10 Top Things to Do in Rochester, Kent

Rochester, Kent is a beautiful historic town brimming with English culture and tradition. Rochester’s cobbled high street is jam-packed with shops, cafes, museums and art galleries, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with delicious restaurant options.

Rochester is about 30 miles from London (an easy drive) and about 45 minutes south of London by train. It’s a perfect day trip and trains leave Kings Cross and Victoria a few times per hour.

Rochester High street of in Medway, Kent - one of the top things to do

Rochester is famously connected to Charles Dickens who spent his childhood here, and lots of places along the high street are named after characters from his novels and his life.

Here are the 10 top things to do in Rochester!

1. Visit Rochester Cathedral

Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest in England, was founded in AD 604 and has been a place of worship for over 1400 years. It’s second only to Canterbury Cathedral, the seat of the Anglican Church.

Rochester Cathedral on the high street

This beautiful cathedral proudly displays amazing architecture and beautiful stained glass windows. Inside this historic Cathedral there’s a crypt and library that you are able to explore, as well as a lovely cafe. Entrance is free but donations are strongly appreciated.

2. Explore Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle stands proudly overlooking the River Medway next to the Cathedral and the high street. It’s a perfect example of a Norman castle with a large lawn and a high tower structure built on the top of a hill. The castle’s most distinguishing feature is the 12th-century stone tower, which is one of the best preserved in England.

rochester casle overlooking the medway river

You can climb the ramparts to soak in the spectacular views of the Rochester, Rochester Cathedral and the local area. The castle gardens are perfect for wandering around. The castle also hosts various events throughout the year such as the Castle Concerts and Christmas markets.

When compiling a list of the best things to do in Rochester, the castle claims a top spot, not just for its historical significance, but for the way it towers over the town and how it makes you imagine the landscape in medieval times.

This imposing fortress dates back to the 11th century and has been a key player in many a historical drama, from sieges and battles to royal disputes. Its most striking feature, the massive keep, which was built in the early 12th century, is one of the best-preserved of its kind in England or France. As you approach the castle, it’s easy to feel a chill of awe at the sheer scale and resilience of the structure.

Rochester Castle also holds a special place in the hearts of Dickens fans. The author featured Rochester Castle it in his novel “The Pickwick Papers.”

3. Afternoon Tea at Cafe Nucleus Rochester, Kent

Café Nucleus Rochester is located in one of the grandest buildings on Rochester High Street. When you enter, the beautifully designed high ceilings, British oak paneling, and unique collection of art, takes your breath away and immediately transports you back in time.

afternoon tea at cafe nucleus

cafe nucleus, rochester

The service is amazing, the food is outstanding and the restaurant itself is beautiful. You can pop in for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, glass of wine, or enjoy a fine dining experience. There are so many delicious options – Afternoon tea is served in the boardroom daily from 15:30.

4. Tour Restoration House 

Restoration House is an Elizabethan mansion located in the heart of Rochester just off the high street, and is believed to be the inspiration for Miss Havisham’s ‘Satis House’ in ‘Great Expectations’.

Restoration House, Rochester

The garden is peaceful and filled with flowers, topiary hedges, fountains, and benches, allowing you to sit and take it all in. Private owners have beautifully restored the house and open it two days per week in the summer for visitors.

5. The Charles Dickens Festival

This festival takes place twice per year and celebrates the life of Charles Dickens who spent some of his childhood in Rochester, Kent. During these festivals, residents dress up in costumes from that era, and the high street and castle grounds are filled with various stalls.

Dharles Eickens festival is twice per year in rochester kent

Rochester’s Charles Dickens Festival is more than just a nod to the past; it’s a living, breathing homage to the storytelling magic of Dickens. You’ll find theatrical performances that bring his tales to life, parades that fill the streets with music and merriment, and readings that remind us why his words have stood the test of time. It’s an immersive experience for hard-core and casual Dickens fans. For anyone searching for the best things to do in Rochester, this festival is a big deal, and a serious journey back in time when you see the Victorian costumes that see the light of day once a year.

6. Get Lost in Baggins Book Bazaar

Rochester High Street is home to many quirky shops, such as Baggins Book Bazaar. This charming bookstore is the “biggest second-hand bookshop in England”.

Baggins Bookstore rochester

From the front, you don’t realize it’s filled with over half a million books, all divided into specific topics. But inside, it’s a maze of rooms and shelves stacked to the brim. It’s fun to search for an unexpected treasure as you wander over creaky wooden floors, through the multi-level rooms, filled with old wooden bookcases brimming with books.

7. Sweet Expectations

Sweet Expectations is a traditional old sweet shop that instantly fills you with nostalgia when you walk through the door to see all of the sweets you used to have as a child. The old jars behind the counter are full of sweets such as drumstick lollipops, toffee bonbons, rosy apples and pear drops. There’s also a counter displaying their tasty handmade Kentish chocolate and fudge.

8. Six Poor Travelers House

A must-visit spot on your list of the best things to do is the fascinating Six Poor Travellers House. Nestled in the heart of Rochester’s High Street, this historic gem offers a unique glimpse into the philanthropic efforts of Elizabethan England as an enduring memory of kindness.

The Six Poor Travellers House, established in 1586 by Richard Watts, provides insight into a time when hospitality was extended to those in need. This establishment was designed to provide a night’s lodging and sustenance for six poor travellers — a concept that seems quaint today, yet it was a much-needed charity in its time. Visitors to Rochester are afforded the rare opportunity to step back in time and experience the essence of this historic charity.

This charming museum is tucked away in the middle of the High Street and is an excellent example of an almshouse from the Middle Ages. This house provided room and board for six poor travelers from the Tudor period until World War II. Dickens was inspired to write a short story called The Seven Poor Travelers after visiting. Today the house is a free museum with exhibits and a beautiful garden in the back. As you wander through the preserved interior you’ll be transported to an era where the clatter of horse-drawn carriages filled the streets.

9. The Cheese Room Botanicals

The Cheese Room serves an eclectic array of cheese and locally sourced foods and is located in the most beautiful old Victorian building. This cosy, warm, darkened, low beamed restaurant, immediately makes you feel at comfortable and at home.

The Cheese Room, Rochester

We ordered a gorgeous cheese board with a great selection of Kentish cheeses and baked Camembert, local meats, homemade breads and chutneys and their interestingly prepared vegetables. It was fabulous. The food here is top quality and foodies will be in heaven here. They also offer a fabulous wine list filled with local Kent wines, an amazing selection of gins, and lovely local ales on tap.

10. Chill in the Deaf Cat Cafe

This cosy coffee shop is named after Charles Dickens’  deaf cat who sat on his desk while he wrote his novels. It’s easy to be taken back in time as you stare at the vintage teapots on the walls, listen to the melancholy music, and soak in the grand view of the Cathedral.

You might be wondering about the name. Legend has it, the café was named after a deaf cat that used to roam the area, becoming something of a local celebrity. It’s these kinds of stories that add a layer of charm to Rochester’s already picturesque streets.

Cafe Nucleus, light for the holidays
Cafe Nucleus Rochester is located in one of the most beautiful buildings on the high street!

Rochester, Kent is the perfect place to visit for the day the next time you are in London. There are so many things to do and see, but these are my top 10 things to do in Rochester.  I’m sure you’ll leave a little piece of your heart in Rochester like I have.

What are your favorite things to do in Rochester, Kent?

Let me know in the comments below and join me on Instagram and X (Twitter)!

*** This article is sponsored but all opinions are my own***

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Shane Waterman | 18th Jan 22

    Hi Samantha – as the Marketing & Tourism Lead for Visit Rochester UK, can I just thank you for featuring our quirky corner of North West Kent in your blog. It is really appreciated! We are getting more and more people finding us from London since Covid restrictions have eased.

    Our short journey time (just 26 mins from Stratford International) make us not even a ‘day out’ destination – we’re an EVENING OUT one!

    With 160 High Street shopfronts – of which all but five are independents – we have a unique retail offering, no matter what you’re looking to buy.

    Rochester Castle is a little more than ‘best preserved’: it is, in fact, the most original Norman Castle Keep in the World! And it’s also the tallest in England at 113ft too.

    With a monthly VIntage and Artisan Market, two Dickens Festivals, the Sweeps Festival at the beginning of May (for live music and street theatre fans) and the planned Rochester Revival Classic Car Event in August 2023, we are a destination which offers a huge range of possibilities to the widest range of visitors.

    Thanks once again for featuring us – any help we can give in the future, please get in touch!

    Shane Waterman
    Visit Rochester UK

    • Samantha | 18th Jan 22

      Hi Shane, Thank you for the added detail for my readers – i can only include so much in my blog post! I simply love it here, and have spent the past 6 weeks living here. Our friends who have visited us here have fallen in love with Rochester too!

  2. Ashley Anne | 4th Jul 23

    Rochester, Kent offers a diverse range of activities and attractions that cater to all interests. Whether you’re a history buff, literature lover, art enthusiast, or simply enjoy exploring charming towns, Rochester has something to captivate and entertain you.

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