If you’re looking for a great coastal day or weekend trip from London, then it’s hard to overlook the classic seaside town of Margate in Kent.
A famous retreat during the Victorian and Georgian eras, Margate is making a big comeback!
Full of character, cobbled streets and kitsch stores, the beautiful sandy beach here draws thousands of city dwellers each year… and I have to admit I’ve been one of them on more than one occasion!
So if you’re looking to get from London to Margate for a bit of summer escape, here’s the complete lowdown on how to do it via train, bus or car, including the pros and cons of each option.
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London to Margate Train
The first option for getting from London to Margate is by train.
This is the quickest and most direct option.
Heading straight out of London Victoria or London St Pancreas, Margate trains run regularly as part of a direct journey.
From London Victoria trains take 1 hour 45 mins and from St Pancras they are slightly quicker at 1 hour 38 minutes.
Without any changes required, this is a lovely journey you simply hop on in the centre of London and hop off in the centre of Margate.
Because the other great thing about making this journey by rail, is that Margate train station is located right in the centre of this town – an easy hop, skip and jump from all the major attractions, including the beach.
At the other end, it’s easy to get to both London Victoria or London St Pancreas using the city’s Tube or Bus network.
Just pick the departure point nearest to where you are based or whichever is easiest to get to – I recommend using the free Citymapper app to plan your journey.
Alternatively, if the distance doesn’t make much difference to you, then pick the departure point with the most convenient train times or consider London Victoria, from where the journey is slightly cheaper.
As always, I use Trainline to check schedules as well as book my trains in the UK, including for travel to Margate from London (or visa-versa).
I particularly like the way Trainline uses split fares, which means you can be guaranteed the cheapest ticket fares, as they analyse a range of different tickets (including 2 singles vs returns etc) to get you the best deal.
And that’s a particularly good thing when it comes to catching the London to Margate train, because these tickets can be pretty expensive for a simple 90 minute ish journey.
This is especially true at weekends and during the summer, when most people visit Margate from London.
At all times, but especially at these peak times, I highly recommend booking your London to Margate train in advance via Trainline – think at least 7-10 days, but preferably more.
Advance bookings are going to give you the cheapest prices everytime.
Pros: Direct, Choice of London Stations
Cons: Can be Expensive
London to Margate Bus
If price is a major consideration for you, then perhaps travelling from London to Margate via bus might prove a better option.
National Express is a great coach company that runs services across the UK, including direct services from London to Margate.
If you have plenty of time, but small pockets, you’ll likely be delighted to find single tickets for as little as £5 for this journey!
With several departures per day, the quickest services take 2 hour 40 minutes and the longest ones around 3 hours.
This means bus travel is probably best suited to those heading to Margate for a weekend – a 6 hour return journey is a bit much for a day trip!
All Margate bound coaches leave from Victoria Coach Station – which is the National Express hub in London, a short walk from London Victoria Station.
Coaches arrive directly into Margate too – in fact right outside Dreamland by the beach, making them very easy and accessible.
Again booking National Express tickets in advance can help you secure the best rates.
However this doesn’t need to be done nearly as far in advance as the trains.
Booking your Margate to London bus (or visa versa) should be fine 3-5 days ahead of your departure day.
Pros: Direct, Cheap
Cons: Longer Journey Time
London to Margate by Car
And finally, we come to the 3rd option of travelling from Margate to London (or visa versa), and this is to drive.
Of course, the advantages of driving include leaving when you want, as well as having access to your car when you arrive down in Margate if you want to explore the area around the town too – the beachside destination of Whitstable is a favourite of mine.
If you’re sharing the ride with others, then you can also share the costs of fuel on this journey as well.
But don’t forget, there’s often hidden costs when it comes to driving to Margate – not least the issue and fees associated with parking, which can be significant in the summer.
Forget the prices, just trying to find a parking space here is a whole thing, especially on a sunny weekend, when the place can be rammed!
You can book and reserve car parking spaces at Margate’s theme park Dreamland for the day, but you’ll have to arrange this in advance.
Learn more about parking in Margate including car park locations and prices here.
You can also learn about a free sneaky parking spot here, although do bear in mind, this is unlikely to have many free spaces during the busy times!
It’s also possible that driving to Margate will take you longer than the train, especially if the traffic is bad!
And it certainly won’t prove as relaxing as a train journey.
In terms of notable stops, the city of Canterbury is enroute and definitely one of the best London day trips too, but aside from that, there’s not a lot to see in-between.
For all these reasons, as well as the impact of your carbon footprint, I don’t recommend driving to Margate – it’s not generally cheaper or quicker than bus or train and it definitely involves a lot more hassle such as traffic and parking.
Driving to Margate from London is only really worthwhile if you aren’t staying or visiting Margate town, but instead want to explore the countryside around over a few days.
If this something that interests you, then check out Thrifty Car Hire for a great deal if you need to rent a vehicle.
Pros: Independence, No Need to Organise in Advance
Cons: Traffic, Parking, Stress
What To Do in Margate
Which leads me nicely on to discussing briefly what you should do in Margate when you get down there. After all, I did vote this one of the best places to visit in Kent!
#1 The Beach
Of course, top of the list of things to do in Margate is to hang at the beach.
The wide stretch of beautiful sand here is one of England’s finest and good sea swimming opps abound.
You can also walk along to the quieter Westbrook Beach if you want to avoid most of the crowds.
Accompanied by some excellent pier entertainment, the classic fish and chip supper and the famous Dreamland theme park, Margate’s beach is a perennial national favourite.
But Margate is also changing and there’s a fair amount of hipster quirk springing up around here too – including a caravan on the beach that doubles as a massage centre / sauna!
Strolling along the beach to visit some of the great cafes here aswell – including one housed in an old double-decker bus – is a must!
#2 Old Town
But it’s not just quirky cafes that Margate does well.
Nope, the beautifully historic Old Town of this destination, with its quaint cobbled streets and historic buildings, is also home to a growing number of great restaurants and vintage shops that bring a real sense of character and charm to the otherwise gritty, slightly down-trodden vibes.
It’s a combination that has hipsters drooling and it’s no coincidence many are now making the move from east London down to Margate, earning it the reputation of Shoreditch-on-Sea!
Strolling Margate’s Old Town, and checking out the quintessential and independent businesses here, such as Sands Hotel (where you can enjoy a lovely drink overlooking the bay) are a must.
Don’t miss lunch at Dory’s Fish Bar either!
#3 Arts and Culture
And there’s also plenty of arts and culture to enjoy in Margate as well.
From the Turner Gallery (parts of which are free to enter) to the Gormley Sculpture only visible at low tide, there’s a growing arty scene in Margate that is equally accelerating its reputation.
The tiny Tom Thumb Theatre in nearby Clifton, as well as the more traditional Theatre Royal Margate, are also complimented by Westgate Cinema and the quirky arthouse Granville Cinema, which is situated in nearby Ramsgate.
#4 Surrounding Area
And now that I mention Ramsgate, it’s definitely worth venturing to some of the other areas of Thanet (namely Ramsgate and Broadstairs) when you visit Margate too.
Spread along the coast, these other seaside towns can all be walked between along lovely coastal paths and take just a few hours.
Once there you’ll discover gorgeous independent places like The Chapel (a pub and bookshop combined), Walpole Bay Hotel (a vintage treasure trove), Eats n Beats Café and The Bedford Inn (wonderful, independent pub).
Full of friendly locals and away from the tourist crowds, hitting up these spots is definitely one of the best things to do in Margate.
Affordable Accommodation in Margate
And if you’re looking at staying overnight in Margate on a budget, then here’s my top suggestions…
Premier Inn Margate also offers great value accommodation right near the train station, the beach and the Old Town.
This is well-suited to overnight stays, where you just want somewhere to lay your head and aren’t too worried about the feel of the place.
If you want some with a more independent spirit, then check out this well-priced studio flat, which is ideal for 2 people and is situated right in the centre of Margate.
Alternatively, these great guest suites are right in the Old Town and get rave reviews thanks to their great service, facilities and comfort. Some rooms have sea views too – an added bonus!
And don’t forget, if you’re venturing further afield from Margate, you can check out how to travel from London to several other top Kent destinations in this useful post I wrote.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
And that’s my guide on how to travel from London to Margate, giving you all the pros and cons of the 3 options – train, bus and car.
I hope my tips about the best things to do in Margate, as well as some budget accommodation options, have also proved helpful.
Have you visited Margate?
How did you get there?
Do help other travellers out by sharing your experiences below…