I studied Chaucer for ‘A’ Level and – by the end of it – was sick of Canterbury. I mean, who would want to go where a bunch of old medieval chumps wanted to travel to? Telling each other stories, FFS? Not me. I avoided the home of the pilgrim, the Cathedral, the nasty murder of Thomas Becket for years, thinking it dull. Old fashioned. Stuffy. Full of tourists.
Yoghurt - Ylvis
The Korean Cowgirl
And then we went to Canterbury and I had my wrist thoroughly slapped. Called ‘stupid’. Yes, Canterbury is jammed with tourists, especially on weekends (get to the Cathedral early, because you HAVE to go to the Cathedral), and it’s genteel in a way that only certain British market towns can be. But (and it’s a big but), this is a city stuffed full of lively bars (big student population), cute cobbled streets, lovely old houses, some fantastic restaurants. Look past the hordes gathered in the Buttermarket. Walk out to the castle. Escape down the Royal Mile. You’ll suddenly find yourself in
a quaint pub or a curious little shop and you’re in a different Canterbury. A Canterbury where there’s not a pilgrim or a man dressed up as Chaucer or a Thomas Becket medallion in sight.
Our favourite spot was Greyfriars Gardens (not open in the winter). Just outside of the city centre, the river flows through the park and you can sit and admire the ancient chapel spanning the narrow waterway. Just ignore the lads hanging out by the park benches. The Canterbury natives are friendly.
We liked it here. An old police station/lock up with original features in situ, this has a gorgeous look and feel and some smiley bartenders. Rocking on a Saturday night, more chilled in the week. Great place to start your night out.
A vegan pub? Eh? Aren’t all beers and ciders vegan? As it turns out, no. They’re not. And The Monument celebrates its vegan-ness with a fully animal-free range of booze. Nice chilled atmosphere and some good (no meat) food, too.
A bar and a restaurant and a hotel, the Falstaff is one of those places where you can sit at the bar and drink a cocktail and feel sophisticated. Or take your mum for afternoon tea (and drink a cocktail with your scones, too). Dead classy looking, too.
Cafe des Amis
Recommended by the owner of The Retro B&B, this is a little treat of a place. Great Mexican food, a proper buzzy atmosphere and mojitos that keep you coming back for more.
The Korean Cowgirl
Sounds like it shouldn’t work – a Texas smokehouse mixing up the flavours of Korea. Bao buns and brioche baps with pulled pork and kimchee. Yet somehow it’s delicious. Properly crispy fries too and some sweet, smokey BBQ sauce too. Yum.
We’ll need to challenge you to eat at this intriguing Japanese restaurant. On the two occasions we visited it, it was closed – the second time for refurbishment. Hopefully it’s as good as its online reviews say.
Obscenely good desserts, waffles, crêpes and coffee, served in an emphatically steampunk environment. Apparently Creams are popping up all over the country and are quite the ‘thing’
– not that we would know. Their Canadian crêpes are bloody good. All you need to know.
One of those shops that smells as good as it looks. Lovely homeware, candles, odds and sods, stuffed mice, cloches, hooks and knobs… you know, one of those shops. But this one is done
extra-well and definitely worth a poke about on its three floors.
Frocks n Stock
A fabulous charity shop with some beautifully curated items of clothing, bags, scarves and homeware. I so wanted the old avocado-coloured dial phone and a typewriter from the ‘50s.
Really good prices too.
An art gallery that actually stocks art you want to buy. Some of it is really pricey, some of it isn’t. Really well curated and they don’t make you feel like a dick for going in and having a look.
Level Up Games
Vintage video games, arcade machines, old consoles, Game & Watch stuff… Tamagotchis. Tamagotchis! All in a space smaller than your average living room. Plus, they have a friendly
shop cat. Winning.
New vinyl only but that’s not a bad thing – this is a lovely little shop, with a knowledgeable owner and some great finds. Recommended.
What we did:
Visited the cathedral of course, like all good tourists. Well, it is bloody ancient and the scene of the grisly murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. Head down to St Gabriel’s Chapel to avoid the crowds and see some amazing 12th-century wall paintings. Went to The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge and enjoyed some cultural stuff for free, including the real Bagpuss! All in all, were very civilised indeed.
Yoghurt - Ylvis
Just because it made us laugh in The Korean Cowgirl. Totally stupid, totally fun.
What we bought:
Cheapo PS3 games from Level Up Games. A Mexican Day of the Dead wooden bat from Siesta Crafts. A plaster hare from Queen Bee. Animal themes abound!
Where we stayed:
House Of The Dead / Crazy golf?:
No... but we did play some fantastic old-school arcade games in Level Up Games for 50p a pop. Pacman, Street Fighter and Donkey Kong… what a treat. For Brad, in particular.