The Ultimate Guide To The U.K.'s Best-Kept Seaside Secret: Margate

Margate is a diamond-in-the-rough seaside town, just waiting for you to discover it. A popular family-holiday destination for most of the last century, in recent years it has fallen from favour. Till now, that is.
Get ahead of the curve and take a day trip to the town destined to be your favourite place outside of London. We've planned the whole thing. From the teashop straight out of Alice In Wonderland to impressive retro furniture stores and some pretty amazing art spots, we’ve selected the must-see places to put a spring in your step. Just don’t forget to send us a postcard.
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Breuer & Dawson
This unisex vintage store offers all the things every discerning lady or gentleman needs in their wardrobe. It's your go-to for all things pure Brittania with an Americana twist, from fisherman’s sweaters to old-school Levi’s and tweed jackets. And everything is in fantastic condition.

7 King Street, Margate, Kent, CT9 1DD

Photo: Courtesy of Breuer & Dawson
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Fort’s Café
Tucked a little a ways away from the main thoroughfare in Cliftonville is the excellent Fort’s Café. In its heyday, this former ice-cream parlour attracted all the stars from Margate's famous Winter Gardens down the road. All that’s left of that bygone era are the white wicker chairs, but the sofas and mismatched tables make it a relaxing place to while away an hour or two. Instead of gelatos though, it’s locally sourced chorizo burgers and craft beers on the menu. A real find.

8 Cliff Terrace, Margate, CT9 1RU

Photo: Courtesy of Fort’s Café
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Junk Deluxe
R.G. Scott’s Furniture Mart is a cavernous warehouse selling furniture, crockery, and bric-a-brac at all price points and taste preferences. If your tastes run to a mid-century modern point of view, head down to the basement and pay Junk Deluxe a visit. They are purveyors of all things retro at fantastically affordable prices. From motorway signs and advertising posters from the '30s to (rather disturbing) boxes of porcelain doll hands. We promise you won’t walk away empty handed.

Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday
The Old Ice Works, Bath Path, CT9 2BN

Photo: Courtesy of Junk Duluxe
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Mad Hatter’s Tea Room
The saying “seeing is believing” could have been invented for the Mad Hatter’s tea room. The two-story building has been lovingly decked out in the style of Queen Victoria’s living rooms. Oh, and it is always Christmas here. Fully decorated Christmas trees twinkle from the corners of both rooms, as does the vast display of royal memorabilia. The owner and host, Peter Clements-Bullett dresses as (who else) the Mad Hatter, complete with a tinsel-strewn top hat. He bakes all of the cakes on the premises, too. We highly recommend the champagne tea. A glass of fizz, smoked salmon sandwiches, a port of tea and a slice of cake are yours for the princely sum of £17 per person. Priceless.

Open Saturday only
9 Lombard Street, Margate, CT9 1EJ
01843 232 626

Photo: Emily London
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We dare you to walk into Paraphernalia and not want to buy everything you lay eyes on. The store boasts an impressive inventory of East German movie posters, Edwardian dressing tables, and Victorian bell-jars. There’s even a pinball machine if you’re interested. Just prepare to spend a significant amount of time on your hands and knees rifling through everything this store has to offer.

8 King Street, Margate, Kent

Photo: Courtesy of Paraphernalia
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The Reading Rooms
If you feel that one day isn’t enough to experience the marvel that is Margate (believe us, you will), make a reservation at the Reading Rooms. It’s a boutique B&B with decor straight from the pages of World of Interiors magazine. There are only three rooms available though, so be sure to book ahead.

31 Hawley Square, Margate, CT9 1PH

Photo: Courtesy of The Reading Rooms
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Shell Grotto
The Shell Grotto is a truly bizarre place. First discovered in 1835, it is essentially a collection of subterranean corridors leading to a room with no discernible purpose — but every single inch of the space is covered in millions of shells. Seashells in the most intricate patterns, all applied by hand. Some think it hails from Roman times and was the place of worship for a particular god. Others think it’s the work of a more-money-than-sense nobleman. Make your own mind up when you check it out for yourself. You'll be amazed — trust us.

Open Saturday and Sunday
Grotto Hill, Margate, CT9 2BU

Photo: Via Shell Grotto
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Turner Contemporary
One of Margate’s most famous former residents is Tracey Emin. She grew up there. In her honour, the Tate built the Turner Contemporary building in 2011. Actually, it was JMW Turner who inspired this gallery's inception. This gallery space right on the seafront is free to visit all year round, and is a calming alternative to the antique trawling occurring on the nearby streets.

Open Tuesday to Sunday
Tate Contemporary, Rendevous, Margate, CTG 1HG

Photo: Courtesy of Turner Contemporary
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The Shop
The Shop is all about cooking. Well, baking, to be more precise. It sells a tempting variety of cooking utensils and enamelware. And it’s no wonder, as the founders of The Cupcake Shop down the road run the place. Mystery solved.

1 Duke Street, CT9 1E

Photo: Courtesy of The Shop

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