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Photograph: Dreamland

The 9 best things to do in Margate

Here's our guide to the best seafood, the best shops and the best pint in this glorious seaside town

Written by
Rosie Hewitson
Joe Minihane
Liv Kelly

It's no secret that Kent's popularity has soared over the last couple of years, and Margate is largely to thank. The shabby chic seaside town has bags of character, from its trendy galleries to the old-school beachfront arcades, and the crowds continue to roll in. 

The picture-perfect streets are packed with restaurants, vintage shops, plus cracking bars and pubs. There's also a thriving contemporary art scene, meaning the whole place strikes the perfect balance between trendy and twee. We've curated the perfect day in this lovely seaside town, with everything from where to eat to where to stay, so have a look at the best things to do in Margate right now.   

🐠The best things to do in Whitstable
⛪The best things to do in Canterbury
🌤️The best things to do in Kent
🌊The best seaside towns in the UK

At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

Top things to do in Margate

First up, head to Turner Contemporary
Photograph: Ron Ellis / Shutterstock

1. First up, head to Turner Contemporary

Head to the Turner Contemporary for a free fix of cutting-edge art right on the seafront, in a rather spectacular building. Most exhibitions are totally free, and there's often other kinds of events and workshops to get stuck into too. Need more? Head over to support local creatives at Kent’s oldest art gallery Lovelys

Get (more) cultured at the Shell Grotto
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Get (more) cultured at the Shell Grotto

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 cella, and more recently has hosted silent discos and toddler meeting classes. As Margate as it gets.

Stop for lunch at The Bus Café
Photograph: Acabashi

3. Stop for lunch at The Bus Café

Relish every brunchy bite on the top deck of The Bus Café or sample some seriously fresh seafood platters (or the obligatory seaside fish and chips) at seaview restaurant Buoy and Oyster.

Soak up the vibes a the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Soak up the vibes a the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool

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. 

Catch a show at Tom Thumb Theatre
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Catch a show at Tom Thumb Theatre

Once you’ve had a head-clearing dip, pop over to the Tom Thumb Theatre for eccentric productions and experimental live music.

Splash the cash in Peony Vintage
Photograph: Stephen McKay /

6. Splash the cash in Peony Vintage

Ascend to hipster heaven at retro clobber stores Peony Vintage and Handsome Freaks. 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.

Drink like a local The Harbour Arms
Photograph: Chris Whippet /

7. Drink like a local The Harbour Arms

Top up on caffeine at the Margate Coffee Shed, which 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.

If you only do one thing, make sure it's Dreamland
Photograph: Dreamland

8. If you only do one thing, make sure it's Dreamland

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.

Stay the night at Fort Road Hotel
Photograph: Fort Road Hotel

9. Stay the night at Fort Road Hotel

Smack bang on the seafront, Fort Road Hotel is an artsy hideaway that’ll make you feel right at home in this proudly cultural town. The landmark building overlooks the Turner Gallery and is filled with appealing art, from Tracey Emins adorning the restaurant and basement bar to local maps and memorabilia in the corridors. The rooms are spacious and decked out with vintage furnishings and intriguing reading material (and many also come with majestic sea views). It only opened in August 2022, but already the ground-floor restaurant is buzzing: head chef Daisy Cecil whips up seasonal menus inspired by her Kent surroundings. Two words you need to remember: deep-fried mussels. 


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