We love London. London is beautiful and always buzzing, it’s so well connected and full of great places to keep you busy. However, its fast rhythm can become slightly overwhelming at times. That’s why once in a while we feel that we need to escape it so we can fall in love with it all over again! We used to plan our trip destinations well in advance before having children, until we discovered that a simple train journey can change our mood for the better while it has the power of keeping our curious children entertained for longer.
Very recently we made our way to Canterbury, a rather gorgeous city which has become the biggest travel surprise for us! The cutest lanes, the most beautiful building facades and the old pubs! It’s full of hidden gems and interestingly enough, it has also been one of the best places where we had seafood for dinner. But let’s start with the beginning…
On a Friday evening, after work I packed up a very light bag, prepped the kids and met my husband at St Pancras International at the Southeastern train platform. The best way to keep it smart and easy is to get a Southeastern (link to website) ticket, prices start from £26.10 for an Advance Fare from London to Canterbury! It took us less than one hour to get back to Canterbury (it sometimes takes my husband longer to get from Central London home!).
Where to stay
We spent the night in the most delightful place (which is so family friendly, too) called The Art House. We’ve learnt that during Victorian times this building was used as a fire station where horse drawn fire engines would house themselves in the barn. It’s within walking distance to the city centre – actually less than 10 minutes’ walk to the nicest street of pubs and restaurants.
We walked to have dinner in a very cosy sea food restaurant called Chapman’s Seafood Bar & Brasserie. If you’re a seafood lover, then this place is a must! The menu is very generous and the lobster is cooked to perfection. Quick tip if you have children – get a table upstairs, it’s more quiet and there’s more space for them to run around without interrupting anyone 😉
After a truly scrumptious dinner we returned to our little Art House. When I woke up early, Justin and Lucas were already cooking goodies for breakfast. It turns out food markets are a great feature in Canterbury – The Goods Shed is brilliant if you fancy a bit of farmers market and food hall vibes. We then left to see Canterbury for the first time in daylight.
Not before playing a little with a choo choo train we found in the livingroom…
What to do in Canterbury
Punting in Canterbury is a must! It was the first activity we went for after having breakfast at the Art House. Gosh, all I want now is go back and do it all over again! We started our exploring in the stunning Westgate Parks because what a better way to get to know a place if not on its water canals or river! With four different landscape areas offering a beautiful stretch of recreational land, Westgate Parks follows the River Stour into the wonderful countryside of Canterbury. The water meadows are full of wildlife and if you are lucky enough to get a ray of sunshine too, then you can call it a day! The children loved getting their hands in the water while trying to catch the falling leaves from the trees. If you are traveling with children like us, after the punting experience, you can let them go wild in the huge playground which is very close-by.
Visit The Canterbury Cathedral
What a glorious view is the Canterbury Cathedral which was founded all the way back in 597! It is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and part of a World Heritage Site. It’s dominating the city centre of this tiny city and the architecture is simply spectacular. Next time we get to Canterbury we will visit it inside too, as this time a teething baby and a sugar high toddler were a little bit too much to handle in the indoors of a holy place.
Where to eat
When you get hungry, you can have a lunch al fresco, choose a pub corner or have a bite in a coffee shop, the only challenge is that you have too many options! Although I tend to go for a local restaurant and avoid chain ones each time I’m traveling to another city, the Cafe Rouge has cleverly chosen the cutest spot and it was hard to resist having a glass of red wine and a steak outside on its terrace in the sunshine. Don’t forget the seafood restaurant I just mentioned 😉
If your sweet tooth is calling, there are lots of sweets shops around the city to keep you happy!
”..a very old house bulging over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…” Charles Dickens, 1849
One of my top recommendations is the Crooked House which looks as if it is about to tumble over. Its skewed facade stops many visitors who didn’t have to google top recommendations for Canterbury prior to their visit. Built in the 17th century, they say the Crooked House might have been part of the inspiration behind Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield. We bought a few books for the children now as the house works as a charity bookstore.
Apart from Rochester, I haven’t seen any city with so many cute old buildings’ facades.
The Canterbury High Street is full of little shops and street vendors which are great for Christmas shopping. You don’t need to plan much your list, there are so many quirky options you can go for.
One of my absolute favourite shops remains Madame Oiseauwhich happens to be the only artisan chocolatier in Canterbury. I didn’t go home empty handed, but with a full bag of chocolate Santas and other treats we had on our train journey home.
That’s it for now, but see you soon, Kent!
One place that we haven’t managed to see in the end (because of all the coffee shop pit stops we couldn’t help ourselves from) is the Canterbury Norman Castle which they say it’s the most ancient castle in Britain. But this makes the perfect excuse to go back, doesn’t it?
One more ticket from Southeastern and one more escape this Winter, here’s the website to help you create those lasting memories and share your own #SEhiddengems with @Se_Railway!
This post was written in partnership with Southeastern Railway, but all opinions are my own.