In a country so abundant in history, it can be tricky to know where to begin. Enter: Canterbury.
Canterbury has a little of everything, from the Romans through dastardly royals and literary Chaucer.
It has diverse architecture, a world-class museum, one of Europe’s best cathedrals and some of the cutest shopping streets in Southern England.
And of course, as a university city, it offers great food, drink and nightlife, too, making it well worth a longer stay.
All that and the city is just minutes away from the coast and glorious countryside.
Whitstable, with its famous oysters is a hike or easy cycle ride and Herne Bay and the Reculver ruins lie a little further east.
Meanwhile, strike out into the Kent wilderness for forests, nature reserves and wildlife parks: you can even see the UK’s largest herd of African elephants nearby!
Best things to see in Canterbury
Anyone who spends even an hour or two in Canterbury’s historic centre will find it hard to resist the charms of its crooked old buildings, winding waterways and cobbled streets.
Even if you do not have time to mug up on your history, just stroll down Butchery Lane or through the Buttermarket, pass through Christ Church Gate and of course, around the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canterbury Cathedral.
The world-famous Cathedral is worth more than a glance, however, as the oldest bits of it date back to the 6th-7th century AD, during Roman rule, when St Augustine was sent to convert the people of Britain to Christianity.
The murder of the cathedral’s most famous archbishop, Thomas Becket, by King Henry II in 1170, secured the place as a pilgrimage site to this day.
An act enshrined in the English Literature canon by William Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
The city has several fabulous museums.
One of the most important is the Roman Museum, which contains superb mosaics, swords, glassware, pottery, jewellery and a helmet from around 55 BC – during Julius Caesar’s invasions of Britain – most of which was found in the city after the Blitz.
But if you only have time to visit one, we recommend The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge.
Like a mini British Museum, The Beaney presents priceless historical treasures from around the world, such as an Anglo-Saxon dragon pendant, an Ancient Egyptian mummified cat and the famous Canterbury Cross.
Best tours in Canterbury
If you are short on time, head straight for the water.
There are several companies that offer boat tours of the Stour, which runs through the city, including the Canterbury Punting Co, who specialise in private tours and Canterbury River Tours, which can be found on the bridge on the High Street.
There are also some great walking tours, from specialist historical periods to ghost tours.
What to do in Canterbury with the kids
There is just tons to do with kids in Canterbury.
Start with the two museums if they are into history. And if they are not, the Spy mission walk or the Canterbury Stories Tour, which is “full of gory details, spies and play acting to captivate every imagination” might lead them to be!
For wildlife and nature lovers, make sure to get out of the city to the nearby Howletts, for the aforementioned elephant herd, Wingham Wildlife Park or Wildwood. Each has a differing selection of exotic and native species.
What to do around Canterbury
The Chartham Walk is a circular hike of around 5 miles. It takes in ancient villages, orchards and forests and gives visitors a really good feel of Canterbury’s surroundings.
For oenophiles and microbrew lovers, explore Kent’s vineyards and breweries with Wine Tours of Kent and see why the county has the reputation as the “Garden of England”.
Whitstable and Herne Bay
Around 7 miles away, the charming coastal town of Whitstable is well within reach of Canterbury and can be combined easily as part of a day trip if you have got your own transport.
Alternatively, if you are spending more than one day in the area, consider walking or cycling between Canterbury and Whitstable via the Crab and Winkle Way trail which the tourist board describes as taking you from cloisters to oysters!
As well as its famed seafood, Whitstable offers an array of arty independent shops, as well as three beaches.