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The coastal town and historic port of Folkestone is one of Kent’s most popular towns for day trippers and overseas tourists due to its incredible harbour views, seaside and heritage walks and alfresco art scene. In fact, so many people visit from the capital that they are known as ‘DFLs’ – ‘Down from London’. Throw into the mix an array of beachside bars and harbour front hang-outs and you know you are in for an enjoyable day.
Here is our guide on the best things to do in Folkestone:
Things to do in Folkestone
Folkestone Old town high street
Folkestone’s historic heart and cobbled streets have recently been transformed becoming a haven for independent shops and quirky bars and restaurants. Much of this is down to the work being done by the Creative Folkestone group who are helping new businesses open and smartening up some of the more shabby buildings in the area.
This artisan area is a lovely place to walk around and browse and your best bet on how to arrive at Folkestone Harbour from the train station.
A flotilla of fishing boats and trawlers make this a picture postcard setting. Indeed, it is more than likely that the first image you see of Folkestone when you Google or picture search it is the marina area here.
It is a wonderful place to walk around – there are also lots of bars and restaurants in this area overlooking the water. We popped into The Mariner for some drinks and it was a social and likeable place with lots of local characters. The busiest places in Folkestone Harbour was the beer garden at the Royal George, and also Rocksalt – a seafood restaurant with an outdoor terrace overlooking the harbour.
Fish and chips from The Smokehouse
No trip to the english seaside is complete without having fish and chips (or just chips!) overlooking the sea. We did some research online and found that one of the most popular fish and chip takeaways in Kent was The Smokehouse, handily located in the harbour itself (so you’d expect the fish to be fresh). We grabbed our fish and chips and bagged a bench in the harbour – the food was delicious but just watch out for those pesky seagulls.
Folkestone Harbour Arm
An artsy array of sculptures, statues and street art combine with various pop up food kiosks and bars, all offering incredible views over the ocean. The variety of art on display here is truly inspired from the sublime subterranean views of Antony Gormley’s Another Time (you need to head underneath the harbour arm via some salty steps to see this) to a giant mobile seagull (we don’t know why…). Plus there is even a lighthouse champagne bar to enjoy some bubbles by the bay.
Folkestone Harbour station
A historic coastal train station that fell into disrepair and disuse before being lovingly restored in recent years, Folkestone Harbour station now has no trains but you can still walk along the railway tracks or platform admiring the artwork which include neon signs and sculptures. The original station opened here in 1849 before finally closing for good in 2014 after several attempts at reopening.
A walk to Sandgate via The Lea Zig Zag Path
When we first arrived in Folkestone, we walked from the train station towards The Leas, so we could see the coast from up high, via the cliff top walks and to admire all the grand seaside hotels and B&Bs.
Our walk took us all the way to Sandgate, a nearby Kent coastal town that has a charming high street full of tea-rooms, cafes and independent shops plus the added bonus of Sandgate Castle which looks directly over the beach (although it appeared to be closed when we visited).
Folkestone can be reached easily from Sandgate by just following the England Coastal Path along the beach. The best way is to take the famous Zig Zag path down which traverses the hillside down to the beach. There are a couple of beachside cafes along the way plus there appear to be big plans for the beach huts which are currently being demolished, with a view to replacing them in the near future.
Folkestone Sunny Sands
The most popular beach in Folkestone, Sunny Sands beach is just a short walk from Folkestone Harbour and a nice spot to catch the sun or splash in the water. Unlike near to the Harbour Arm, this beach is sandy and doesn’t have so many pebbles. When we visited, there were lots of families on the sands plus there were some surfers in the water
Folkestone Art Scene
A quick word on the Folkestone art scene – there has obviously been a huge effort by local people and organisations to do something special here and there are art installations dotted all around, some new and some that appear to have been here for quite some years (faded as f…). We found the best places for interesting and free art were the Folkestone Harbour Arm and to a lesser extent, along the esplanade and walk along Marina Road.
Beachfront beers at the Pilot Beach Bar
After we’d walked along Marine Parade and Folkestone’s beachfront promenade, we chanced upon a beachfront bar, operating out of a shipping container. The Pilot Beach Bar has several different craft beer taps on at any one time (Kernel and Beavertown were the offerings when we visited) plus an outdoor area lined with tables, deckchairs and seats all looking across the pebbles towards the sea. Its a nice way to relax after a long coastal walk. Toilets can be found nearby in the Folkestone Harbour train station.
Folkestone Step Short Memorial Arch
Unveiled by Prince Harry in 2014, this stainless steel structure can be found along the Leas area of Folkestone and it was erected to commemorate those who lost their lives in World World. As it is at the top of a hill, you can also admire views of the English Channel here and there are lots of benches and green spaces to enjoy in the same area.
Where to stay in Folkestone
View Hotel Folkestone
4-star boutique hotel located on a picturesque street just a 5 minute walk from Folkestone town centre. Facilities include an on-site restaurant and bar with panoramic sea views and an afternoon tea menu. Check out prices and availability for View Hotel Folkestone
Highly rated clean and comfortable bed and breakfast with stylish decor and communal kitchen. Check out prices and availability for Merchant39
Boutique rooms situated on the upper floors of a newly renovated building with views across Folkestone Harbour and a harbour-side terrace. The compact modern rooms feature red-brick walls and original antique beds. Check out prices and availability for Rocksalt Rooms
You might like these other south east England blog posts
- Things to do in Whitstable
- Things to do in Brighton
- Ramsgate to Margate walk – the Viking Coastal Trail
- Things to do in Margate
- Things to do in Hastings
- Things to do in Ramsgate, Kent
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