Our roundup of the best activities, days out and family fun in Canterbury includes the city’s Cathedral, Howlett’s Wild Animal Park, Westgate Gardens and more!
Activities in Canterbury
First founded in 597, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest and most famous places of worship in England and part of a World Heritage Site. Although founded 1,500 years ago, the Cathedral has been rebuilt several times, with architecture dating back to the 11th, 13th and 15th century as well as impressive stained glass windows from the Medieval times and an enormous library. At 160m long and with the main tower over 70m high, it’s an imposing structure in Canterbury on the northern edge of the city centre and just a short walk from our Canterbury City Centre hotel. You’ll need a ticket to visit the Cathedral which is open daily including access to the Norman-era Crypt plus there are a range of guided and audio tours to give you the full historical run-down.
Canterbury Roman Museum
A major Roman fort in 300 AD, Canterbury has a rich seam of Roman history which you can discover at the Canterbury Roman Museum. The remains of the Roman courtyard and its artefacts were only discovered after bombing in World War II, revealing the remains of a Roman pavement and a late Roman silver hoard best-known as the Canterbury Treasure. The underground museum pulls together all the finds and the city’s Roman history with a series of displays, pottery, glassware, mosaics and the remains of an impressive Roman town house. The museum is open daily from 10am-5pm with children free.
St Augustine’s Abbey
Less than 50m from the door of our Canterbury City Centre hotel is St Augustine’s Abbey, a ruined Saxon church and museum first build in 597 AD. Built as a burial site for Kent Kings, the abbey has a vibrant history which you can discover via their VR tour which puts you in the 1500s via a virtual reality experience. There’s also an in-depth audio tour which reveals the monks’ routines and their monastic life. The abbey is open year-round with a reduced price joint ticket option available alongside entry to the Canterbury Tales.
Beaney House of Art & Knowledge
Just along from the Canterbury Tales and near the Greyfriars Garden is the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge. Housed in a renovated 19th-century building you’ll find an array of museum spaces, a library and art gallery hosting a wide range of exhibitions. Beaney House is open Tuesday to Sunday and is free entry, meaning you can explore a variety of rooms covering colour and camouflage, noted explorers and collectors and a range of rotating exhibitions including the recent Lego Bricks show featuring over 70,000 pieces.
A 12-hectare site overlooking the River Stour, Westgate Gardens is a mix of formal gardens, children’s play areas, water meadows and historic woodland. Kids and families will love Toddlers Cove with its zip lines, slides, swings and giant climbing frames while it also marks the start of the Great Stour Way, a three-mile round trip for walkers and cyclists. The gardens have plenty of paths and trails to uncover as well as lots of picnic benches, a toilet block and plenty of nearby cafés and shops.
Howlett’s Wild Animal Park
Several miles east of Canterbury’s city centre is Howlett’s Wild Animal Park, a 90-acre conservation park home to over 400 animals including the largest herd of African elephants in the UK, leopards, monkeys and tigers. As well as the chance to get up close with some amazing animals, the park has a large education centre where you can enjoy free animal talks and watch feeding times, while there’s also an Ice Age trail, lemur walk and their Treetop Challenge with high ropes, swings and ladders giving you a real monkey’s view of the world.
Canterbury River Tour
Gently meandering through the heart of Canterbury, the River Stour is a great way to see the city from a different angle. Canterbury River Tours leave every 15-20 minutes from 10pm-5pm from March until October, with the 40-minute guided tour and ferry trip taking in Greyfriars Island, the Kings Bridge, Canterbury Cathedral and more central sights.