A character-filled, historic and lively town rich in British history dating back to Roman times. The spectacular cathedral is the home of the Church of England.
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Canterbury , Kent , United Kingdom (UK)|www.canterbury-cathedral.org|
The home of the Church of England, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in England. Even non-church lovers can’t fail to be impressed by the sheer scale and ambition of the building, from the 11th-century crypt to the beautiful stained glass in the 12th-century choir.
The site dates back to 597AD and the cathedral, along with the tranquil precincts that surround the medieval buildings, is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today it attracts more than 1 million visitors per year.
Know before you go
The cathedral is also famous as the site where Thomas Becket (aka Saint Thomas of Canterbury and at the time the Archbishop) was murdered in 1170, and subsequently entombed. He is venerated as both a saint and a martyr by the Catholic Church, which has made the cathedral an international pilgrimage site. It sits at the end of the so-called ‘Pilgrim’s Way’, which started in Winchester and used to be used by pilgrims come to Thomas Becket’s shrine.
Sadly, the elaborate shrine was destroyed during the Reformation in 1538. Recently, however, it was reconstructed using CGI, based on eye-witness accounts.
Getting there & doing it
Canterbury is around 90 minutes’ drive from London and there are regular direct train connections from Canterbury East and West stations.
You can just turn up, but buying tickets in advance from the website is recommended. 75-minute guided tours of the Cathedral run twice daily, Monday to Saturday – one in the late morning, one in the early afternoon (additional charge). Book onto them in the Nave when you arrive. You can also download a printed guide from the website, or listen to a series of podcasts of different ‘cathedral stories’. A new audio tour app is under development at the time of writing – so check for that too.
Ardent Cathedral lovers can soak up the atmosphere of the cathedral after hours by booking a room at the Cathedral Lodge, situated in the grounds.
When to do it
The Cathedral is open all year round, seven days a week (reduced hours on Sundays). There are four services each day so check times if you want to visit at a quieter time.
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The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.