Students' guide to Canterbury

By Pamela Head,

Overview

Canterbury, while technically being a city, has more of a town-like feel. The town centre is enclosed within city walls, the main high street is cobbled and there is a nice mix of chain stores and independent and ‘ye olde’ feel retailers.

The Cathedral is pride of place in the centre of the town and is one of the oldest and most famous buildings in England. Students at the universities in Canterbury will graduate at this momentous monument and it’s definitely a special occasion. Canterbury is also the focus for some of the great writers, like Geoffrey Chaucer, and was the birthplace of Christopher Marlowe, making it a great place for literature enthusiasts.

The surrounding area is slightly more rural: there are open green fields, sheep and cows often escaping and running down the residential streets and huge student communities even off-campus, with students choosing to live mainly in Hales Place, the St. Stephens area or Wincheap.

Entertainment/nightlife

See theunipod’s student nightlife guide to Caterbury for details of club nights.

Gulbenkian:
This is the theatre/cinema located on campus. It regularly hosts famous comedians, theatre performances, movies and other performers, and students get a discount, so definitely pay a visit – I’ve seen three comedians so far this month and for cheaper than I’d pay to see them at any other venue!

Marlowe Theatre:
This is the theatre in town and does much the same thing as the Gulbenkian, with opera performances, plays, musicals, etc. They also play host to the panto every year and it’s definitely worth a visit. It has recently been refurbished and so is now shiny, new and very nice to enjoy some entertainment in.

Cinemas:
There are only two cinemas in Canterbury: The Odeon; next to Chill nightclub and a three minute walk from the main bus stop, and the Gulbenkian, the cinema on the University of Kent campus. The Gulbenkian will show blockbuster movies, but most likely not until a few weeks after they have been released, so if you’re desperate to see something the day it comes out, your best bet would be hitching a ride to Ashford and visiting the Cineworld there as the Odeon only has two screens and limited movie capacity.

Restaurants

Zizzi/Pizza Express/Pizza Hut:
Canterbury has a wide range of pizza places if this happens to be your favourite food, and a different place to suit each budget and occasion.

Nandos:
For all your chicken needs, Nandos is here. They offer student discount on meals and will give you a card for you to stamp so you can reach that ultimate goal: a free whole chicken.

Wagamamas:
Japanese cuisine. This may be a bit expensive for students generally but I’m putting it on this list because the food is amazing and it makes an excellent first date out to impress venue.

Tacos Locos:
Spanish/Mexican. The food is good, the atmosphere is good and they have a two-for-one cocktail deal on certain nights so if you want to have a nice night out with some friends and drink something other than the standard vodka and coke, visit this place. They also have a shisha bar, if that’s something that you’re into but don’t know where to go.

The Cuban:
Tapas and Grill. As the name suggests, it’s Cuban-style food. Like Tacos Locos, Cuban also does cocktails, but it’s slightly more expensive than other places and as a student, you’re more likely to visit the Cuban on a Monday night than any other time.

ChomChom:
Chinese buffet. While the food is amazing, this place is also VERY expensive, with prices often averaging at £13.95 for dinner and a cocktail costing £8. If you’re used to London prices, then you’re sorted, but if you aren’t, prepare to save. A lot of societies and birthday girls/boys choose to eat here to celebrate, so you’ll probably visit here at least once.

The Hutch:
Vegetarian. This restaurant was a particular favourite of my friend who grew tired of going to restaurants and having a limited menu to choose from. Everything the Hutch serves is vegetarian and is done so well that meat-eaters won’t notice the difference. Students also get a discount, so it’s a double bargain for the veggies.

CJs:
The best sandwiches in Canterbury, basically. No question here.

Sports

The big one in Canterbury is the Kent County Cricket Club. With its grounds located in Canterbury, this one is a definite plus for any cricket fan.

On a more student level, the University of Kent has a very big emphasis on sport. In 2012, they launched Team Kent. All Kent teams are branded and are under one umbrella. Kent caters to everything, from football to Jitsu. 

Art and Culture

Apart from the aforementioned Gulbenkian and Marlowe theatres, hosting plays, comedians, movies and other forms of entertainment, Canterbury also has some art galleries.

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge:
This is an art museum and library situated in the middle of Canterbury. It has undergone restoration and is now beautifully presented, featuring exhibitions and interactive events for all ages. Worth a go if you’re interested in the area, art and all types of culture.

Tate Modern:
This art gallery is in Margate and although not strictly in Canterbury, is an important place to visit if culture is your thing. Newly built, the Tate is home to a lot of precious art and something I’d say you must visit during your time in Canterbury for sure.

Shopping

Canterbury is home to all the usual haunts: New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Topshop, Topman, Republic, Miss Selfridge, H&M, Zara, River Island, Game, Argos, Matalan, Greggs, Jack Wills, Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Subway, HMV, Stormfront (essentially Apple), Currys, WHSmith, Paperchase, Waterstones, etc. In fact, the only thing we really miss is a Primark. However, we do have a range of smaller Canterbury-only shops too.

Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe:
An old fashioned sweet shop, with jars lined up along the walls and an old wood finish. Imagine Honeydukes from Harry Potter and that’s essentially what you’ve got here.

Siesta:
Want incense, candleholders, strange ornaments, hemp, natural clothing and other things to this effect? This is where you’ll find them. If you go upstairs, you’ll also find a neon goldmine, with paint, socks, tights, leg warmers, skirts and anything else neon you could possibly think of – perfect for the traditional neon night during the first week of term.


Emporium:
They sell quirky and unique t-shirts, bags, dresses and other things similar. Think ‘Awkward Turtle’ shirts and you’re close to the mark here. There is also one of these in Margate but that’s about it, so if you want local, this is where you want to go.

What’s On

These are the websites you’ll want to bookmark:

Things to do for free

  1. Visit the Cathedral. If you’re a student, this is free, so bring your student card and take a walk around the place you’ll be graduating and absorb some history.
  2. Visit Whitstable. It will be a bit of a long walk, around an hour, but the walk is mainly down country lanes and past fields with animals roaming, so grab some friends, a bike if you really can’t bear walking, and go and play on the (admittedly stony) beach.
  3. Have a barbeque on the field between Eliot and Rutherford Colleges. During the summer, this field is the place to be for students, so grab a battery-powered stereo, your iPod and some food and relax.
  4. Watch Team Kent beat another university at football. If you head along to the Pavilion, you can watch the Kent football team playing friendlies with other universities. Well worth a trip to indulge in some University pride and team spirit.
  5. Go to a comedy night at Mungos. They run an event called Monkeyshine, where amateur comedians brave the baying crowds and get up to perform their own routines. It’s a decent night out for you and friends – who doesn’t like a bit of comedy?

 

Get out of the city

London is just over an hour away from Canterbury on a high-speed train, so just because you’re at University here, don’t feel limited to remaining here. Travel costs around £20 and can be cheaper if you book in advance.

www.mytrainticket.co.uk often has very good offers for booking in advance.

You can pop up to London for the day, visit the West End, do a bit of shopping on Oxford Street, take a trip to Chinatown, paddle your feet in Leicester Square fountain and then be back in Canterbury in time for dinner.

If one of your flatmates has a car, then Thorpe Park is a good one to visit. If everyone chips in petrol money and you collect the buy-one-get-one-entry-free vouchers, then this is very accessible for students and a fun day trip to boot.

Bluewater is about a 30-minute – 45-minute drive from Canterbury so it’s definitely worth a trip near Christmas to get all your Christmas shopping out of the way in one go. There is also a wide range of restaurants so you can stay for dinner if so inclined.

Margate:
Margate is one bus away from Canterbury and a return costs £5. Just hop on the number 8 and enjoy a day playing on a sandy beach, eating fresh fish and chips, and shopping in the nearest Primark to the University.

Paris:
You can get the high-speed train to Dover and then the Eurostar and find yourself in Paris for the weekend very easily. A trip on the ferry costs approximately £13 return for a person on foot, and £20 for a car so as you can see, this is a nice and relatively cheap trip abroad for a weekend away and one you’re unlikely to be able to achieve at any other university. Eurostar tickets can also be snapped up at a bargain if you get the timing right at www.eurostar.com

Health and fitness

The University of Kent has a gym on campus, costing approximately £133 for a yearlong membership. For your first year, you’re sorted www.kent.ac.uk/sports/membership/.

They offer an early bird special discount if you pay before term starts, so if you know you’ll use it often, take advantage of this. But classes and use of the equipment on a visitor basis is £3 a go so work out which is cheaper for you.

Off campus, there is the Kingsmead Gym, near Sainsbury’s on Kingsmead Road. They offer student discount deals and this is worth popping along to if you’re living on the Hales Place/St. Stephens side of Canterbury.

There is also the pay-as-you-gym at the King's School Recreation Centre – which will save you plenty and ensure you don’t feel guilty for paying and not going.

Transport

There is a regular bus service run by Stagecoach to and from the University and the Town Centre and you’re able to buy a yearlong student bus pass, called the Unirider: http://www.stagecoachbus.com/4students-kent.aspx

If you purchase this during the first two weeks of term, you’ll get a discount. Originally around £240, the discount is down to £160. Or, if a yearlong pass is not what you want, they also offer term-long passes at £160, or weeklong, or even day-passes that you buy when boarding the bus.

As you can see, however, buying a pass at the beginning of term works out to the same cost as buying a pass for one term after the discount has ended, and it does work out to be cost effective during second and third year when you live off campus.

Whether you buy one during first year is a matter for you to decide: you need to work out how many times you’ll need to travel on the bus every week and then work out if that is feasible for you. If not, then your best bet is probably a daily pass.

There are also bus services to Whitstable, Wincheap, Ashford, Margate and a National Express Coach service that stops at the town centre bus stop and will take you to Dover, Bluewater or London. It also stops at the University Keynes bus stop. You’ll need to book in advance for this last service: http://www.nationalexpress.com/

There are two train stations in Canterbury: Canterbury East and Canterbury West. Canterbury East is the one in the town centre, opposite Club Chemistry. Canterbury West is near St. Dunstan’s Road and it is unlikely you will ever really remember the difference. Canterbury West is where the high-speed trains are. You can book an advance ticket on www.thetrainline.com ot www.mytrainticket.co.uk. Alternatively, you can walk in and purchase a ticket at the station, but that could cost you.

Student accommodation

First years are generally given accommodation on campus, either in: Parkwood, Darwin, Keynes, Rutherford, Eliot, Tyler A/B/C or Woolf if you’re a postgraduate student. To take a virtual tour of the rooms available and to apply for one, you need to visit: http://www.kent.ac.uk/accommodation/

If you’re living off campus, then there are ranges of options open to you. The University of Kent has a list of accredited landlords available in the accommodation office for you to check before signing any contracts.

The important thing to note when looking for off-campus accommodation is that there is NO RUSH. Landlords and letting agents will tell you that you must sign a contract now to get a decent house, or risk being left homeless, but this is not true. There is plenty of available accommodation throughout the year so make sure you take time to make an informed decision – rent is the highest student expenditure and you’ll be stuck with your decision for at least a year, so be careful.

Most student accommodation in Canterbury is focused in three places: Hales Place, Wincheap and St. Stephens/St. Michaels. This is because these three places are closest to the three main ways to get onto campus. Hales Place is close to Tyler footpath, the footpath that runs behind the Tyler accommodation on campus. St. Stephens/St. Michaels is close to Eliot footpath, the path behind Eliot College on campus. And Wincheap is close to the town centre and bus depot.

Though the latter is clearly the furthest away and you’ll have higher expenses in bus passes, as one is really necessary to make the trip to campus on a regular basis, the rents are often substantially cheaper, in the region of £290 - £320 a month, meaning you’ll end up saving money in the long term.

These three places are also near to the three main supermarkets: Hales Place is near to ASDA, St. Stephens is down the road from Sainsbury’s and Wincheap is a ten minute walk to Morrison’s.

You can find off-campus accommodation by phoning the letting agents in Canterbury: Your Move, Martin & Co, Mann Lettings, Student Lettings, JG Student Lets, Caxtons, Regal Estates and Connells are the main ones, but there are also independent landlords offering accommodation. Doing a search online for ‘Canterbury student lets’ will give you a comprehensive list along with contact details.

Alternatively, visit this website for a start to your search: http://www.accommodationforstudents.com/Canterbury.asp

We hope you enjoy living in Canterbury. After a few weeks, you’ll be able to add to this list with your own hidden gems, so enjoy your three (or four years) in this
idyllic and historic city!

Universities

Canterbury is home to three universities: the University of Kent (UKC), Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and the University of Creative Arts (UCA).

The University of Kent caters for academic subjects mainly, like English Literature, Maths, Computer Science and Forensic Science, but does also put a lot of focus on the arts, such as Drama and Performing Arts, with Music Room facilities and studios. It is an enclosed campus on the top of a hill, and has six bars, a nightclub, a bookshop, convenience shop, nursery, cinema, gym and an outdoor Astroturf sports complex. Its main campuses are in Canterbury, Medway, Paris and Brussels, and some degrees offer exchange programmes to these other campuses.

Canterbury Christ Church University has lower entry standards but deals with vocational subjects, mainly teacher training and NHS training: It was rated ‘outstanding’ for its teacher training programmes in 2010. It has five campuses stretching across Kent and Medway. It has a large library in the city centre and Student Union building, which opened in 2012.

The University of Creative Arts is a specialist university providing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in art, design, architecture, media and communication. It has campuses in Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester.