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Dreamland Margate
Dreamland Margate

22 of the best things to do in Margate

Contemporary art, indie cafés and a perfect sandy beach: these are the absolute best things to do in Margate

Rosie Hewitson
Joe Minihane
Written by
Rosie Hewitson
&
Joe Minihane
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It’s been dubbed Shoreditch-on-Sea’, the ultimate edgy escape from the hubbub of London. And while its regenerated arcades, excellent indie cafés and offbeat cultural attractions might entice a younger, creative crowd, Margate has long been a destination for those looking to shake off the stress of the city. TS Eliot was a fan, JMW Turner painted his famous seascapes here and its genteel Victorian glamour made it a go-to for tourists well before its recent renaissance. Just 90 minutes by train from St Pancras, it’s the perfect spot for a summery day out. Here's our pick of the best things to do in Margate right now.

Best things to do in Margate

First up
Photograph: Ron Ellis / Shutterstock

First up

Head to the Turner Contemporary for a free fix of cutting-edge art or support local creatives at Kent’s oldest art gallery Lovelys. Then discover the Grade I-listed Shell Grotto, where 4.5 million shells make up its mosaic walls. Who created it and why? If that sparks an urge for more subterranean delights, then head to the recently reopened Margate Caves. This former chalk mine has been an air raid shelter, smugglers' cave and a wine cellar and, pre-pandemic, hosted silent discos and toddler meeting classes. As Margate as it gets.

Stop for lunch
Photograph: Acabashi

Stop for lunch

Relish every brunchy bite on the top deck of The Bus Café, get toasty at harbourside shack Cheesy Tiger or sample some seriously fresh seafood platters (or the obligatory seaside fish and chips) at seaview restaurant Buoy and Oyster. Finish with superior gelato from Melt.

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Drink like a local
Photograph: Chris Whippet / geograph.org.uk

Drink like a local

Top up on caffeine at Margs-meets-Scandi hotspot Mala Kaffe, a short hop from the Turner Contemporary. If you need a second cup, then be sure to check out the Margate Coffee Shed. It does a fine line in sweet treats too. Sip on a glass of red in eclectic surroundings at Fez and, if you’re partial to a pint of real ale, try The Harbour Arms. It’s a former fisherman’s hut with superb views of the glittering vista that inspired seascape master JMW Turner. For more excellent booze, head around the harbour arm to The Two Halves for sunset views over the beach.

Soak up the vibes
Photograph: Tom Harvey / geograph.org.uk

Soak up the vibes

Spend a penny at the arcades before braving the wilds of the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, the largest saltwater pool in the UK. The swimming community in Margate is super-friendly, so you’re bound to find encouragement if the water seems too chilly. Once you’ve had a head-clearing dip, pop over to the Tom Thumb Theatre for eccentric productions and experimental live music.

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Splash the cash
Photograph: Stephen McKay / geograph.org.uk

Splash the cash

Ascend to hipster heaven at retro clobber stores Peony Vintage and Handsome Freaks or delve into rarities at Margate Retro Fort Road Yard. Pick up perfume and skincare products at eco-loving store Haeckels. Its soaps and toiletries are made from seaweed foraged along the coast. What's more, it offers free goodies to shoppers who come in armed with a bagful of rubbish collected from the beach. Do your bit for the planet and you’ll come away smelling fabulous as well as feeling good.

Skip over to renovated retro theme park Dreamland. Make a beeline for the scenic railway, test your balance in the colourful indoor Roller Room, spend all your loose change in the arcade and take a selfie by the Hollywood-esque Dreamland sign. You know, just to prove you were there. Keep an eye on its website for the latest on the gigs and shows that have made it even more popular in recent years.

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When The Libertines bought a rundown B&B and promised to turn it into the Margate equivalent of Andy Warhol’s much-vaunted factory, many scoffed. But the simple fact is that The Albion Rooms, now complete after a three-year renovation, is the best place to stay in town. Its rooms are stuffed with original artwork and fascinating Victoriana, while its restaurant, run by Gordon Ramsay alumnus Joe Hill, is every bit as good as Margate’s other high-end dining spots. Throw in The Waste Land, the in-house bar serving local ales (and hosting drawing classes and poetry readings), and you’ve got a hotel worth the journey alone. Rooms from £115 per night

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