About About Canterbury:
Canterbury is a small Cathedral city, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury who is head of the Church of England. Canterbury Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion. The city, about 60 miles southeast of London in Kent, is studded with historic buildings, a castle, monastic ruins and a large pedestrian shopping district. Because of its place in the history of Western Christianity, much of Canterbury is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city has lured pilgrims for almost a thousand years.
It was here that St. Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury and known as "Apostle to the English," was sent to convert the Anglo Saxons in the late sixth century.
The 1170 assassination of Thomas à Becket, arising from a dispute between between King Henry II, Becket's childhood friend, and the church, and Becket's canonization, turned Canterbury into an important pilgrimage shrine. Becket was the "holy blessed martyr" that Geoffrey Chaucer's storytelling pilgrims were en route to venerate in his Canterbury Tales.
Three Things to Do in Canterbury:
- The World Heritage Site - The ruins of St. Augustine's monastery; the Cathedral and medieval Cathedral precincts; and St. Martin's Church, the oldest parish church in England and St. Augustine's base when he arrived in 597. The spot in the Canterbury Cathedral where St.Thomas à Becket was murdered as he sang vespers on December 29, 1170 is marked with a plaque. At one time the saint's bones were kept in a shrine at the Cathedral but it was destroyed, along with the bones themselves, when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. Canterbury Cathedral has an 11th century crypt, a 12th century quire and a 14th century nave.
- The Canterbury Festival - A two week celebration of international performing and visual arts, held in the Cathedral and Cathedral Precincts. Not as big and flash as Edinburgh but this festival has been around a lot longer.
- The Goods Shed - Shop and nosh your way around one of Canterbury's newest attractions, a combination continental market and restaurant. The Goods Shed is Kent's only daily farmers' market and it's packed with local produce and lovely gourmet goodies.
- Whitstable is a charming artists and fishing village reminiscent of northern New England. It's a few miles from the center of Canterbury and reachable by local bus. In season, it's a place to gorge on gorgeous local oysters and year round, the seafood is memorable. Book a table at The Sportsman for a real treat.
- The Medway Towns are a historic group of towns on the River Medway, halfway down the Kent coast from London. Rochester with its Castle and Cathedral and the Chatham Historic Dockyard are worth a side trip.
How to Get to Canterbury
Find out how to go: London to Canterbury by Train, Bus and Car