Being less than an hour’s train ride from London, the historic town of Rochester makes an easy day trip. However, it was our road trip through the county of Kent that brought us back to this ancient city this time.
Kent likes to consider itself the oldest county in England. Though that seems to be disputed, there’s no disputing Kent’s long history, nor its beauty. With one of the most well-preserved Norman castles, its historic old town center, and England’s second oldest cathedral, Rochester does Kent proud. We think you’ll agree.
None of the locations mentioned in this guide sponsor us. We just thought you’d enjoy them too.
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Start the Day at Rochester Cathedral
If there is one place you don’t want to miss on a day trip to Rochester, it’s the historic Rochester Cathedral. Though the nave you see today dates from the 11th century, the original Saxon cathedral was founded in 604AD, making it England’s second oldest, cathedral.
See our full post on Rochester Cathedral for all the details.
Browse the Historic Old Town
Like many of the ancient cities around England, it’s easy to spend the day just walking the old town of Rochester and enjoying the architecture. From seeing what remains of the city gates to visiting the tiny boutique shops with crooked storefronts; there’s so much to enjoy without spending a pound.
We have two recommendations for lunch.
1. Tony Lorenzo Cafe on the High Street: Perfect place to grab a sandwich, pasty, or other baked goods. They even have a vast selection of take-away options. Don’t forget dessert. On this trip, we tried a Kent Gypsy Tart, an extremely sweet treat made with evaporated milk and muscovado sugar.
2. Rochester Cathedral’s Crypt Cafe: Looking for something a little different? It may sound creepy, but it’s surprisingly nice. This little cafe in the crypt has an interesting atmosphere and a good menu.
Learn Some History from the Local Museums
Rochester has so many small museums, you won’t be able to visit them all on a day trip, but there are a few in the old town that are easy to see.
- Guildhall Museum: A free museum with a mix of displays. The highlight is the fascinating recreation of the Medway prison hulk (prison ship), but there’s also a lot on local history, including Charles Dickens.
- Eastgate House: As we were walking the High Street, this unique building caught our attention. With ornate ceiling moldings, antique tiles, carved fireplaces, and curved stone stairwells, the inside is just as elaborate as the outside. Around the back are the free gardens. Stuck between the buildings, the peculiar Swiss chalet is the former writing refuge of Charles Dickens. Sadly, it’s not open to the public, but they are hoping to restore it soon.
- Huguenot Museum: The only museum in Britain to tell the story of the fleeing French Protestants that settled in England during the Protestant Reformation.
Explore the Ruins of Rochester Castle
Across the street, looking down on Rochester Cathedral sits the Norman ruins of Rochester Castle.
Castles across England tend to fall into one of two categories, restored or in ruins. It’s worth seeing at least one of each, as they are both quite different experiences.
Though a ruin, Rochester Castle is a good one to go in as it has one of the best-preserved Norman keeps in England or France. Not to mention, it’s inexpensive, has a good amount to explore, and includes a small museum on its history.
Even if you don’t pay to go in, take the time to walk the grounds and see the castle from its many angles. If you have time, walk across the Rochester Bridge. On the other side of the river, you’ll find a small car park with magnificent views of the castle.
Take a Stroll Along the Vines
We finished our day in Rochester strolling the city’s most popular park. Known as The Vines, this lush park was once a vineyard cultivated by the monks. Today, you’ll mostly find beautiful, ancient trees along a lovely walking path.
Test Your Sea Legs at Historic Chatham Dockyard
This itinerary took most of our day; however, if you have extra time in Rochester, or just move quicker than us, it’s worth us mentioning the Historic Chatham Dockyard where you can explore warships, submarines, and so much more. We visited the dockyard several years ago but didn’t have time to go back on this trip.
With eighty acres of attractions, it’s worthy of a full day on its own. However, tickets come with free entry for a year, so you can always come back on another day to see more.
Where to Stay in Rochester
To stay in Rochester proper, the newly renovated Trivelles Rochester Hotel is within easy walking distance of the Cathedral and the train station.
We hope you enjoy your day in Rochester.
Spending more time in England? Here are a few other posts you may enjoy.