Things to do in Rochester
Rochester is full of iconic landmarks, literary connections and fantastic shopping and dining options. This gem of a city on the Medway River is a delight for families and lovers of history and culture, offering something to discover around every corner.
Rochester has always been able to attract tourists due to the abundance of wonderful historic sites such as the castle and cathedral, as well as its associations with a certain famous Victorian author. However, Dickens is not the only source of culture in the city. In recent years a vibrant cafe culture and many trendy boutiques have sprung up between the historic sites, making for an exciting mix of old and new. Lying just 10 miles from our Kent Coast Holiday Park, you’ll find the city without too many problems. There are so many things to do in Rochester that you'd be wise to make it one of your first stops on your Kent adventure.
Enter the city in style by crossing the Rochester Bridge
Since Roman times a bridge has crossed the River Medway at Rochester, and since medieval times the Wardens and Assistants of Rochester Bridge have maintained it. The upkeep of the Bridge is currently undertaken by a charitable trust. Proud lions welcome you onto the Bridge and there are niches where you can get wonderful views and take photos of Rochester and The Medway. It’s very safe to cross, even with little ones. This is one bridge that is worth crossing on foot: rather than driving this bridge, park in Strood and make the effort to walk the Bridge into Rochester at least once, you won’t regret it.
Climb the towers of Rochester Castle
Instantly recognisable from its distinctive square keep, the legendary Rochester Castle was built from Kent ragstone in the late 11th and early 12th-centuries. It remains one of the UK’s most outstanding examples of Norman Romanesque architecture. This is a wonderful castle to while away an afternoon at, with over 200 steps to clamber over, and dramatic views from the top across Rochester and the Medway River. At over 35 metres tall, the scenery is stupendous! Reasonably priced, the castle probably takes about 45 minutes to explore so it’s easy to combine with other activities. Last entry is at 3.15pm as they close at 4.
Visit the Rochester Cathedral
Rochester is home to England’s 2nd oldest cathedral. Though it has been a place of worship since the 7th-century, the current building dates mostly from the 12th and 13th-centuries and it remains in very good condition. The cathedral expertly blends the Norman and Early English Gothic styles and is a magnificent architecture afficionados. This is one of the best things to do in Rochester and is made even easier thanks to the two hours of free car parking nearby.
Get lost in local history at Guildhall Museum
This superb museum hosts fascinating exhibits in a 17th-century Guildhall houses a collection of artefacts that lay out the story of the Medway area. The magnificence of the Guildhall contrasts with one of the more striking exhibits, that of the Thames Prison Hulks, which highlights the dismal, insanitary conditions many French Napoleonic prisoners endured. Other exhibitions focus on the naval history of the Medway and its role in the formation of Rochester feature heavily. What’s more, the museum is free, though donations are of course welcome.
Learn the secrets of Six Poor Travellers House
Six Poor Travellers House and garden is a lovely little museum bursting at the seams with tales to tell. The museum describes the origin and meaning of poor travellers and how the charity catered for them going right back to the house’s founding by the dockyard victualler Richard Watts. The house was immortalised in Dickens' Christmas short story entitled The Seven Poor Travellers and thanks to this fame, the lovely old stone building has been well kept to this day. Entry is free, the attendants are welcoming, and the garden is a peaceful corner to rest in so there’s no reason to leave this off your list of things to do in Rochester.
Dine on fancy food
Speaking of food, Rochester offers plenty of choice when it comes to places to eat and drink. With everything from exotic food stands and bistros to fine dining restaurants, traditional pubs and big chain names, there is something to suit every occasion. The best part is, Rochester is small enough to explore the options on foot without having to worry about parking spaces. But just to point you in the right direction, our recommendations are Bruno’s Bakes, Topes, Café Moroc, Elizabeth’s, Mrs Tickit’s Pantry and Brettingtons.
Delve into history at the Huguenot Museum
This little gem of a museum is beautifully set out with clear and engaging information boards telling the story of the Huguenot people who were fled France for refusing to convert to the Catholic religion. This museum will bring the story of the original refugees to life. There are many displays of the knowledge, skills and trades they brought with them to the UK such as silk-weaving, clock-making, and goldsmithing. With the snippets of info, a lovely local gift shop and some clothes to try on, this attraction is great for children. Tickets for the museum are £4 for an adult and £1 for a child and the ticket lasts 12 months.
Lie in the shade at The Vines Park
This park may be small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in atmosphere. It’s particularly impressive around dusk in the autumn when the lights have just come on, but it's an equally great spot to lie on the on a summer’s day. The story is that it got its name as the monks from the local monastery grew grape vines there. Now it’s a pleasant park dotted with wooden carvings of animals and interpretative signs dotted around as well as excellent views of the back of Rochester Cathedral.
Get inside the mind of Charles Dickens at Eastgate House
Eastgate House has returned to its place among the High Street’s treasures, having opened again to the public again after a five-year refurbishment. This Elizabethan townhouse, completed in 1591, has a storied history and appears in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and the Mystery of Edwin Drood. When you visit, you can admire the well-preserved interiors, listen to tales about some of the characters who have passed through and enter the shed in which Dickens wrote several works.
How to get to Rochester from Kent Coast
Just a 20-minute drive from our Kent Coast Holiday Park, getting to Rochester is easy. We recommend the following route:
Heading west out of Kent Coast, take 2 right turns to get onto the Radcliffe Highway
Drive along Ratcliffe Highway for 3.8 miles
Follow the A228, A289 and A228 again for a further 5.5 miles
When you reach Station Road, turn left onto the B2002
Turn left onto the A2 soon after and cross the bridge into Rochester