In 2015 we visited for the first time the enchanting city of Canterbury during Christmas time. Also this year we sail by P&O Ferries to the other side of the Channel and visit the historic city of Canterbury in England. The city is known for its majestic Cathedral in which Thomas Becket was martyred in 1170, before becoming a destination for pilgrims.
Canterbury is also known for two other UNESCO World Heritage sites: the St Augustine Abbey and St Martin’s church. Finally, the city forms the stage for Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic 14th-century The Canterbury Tales. All this history combined with a lovely town during the Christmas period makes it a perfect destination for a daytrip with our international community.
We travel by modern luxury 4* double-deck coach with on-board toilet, air-conditioning, reclining comfort seats with a lot of leg space (Royal Class setup)*. Our departure is from Place Schuman at 06h30 (latest), followed by a quick stop at Metro Yser, Metro Simonis, Basilique and Basilix Shopping Center. You will be served a bottle of water or orange juice. Due to the length of the day we travel with two professional drivers, in accordance with EU regulation. Note, we will not play any movies onboard so you can recline your seat, lay back, and take a nice Saturday morning nap.
After about 2h15 we check-in at P&O Ferries for our 1,5 hours ferry crossing from Calais to Dover. The fee for the ferry is included in the price of your ticket. FYI: the standard return fee for individual passengers is €70, so our package price is really a great deal. On-board you can find several places to sit and watch the famous white cliffs of Dover coming closer and closer. There are several bars and restaurants, as well as a business lounge.
Upon arrival in Dover we will continue our coach trip to Canterbury, which is just 30 minutes away. We begin our visit with a professionally guided tour through the old town (included). We hired two professional and officially licensed guides who share with us the history and tales of the city.
At the end of the tour you’ll understand why Canterbury is such an important city. We walk along the St Martins Church, St Augustine’s Abbey, and various other places of historic interest. Needless to say the guide will also speak about the work of Chaucer.
To provide you with the maximum opportunity to explore the city on your own, and not to lose time by being in a group, we have not planned anything after the tour. Also for lunch you are on your own. There are plenty of good and nice restaurants in town, and of course you can also stroll along the dozens of Christmas market stalls that you can find at just a stone’s throw from the Cathedral.
The Canterbury Cathedral is one of England’s oldest churches. Its roots trace back to 597, although complete reconstructions began in 1070 and last for 7 years. In 1170 the archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the cathedral, which lead to an influx of pilgrims. The cathedral therefore had to be enlarged, whereas also over the centuries that followed several parts were added.
The entrance fee for the Canterbury Cathedral is included in your ticket. One could easily spend an hour in here to witness the different parts, such as the Quire, Trinity Chapel and Crypt. Luckily we have our guides with us, so we get a very good introduction into its history, architecture and role.
The St Augustine Abbey is second highly historic religious place. It marks the rebirth of Christianity in Southern England. Founded in 597 by St Augustine, it was originally a burial place for the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Kent. Nowadays it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site with the Cathedral and St Martin’s Church. As a group we walk by during our guided, but if you would like to come back in the afternoon you can enter for about £5,50. It includes a museum and free audio tour.
St Martin’s Church is another extremely historic religious landmark in Canterbury and England. It has been in use since the end of the 6th century and with that it is the oldest church in continuous use in the English-speaking world. Being part Roman and part Saxon, it was set up by St. Augustine in 597 as a mission to convert the English. Therefore it is often referred to as the first church of the Anglican Communion. Entry is officially free, but a small donation of about 1 GBP is expected if you go inside. As a group our guides will take us there, and we suggest that you join us inside. It’s a very special place and you won’t regret joining us!
When you say Canterbury, you say Canterbury Tales. This 14th century literary work by Geoffrey Chaucer is a collection of more than 20 stories that for the first time in history used common English instead of French or Latin.
The Tales can be enjoyed in real-life in the highly-rated dedicated museum: “Experience the sights, sounds and smells of a bygone era in this fabulous recreation of medieval life; a unique introduction to Canterbury and its famous literary connection. Your adventure begins in the Tabard Inn, where you will meet the first of our costumed guides, preparing you for your pilgrimage from London to Canterbury. To continue your experience, you are invited to share five of Chaucer’s most famous tales, with the aid of an audio guide (commentary available in six languages together with a special version in English for children). Along the way, Chaucer’s colourful and entertaining stories of love, romance, jealousy and trickery are dramatically brought to life for you to enjoy.” Unfortunately, however, the museum will not offer its usual guided tour on our day of visit. You can still go inside as they have their own Artisan Christmas Gift Market. It’s FREE ENTRY, so we suggest to definitely take a peek inside and get a good idea of the museum itself (but without audio and actors, but with undoubtedly dressed up medieval salesmen!).
This Canterbury Christmas Tales trip would of course not be complete without a visit to the local Christmas markets. Besides a nicely decorated town and shopping centre, about 40 traditional wooden sheds offer wonderful products from England and abroad. There will be plenty of gifts you can find here, for someone else or yourself… Needless to say you do not have to worry about getting hungry either as their will be plenty of food too.
We’ll return to Dover in the early evening to be on time for our 20h15 ferry to Calais. You can either rest a bit on a nice chair, do some duty-free shopping or join us in the bar to share some good times on our way back to the mainland. After our return to France (22h45, one hour time difference) we will make a non-stop trip back to Brussels, where we will arrive at around 01h15 and stop again at Basilique, Yser and Place Schuman. Due to our late return we can also stop at Merode, Montgomery, and Diamant. If necessary we coordinate shared rides.
As all Expat Club trips, this one to Canterbury is carefully planned. We have chosen the most optimal ferry crossings for a one-day trip to England. Still, our time in Canterbury is limited. To prevent long waiting times in a restaurant, we have decided to not organise a group lunch. This way you can have the maximum time available to discover Canterbury and enjoy the Christmas Markets.
Event picture: © Canterbury Cathedral
* The configuration of the coach may be different in case of lower numbers of registrations