Spend a weekend in this Kent gem and combine centuries-old history with wildlife adventures and lip-smacking local cuisine
The medieval walled city of Canterbury makes for a charming English escape — discover a rich cultural heritage and a melting pot of independent shops, bars and restaurants with surrounding vineyards to explore.
Here’s how you can make the most of a lovely weekend break in Canterbury.
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Check into The Falstaff Hotel, a former 15th-century coaching inn. A short walk from the city centre, it offers a relaxing base for a weekend of sightseeing, while its bar opens out onto a pretty outdoor terrace — ideally for an early-evening tipple.
Take a short stroll from the hotel to Cafe St Pierre to grab a coffee before heading to Westgate Towers, a medieval gateway offering spectacular vistas from the battlements viewpoint.
Once you’ve seen the city from here, you’ll want to get in amongst it. Walk over to The King’s Mile to the jumble of streets beneath the spires of Canterbury Cathedral. Here you’ll find independent shops, arts and crafts, vintage clothing stores and plenty of places to eat and drink.
Now you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to visit local farmers’ market and restaurant The Goods Shed. A real crowd-pleaser, it’s a popular spot for handmade macarons, freshly baked bread, local beer, cheese and charcuterie.
If you fancy a sit-down supper, order a seasonal dish from the open kitchen (the octopus with clams and ’nduja is a must). Here you can see why Kent is known as the ‘Garden of England.’
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Wildlife lovers will cherish a visit to the Wildwood Trust on the outskirts of the city. The conservation charity’s sanctuary houses more than 200 animals and you can stroll among 40 acres of ancient woodland.
Learn about animals that are or were once native to Britain while spotting myriad wildlife in the woodlands, including otters, foxes, badgers, bison, wild boar, lynx and more. The brown bear enclosure and the viewing platform over the resident wolf pack are a thrill, and there’s also an adventure park and play area for the little ones.
Later, head back into town to The Castle Quarter, which stretches from the haunting castle ruins to the high street. Here, you’ll find quirky shops, including Rock Paper Scissors, which sells ethically sourced handmade homeware, and bars and restaurants such as Laurent’s sandwich shop, where his deceptively delicious egg mayo baguettes are a local favourite.
Of course, no visit to Canterbury is complete without a tour of its world-famous cathedral. It was England’s first, and there’s over 1,400 years of history to gawp at inside the venue’s free-to-enter exhibition. Once you’ve soaked up enough history inside, the scenic gardens surrounding the cathedral are waiting to be explored.
And since you’re by the river, it’d be rude not to go punting. Discover tales from times gone by as you drive through the heart of the city, courtesy of Canterbury Historic River Tours.
Being a culture vulture is thirsty work. Just down the road, set in an 18th-century mill on the Stour River is Café du Soleil, which serves woodfired focaccia, aubergine and ricotta ravioli and other Med-inspired treats.
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Time to spare?
Drive to Simpsons, Barnsole, and Chartham Vinyeards and stock up on premium Kentish still and sparkling wines directly from the cellar door. If wine isn’t your thing, head to one of the many gorgeous Shepherd Neame pubs to sample local ales and soak up the scenery.