9 BEST Things to Do in Margate, England | A Charming Seaside Town in Kent

Margate, England sits at the most eastern tip of Kent, right on the water, and is a hugely underrated spot to visit for a day out. Looking out over the English Channel, Margate is a great seaside resort that’s only around 2 hours from London, so if you’re planning a day out away from the city it’s a brilliant area to visit.

Whether solo, with friends, with a partner, or with the kids — there’s something for all ages and tastes in Margate, Kent. 

This travel guide to Margate, England includes the best things to do in Margate. From museums to archeological discoveries, and beautiful beaches, we detail the best activities and attractions in Margate.

About Margate, Kent

overhead view of the Margate Harbour in Margate England
Margate is a wonderful seaside community with a picturesque harbor, beach area, and quaint Old Town. | Photo by Nathaniel Taylor from Getty Images / Canva Pro

This charming seaside town in the county of Kent, England is famous for its sandy beaches, historic architecture, and vibrant arts scene.

Visitors to Margate can stroll along the scenic promenade, enjoy fish and chips on the beach, or explore the quirky vintage shops and art galleries that line the old town streets. 

In the 18th century, Margate began to gain popularity as a seaside resort, with the sea air and bathing believed to have health benefits. The town grew rapidly, with the construction of grand hotels and entertainment venues, and became a fashionable destination for wealthy Londonites.

During the 19th century, Margate’s popularity continued to soar, and the town’s iconic pier and amusement park were built. However, Margate was heavily bombed during the Blitz in World War II since it served as a strategic location for the defense of the English Channel. 

In the mid-1900s, Margate, Kent began to quickly decline as English vacationers began to head elsewhere outside of the United Kingdom for their beach holidays.

However, Margate has undergone an impressive transformation in more recent years, with the revival of its arts scene and the regeneration of its historic buildings and landmarks. Today, Margate, Kent is once again becoming a thriving coastal town with plenty to do and see during a weekend getaway or day trip. 

How to Get to Margate, England

London St Pancras International
From London St. Pancras, it is about 1.5 hours by train to Margate.

Margate is part of the Thanet district, which also includes the nearby towns of Broadstairs and Ramsgate. The seaside town is situated approximately 75 miles (120 km) east of London, and about 27 miles (43 km) northeast of the city of Canterbury. There are several ways to get to Margate.

Just off the A28, the town is easily accessible by car or bus. But if you prefer not to drive in the UK, Margate is also well-connected by train. There are regular trains from London and other major cities in the southeast of England. 

The journey from London St Pancras International to Margate takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The Best Things to Do in Margate UK

If you’re looking for things to do in Margate for a weekend, we’ve rounded up the 9 best places to hit while you’re by the seaside, including a few that you won’t need to open your wallet for. 

Go inside the Margate Caves 

Since they were first opened to visitors in 1863, the Margate Caves have been one of the most exciting attractions in Margate, England.

The caves were originally used as a chalk mine in the 18th century, but eventually became the tourist attraction we know today. Plus, they’re home to some interesting discoveries, such as an Iron Age skeleton in a chalk pit. 

In 2019, the caves re-opened with a community building, a café, a shop and even exhibition spaces where you can learn more about these curious caves and the ecology and geology of the surrounding area. 

Throughout the year they host various events in the caves. For example, at Christmas you can meet Santa inside, but regardless of the season, you can visit this fascinating place at any time of year as it’s an attraction the whole family will enjoy. 

Visit the Turner Contemporary Gallery

Exterior of the Turner Contemporary
Touring the Turner Contemporary is one of the best things to do in Margate England. | Photo by Ian Wool from Getty Images / Canva Pro

If you want to add a sprinkle of culture to your day out in Margate, Kent County you should visit the Turner Contemporary Gallery which features both show-stopping architecture, a fascinating collection of modern art inside, and… free entry! 

The British painter J.M.W Turner spent a lot of his childhood in a boarding house in Margate, and the art gallery now stands on the site of that boarding house.

With many exhibitions ranging from contemporary art to historical pieces, the gallery is a joy to wander around whether you’re an art lover or not. The Turner Contemporary Gallery is right by the sea, so you can pop in for a look while you’re in the area. 

The Turner is just one of the many reasons why Margate is ranked as one of the best towns in England – along with picturesque places like Castle Combe in the Cotswolds

See the Shell Grotto 

a shell mural at the shell grotto
The Shell Grotto is a fascinating attraction in Margate UK. | Photo by Kenneth Taylor from Getty Images / Canva Pro

The Shell Grotto is one of the hidden gems (literally) of Margate, England, and definitely one not to be missed while you’re there. Picture 2,000 square feet of mosaic made up of 4.6 million shells inside 70 feet of tunnels. No? Can’t picture it? Well, it exists, so you can see it for yourself. 

The most amazing thing about the Shell Grotto is the fact that, since its discovery in 1835, no one has been able to conclusively figure out how or why the shells got there. There are many theories though, including its status as an ancient temple, or as a meeting place for a secret sect.

Take a visit to this mysterious site, see the cockles, mussels, whelks and oysters all arranged into gorgeous swirling patterns and symbols, and come up with your own theory for how they got there. 

Put down a towel at Margate Beach 

Margate Beach on a blue sky day
Margate UK is a wonderful beach destination with lots of sand for little ones to play in. | Photo by Mediterranean from Getty Images / Canva Pro

If you’re looking for things to do in Margate with toddlers, older kids or teenagers, you simply can’t go wrong with a visit to the beach. Margate Beach is lovely as it’s a sandy beach with plenty of room to lie out along the seafront. 

Put your towels down and make a little spot for yourself to soak up some sun and maybe even take a dip in the water if you feel up to it. 

This is a free (or at least cheap!) day out idea with the kids, since there are lots of convenient facilities nearby like cafes, shops and restaurants. Don’t forget your bucket and spade or your other beach essentials for young kids

Have lunch in the Old Town 

a cute pub in Margate Kent
Old Town Margate has lots of cute pubs, coffee shops, and restaurants where you can grab lunch or dinner. | Photo by Michael Schueller from Pixabay

The Old Town in Margate is a picturesque, historic area of the town with plenty of things to do, see, and eat!

Wander around Margate Old Town and look in some of the lovely independent shops, grab a coffee at one of the many cafes, and take pictures of the historic buildings you’ll pass along the way. 

If you’re there for the walk, there’s plenty to see along the route by just snaking in and out of the little streets. If you’re there for the food though, you’ll be spoilt for choice. 

The Greedy Cow Café might draw you in from its name alone, or if you keep walking, you’ll find a great fish and chip shop, an ice cream bar, seafood stalls, Italian restaurants… whatever you fancy, Old Town Margate has probably got it. 

Take a drive to Botany Bay, Broadstairs 

white chalk cliffs along the shore at Botany Bay
Botany Bay is a fun place to explore near Margate with pictureque chalk-white cliffs. | Photo by Magda Vrabetz from Unsplash

If you have a car on your day out and you’re looking for nice places near Margate, it’s well worth making the short trip up to the picturesque area of Broadstairs known as Botany Bay, which is around 10 minutes’ drive from Margate.  

From there, you can strap on your walking boots and make the short hike to see Botany Bay and take in the absolutely stunning cliffs there. They are a must-see if you’re nearby on a weekend getaway or day trip from London. 

The bay is also a popular destination for fossil hunting, with many ancient shells and fossils embedded in the chalk cliffs.

Take a trip to Dreamland Margate 

Roller Disco at Dreamland in Margate UK
Aside from rides, Dreamland also has fun activities like Roller Skating. | Photo by Mike Matheny from Unsplash

Dreamland is one of the most recognizable attractions in Margate, Kent, and people come from all over to attend events and concerts at one of England’s best theme parks.

Whether or not you’re visiting when there’s an event going on, Dreamland is an amusement park that will keep you and the kids entertained all day long if you want it to. 

It’s a pretty iconic and historic attraction in the area since it opened in the 1920s and retains some of its old charm. But after some refurbishment in 2015, it caters to a modern audience. 

Take a spin on the Ferris wheel, whizz around on a rollercoaster or try one of the gentler, child-friendly rides and activities that will bring on the smiles. Whatever you want to do there, Dreamland has rides and entertainment for all ages. 

Shop at the Old Kent Market 

The Old Kent Market is a must-visit when in Margate. It was originally a cinema, so the building is particularly beautiful and has been well preserved even throughout a refurbishment.

Today, it is a fantastic community hub with lots to do, and the perfect place to stop off for dinner during your day out in Margate, Kent. 

Walk around and smell all the amazing foods, pop into some of the quirky shops, and maybe pick up some presents for any upcoming birthdays, as you will find plenty of unique gifts and other cool things here. 

Just another reason to make the day trip from London to Margate by train, easily!

Walk along the Margate Harbour Arm

The Margate Arm Harbour in Margate United Kingdom
The Harbour Arm is great for a stroll in Margate. | Photo by Vince Murray from Getty Images / Canva Pro

The Harbour Arm is essentially a very long, curved pier that encircles Margate Beach. Although it’s the perfect place to go boat spotting as it’s the town’s harbour, it is also a popular spot to just walk around.

There, you’ll find lots more food and drink places, small galleries, and maybe even some people fishing. You can walk along it in the evening after your dinner at the Old Kent Market and take in the lively atmosphere. 

In summer, you may even be treated to live music and street food. 

Where to stay in Margate UK

There are several great places to stay in Margate, depending on your preferences and budget. Some of the best places to stay in Margate include:

The Beetroot: This artsy boutique hotel is located in Old Town near the beachfront and offers stylish rooms a stone’s throw from restaurants, the ocean, and the Turner Contemporary.

The Walpole Bay Hotel: This historic hotel has been in operation since the 1920s and offers a range of rooms, including some with sea views and balconies. The hotel also has an on-site restaurant and bar.

Final thoughts on visiting Margate, Kent County England

A cute shop in Margate Kent County
Margate is worth visiting for its cute Old Town and lively beach area. | Photo by Michael Schueller from Pixabay

Margate has so much to do, from historic mysteries to uncover, to amazing restaurants to eat at, to brilliantly picturesque walks you can take along the seafront and beyond. 

If you’re looking for an English seaside town with lots to do, Margate wins hands down. Like the charming villages in the Cotswolds, which make for a great day trip or weekend getaway, Margate makes for a wonderful escape from the busyness of London.

So, if you are planning to visit London for a day or so and want to get out of the city for the rest of your England vacation, Margate and the rest of Kent County are worth considering, especially during the summer months when you can relax on the beach and bask in the sun.

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