12 Offbeat Visitor Attractions in Canterbury

Canterbury, renowned for its stunning cathedral and cobbled medieval streets, is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK.

As well as a treasure-trove of major historical sites, there’s an abundance of lesser-known Canterbury visit attractions waiting to be discovered.

So if you’re yearning for off the beaten path Canterbury experiences, you’ve arrived at the right place.

In this article, we will guide you through the hidden gems and unique attractions that make Canterbury such a captivating destination.

Here are 12 unique and unusual things to do in Canterbury.

1. Sign up for the Canterbury Spy Mission Treasure Trail

The Canterbury Spy Mission Treasure Trail is one of the more unusual things to do in Canterbury, offering a novel way to explore the city.

This interactive experience puts you in the shoes of secret agents, tasked with solving riddles and clues scattered across the city.

As you embark on this suspense-filled quest, you’re not only challenging your problem-solving skills, but also discovering the city’s hidden historical and cultural gems.

From charming alleys to centuries-old Canterbury landmarks, each clue leads to a new discovery, enriching your understanding of the city’s illustrious past.

The Spy Mission Treasure Trail provides a truly engaging way to unravel the city, blending the fun of a spy thriller with the rich tapestry of Canterbury’s heritage.

It’s more than just a trail – it’s an enthralling journey that takes in major, offbeat and historical sites in Canterbury.

2. Join a Canterbury Tales Tour

Step into the realm of Chaucer’s imagination with a Canterbury Tales Tour. This unique and unusual Canterbury attraction invites you into a lifelike recreation of 14th-century England,

You’ll wander through winding alleys and courtyards reminiscent of Chaucer’s era.

You’ll encounter engaging storytellers clad in period costumes, who bring to life the vivid characters and narratives of the Canterbury Tales.

As you journey deeper into the labyrinth, you’ll unravel the tales of the Knight, the Miller, the Wife of Bath and others, not merely as a passive observer, but as an active participant in this immersive adventure.


3. Explore the King’s Mile

As you amble along the King’s Mile in Canterbury, you’re stepping into a world that exquisitely blends the past with the present.

This famed stretch, characterised by its historical charm and vibrant atmosphere, is an explorer’s dream.

Each twist and turn along the route uncovers unique shops, inviting cafes and artisan boutiques housed in beautifully preserved building.

As you delve deeper, the King’s Mile continues to surprise with hidden courtyards, intricate architecture and glimpses of the iconic Canterbury Cathedral.

Meandering through the King’s Mile is a journey that entwines the threads of history and culture ,while also taking in some of the most eccentric attractions in Canterbury

4. Visit The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge

The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, located in the heart of Canterbury, serves as a dynamic meeting point of art, culture and history.

This Victorian-era building is home to a diverse range of exhibitions, blending permanent collections with temporary showcases.

There’s an impressive array of artefacts including Egyptian relics, contemporary local art and interactive learning exhibits.

The architecture of the Beaney House itself, a testament to Victorian design, offers a visually stunning backdrop for exploration.

Alongside the exhibits, a varied programme of workshops, talks and events are run designed to inspire and educate.

Visiting the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge offers a captivating insight into the Canterbury’s cultural and historical narratives.

5. Embark on Marlowe’s Canterbury Walk

Embark on an intriguing journey through the life and works of one of England’s greatest playwrights with Marlowe’s Canterbury Walk.

One of Canterbury’s offbeat tours, this unique exploration of the city takes place through the lens of Christopher Marlowe’s life and his influential works.

The walk takes in numerous locations tied to Marlowe’s life, including his birthplace, the King’s School where he studied and the cathedral that played a significant role in his upbringing.

Guided by knowledgeable tour leaders, you’ll learn about his inspiration and lasting impact on English literature. The tours also paint a magical picture of Elizabethan Canterbury.

Marlowe’s Footsteps Tour is an insightful, interactive exploration that’s perfect for discovering unseen Canterbury and its many hidden gems visitor attractions.

6. Catch a Show at the Marlowe Theatre

Marlowe Theatre

Image: marlowetheatre.com

Stepping into the Marlowe Theatre, you’re entering a hub of artistic excellence in Canterbury.

Known for its diverse line-up, the Marlowe Theatre stages a compelling mix of productions ranging from engaging dramas and ballets to musicals and avant-garde shows.

The theatre’s modern amenities, such as its superb acoustics and welcoming seating arrangement, enhance your theatre-going experience, making every performance a delight to witness.

Attending a show at the Marlowe Theatre allows you to immersing yourself in an evening of culture and performance arts within the stunning setting of one of Canterbury’s finest theatres.

The magic of the Marlowe Theatre leaves a lasting impression, creating cherished memories of your visit – one of Canterbury’s best kept secrets.

7. Go Punting on the River Stour with Westgate Punts

Punting on the River Stour offers you an idyllic and unique way to experience the charm of Canterbury.

Settle into the traditional flat-bottomed punt, while your expert guide navigates you along the city’s historic waterway.

Drifting under low-arched bridges and past well-preserved buildings, you’ll get a unique perspective on some of the most extraordinary Canterbury landmarks.

Your guide will share anecdotes about the landmarks you pass, making the journey as informative as it is tranquil.

The River Stour’s calm waters make punting a relaxing activity, suitable for all ages.

Remember to dress for the weather, and don’t forget your camera – the scenic beauty of the Stour, with its lush banks and diverse wildlife, offers ample photo opportunities.

8. Visit St Augustine’s Abbey

This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canterbury stands as a significant testament to the country’s religious past, offering a glimpse into a bygone era of Roman, Saxon and Norman influence.

Detailed displays are scattered throughout the site which illuminate the rich heritage of the Abbey, painting a vivid picture of its past magnificence.

Located amidst tranquil greenery, a visit to St Augustine’s Abbey offers an immersive historical experience.

It’s also a serene retreat from the city’s lively pace that offers a fascinating example of England’s spiritual evolution.

9. Explore Eastbridge Hospital

Looking for unconventional Canterbury attractions? Then how about Eastbridge Hospital?

This remarkable example of a medieval almshouse is still in operation and provides a  unique glimpse into the city’s social history.

Founded in the 12th century to provide accommodation for pilgrims, it has since evolved, housing elderly residents in its almshouses today.

You’ll see the original refectory where pilgrims ate, the chapel and the Undercroft, which houses a fascinating exhibition explaining the building’s history.

10. Take a Stroll through Westgate Gardens

Westgate Gardens in Canterbury is a quintessential English garden offering a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city.

The well-manicured paths are fringed by diverse flora, which changes with the seasons, offering a dynamic display of colours and scents.

From the vibrant tulips in spring to the warm hues of autumn leaves, every visit offers a different visual feast.

The River Stour flows serenely through the gardens, providing a home for various waterfowl.

Historically significant features include the 200-year-old Oriental Plane tree and the late Victorian Tower House.

A stroll through Westgate Gardens is both a serene and engaging encounter with Canterbury’s natural and cultural charm.

11. Picnic in Dane John Gardens

Taking a picnic in Dane John Gardens provides a delightful opportunity to experience one of Canterbury’s most beloved public spaces.

The meticulously maintained park, with its elegant landscaping, is an ideal spot for a leisurely outdoor meal.

Nestle on the lush lawns, unpack your picnic, and indulge in a feast surrounded by blooming flower beds, mature trees and serene water features.

The park’s hill offers panoramic views of the city – a perfect backdrop for your meal. For younger visitors, the children’s playground and maze offer plenty of entertainment.

The historic Dane John Mound, dating back to the 1st century AD, adds a touch of history to your visit.

A picnic in Dane John Gardens allows you to soak in the tranquil ambiance, engage with local life and create memorable experiences in the heart of Canterbury.

12. Book a Canterbury Historic River Tour

Canterbury Rowing

Immerse yourself in Canterbury’s captivating history with the Canterbury Historic River Tour.

This unique Canterbury experience takes you on a serene journey along the River Stour.

Your guide, brimming with local knowledge, will share fascinating insights into the city’s heritage and the landmarks you encounter.

Highlights include the celebrated Marlowe Theatre, the historic Eastbridge Hospital and the riverside gardens’ lush greenery.

The river offers an exceptional viewing angle, revealing unspoiled views of Canterbury’s architectural treasures and opportunities for memorable photos.

The tour also acquaints you with the local wildlife that call the river home, from elegant swans to playful ducks.

The Canterbury Historic River Tour provides an engaging narrative of Canterbury’s rich past, delivered as you meander through its beautiful landscapes and tranquil wildlife habitats.

For more top visitor attractions and unusual things to do in Canterbury, visit the official tourism site.

Dale Shelabarger

Dale is the owner and founder of Cottages to Rent which he launched back in 2005. As well as promoting holiday cottages, Dale blogs regularly about top UK holiday destinations, visitor attractions and places of historical interest.