Canterbury’s top 5 traditional pubs


If you are looking for somewhere in Canterbury to quaff a glass of wine, sip cocktails or sink a pint of beer or three, there are plenty of great options. And thanks to the city’s long history, you can find some excellent traditional pubs around the city centre.

Canterbury is filled with history (Photo: Alessandro Grussu via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As the great Geoffrey Chaucer once wrote in the Canterbury Tales:

And once he had got really drunk on wine,
Then he would speak no language but Latin.

While it would be unwise to give that one a try, it’s testament to the Canterbury’s pedigree as a decent place to head to have a tipple, for those words were written in the year 1387.

Canterbury is home to many excellent historic and traditional pubs. Some serve that singular purpose of purveying alcohol and serve it well, but this list also takes a look at some of the better places to find pub grub, along with a good pint of ale, cider or a glass of wine. Here are five of the best.

Bishop’s Finger

Bishop’s Finger Pub (Photo: courtesy of Bishop’s Finger)

Sharing its name with the namesake ale, which derives its name from this excellent pub, Bishop’s Finger is a classic ale house in a 16th century building. While the exterior suggests a squat little building, it appears much larger inside, and there is a large beer garden at the back of the property. Still run by Shepherd Neame, an independent brewery that has been going since 1698, the pub serves many of the signature brews like Whitstable Bay, Spitfire and, not least of all, Bishop’s Finger. There is also a decent menu with loaded fries and burgers drenched in toppings.

St. Dunstans St.

The Thomas Tallis Alehouse

An absolute must for those who enjoy the atmosphere of an old pub, the Thomas Tallis Alehouse is located inside a half-timbered building with a lovely old fireplace indoors for those winter months and outdoor seating for the summer. Another huge draw is the craft ale on tap (tasting flights are available), with usually 12 kegs on the go at any one tie, as well as six or seven ciders and a similar number of gins. It’s a snug spot, so there may not always be seats available.

48 Northgate

The Three Tuns

The Three Tuns (Photo: David via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As part of the Greene King chain, you can expect the three Tuns to offer a certain selection of things: own-brand real cask ales, a range of white and red wines, and pretty extensive menus. There is even a vegan menu available with bean burgers and vegan fish and chips. The pub is set inside a 15th-century building on a quiet street, which makes for a cosy evening setting or a pleasant family feel during the daytime. The Three Tuns also shows live sports on the TV such as football and rugby.

Watling St.

The Dolphin

Not far from the banks of the Great Stour River, The Dolphin is a neatly revamped pub that retains rustic, traditional charm, while presenting a modern face with wooden tables, a hard flagstone flooring. This pub serves excellent pub food, with pies, sausage and mash and even the nachos given a classy preparation and presentation; something that could best be described a gourmet pub grub. The property also has a lovely beer garden and lawn for the warmer months.

St. Radigunds St.

The Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Pub (Photo: courtesy of The Shakespeare)

Another Shepherd Neame pub (the centuries-old brewery hails from Faversham a few miles away), The Shakespeare has a brighter, more upscale vibe to that of its ecclesiastical brother. The menu includes dishes like coconut coated prawns and gourmet sandwiches with fillings like smoked salmon. Adjoining the pub section of the building is a wine bar, with tasting boards and wine flights for sampling different bottles. The pub is located one street over from Canterbury Cathedral, an area which has a particularly historic ambience.

5 Butchery Lane

By Paul Stafford