The Best Things to do in Sandwich, Kent

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Often overlooked as visitors stream to and from Dover, this southern English town was once the most important place in Britain. Here are some of the best things to do in Sandwich, Kent.

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Why Visit Sandwich

Famous for the invention of the, well, sandwich, this southern English town has much more to it than just a humble sarnie. Picture medieval fire and smoke, crooked stone walls, stone masons, stone secret secrets, scones and even seals. Both the parchment and the wild kind.

And the best part? It’s not crawling with tourists. 

I spent three days and two glorious nights with baby Lab, now six, exploring Roman ruins, gazing at the Magna Carta and staring off towards France.

We drifted on the ripples of the willow-lined River Stour, with the scent of fresh brownies wafting out of cute cafés, the creaking of wooden staircases and the sing-song shine of swords. And all in one small town. 

So, enough chat, let’s spill the tea on Sandwich and what makes it worth visiting.

Disclosure: we visited Sandwich as guests of Visit Dover on assignment. As ever, as always we kept the right to write what we like. There’s simply no point otherwise. Also, if you book or buy through any of the links on this page, we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Montage of the best things to do in Sandwich cover image

11 Best Things to Do in Sandwich, Kent

Let’s talk about the most popular activities to do in Sandwich to make the most of your visit. And then let’s also introduce you to some new, unique and unusual things to do. 

Cat's Eye Carving, Sandwich, Kent
Learning a new skill at Cat’s Eye Carving, Sandwich

Take a Stone Carving Lesson

At times, Sandwich seems all about history and so it’s quite therapeutic to join in and immerse yourself in a timeless pastime as well. 

Carrie Horwood runs stonemason lessons at her newly opened studio known as Cat’s Eye Carving. The warm-up involves making rubbings of stone carvings with crayons. 

Then, chisels are handed over and the artistry begins! This was one of my daughter’s favourite experiences, not least because she turned out to be so much better at it than I was. 

Lessons are open to everyone but it’s wise to book in advance. In one afternoon, you can expect to take home your own block of stone with your initials or a design of your choice.

Roman head of Commodus bust, Guildhall Museum, Sandwich, Kent
This bust of Commodus is one of many on display at the Guildhall Museum

Hit Up the Guildhall Museum 

The modest size of the Guildhall Museum from the outside camouflages the immense amount of history found inside. 

You’ll find a real Roman bust, returned after 50 years in hiding in the back of a garden by boys who grew into men. 

There’s copies of the Magna Carta and the the Charter of the Forest, which protected the rights of the common man. 

And the prime exhibition is the Court Room.

The Guildhall building dates back to 1579 and the courtroom, while no longer in use, functioned as a courtroom during the Tudor reign and beyond. You can walk around freely, while portraits look down with disdain.

Spoiler: Look out for the portraits of Queen Elizabeth and the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Also, the fancy dress section of period costume for kids.

Stare at Swords at Sandwich Medieval Centre 

Smoke and sparks sizzled into the sun as we first approached Sandwich Medieval Centre. 

Once part of the Royal Cinque Ports during the French raids, it’s now a great place to experience medieval crafts, cookery, and war strategy. A winning combination.

We met Bob, a man who walked us through the different types of arrows, while the blacksmith behind him turned black into blaze. 

We stared at standard arrows, cavalry arrows, fire throwing arrows and poaching arrows. We saw the Welsh longbow, the height of a six foot man, and, apparently, responsible for the victory against the French at Agincourt. 

Apparently, during medieval times, men, women and children over the age of seven had to practice archery every Sunday so as to be ready to take on the French. Football was banned – and apparently the law still stands today. 

River Runner boat on the River Stour, Sandwich, Kent
There’s nothing like a cruise…

Cruise the Waters of River Stour 

Looking see things from a different point of view? Take the time to drift along the River Stour with River Runner. 

We scuttled down to Sandwich Quayside for 9am, the end of summer light glinting through late morning mist, filtered by the willows.  

With around ten others, we boarded and met Lauren who handed out binoculars and birdspotting sheets while Captain Paul took the helm. After a thorough safety session and distribution of life jackets, we were underway.

Travelling at a dreamy pace, Lauren pointed out the bright colours of Sandwich marina, a ship rescued from Dunkirk and bird after bird, from herons to kingfishers and curlews. 

The highlight, though, is the search for the seals but I’d kept my expectations low. After a few cruises around the coast of the UK with binoculars pressed tight against my nose, I’d racked up no more than a few humble smudgy sightings of grey far off in the distance. 

Not so on the cruise from Sandwich. First one seal, then another. And another, another. We simply couldn’t keep count. Swimming, sunbathing and posing, this pod of seals put on a show. 

Book your tour with River Runner here. Cruises run daily in the summer holidays and on Fri, Sat & Sun the rest of the year. 

Jewellery unearthed at Richborough Roman Fort, Sandwich, Kent
A selection of jewellery unearthed at Richborough Roman Fort

Step into the Past at Richborough Roman Fort 

It’s just a short drive out of Sandwich to reach Richborough Roman Fort.

When the Romans arrived, of course, they took the shortest route across the waves from France, which meant pitching up somewhere near Dover. 

They built their first ever British fort at Sandwich, at the time on the coast, and this became the entry port for every Roman who visited Britain. 

The new visitor centre shows what it would have been like, with a triumphant arch marking the entry to the conquered land. Glass cases reveal ceramics, jewellery, and coins, all found during excavations on this land. 

The ruins themselves are fairly, well, ruined but a few reconstructions here and there help to give a sense of scale. An in-depth audio guide is also available, as is a historical treasure hunt for kids. 

It’s like flipping through a history book in 3D.

Holy Ghost Alley, Sandwich, Kent
This historic Holy Ghost Alley

Take a History Tour of Sandwich

As you may have gathered by now, there’s a lot of history to see, touch and taste in Sandwich. 

To uncover things you may have overlooked, take a walking history tour with a guide from the Sandwich History Society. 

We met up with Mike Elmes, who showed us hidden messages in stone carvings, fleshed out with feisty stories at important points, before leading us to Holy Ghost Alley.

Also, look out for the New Inn where Shakespeare once stayed when the plague hit London.

Tower at St Peter's Church, Sandwich, Kent
Up, up and up we go…

Climb the Tower at St Peter’s

Climbing a church tower may not sound all that exciting at first for a small child, but St Peter’s has some surprises in store. Beyond the narrow, spiral stone stairs, the space opens up to reveal an exhibition about medieval town life. 

St Peter’s still rings the curfew bell, for example, named from the French for couvre-feu meaning cover your fire and which was essential to stop medieval blazes destroying the town. The practice has continued to this day, with little interruption. 

Audio soundtracks provide context as you walk around and from the top, you can see the pretty skyline of Sandwich unfold all around. 

Maps and illustrations point out the key landmarks like the Guildhall and the Art Deco cinema. And on the proverbial clear day, you really can see across to France. 

It’s run by Anne Marie Huigen, who distributes binoculars and info sheets to all those who dare to climb therein. But another surprise involves the heart-warming and bright community area and café with in the church itself. Shop for second hand books, toys and clothes not only to find great deals but also to help support victims of domestic abuse in the process.

Find the details on visiting St Peter’s here.

More Things to Do in Sandwich

It’s astonishing that we managed to see and do so much on just a two night stay. But, as is so often the case, we longed for more!

Here’s what we wanted to see but couldn’t squeeze in…

The White Mill Rural Heritage Centre 

The  White Mill Rural Heritage Centre resides in a stunning 18th-century smock mill surrounded by idyllic countryside. 

The ‘ooh’ moment? The original wooden machinery, perfectly preserved, gives a rare peek into the life of a miller. 

Beyond milling, there’s a treasure trove of vintage agricultural tools and rescued local cottages to shine some light on the past. 

Little-known fact: The White Mill was capable of producing 150 sacks of flour per day during the 20th century. 

The meaning of the word Sandwich

The world may know it as a food item but the name Sandwich actually derives from its Anglo-Saxon days. Wich means village and so you’ll see the name in Norwich and Ipswich along the east coast of England where the Anglo-saxons arrived. Sandwich at that time was on the coast, on the sand, and so the name Sandwich was born.

Birdwatch at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory 

Packed with feathered friends from different continents, Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory is a place to up your bird-spotting game.

Chill Out at Sandwich Bay Beach

A shingle and sand stretch of beach with room enough for some solitude, it’s just a short drive from Sandwich city centre.

Play Golf at the Royal St George’s Golf Course

Golf, anyone? Mr Lab would surely love it. 

This prestigious ground has been the backdrop of many a golf championship, including 14 Open Championships, with the White Cliffs of Dover serving as a dramatic backdrop. 

Inside The Toll Bridge restaurant, Sandwich, Kent
Dining at The Toll Bridge

Where to Eat in Sandwich, Kent

Despite the name, you really won’t find much focus on sandwiches here. No “world’s first sandwich shop” nor giant cardboard sandwich for you to pose with. 

Instead, find cosy cute cafes like the Goats that Dance and The Waiting Room, which dates back to 1922. And some lovely restaurants, serving traditional and innovative food alike. 

Here’s where we enjoyed:

  • The Toll Bridge – from the Cuban to the Texan, you will find full and fiery sandwiches here and smoked meat is a specialty.
  • The Bell Hotel – traditional British fare from pies to scotch eggs in an elegant setting
  • The Drill Hall – hipster style pizzeria in a converted building.

Where to Stay in Sandwich, Kent

We stayed in St Peter’s B&B, just a stone’s throw from the church of St Peter’s. Family run, it features a secret garden, a fully cooked breakfast and a quirky local charm. 

If B&Bs are not for you, then these are the Sandwich hot spots:

The Bell Hotel – A landmark since Tudor times, The Bell Hotel combines vintage appeal with contemporary comfort. There are 37 individually styled rooms, but it’s the panoramic view of the River Stour that wins the day. 

The Fleur de Lis – The Fleur de Lis in Sandwich offers a blend of old-world allure and modern comfort. This 16th-century inn has 11 rooms. Just think, while you’re drifting off to sleep, you’re sleeping where monks from Canterbury may have stayed on their travels. 

The White Cliffs of Dover
Behold: The White Cliffs of Dover

Things to Do Near Sandwich

You’ll find plenty of other things to do in the surrounding area but here are the most famous spots nearby.

  • The White Cliffs of Dover – who can miss this symbolic part of England? Maintained by the National Trust, follow the signs to the car park and hike out to see the white cliff faces and France.
  • Deal – a Victorian seaside town with traditional beachside activities.
  • Canterbury – home to Canterbury cathedral and the base of one of the most powerful positions in the Church of England. For centuries, pilgrims have flocked here and political deals have been made here. Parts of the city are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Walk part of the Via Francigena, an ancient route from Canterbury to Rome.

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