When you say Canterbury you imagine the world-famous cathedral, one of the most stunning accomplishments of medieval architecture in Britain, city where the archbishop of Canterbury stays, basically it was one of medieval Europe’s great places of pilgrimages and knowledge.
Today even if it’s still a small city with its international visitors and four universities has a distinctly cosmopolitan feel. Less than an hour from London, it’s in that corner of England that’s almost touching France.
The extraordinary cathedral dominates the medieval streets within the city walls. Among the listed buildings, a boldly modern theatre – named after the city’s famous son Christopher Marlowe – has been built on the river bank, and an art museum has been restored and doubled in size. To the south is St Augustine’s Abbey, part of the World Heritage Site, and England’s first seat of learning.
Canterbury is a nice city to be visited all the year and it is children friendly too.
What to do in Canterbury:
- A River Tour: Canterbury is set on the banks of the River Stour, therefore a relaxing River Tour through public garden and a breathtaking countryside and the city it’s a must.
Eleonora liked so much that we did twice, we went on a small boat with a blanket on our knees and this is for sure the best way to explore this rarely seen side of the city.
The award-winning Canterbury Historic River Tours runs from Kings Bridge on the High Street and offers interesting guided tours from comfortable rowing boats.
- Enjoy the Public Gardens: if you travel with children you always looking for safe place where they can play in open air, so if you are in Canterbury with your kids don’t miss the opportunity to visit the highly rated Westgate Parks, with a new ‘physic garden’ and the extension of a path along the riverside. Made up of four distinct areas – Westgate Gardens, the Toddlers Cove play area, the riverside meadows of Tannery Field and the wild, wooded Bingley Island – it is a lovely place to escape the rat race.
Similarly, the charming Dane John Gardens at the other end of the city are a peaceful place to take time out and they boast a great view of the city from the raised mound.
- The Canterbury Tales, famous across the world as a place of pilgrimage, medieval Canterbury was a very busy place.
- To get some idea of the sheer numbers of those who visited and how far they travelled to see the spot where Becket died, you can step into medieval Canterbury and accompany Geoffrey Chaucer and his colorful characters on their magical pilgrimage from London to Canterbury with the Canterbury Tales attraction.It recreates medieval life and features actors, waxworks and an audio guide.I need to add that this attraction can or cannot be ideal for children under six or seven. Even if Eleonora wanted to do it, after the first scene, don’t know if it was because was dark, humid, with actors playing as pilgrimage speaking in a loud voice, she was so frightened that we needed to get out.
However, the company was very nice, they refunded us the entire tickets.
Nearby you can see the real thing, as the 12th-century Eastbridge Hospital, which was once a hostel for poor pilgrims, and now you can explore its beautifully decorated refectory, the pilgrim’s chapel and the Gothic undercroft.
- Saint Augustine Abbey: This great Abbey, marking the rebirth of Christianity in southern England, was founded shortly after AD 597 by St Augustine. Under the protection of English Heritage, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey make up another part of Canterbury’s World Heritage Site.
Founded in 598AD as a Benedictine monastery, dismantled during the dissolution, it was left to crumble until it was finally protected in 1848. Close to the center of the city but just outside its walls, it’s a peaceful and almost magical place away from the hustle and bustle of the modern city, the entry fee includes a fascinating audio guide which explains the important role it once played.
Maybe visiting the abbey can be a bit boring for young children but the beautiful and the large space outside where they can run without any fear make it a good choice.
- Visit the Canterbury Cathedral parts of it have stood for 1,000 years and it was the destination for millions of medieval pilgrims. Today, the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral is still the main tourist attraction in the city. At 236 feet tall, it’s hard to miss and dominates the skyline of this beautiful city. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site – along with nearby St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church – visitors still flock to see inside one of the grandest ancient buildings in the country.
Where to Shop
Canterbury is the biggest shopping destination in east Kent and with a superb mix of big brands and independent shops, there is really something for everyone.
Behind the bus station there is a mainly open-air shopping centre features big names including Fenwick, Next and Primark. But don’t miss the opportunity to walk from one end of the High Street to the other without running out of interesting shops to nip into.
Things to Do with Children
I’m going to tell you just a couple of funny activities I did with Eleonora during our stay, such as build a Bear or a Picture Frame, however I can give you other suggestions if you are interested in just write me at: email@example.com
Build A Bear – Unfortunately the Build a Bear in Canterbury closed (http://www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/build-a-bear-to-close-116727/, I hope people who worked in this shop are fine as Eleonora and I had a lot of fun during our visit.
The salespersons working there were friendly and helpful with the children, Eleonora, for example, was too shy to record her voice message in the middle of the shop so the lady who was helping us, brought us in a small room to have some privacy.
However, I would recommend to have this experience with your children, you can do this pretty much everywhere in the world, to find the workshop near to you visit: https://www.buildabear.com/, if you are in Kent, you can go to the shop in Fremlin Walk, Maidstone.
The shop is amazing, just let your child chose his favorite furry friend and the workshop can start.
Eleonora picked up a pink bear and then choose an ice skater suite amongst the most incredible choice for furry friend suites I have ever seen.
Next step is the building a bear process, there are machines which create your furry friend and when it’s finished you can wash it and brushed it.
At this point you can add sounds like the Heartbeat effect, Eleonora decided to record a personalized voice message that can be activated everytime you push the heart of the bear, and you can’t believe how thrilled I’m even today, hearing her little voice saying: I love you so much, a kiss.
Last step your child needs to give a name to the furry friend, Eleonora called her “Orsetta” in this way a proper birth certificate can be issued.
POTTERY Painting do you want to bring at home a souvenir made by you? don’t miss to visit the espression Interactive arts café which is a very child and family friendly pottery painting studio.
The Espression arts offers you the opportunity to create something that is uniquely yours. The cafè is plenty of plates, mugs, ornamental pieces, picture frames that you can decorate.
I went at the Espression Cafè with Eleonora in a rainy morning and even if it’s best to book you can try and just drop in as we did.
When we arrived a lady greet us, and showed us a large selection of pottery to work with, Eleonora choose a pottery cat and I picked up a pottery picture frame.
Finally, something I could really do with Eleonora and at the end I got a beautiful souvenir to frame a picture of our first vacation in UK.
We had so much fun, we had aprons to save our cloths and a table for us to work.
Eleonora had a tons of acrylic colors to try and I had boxes of colored small glasses to do my mosaic.
While Eleonora painted her cat with all the colors she loved, and glued some glitters too, I did a mosaic with my frame, then we leave our pieces to be glazed and fired.
Bear in mind that this should take at least one day so don’t do this activity too close to your departure.
Where to Stay
I can provide you with some options to stay in Canterbury.
If you want to stay in the center of Canterbury you can pamper yourself at the ABode a luxury four stars hotel located on main street in Canterbury city center. This hotel has nice double rooms however, because we are talking of a four stars hotel, I need to honestly report that the (Comfortable or the Desirable) double rooms can be small if you want to add a third bed for your child or a crib.
The breakfast instead is very good, plenty of choice and they serve it until 10am which is good if you have small kids, and try the Benedict eggs which are part of the breakfast deal and tell me if they are not the most delicious you have ever had.
Later in the day they serve a proper “Full afternoon Tea” where you can have sweets such as: scones to be filled with strawberry jam, coffee chocolate pots, raspberry macaroon, mini sherry trifle but also something salty such as: spiced onion, fish cakes, selection of finger sandwiches, roasted pepper, mozzarella and so on, all this is served with a choice of teas or coffees.
For dinner you can try the restaurant in the hotel, they also serve a Pre-theatre Dinner which can be a good deal to try good food at a reasonable price.
Or if you travel with children my suggestion is to try The Old Brewery Tavern just behind the hotel which offers contemporary pub food. The homemade beef burger is my favorite, but they also have a good choice with platters for sharing or a traditional Sunday roast. Children will enjoy burgers as well but they also have very good soups and pasta, with affordable prices.
Another nice but budgeted location to stay is the Falstaff, located around the corner from Canterbury West Railway Station, at the beginning of the city center.
When I stayed here with Eleonora, I had a silent family room in the back, the heat was good and Eleonora enjoyed the sofa bed which is a king size one so two kids can stay well.
The breakfast room is very British and the food is good as well, if you want to complete the experience why not combine the stay with one of the finest English traditions the “Afternoon Tea” which is a perfect way to enjoy your afternoon in Canterbury.
You can relax in this beautiful lounge which also has a real log fire on chilly afternoons and beside tea and coffee why not complete the experience with a glass of Champagne, an assortment of finger sandwiches accompanied by freshly baked warm scones served with clotted cream and a selection of cakes as well as their freshly brewed loose leaf tea.
Last but not least, I tried the Best Western Abbott Barton Hotel, this three stars hotel is 10-15 minutes walking to the city center of Canterbury, however walking a bit is fine if you can stay in a such beautiful old-fashioned, gothic hotel.
I stayed in a Standard Room which was very nice, I appreciated the charming wall paper and the confortable armchair where I used to sit sipping a Twining’s tea.
The Restaurant is very nice as well and the breakfast is very good, I liked the scrambled eggs with the smoked salmon, and I tried the porridge, unfortunately I need to admit that this is not my favorite food.
Canterbury is a great place to stay with your children, if you want to have more info about what to do in the area just drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org