Things to do in Canterbury part one: Historic Canterbury

Going to the University of Kent offers lots more than just your studies.  Living in Canterbury, you are blessed to be in a city that has a rich historical and cultural heritage. So while living here I highly encourage you to get out of the university bubble, climb down the hill and explore what this city has to offer. Here is just a sample of what is on offer…

Canterbury city centre

Canterbury Cathedral

A visit to the Cathedral is a must for all residents and visitors to Canterbury. The Cathedral is both a place of worship and a world heritage site open for visitors.  Canterbury Cathedral is the Mother Church for the worldwide Anglican Communion and the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Cathedral was established in 597AD by St Augustine, who was the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  In 1170 Thomas Becket (Archbishop from 1162-1170) was murdered by King Henry II’s knights who believed the King wanted Becket dead.  Soon after Becket was made a saint and a martyr in 1173, many miracles were reported to have taken place at the site of the murder.  This has attracted thousands of pilgrims to Canterbury ever since.

Visiting the Cathedral will not cost you a penny, with your Kent Student ID card you can get in for FREE.  There are guided tours, audio-tours and audio-visuals in several languages available for you, but if you’d rather do your own thing here are a few of the places of particular importance/beauty to the Cathedral.

  • The Stained Glass – The Cathedral is home to the most important collection of medieval stained glass windows the ‘Adam delving’ is one of the oldest windows. ‘The Miracle Window’ depicts some of the miracles that took place after the death of Thomas Becket.
  • The Site of the Martyrdom – the site of the death of Thomas Becket which has now become one of Europe’s most important pilgrim sites.
  • Great Cloister and Chapter house – the centre of medieval monastic life, these rooms contain some beautiful stone carvings of faces, animals and shields.
  • St Gabriel’s Chapel – this area of the Cathedral was discovered in the 1950s and contains the oldest Christian murals in the country.
  • The Quire – The first gothic building in England.
  • The Candle in Trinity Chapel – This commemorates the tomb of Thomas Becket which was destroyed in 1538 by order of King Henry VIII.
  • St Augustine Church – The ceremonial enthronement chair of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • The Tomb of the Black Prince – The oldest son of King Edward III, he was regarded as one of England’s greatest military leaders.
  • The Water Tower (best seen from outside the building) – Monks of the 12th Century were expected to wash every morning. The water tower contained a highly sophisticated system of plumbing for the time.

Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales

Journey back in time and experience the charm of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.  The Canterbury Tales is the only attraction in the UK dedicated to this famous work of literature.

Join the costumed characters as you explore the sights, sounds and smells of 14th century England.  The hand-held audio guide (in a variety of languages) leads you through an interactive tour of medieval England and five of the Chaucer’s most loved tales.

This attraction is perfect for guests learning the English language, as well as discovering an important part of English cultural history.

Canterbury Roman Museum

If you want proof that Canterbury is an old town visit the Canterbury Roman museum – Kent’s only Roman Museum.  This museum is at the site of the Canterbury Roman museumremnants of an old Roman town house that was discovered during an excavation after World War Two.  There is a preserved floor mosaic, underfloor heating system and wall paintings.  The museum is also home to collections of pottery, glassware, jewellery and silverware.

Canterbury Guided Walks

Even just walking around Canterbury you can take in so much of the history and culture of the city.  These 90 minute guided walks give you an opportunity to walk around the city with a knowledgeable guide.  They are an opportunity to see many areas of interest of the city, but also to ask questions to an expert of the city of Canterbury.

If you fancy to know more about the darker side of Canterbury, there is also a ghost tour.  This is where a guide will lead you around Canterbury and recount the tales of the ghosts of Canterbury.

By Alice Nicholas, Kent Graduate