Top 10 Things to do in Canterbury this Winter

As the winter break draws closer and the weather turns colder, resist the urge to hibernate at home with our list of fun things to do in Canterbury during the wintertime.

  "Geograph copyright Pam Fray" by Pam Fray. Licensed for reuse under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license

There’s plenty of exciting activities on offer to enjoy in Canterbury during the colder months. Bundle up in your warmest clothes and prepare for some wintertime Canterbury sightseeing!

Browse the Christmas markets

You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy the delights of the Canterbury Christmas markets. Beneath the twinkling lights, festive wooden huts and stalls line Whitefriars Shopping Centre and St Georges Street in the town centre. You can buy handmade gifts and souvenirs or simply enjoy a hot drink or snack from the Merry and Bright Christmas Bar or one of the many food outlets selling bratwurst, fajitas and nachos, doughnuts and falafels. For tech fans, there’s even a full motion VR Lapland sleigh ride on offer (cost: £5 per person).

The Christmas Market is open Monday-Friday 10-6; Saturday 9-6; Sunday 11-4 (closes at 4pm on 24 December).

Check out the Local Shops

Whether you’re on a spree or simply window shopping, Canterbury has lots of unique, locally owned shops where you can find a wide range of gifts and souvenirs. The main shopping areas are in Whitefriars, St Georges Street, Rose Lane, St Margaret’s Street, Parade, Longmarket and High Street. But why not take a wander down one of the city’s many cobbled lanes to discover some of the shops situated off the main route? Mercery Lane, Butchery Lane, Burgate, Sun Street, Kings Mile and Castle Street are all lined with unique local shops to explore.

For sweet treats, don’t miss the purple-fronted chocolate shop on Kings Mile, Madame Oiseau Fine Chocolates, or The Fudge Kitchen on Sun Street, where you can buy vegan and non-vegan fudge in a range of fun flavours. For unique gifts and souvenirs, try Canterbury Pottery in Burgate or Minster Glass Studio on Palace Street.

Attend a Winter Event at the Cathedral

Everyone is welcome at Canterbury cathedral’s numerous Christmas season events, many of which are free to attend. So, whether or not you’re celebrating Christmas, you can enjoy the calming beauty of choral music experienced in the striking cathedral setting.

There is Evensong by Candlelight for the Festival of Santa Lucia on 18 December, Demelza’s Celebration of Christmas on 19 December (Tickets from £8) to support the local children’s hospice care charity, the Friend’s Carol Service on 20 December and the main cathedral Carol Service on 23 and 24 December.

Warm Up with a Hot Drink in One of Canterbury’s Cosy Cafes

There’s no better way to warm up during the cold weather than by grabbing a hot drink in a comfortable setting, and Canterbury has got plenty to choose from! Why not try a spiced turmeric and ginger latte from plant-based restaurant The Veg Box in Burgate? Or you can sample a ruby hot chocolate at brunch specialists Kitch on St Peters Street.

For true chocoholics, check out the Molten Chocolate Mug at Love Brownies on Rose Lane. Or, for a quintessentially British experience, why not try a speciality tea at Tiny Tim’s Tea Room on St Margaret’s Street?

Pick up a Classic at one of the Second-Hand Bookshops

Canterbury’s rich literary history is reflected in its bookshops, many of which are hidden gems located off the High Street. Why not grab yourself a page-turner to curl up with during the colder days?

First on the list is the Catching Lives Charity Bookshop, a tourist attraction in its own right, housed in Sir John Boys House on Palace Street (also known as The Crooked House because of its endearingly wonky doorway). This charity bookshop sells a wide selection of second-hand books, with all proceeds going to the local charity Catching Lives, which supports rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerably housed people in Canterbury and East Kent.

Catching Lives Bookshop Canterbury
The Catching Lives Bookshop on Palace Street (picture by Nessy-Pic).

Or why not check out the Chaucer Bookshop, tucked down a side street on Beer Cart Lane, housed in a charming 18th century building. It’s a treasure trove of vintage leather-bound books, and its full of cosy corners and recesses to explore.

There’s also Burgate Books, a Pilgrim’s Hospice charity bookshop selling books alongside vinyl at low prices. There are some great sections to browse, from cookery to poetry, so you’re bound to find something you love. Or, there’s the Oxfam Bookshop on St Peters Street, with well-stocked specialist sections alongside vinyl, CDs and DVDs.

Catch a Movie at the Curzon

Canterbury has two Curzon Cinemas to choose from. The Riverside Cinema on Kingsmead Road is situated in the centre of the new leisure quarter. It boasts five large screens with surround sound and modern luxury décor. The Westgate Curzon on Westgate Hall Road is a little bit cosier, with three screens, a lobby and a large library. Both cinemas serve fresh coffee, tea and cakes, 12-inch pizzas and bar food, with vegan and vegetarian options available.

Can’t be bothered to leave campus? Catch a title at The Gulbenkian instead. Christmas movie showings include Home Alone, The Polar Express, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf, Frozen, The Grinch, Arthur Christmas, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Check out A Museum

While the weather’s icy, why not do some indoor exploring at one of Canterbury’s museums? The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge is situated on the High Street and houses a diverse range of quirky collections. You’ll find artwork by the Canterbury-born landscape painter Thomas Sidney Cooper alongside animal taxidermy and doll furniture, Anglo-Saxon jewellery and even a mummified cat!

Or you might prefer to unearth Roman relics at Canterbury’s Roman Museum on Butchery Lane. Not only does the museum contain a range of artefacts from mosaics and jewellery to armour and glassware, it also houses an ancient Roman underfloor heating system!

Or perhaps you want to explore England’s largest medieval city gateway at the Westgate Towers Museum and Viewpoint. Discover the towers throughout history, from World War I and II exhibits to a crime and punishment display from a time when the towers housed the city gaol. You can even enjoy a drink in the glass-fronted riverside bar!

Take a Trip to the Theatre

It’s a common Christmas tradition among some Brits to visit the theatre to watch a pantomime. It’s a family-friendly stage production involving slapstick comedy, songs and audience participation. Pantomimes or ‘pantos’ are often based on well-known fairy tales and star local or national celebrities.

If you want to check it out for yourself, The Malthouse Theatre is showing Cinderella between 15th December and 2nd January, while The Marlowe Theatre offers Sleeping Beauty from 25th November to 8th Jan, starring Ore Oduba from the popular BBC ballroom show, Strictly Come Dancing. 

Make a Charitable Donation 

Support the Salvation Army’s Christmas Present Appeal by donating brand new gifts for local children who might not otherwise receive one at this time of year. If you’d like to participate, pick up a gift tag from The Giving Tree in the Marlowe Arcade in Whitefriars and return it by 12th December, along with your unwrapped gift.

The Giving Tree is open Mon-Fri 1-5pm; Sat 12-5pm; and Sun 12-4pm. Gift ideas include dolls and teddy bears, colouring sets, stationery, puzzles, books, games and toys, and gift vouchers. All gifts need to be new; second-hand items cannot be accepted.

Join in the Christmas Carols on 24th December

Get into the community spirit and local traditions by joining in the Open Air Christmas Carols on Christmas Eve at Rose Square (outside Primark) at 6.15pm. The event will be attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury as well as the Lord Mayor of the city. The event is held to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Gift Fund, which provides grocery parcels to the elderly and those in need over the holidays.

It may be cold outside, but you won’t be short of things to do in Canterbury this winter season! We hope you have a wonderful break.