Top rated TripAdvisor attractions in Kent, including Canterbury Cathedral, Leeds Castle and Howletts Wild Animal Park
Already thinking about how to fill up your summer calendar this year?
We’ve checked the online ratings and read the reviews to bring you these best-loved attractions and help you make the most of the summer holidays.
1. Canterbury Cathedral
This beautiful building in the heart of historic Canterbury has been a landmark for pilgrims and visitors since the Middle Ages. With more than 1,400 years of history, this impressive cathedral is still an active, working church and welcomes both worshipers and tourists alike. Discover the striking architecture, magnificent gardens and fascinating history of the cathedral with a guided tour and enjoy a coffee and snack from the kiosk as you stroll through the grounds.
During the summer, you can also visit the new exhibition, Making History: Church, State and Conflict, in the cathedral’s crypt. This unique collection of artefacts tells the story of church-state relations and includes pieces such as fragments of Thomas Becket’s shrine and the battle shield of medieval warrior Edwards the Black.
Canterbury Cathedral is in the Burgate area of Canterbury and is open daily Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm, and Sunday, 11.30am to 5pm. Kids go free until Monday, October 31. Book online here.
2. Viking Coastal Trail, Thanet
This stunning 32 mile route takes keen cyclists along the Thanet coast, visiting spots such as Margaret, Broadstairs and Ramsgate on the way. The route, which is steeped in Roman and Saxon history, is the perfect way to capture spectacular coastal scenery while spending a day out in the fresh air. Visit quaint villages, dramatic marshland and hidden bays and, if you get tired, take a break at one of Thanet's many pubs, bars or restaurants and watch the sunset over the beach.
During the summer, it’s worth stopping off at one of Thanet’s most beloved attractions, Dreamland. This vintage funfair is a great way to keep the whole family entertained, with fairground rides, roller rink, arcade games, food stands and even live music if you pick the right day.
Dreamland is currently open on weekends, and will open daily throughout the summer holidays, from 11am. Entry is free and no booking is required. Find out more here.
Find out more about the Viking Coastal Trail here.
3. Dover Castle
One of the country’s most iconic castles, sitting atop the incredible White Cliffs of Dover, is full of extraordinary stories. As England’s longest-serving fortress, Dover Castle has been used as a WWII hospital, headquarters for WWI soldiers and the medieval home of Henry II, to name a few. Visitors can relive these pivotal moments in history with tours of the underground tunnels, Great Tower and 80 acres of castle grounds.
During the summer, special family events such as the pirates weekend, which sees history’s most famous pirates fight it out at close quarters, and the knights tournament, where you can watch rival knights compete in the ultimate test of strength and skill, will take place.
Dover Castle is at Castle Hill in Dover and is open daily from Monday, July 4 from 10am to 6pm. Adult tickets start from £23.60. Book online here.
4. The Shell Grotto, Margate
One of Kent’s most unique and intriguing attractions is the Shell Grotto. The underground cove was discovered completely by chance in 1835, and never fails to impress with its curving chalk walls studded with 4.6 million shells. The origins of this strange mosaic is unknown; some say it was an ancient place of worship, others think it could have been a secret subterranean meeting place. Make up your own mind as you venture down into this stunning and curious work of art.
During the summer, the Shell Grotto is the perfect attraction for adult art lovers and kids alike, as you can print off a free childrens’ activity sheet with puzzles and colouring for young visitors to complete as you explore the grotto.
The Shell Grotto is at Grotto Hill in Margate and is currently open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. The grotto will open daily for the summer holidays from Wednesday, July 13. Adult tickets cost £4.50. Book online here.
5. Leeds Castle, near Maidstone
Live a day in the life of royalty as you visit the private home of six of England’s queens and King Henry VIII. Leeds Castle dates back to the 11th century and has been a Norman stronghold, Jacobean country house, Georgian mansion and, now, is one of Kent’s most beloved attractions. During your time at the historic building, you can explore the glamour of the 1930s inside the castle, wander through 500 acres of parkland and have fun in the outdoor playgrounds, maze and underground grotto.
During the summer, you can enjoy the Queens with Means immersive experience. Step into the world of seven historic queens, including Queen Catherine of Aragon and Queen Anne of Bohemia, and hear their voices as they take you through their versions of medieval and Tudor life.
6. Howletts Wild Animal Park, near Canterbury
Live life on the wild side with a trip to Howletts Wild Animal Park. This beautiful wildlife park is home to more than 390 animals, including gorillas, leopards, monkeys and the largest herd of African elephants in the UK. This conservation park helps educate visitors about captive breeding, endangered species and their habitats, and reintroduction into the wild, all while getting up close and personal to some amazing animals.
During the summer, you can take a walk through the outdoor exhibition, Animals of the Ice Age. Life size prehistoric creatures have taken over the park’s woodland walk, and now you can spot mammoths, sabre toothed cats and giant sloths alongside your favourite animals in this forgotten land.
Howletts Wild Animal Park is in Bekesbourne, near Canterbury, and is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm. Adult tickets start from £22.27. Book online here.
Also, don't forget to visit the Aspinall Foundation's second Kent location, Port Lympne Hotel and Reserve near Hythe, which offers safari tours across its 600 acre Kentish savannah and close encounters with giraffes, zebras, ostriches and more. Find out more here.
7. Westgate Gardens, Canterbury
Sitting either side of the River Great Stour and on the edge of the historic city of Canterbury are the Westgate Gardens. When you spot the landmark Westgate Towers at the end of the high street, you know you’re in the right place. Once inside the Westgate Park, you can visit the colourful gardens, which are full of vibrant flowers and plants, or visit the other three main areas. The Tannery Field, which was once part of the city’s largest tannery, Toddler’s Cove and Bingley Island Nature Reserve all make for a great day out.
During the summer, you can spend hours soaking up the sun as you roam Canterbury’s sculpture trail. Start with the Tannery Field bull sculpture and follow the map to find fun artwork and historical figures all over the city.
The Westgate Gardens are near St Peter's Street in Canterbury and are open daily until the gates close at dusk. Please find opening times on the park gates. Entry is free, no booking is required. Find out more here.
8. Godinton House and Gardens, Ashford
Dating back to the 14th century, this country house has opened its doors to show visitors what it was like to live here over the past 600 years. The last owner, Alan Wyndham Green, established the Godinton House Preservation Trust, which has maintained the beauty and history of the home since the 1990s. The trust’s expert guides now take guests through Godinton House’s history, art, furniture and porcelain, as well as the yew hedges and formal gardens.
During the summer, the country house will host theatre under the stars with two outdoor performances. First up is The Pantaloons with their unique production of War of the Worlds, followed by the Rude Mechanical Theatre Company’s hilarious Gods and Dogs later in July.
9. Ramsgate Tunnels
Delve underground and explore the UK’s largest network of civilian wartime tunnels. A visit to the Ramsgate Tunnels begins with a short film in the 150 year old Victorian railway tunnel, before visiting the air raid precaution tunnels where thousands took shelter during wartime battles. Hear about the opening of the tunnels and the lives of those who worked, and even lived, in them during WWII.
During the summer, you can take part in the special Overground Underground tours. These tours, which only take place until September, take visitors on a guided walk above and below ground, showing you the hidden entrances and the original public entrance as well as many points of interest around the town.
Ramsgate Tunnels is on Marina Esplanade in Ramsgate and is open daily from 9.30am to 4pm. Adult tickets start from £8. Book online here.
10. Rochester Castle and Cathedral
With these two huge attractions just a stone’s throw from each other, it makes sense to visit the two together and soak up as much of Rochester’s history as you can. The cathedral, which towers over the centre of the town, is the second oldest in England. Founded in 604, this working place of worship has many fascinating collections to browse, some dating as far back as the Middle Ages. Rochester Castle, on the other hand, began life as a Norman tower-keep in the 1100s and still stands today as a reminder of the town’s history.
During the summer, you can head inside the cathedral and see the Big History exhibition, which uncovers the background and archaeology behind the cathedral and looks at the changes that have influenced life at the site over the last 1,400 years.
Rochester Castle is on Castle Hill and Rochester Cathedral is at The Precinct, both in Rochester town centre.
The castle is open during the summer from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm. Book online here.
The cathedral is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm, and Sunday, 1pm to 3pm. Book online here.