How To Travel From London to Canterbury

By on Published: September 23, 2021 | Last Updated: October 8, 2021 in Europe, UK, Western Europe with 0 Comments

How to Travel from London to Canterbury

If you’re looking for a great day or weekend trip from London, then it’s hard to overlook the famous Medieval city of Canterbury in Kent.

With one of the UK’s most impressive Cathedrals in the country, not to mention some beautiful cobbled streets, superb punting opps, great eats and drinks, history a go-go and a wonderful university, one could be forgiven for thinking this was a bit of a mini Oxford or Cambridge.

In fact, I’m probably now touting this top UK city as the best mini-break alternative to either of these famous university cities, especially given the fact it’s incredibly easy to access from London too.

Oh, and did I mention the seaside isn’t far away either?!

So if you’re looking to get out of the capital for a good slice of fresh Kent air, then here’s the complete lowdown on how to do it via train, bus or car, including the pros and cons of each.


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London to Canterbury by Train

England, Whitstable, Canterbury Sign

The first option for getting from London to Canterbury is by train.

This is the quickest and most direct option.

Heading straight out of London St Pancreas to Canterbury West, these trains are the fastest option, because part of the route is via the highspeed Channel Tunnel connection to Ashford.

Sometimes, you’ll then have to change train in Ashford, but even with this, the journey takes less than 75 minutes. Without the change in Ashford, the journey takes under an hour from London St Pancras to Canterbury West direct, making it a winner!

Given the speediness of this service, it’s perhaps unsurprising that this is also the most costly of the routes, but if you’re only in Canterbury for a short amount of time, it’s almost certainly worth it.

Alternatively, trains also run from London Victoria to Canterbury East and Canterbury West.

These routes take slightly longer at between 1.5 and 2 hours, but are direct and are generally cheaper because they don’t utilise the highspeed infrastructure.

Tickets start from around £25 on these routes.

It’s worth noting that the 2 train stations in Canterbury are either side of the city, but not quite in the way their names suggest!

Canterbury West is the closest to the city centre, and the historic part of town can be reached in about 5 minutes on foot, so I’d definitely head for that one if you’re staying centrally or day tripping.

As an aside, next to this station is an amazing eatery come market called The Goods Shed, which you should absolutely definitely eat at during your time here.

At the other end of the train journey, it’s easy to get to any of the London stations I mention above using the city’s Tube or Bus network.

Either you can pick the departure station nearest to where you are based, or easiest to get to, or make your selection based on the price of the service or the length of journey.

As always, I use Trainline to check schedules as well as book my trains in the UK, including for trains to London to Canterbury (or visa-versa).

I particularly like the way Trainline uses split fares, which means you can be guaranteed to pay the least for tickets thanks to the way they analyse a range of different fares (including 2 singles vs returns etc) to get you the best deal.

And that’s a particularly good thing when it comes to the London to Canterbury train, because these tickets can be pretty expensive, especially at weekends and during the summer / festive months when most people visit the city.

At all times, but especially at these peak times, I highly recommend booking your London to Canterbury train in advance – think at least 7-10 days, but preferably more.

Advance bookings are going to give you the cheapest prices EVERY time.

The other way to keep the costs down if you’re travelling to Kent (or anywhere in the Southeast) from London is to get yourself a Network Railcard.

This card does have a membership fee of £30 per year, but you’ll save up to a third on all journeys in the London area and the Southeast, which means it soon mounts up.

Getting a Network Railcard is a huge budget tip I persoanlly use to travel cheaply in the UK, so comes highly recommended.

Pros to Train Travel: Direct, Quick, Regular, Choice of London Stations

Cons to Train Travel: Can be Expensive

 

London to Canterbury by Coach

Kent, Canterbury, Buildings

If price is a major consideration for you, then perhaps travelling from London to Canterbury via coach might prove a better option.

National Express is a great coach company that runs services across the UK, including direct services from London to Canterbury.

If you have plenty of time, but small pockets, you’ll likely be delighted to find single tickets for as little as £6!

With several departures per day, the quickest services takes just 1 hour 35 minutes and the longest ones around 2 hours 15 minutes.

This means bus travel is probably best suited to those heading to Canterbury for a weekend – a 3-4 hour return journey is a bit much for a day trip!

All of these coaches leave from Victoria Coach Station – which is the National Express hub in London, a short walk from London Victoria Rail Station.

Coaches arrive directly into Canterbury too at the Canterbury Bus Station, which is just a 5 minute walk away from the Cathedral.

Again booking National Express tickets in advance can help you secure the best rates. However this doesn’t need to be done nearly as far in advance as the trains.

Booking your Canterbury to London coach can be done as late as 1-2 days ahead of your departure day.

Pros to Coach Travel: Direct, Cheap, Hourly Departures

Cons to Coach Travel: Longer Journey Time

 

London to Canterbury by Car

Kent, Canterbury, Cherries

And finally, we come to the 3rd option for travelling from Canterbury to London (or visa versa) and this is to drive.

Of course the advantages of driving include leaving when you want, as well as having a car when you arrive down in Kent – which is ideal if you want to explore the area around the town too.

If you’re sharing the ride with others, then you can also share the costs of fuel on this journey too.

But don’t forget, there’s often hidden costs when it comes to driving down here – not least the issue and fees associated with parking, which can be significant in the summer especially.

Forget the prices, just trying to find a parking space here is a whole thing, especially in the busy summer months, when the place can be rammed!

Learn more about parking in Canterbury, including car park locations and prices, here.

It’s also possible that driving to Canterbury will take you longer than the train, especially if the traffic is bad or you’ve got to get across the city from West London.

And it certainly won’t prove as relaxing as a train journey!

Without stops, you’re looking at around 1.5 hours to make this journey from London to Canterbury, otherwise check out some options for detours in this article I wrote about the 13 best places to visit in Kent.

I don’t generally recommend driving to Canterbury – it’s not generally cheaper or quicker than bus or train and it definitely involves a lot more hassle such as traffic and parking.

That said, it will give you flexibility if you are exploring more areas in the county of Kent, or if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage or young children.

Pros to Car Travel: Independence, No Need to Organise in Advance, Flexibility

Cons to Car Travel: Traffic, Parking, Stress!

 

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When to Visit & How Long to Stay

Kent, Canterbury, Me at the Cathedral

No question in my mind that you should definitely visit the stunning city of Canterbury during the summer season.

This will allow you to get the most from the city’s garden and river (including punting) because, let’s face it, England is exponentially more beautiful when the sun shines!

I visited Canterbury for the second time during a scorching July weekend and can happily attest to the fact it looked far more beguiling than when I visited in the winter drizzle the first time round!

That said, I am a sun bunny, so definitely am biased!

You can actually probably enjoy most of Canterbury’s attractions in a day, but if you really want to get under the skin of this city, and perhaps enjoy some of the surrounding attractions including the coastal spots of Whitstable and Herne Bay, as well as some vineyard visits, then why not make it a weekend?

… you won’t regret it!

 

Where to Stay in Canterbury

Kent, Canterbury, Westgate Gardens

And if you’re looking at staying overnight in Canterbury, then here’s my top suggestions…

Canterbury City Centre Premier Inn certainly also offers great value accommodation within strolling distance of the, yes you guessed it, city centre.

This is well-suited to overnight stays, where you just want somewhere to lay your head and aren’t too worried about the feel of the place.

If you want something with a more independent spirit, then check out the lovely Falstaff – a central spot with a pub and restaurant below, this place offers a small number of beautifully renovated rooms complete with freestanding baths.

It’s gastropub accommodation at its best, right in the heart of the city.

This is where I stayed during my second trip to Canterbury and I couldn’t rate the décor, size and comfort of the rooms enough!

Incredible value!

 

Where to Head to After Canterbury?

Kent, Dungeness, Me Walking

I’ve already mentioned Whitstable, Herne Bay and the Vineyards (including Simpsons Estate) that should be visited around Canterbury, but what about elsewhere in Kent?

Wellll…. I’ve got plenty of great options up my sleeve thanks to numerous trips I’ve made to this fab country!

Top of the list has to be the iconic White Cliffs of Dover and the apocalyptic desert come abandoned fishing village of Dungeness.

Plus, who could forget the fabulous Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs?

Ohh Kent, so much to choose from!

And then just across the border in East Sussex, the kitsch beauty of Hastings and medieval charm of Rye is all yours for the taking!

 

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And that’s my guide on how to travel from London to Canterbury, giving you all the pros and cons of the 3 options – train, coach and car.

Have you visited this iconic city?

How did you travel there?

Please help other travellers out by sharing your experiences below…

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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