Canterbury is a World Heritage Site and was designated this status by UNESCO in 1988. The site includes Canterbury Christchurch Cathedral and Precinct, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church. This designation came in recognition of Canterbury as the cradle of English Christianity, as it has been associated with the development of the Christian Church in Britain since the 6th century onwards. In medieval times it became one of the three most popular places of Christian pilgrimage and today all Anglican churches throughout the world look to Canterbury as their spiritual home. Canterbury now welcomes 1.3 million visitors every year. St Martin’s Church is the oldest church in continuous use in the English-speaking world with the oldest part of the church built during the Roman occupation of Britain. The ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey now managed by English Heritage include the remains of the monastery where Kentish kings and first archbishops were buried. The abbey itself dates back to AD597.
There is so much to see and do in the city. Visitor attractions include The Canterbury Tales and is an award-winning visitor with live costumed character guides. The Canterbury Tales brings to life five of Geoffrey Chaucer’s best-loved stories with tales of love, romance, jealousy and trickery, vividly re-created within a reconstruction of 14th century England, set inside the former St Margaret’s Church. This gives visitors the opportunity to step back in time and experience the sights, smells and sounds of medieval times on their pilgrimage from London to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. Boating and punting in Canterbury has always been a popular activity and now Canterbury Historic Boat Tours allows you to discover parts of the city that are only accessible by boat. Westgate Punts offer relaxing chauffeured river punt trips.
There is a huge choice of restaurants specialising in traditional and modern British dishes (Deesons, The Goods Shed) as well as many international restaurants (Wagamamas, The Ambrette, La Trappiste). For entertainment in the evenings, there is the The Marlow Theatre and Gulbenkian with their range of shows, performances and film. For history, culture and heritage there is an amazing collection of museums including The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, The Roman Museum and Canterbury Museum. There are also a couple of cinemas too.
There are some lovely villages outside of Canterbury including Chilham that lies high above the valley of the River Stour in the picturesque Kent Downs with its timber framed houses of Tudor origin, 16th century church and Chilham Castle with breathtaking views across the Stour Valley. For walkers, Chilham lies on Chilham lies on the routes for the North Downs Way and the Pilgrims’ Way to Canterbury. Wickhambreaux is another picturesque village just five miles from Canterbury with its church, manor house, rectory, coaching inn (The Rose) and water mill surrounding the green. This village is a popular with ornithologists. The Duke William at Ickham is a great countryside gastro pub with simple, no frills cooking.
Two of Britain’s long distance footpaths, the Saxon Shore Way and the North Downs Way traverse this region. Explore Kent details a range of walks in Canterbury and the surrounding countryside as well as the coastal areas of Whitstable and Herne Bay.