Since we moved to Kent over a decade ago, we always talked about what a great city Canterbury would be for a bookshop crawl. It's packed with history, and although it's currently lacking an indie bookshop selling new books, second hand and charity bookshops abound, making it a more budget friendly bookshop crawl than some! The surrounding area has also seen a resurgence in beautiful indie bookshops in recent years - read on to discover some of our favourites.
We've done two previous bookshop crawls in Canterbury - in 2018, and a socially distanced one in 2021. This October we're returning for an in person bookshop crawl. Join us for an afternoon Group Bookshop Crawl (Tickets available here) or get the welcome pack to do your own thing and combine a bookshop crawl with some of the options below!
Here are some of our best recommendations for things to do, places to visit and of course bookshops to browse in the city, and if you're in the area a little longer than a day, we've also got some further afield recommendations for you!
One important thing to mention is that Canterbury is a medieval city and is therefore unfortunately not hugely accessible. Many buildings are listed and contain steps, uneven floors and narrow walkways. Staff in many places will be happy to help you find things, but the only fully accessible bookshop in the city itself is Waterstones, which has level access and a large lift.
As mentioned, Canterbury's only new bookshop! 3 floors of books plus a cafe and loos.
The Chaucer Bookshop
A labyrinthine second hand bookshop tucked away down a side street and housing second hand and antiquarian books across a number of rooms. They also sell cards and stationery.
This is a Pilgrim's Hospice bookshop and is just up the road from The Plantagenet King. Fiction, classics and children's books are upstairs with more specific non-fiction and some YA and kids books downstairs. Reasonably priced and nicely laid out.
Catching Lives Bookshop
Located in one of the city's most iconic buildings, this is another characteristically narrow and twisty bookshop, with all sorts of second hand books across four or five rooms upstairs and down! Very reasonable prices and a great range of books, plus their very popular 'blind date with a book' box, where you can buy yourself a mystery book based on a short description alone.
This is slightly more accessible than some of the other shops, with just the section at the very back of the shop being up a couple of steps. Fiction and children's books are in the front of the shop with a good range of both. This is a pretty standard Oxfam bookshop but it's always good for a browse.
The city is also full of amazing historical buildings and other fun stuff to do. Some of my favourites include visiting Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey, taking a walk along the city walls, river tours on the Stour and walking through the Westgate Gardens (located next to the Westgate Towers, the town's former jail and worth a visit in its own right). Canterbury also has a couple of really nice theatres, The Marlowe and The Malthouse, if you're in the mood to follow up your bookshop crawling with a little bit of a live entertainment.
The Margate Bookshop
New and second hand books with a brilliant curated selection of books. Particularly good on nature writing and social justice & feminism, they have a small kids section and a great selection of fiction.
The Old Bank Bookshop
A big Pilgrim's Hospice charity bookshop on the corner of Margate Old Town stocking all genres at very reasonable prices.
In Margate old town just up the road from the bookshop is Margate Coffee Shed which does great food and drinks with a view of the sea, and in the Old Kent Market there's great ice cream to be found at Lulu's Gelato and amazing baked goods at Gina's Old Kent Bakery. A couple of places worth popping into are The Turner Contemporary, a free art gallery, and Dreamland, a vintage theme park. Exhibitions at The Turner change fairly regularly, so please check their website to see what's on at the moment. For Dreamland, entry is free and you can pay per ride or just wander around and look at things!
If you're looking for a beach to sit on and read your books, I'd recommend heading away from Margate main sands which gets incredibly busy on a sunny day. The best bets are to head left along the promenade to Westbrook Bay, or right up the hill and down the cliff opposite The Kitchen.
A children's bookshop with a slide and shelves that are walkable on by the 0-5 age group, they also have a Lego Hogwarts castle and a great selection of books!
Westgate on Sea is my stomping ground, and there are fantastic places to visit including The Carlton Cinema (ridiculously good prices, great selection of snacks), West Bay (only a beach at low tide but you can walk along the promenade all the way to Margate), and you can grab amazing cupcakes, brownies and drinks from Little Brown Fairy Cake, afternoon teas from Frederick's next to the cinema or get a main meal or an ice cream with great sea views from West Bay Cafe.
Book Bodega, Ramsgate
A fairly new addition to Ramsgate, Book Bodega stocks a really interesting range of books across most genres, and you're pretty much guaranteed to find something that wasn't even on your radar but that you absolutely must take home with you!
Tales on Moon Lane, Ramsgate
This is the sister shop of Tales on Moon Lane which has just closed in Herne Hill and will be relocating to Whitstable, and is packed full of beautiful children's books for all ages, birth through to teen. They have an amazing train that runs around the ceiling and are offering bookshop crawlers a 10% discount! A pretty much perfect bookshop for adults and kids, and if you're an adult without kids please don't feel like you can't visit as they'll be very happy to see you!
While you're in town you can also check out Sorbetto ice cream parlour (sundaes and waffles both come highly recommended by us!) and take a pretty walk around the marina.
Harbour Books, Whitstable
Harbour Books is a gorgeous little bookshop that contains much more than it seems. The children's section is in the back room and the selection of books is beautifully curated.
Whitstable also has lots of lovely charity shops up and down the main high street, as well as famously good seafood and a harbour that's really lovely to walk around.
Opened in 2022, The Little Green Bookshop is an indie bookshop stocking a range of fiction, non-fiction and children's books alongside artwork, cards and homeware.
The Book House, herne bay
A brand new children's bookshop also serving tea, coffee and cakes!
Demelza Charity Bookshop, Herne Bay
Absolutely packed full of bargains, I never leave this lovely bookshop without an armful of books to add to my library.
Tales on Market Street, Faversham
A lovely indie bookshop in the heart of Faversham market place.
Faversham is a lovely little market town, with some beautiful walks in the surrounding area, including the Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park,and the Fleur de Lis Museum, a really fun little museum packed with the history of the area. Hugely recommended if you're with young children as there's lots of interactive content (or at least there was in pre-covid times), and they also have a lovely second hand bookshop next door.
There are so many great places easily accessible from Canterbury, and of course Canterbury is on the high speed train link from London, so very easily day trippable by train or car. Book tickets to join the Group Bookshop Crawl (running from 1pm - 5pm ish on Saturday 21st October) here, and/or Register for your Welcome Pack to get the map and details of perks, discounts and other things to help you plan your bookshop crawl weekend, and connect with other bookshop crawlers online using #CanterburyBookshopCrawl.