housed in a beautiful 18th Century building and established as a bookshop in 1956, this is one of the best places to come and browse for your favourite titles.
Over two floors you’ll find thousands of books from fine bindings to paperbacks as well as original prints and maps, cards and wrapping paper. Make sure to keep your eyes out for a first edition somewhere too.
Go Punting on the River Stour
While punting might be more well-known in Cambridge than Canterbury, it’s still a great place to get yourself on the river for a few hours in the afternoon.
Punting is basically going out on the river in a punt, a flat-bottomed, open boat with square ends mostly used in shallow water or small English rivers. A long pole is used to propel the boat.
Punting is a great way to see Canterbury from a different vantage point and to enjoy the day on the water. You can bring drinks and snacks and get your friends together for good times floating around Canterbury.
The best place to book your trip is with the Canterbury Punting Co. Check their website here for more details.
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Go Food Shopping
Canterbury is a great place for food shopping and foodies will really warm to this charming city. If you’re on a Canterbury day trip and going back home the same day, there are many opportunities to shop from some local Kent produce and products to take home with you.
With an array of products from delicious, french chocolates to local jams made with Kent fruit, local gourmet cheeses, spreads as well as fruit and vegetables there really are many foodie gems to uncover.
Start at The Goods Shed where you’ll find so many amazing olive oils, wines, cheeses, jams, spreads etc to take home with you. You’ll also not want to miss Madame Oiseau, the purple, french chocolate shop right behind the Cathedral. For general and local organic products don’t miss Canterbury Wholefoods.
Grab a Pint at a Historic Pub
Nothing gets more English than having an afternoon pint at a historic pub. It’s a great opportunity to relax for a while after a whole morning of walking and to check out the inside of some of the most historical buildings in Canterbury. Opt for a pint of local ale and put your feet up for a bit.
There are many historical pubs to choose from in Canterbury for a drink. You can check out The Parrot, a pub with 700 years of history, The Old Buttermarket, located on the square of the same name outside the Cathedral, The Old Weaver’s House, another charming building or The Bishop’s Finger, another great option just down the road from Westgate Tower.
Visit St. Martin’s Church
It might be small and simple, especially compared with Canterbury Cathedral but St. Matin’s Church is well worth the extra walk. St Martin’s Church is actually the oldest church on record in England and the English-speaking world, being in constant use since its first establishment in the early 6th century.
It’s a rather squat, Saxon building with a fascinatingly long and rich history which can be discovered by visiting this extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You’ll find this church about a 10-minute walk from the center of Canterbury and while it is a little out of the way compared with the rest of Canterbury’s sights, it’s worth the little detour, especially if you’re a history buff.
Stop by the old Weaver’s House
One of the most photographed buildings in all of Canterbury this Weaver’s House turned pub/restaurant is a great example of medieval English architecture. It’s located on the High Street so there’s no doubt you’ll walk past it at some point. Make sure to check out this beautiful building or even go in for a drink.
Take a Canterbury Tales Tour
Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales are synonymous with Canterbury and no visit to the city can really ignore them completely. In the 14th Century, a famous poet, Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a story about a group of pilgrims who journeyed to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket. The Canterbury Tales follows their story on their journey which includes love, fun, death and intrigue.
Taking the Canterbury Tales Tour by Canterbury Guided Tour will allow you to learn more about the Canterbury Tales as costumed guides lead you through medieval Canterbury exploring the life of Chaucer through the shrines, monuments and inns. It’s also a great way to learn about life in 14th century Canterbury.
This tour really is quite a bit of good fun while also gaining some expert knowledge on the history of Canterbury, Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales. Find more information about the Canterbury Tales Tour here.
Visit the Pretty Village of Chilham
Not exactly in Canterbury, but if on your Canterbury day trip you do have a little extra time in the afternoon, I highly recommend a short trip to the village of Chilham. Located 7 miles from Canterbury, this little village is full of gorgeous medieval buildings and houses, quaint country pubs and cute English streets.
It’s also home to Chilham Castle which you can quickly visit during a Canterbury day trip. I highly recommend making a side trip here for a few hours, especially when visiting in the spring and summer when days are longer.
If you have a car, then getting to Chilham will take about 20 minutes. Take the A28 out of Canterbury straight to Chilham.
If you’ve come to Canterbury by train, then head to Canterbury West station and take the train to Chilham. The journey takes under 10 minutes each way and trains depart every hour.
For some more great Canterbury day trip tours and things to see in Canterbury- even ones directly from London check the box below
Ready for your Canterbury day trip? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
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Rentalcars.com for quick and easy car rentals worldwide
Booking.com for great deals on hotels
Agoda also for great deals on hotels
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