Things to do in Canterbury
Updated: Nov 2, 2018
Canterbury is the perfect day trip from London and is the location of the start of the Christian religion in England. It has picturesque ruins, mighty churches, and the cutest little streets. A day trip to Canterbury can be filled with fun and history which is perfect for the traveler looking to get out of the city for a bit. Everything on this list can be done in a day, which is just what I did when I went on my pilgrimage to Canterbury with the London Chaplaincy.
St. Mildred’s Church
Start your day here at this tiny church, tucked away from the rest of the streets of Canterbury. Make sure to bring hiking boots if it’s a damp day because the grounds can get a bit muddy, but take time to stroll through the small gardens and graveyard. The group I was with loved finding the oldest graves and seeing what we could still read. In fall, this little grove is bursting with color.
St. Mildred’s is part of the Church of England but I believe there are Catholic Masses held here as well. At least, they’re not too picky since they let us hold a Catholic prayer service. Inside, it’s not as grand as some of the other places in Canterbury but it most certainly is old and you can see that in everything from the floor to the stained glass windows. If you’re a Christian or are looking into the faith, they also had a bunch of literature and magazines which, surprisingly, I loved to look at. This church is a bit out of the way but it’s the perfect place to take a breather that I would definitely recommend stopping by.
Make sure to block off a lot of time for this amazing site. There’s a small fee to go inside unless you’re with a pre-scheduled worshiping group like I was, but the grand interior and distinct style makes it absolutely worth it. Take some time to admire the outside facade before heading in and stroll the gardens if it’s a nice day out. Inside, take even more time to just walk around and take the massive Cathedral in.
The stained glass windows here were like nothing I had ever seen, they were richer in color and with deeper intensity than all the other churches I had viewed. The architecture was phenomenal, holding its standard to nearly every prominent historical site in the world. There’s also modern art scattered around the church, some of which was distracting but some of which made amazing additions that really made you contemplate what was written on the placards. Make sure not to miss the room at the very front filled with old, torn flags and names of those that died in recent wars. And if you have the chance to go into the crypt, enjoy the slightly creepy but also conversely warm rooms. The alter down there is simple and gorgeous.
If you have time, try to stay for one of the Evensong services. Evensong is melodic and heavenly no matter where it’s performed in England, but there’s something special about hearing the voices bounce around the historic place and it’ll give you more time to look around at the perfectly done ceilings and walls.
St. Augustine’s Abbey
These ruins are protected by the government under the same program that sites like Stonehenge are, so there’s a small fee but every cent goes towards helping to preserve places like this. If you have the chance to be here during fall, you’ll notice that there’s almost no place more beautiful than these crumbling ruins dotted with red and orange leaves. One corner of the structure highlighted a tree just burning with autumn (see the picture above!). Walking along these paths that historical figures had walked so long ago as they fostered religion with the people there was just breathtaking. There are several ruined corners to explore. Take your time and walk around, peeking behind stones and walls and jumping over old, ornate grave markers. Grab an audio guide from the front when you pay to enter, but make sure that it works before leaving the desk so that you won’t be stuck halfway out realizing that your guide is dead.
Strolling the streets of Canterbury
I hate being told just to walk and explore streets because I often think that there’s nothing to be seen there. I don’t want to be tempted into buying anything and I’d much rather spend my time looking at ruins or some other important site in the area. But, that couldn’t be less true in Canterbury. The streets are half of what makes this quaint town so iconic and the structures couldn’t give off a more English feeling. There are tea houses, food stores, and cute little shops that are worth stepping into or at least window shopping by. Walking down the cobblestone is a romantic little step into English villages.
For the stores that I found, check out my other article on Canterbury here: XXX. But turning down random streets or at least walking between all the sites on this list is really the best way to go. Just by going from each of these locations you’ll pass some of the cutest little shops. And if you’re lucky you might just catch a band playing in the square (See picture above!). Canterbury is not a place to miss and is the perfect excuse to get out of the busy city of London for a day trip!