For many travellers after a few days exploring the capital city, they’re usually eager to leave the hustle and bustle of London to experience more of England.
Disclaimer: My day trip to Rochester was sponsored by Southeastern trains. However all views, opinions and photos are my own and remain a copyright of the Curious Pixie.
From London to Rochester
Of course you have all the usual suspects like Oxford, Cambridge and Bath. Yes, they’re pretty and quintessentially British, but I believe there are other places worth a visit too. Especially if you’re a lover of straying off the beaten track and discovering new places.
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Things to do in Rochester
The historic city of Rochester in the county of Kent is one of England’s finest cities and quite often overlooked. Only 20 miles south east of London, let me show you why it makes for the perfect day trip!
Rochester is a short 45 minute train ride from London. You can board the Southeastern train from two London stations – Victoria and St Pancras International. On arrival the station is a few minutes’ walk from the centre.
Arriving by train there are wonderful views of the city with the castle and cathedral spire dominating the skyline as you cross the River Medway.
Explore Heritage buildings
Rochester Cathedral is England’s second oldest founded in 604AD by Bishop Justus. Not as grand as some of the other cathedrals I’ve visited, the present one dates back to 1080. Free to enter, it’s worth a look at some of the beautiful architectural touches, like the Romanesque facade and stunning organ.
Across the road stands the 12th century keep, over 800 years old and one of the oldest surviving Norman castles in England.
On our visit the castle itself was closed for maintenance. There is not much left of the inside, but you can climb to the top and be rewarded with 360 degree panoramic views of Rochester and its surrounding areas.
Wander the High Street
Rochester High Street is full of the most wonderful independent boutique shops, cafes and galleries. Housed on the ground floor of historic buildings, some dating back to the 14th century.
I couldn’t walk five yards before my camera came out for the quaint and quirky shop fronts. The strong community feel is evident as you wander along as so many are local stores keeping the chain store take over at bay.
Kiss Kiss Heart is a lovely store selling unique gifts, homeware jewellery and clothing.
Ginger Lily’s has been selling gorgeous flowers from its colourful shop front to people of Rochester for over 15 years.
Morleys of Rochester, the local baker had already sold out of most of its loaves by the time I strolled by at midday.
And if you have a sweet tooth don’t miss the old fashioned sweet shop, The Candy Bar. A bit hard not to with its very pink facade.
Saving my favourite shopping find to last, Rochester is also home England’s largest secondhand bookstore – Baggins Book Bazaar. The treasure trove of literature apparently has more than half a million books on sale. It’s huge!
Spot the Dickensian connections
Charles Dickens spent a lot of his early life in the area so many local sights are referenced in his works.
The Six Poor Travellers House was a charity house which provided room and board for six poor travellers from the Tudor period until World War II. A visit from Dickens inspired him to pen his own short story – Seven Poor Travellers House.
In the same vein many of the shops today continue the Dickens theme with shop names, like Tiny Tim’s Tearooms and Dickens House Wine Emporium.
Although this wine store has a great connection. In the 1800s it was the apothecary where Charles Dickens actually came to collect his medicine.
Hunt down the Museums
The 17th-Century Guildhall appears in Dickens Great Expectations and is now a museum.
A number of rooms are dedicated to the great author celebrating his life and works. The building itself will have you in awe with its intricate, historical detailing.
Or you can learn about the Britain’s first refugees at the Huguenot Museum. Discover the skills they brought to the UK, their descendants, and relevance to the story of refugees today. It’s small, but there is a section where you can play dress up which the kids will enjoy!
Where to eat in Rochester?
There are plenty of lovely restaurants in Rochester, but if you’re a cheese lover there is only one place – The Cheese Room! With modern yet cosy interiors it brings you a hugely impressive cheese range.
From delicious toasties, cheese boards and raclettes. You can totally live out your cheesy dreams here and wash it down with wine, bubbles or beer if you so desire.
Afternoon tea in Rochester
If you fancy a quick pit stop on your wander look no further than Fleur De Thé. You can browse the shabby chic cute tea shop for gorgeous gifts and trinkets too before settling down to a slice of homemade cake a nice cup of tea.
Rochester really does tick all the boxes for a superb, fun filled day trip. In less than an hour on Southeastern trains you are in the land of castles, cathedrals, vintage shops and cheese! What more could you want?!
Find more information on the area on Visit Medway.
Have you ever been to Rochester? Are there any places I missed? Love to know in the comments box below.
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