Art galleries

While the headline-grabbing, internationally acclaimed Turner Contemporary is credited with spurring Margate’s revival, the city’s artistic scene can be seen and enjoyed across many contemporary art spaces. Discover local creatives in the Pie Factory or the eclectic studios of LIMBO and CRATE. On Union Crescent, the Carl Freedman Gallery (famed for its connection with the Young British Artists in the 90s) occupies a 60s building with large-scale solo presentations from the likes of Billy Childish.

The Tom Thumb Theatre

Margate’s Theatre Royal may lay claim to being England’s second-oldest provincial theatre, but our heart really beats for Tom Thumb, the country’s second-smallest playhouse. Originally built as a Victorian coach house in Cliftonville, it was transformed into a theatre in 1984, decked out with a mishmash of Japanese and Alpine architecture, flocked wallpaper and just 50 red-velvet seats. As the saying goes, good things come in small packages. Book a ticket to see Margate’s most eccentric acts and experimental live music as you sip jam-jar cocktails served in the upstairs Fin Bar. 

 

Walpole Bay Tidal Pool

Grab your swimming garb and take a coastal amble to Cliftonville where the Grade II-listed Walpole Bay Tidal Pool – the UK’s largest saltwater lido – stretches over four acres and has been enjoyed by locals since 1937. Enter from the ladders to slide into clear, still water. Even in summer, it’s pretty chilly. Brace yourself.

  • Cliftonville
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Dreamland

This former pleasure park was saved from destruction by local campaigns – a first in British history. It is the oldest surviving amusement park in Britain and while most of its original features have been reworked, its golden-age charm still remains. Inside the art deco building there are vintage arcade games, a 1950s-style diner, cinema and a roller disco. Outside, brand new candy-coloured rides, kissing booths and ice cream stalls create a postcard-perfect image of the English seaside, while a rolling programme of live music promises to restore Dreamland to its former glory days.

 

Viking Coastal Trail

If you do like to be beside the Kentish seaside, the Viking Coastal Trail is the best place to enjoy it. It loops along quiet lanes, past pretty villages and ancient churches, through Monkton Nature Reserve, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Minnis Bay (stop here for a dip) and, of course, Margate. The whole thing is 50km, however. We recommend renting a blue Pashley bike from Ride… (the main hub is tucked in the train station) to cycle the almost traffic-free 14km stretch that follows the seawall from Margate to Reculver. 

 

Shell Grotto

Lined with mosaics of more than 4.6 million shells – mussels, cockles, whelks, limpets, scallops, oysters – this small, subterranean network of tunnels is as beautiful as it is mysterious. The Grade I-listed grotto was discovered in 1835 when local James Newlove was digging a duck pond, hit his shovel on something hard and proceeded to lower his young son into this cave. Today, the grotto’s purpose remains unknown, with speculations about its origins ranging from Roman times to 19th-century mystics. While you’re in the area, visit nearby Tudor House, one of Margate’s oldest buildings.  

 

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