Important town for early English Christianity, English history, architecture and especially literature.
I would like to invite you all to visit this place and I found 15 reasons why you should do it:
- Castle – Impressive ruins standing on the banks of the Medway. He recently celebrated the 800th anniversary of the siege of King John’s army. From the high tower there is a wonderful view of the picturesque area. I will write a separate post about this place.
2. Charles Dickens – Everyone probably heard about this famous English writer. He was born and spent his childhood in this area. Now shops, restaurants and even some streets have Dickens names; names of heroes, titles of books. Visitors to Rochester can see for themselves some of the buildings that were familiar or close to him, e.g. Restoration House, College Gate, or Eastgate House, now the Dickens Museum, whose garden is a Swiss chalet, used by the author for writing.
Mr Topes House, an impressive black and white wooden building is now a thriving Topes restaurant. The writer’s admirers can even drive to the nearby village of Coolington to visit the cemetery at St James Church, which was the inspiration for the first chapter of “Great Hopes”. Or they can go to Highgate, where the writer’s former huge house is, now a private boarding school.
3. Boutiques, shops, bookstores. – Rochester is a paradise of independent shops, where you can buy everything from fashion, through works of art and antiques, to mysterious exhibits and original sweets, with the biggest second hand book store I mention below.
4 Markets – Every last Saturday of the month there is a flea market in Rochester, at the Gordon House hotel, and every third Sunday an agricultural market, where you can buy fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as hand-baked bread and confectionery.
5. Baggins Book Bazar – It is the largest antiquarian book shop in England, there is no book impossible to find. Just walking around this magical place is an amazing experience, you can get goosebumps from touching the books. Apparently, customers come here from Switzerland alone to look for rare specimens.
6. Cathedral – The second oldest in England after Canterbury, the Norman building, standing in front of the castle intrigues tourists from all over the world with its medieval beauty and majesty. I will write about it in a separate text.
7. The Huguenot Museum – a museum on the first floor of the information center, tells the story of the first refugees in England fleeing the religious persecution of the French king. The museum shows items of craftsmanship, crafts and skills that the French brought with them, and tells about how they influenced the history of Great Britain. The most interesting part of the museum is the French Hospital, with its collection of paintings, documents and objects for personal use.
8. Festivals – Rochester is famous for its festivals; in early May, you can see chimney sweeps and their helpers dancing on the streets. In June, characters from Dickens’ books, a whole parade of ghosts and nineteenth-century figures walk through the cobbled streets. Cultural events related to the great writer are organized in libraries, museums and schools. In December, the courtyard in front of the castle turns into a real Victorian Christmas market, with carousels, a cotton candy, with stalls full of wonderful artistic objects, and in the medieval cathedral there is a festival of carols, often sung by children from local schools.
9 Restaurants – In Rochester, the choice is huge to eat, everything is here; fast bistros, internationally known chain stores, independent, high-quality diners. To choose, to taste! Everything within the old city. You can find Italian, British, French, Asian, Arabic cuisine etc. in beautiful historical interiors: Don Vincenzo, Elizabeth’s, Brettingstone’s steak and Lobster House, Tiny Tim’s etc.
10 Coffeeshops and tearooms – Rochester does not disappoint, the choice is huge. I will mention only a few: my favourite Deaf Cat, although i promise you, you won’t find any deaf animal there, instead there are lovely pots on the walls and good coffee, Fleur de The, with unforgettable interiors in the style of chabby chic, Tiny Tim’s Tea Rooms.
11. Pubs – In the evening, after an eventful day in Rochester, you can go for a beer or wine, or other good drink, something for non-alcoholic drinkers will also be found. Some pubs serve beer and ales, from local breweries, e.g. The Two Brewers, opened steadily since 1683. Some beers are only available seasonally. There are plenty of pubs in Rochester, in many you can listen to live music, which leads us to the next point:
12. Live music – Concerts and recitals are organized in many places. In Sunday’s Eagle Tavern, you can listen to jazz every Sunday, and on Fridays and Saturdays entertainment music classics. Similarly, in The Two Brewers pub you can listen to live artists. However, Rochester’s largest music event is the annual concerts in the castle courtyard. A few years ago, the ACDC concert was amazing and full of light effects. Ferries, which are more serious music concerts, are also held in the courtyard. The new concert is scheduled to take place in July with UB40, Jools Holland, The Jacksons, The Libertines. But will it happen, who knows?
13. River Medway and bridge – Medway is the largest river after the River Thames in south east England, flows from High Weald in County Sussex, through Medway, Tonbrigde, Maidstone and after covering 113km flows into the Thames, almost at sea. Rochester lies on the site of the former crossing of the river and there has been a bridge since Roman times. In the 14th century a new stone bridge was built for the passage, after which one had to pay a lot. It survived so until the 19th century, when it was finally expanded. The bridge was widened and the two central arches were turned into one to open a place for passing ships. In 1856 the bridge was demolished and a new iron structure appeared in its place, unfortunately defective. There were many collisions with passing ships. Just before the outbreak of World War I, a new bridge appeared that stands today. In addition to cars, a streetcar rode on it. In the 70s the bridge was expanded and adapted to the increasing car traffic. A new railway bridge was built next to it.
14. Historic buildings, cobbled streets and mysterious alleys – Just go for a small walk to move back in time, for example, to the nineteenth century, when the great Dickens walked these streets, who bowed to people with his black hat. The buildings in Rochester have remained unchanged for centuries: Guildhall, now the Guildhall Museum was built in 1687, Restoration House is basically two medieval houses connected together in 1650, Poor Travelers House dates back to the 1400s and is still in use as a charitable shelter for the poor.
Good friend of mine used only one word to describe the atmosphere in the town: slowlife. In fact, where to hurry when everything in the town is wonderful.
15. Cycling routes – Several very interesting bicycle routes begin in Rochester. The two most famous are the Pilgrim Trail, a long, 47-kilometer trail, stretching along the former pilgrimage route to Canterbury and Heron Trail, literary and natural, short, 17-kilometer trail, in the footsteps of Dickens (here he found inspiration to write books Great Hopes and a Tale of Two Cities) ) and allows you to observe beautiful birds in nature.
From London, getting to Rochester is easy, the wide A2 road will lead us practically to the town center. For those without a car, I recommend a fast train from Kings Cross station.