Last Updated on January 21, 2022 by Sam
Whether you want to spend some time at the beach or explore the town’s Creative Quarter, there are plenty of great things to do in Folkestone, Kent. Located on England’s South Coast, the town is a lovely base for exploring Kent, especially as it’s relatively nearby to the famous White Cliffs of Dover. Some of the best things to do in Folkestone itself are take a stroll along the Leas Promenade, enjoy the independent restaurants at the Harbour Arm or visit the variety of artworks found around the town. It’s a great spot for a day trip from London, or if you have the time you can easily spend a weekend enjoying what the town has to offer. Having been born in Folkestone and lived there for many years, Natalia unsurprisingly knows a lot about the town. Find out all the best places to visit with this guide to the top things to do in Folkestone, Kent.
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How to get to Folkestone
The best way to get to Folkestone largely depends on where you’re coming from. It’s a town with fairly good public transport links from London, so it’s easy to get to without driving. Make sure to check out our guide of how to get from London to Folkestone for a more in depth guide on getting to the town.
We recommend taking the train from London to Folkestone as it’s the quickest and easiest option. Trains run from Charing Cross, London Bridge or St Pancras International, with the latter operating the fastest route at 50 minutes direct.
Train prices vary depending on whether you book in advance, and whether your departure/arrival time is considered to be at a peak or off-peak time. Advance tickets are almost always the cheapest option, and can be booked online on the Omio website. Click here to find the cheapest advance tickets for your trip on Omio!
It’s important to be aware that if you book an advance ticket you have to travel on the specified train or your ticket will not be valid.
Another option is to take a bus from London to Folkestone, with National Express running a number of services each day. It takes at least 2 hours 45 minutes to make the journey via bus, which is why we recommend taking the train if you can. If you do still want to take the bus though, click here to book your journey on the Omio website!
The final option is to drive to Folkestone, which is a good choice if you want to explore some other spots in Kent. There are plenty of great spots to visit in the county, including the White Cliffs of Dover and the seaside town of Ramsgate. If you need to rent a car for your trip then we recommend booking through the Rental Cars website as they compare prices with a number of operators to get you the best deal!
Best time to visit Folkestone
Like many places in the UK, the best time to visit Folkestone is in the summer. Although nothing is ever quite guaranteed with British weather, visiting in the summer gives you a good chance of sun and clear skies.
Weekends in Folkestone can be quite busy, as it’s a relatively popular spot for a day trip to the beach. For that reason we recommend visiting during the week if you want to avoid the crowds.
Where to stay in Folkestone
The Portland Hotel
The Portland Hotel is a great budget accommodation option in Folkestone. It’s well-located next to the Leas promenade, and is around a 20-minute walk from the Folkestone Harbour Arm. The Leas Cliff Hall venue is virtually next door to the hotel, making it an ideal place to stay if you’re attending a concert or show there during your stay.
Rooms at the hotel are relatively basic, but serve as a great base for exploring the town. There is also a bar and restaurant on site, which is a convenient option to have if you’re looking for somewhere to have dinner or drinks nearby.
Prices at the hotel start from around £35 per night, but rates do tend to increase during the summer months. Even still, you’ll struggle to find better value for money given the location.
View Hotel Folkestone
If you’re looking for a more comfortable stay then the View Hotel Folkestone is a great choice. This 4-star boutique hotel is brilliantly located on the Leas promenade, and all rooms offer at least partial sea views.
There are a selection of room types on offer – from classic double or twin rooms to luxurious suites. All of the rooms are extremely comfortable and are perfect for relaxing in after a busy day enjoying the different things to do in Folkestone! To top it off the wonderful Cliffe Restaurant & Bar is located on-site.
Rooms at the hotel start from £68 per night, but prices will vary depending on your exact dates and your choice of room type.
The Burlington Hotel
The Best Western Burlington Hotel is one of the top luxury hotels in Folkestone, and is undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in the area. Overlooking the Leas Promenade, the hotel is in an impressive and well-maintained Victorian building.
Rooms at the property are spacious and beautifully designed, with some rooms offering fantastic sea views. The hotel has a restaurant and cocktail bar on site, and is well-located in walking distance of the Folkestone Harbour Arm.
Prices at the hotel start from around £179 per night during the peak summer season, but you may find better rates at other times throughout the year.
Best things to do in Folkestone
The Folkestone Harbour Arm is a lovely promenade stretching out to sea, and is home to a variety of independent food and drink vendors. Since opening in 2015 it has become a popular spot to visit to enjoy a drink or a bite to eat whilst enjoying great views of the area and the cliffs along the coastline.
There are nearly 30 different vendors and restaurants operating at the Folkestone Harbour Arm offering a mixture of options including Greek food, pizza, burgers, Dutch pancakes and more. Click here to see a list of vendors at the Harbour Arm.
It’s a great place to treat yourself to a snack between meals, and is also ideal to grab something more substantial if you’re looking for lunch or dinner. The vendors tend to operate out of food trucks/vans, with some also being based inside shipping containers – which gives the area a quirky feel.
Prior to the redevelopment the main part of the Harbour Arm was the rarely-used railway terminal, with only the occasional train visiting the station. In the past the station was notably used as the departure point for British soldiers on their way to the Western Front.
Visit the beach
One of the best things to do in Folkestone is to take a trip to the beach. There are a few different beaches to choose from, with the most popular being Sunny Sands – the town’s only sandy beach.
Sunny Sands is quite a small beach and so it can get crowded quite easily. Despite this, it’s a nice place if you’re looking to go swimming or sunbathing. Alternatively, you can take a walk along the beachfront promenade or explore the tunnels beneath the walkway. It may be worth checking tide times before you visit, as at high tide the sea covers a lot of the sand at Sunny Sands beach.
If you’re looking for a better beach for walking, then Folkestone Beach may be the choice for you. It’s a pebble beach that stretches from the Folkestone Harbour Arm all the way to the nearby town of Hythe. The beach runs adjacent to the Lower Leas Coastal Park and is home to some of the town’s art installations.
Another option is to visit The Warren, which is home to a collection of pebble beaches along the coast towards Dover. It’s a lot quieter here when compared to the popular Sunny Sands Beach, and is a nice spot for a walk to get away from the crowds. Seals are sometimes spotted in the area, so keep an eye out if you do visit!
There is also the option of travelling outside of Folkestone to visit beaches elsewhere in Kent. If you have a car we recommend the unique Botany Bay in Broadstairs, which is home to some stunning white cliffs besides the beach. There are plenty of other great options too, including the sandy beaches of Dymchurch.
Find out more about the town’s beaches by reading our guide to beaches in Folkestone!
Castle Hill is a lovely spot to visit if you want to enjoy views of Folkestone and the surrounding areas, and it also happens to be one of Natalia’s favourite spots in the town. Due to its location the easiest way to get there is to park on Castle Hill road by the A20 roundabout. You can then walk along the road and a path through the trees to your right side will lead you up to the viewpoint.
The hill was once home to Folkestone Castle, with the remains being known as Caesar’s Camp. There aren’t any ruins to see on the hill, but you can see some defensive ditches associated with the former castle.
We recommend following the trail to near the area marked as ‘Caesar’s Camp‘ on Google Maps to get the best views. From here you can get some of the best views of Folkestone, the nearby Eurotunnel station and the sea. If you’re lucky on a clear day you can even see across the English Channel to France!
The Leas Promenade
Taking a stroll along the clifftop Leas Promenade is one of the best things to do in Folkestone on a sunny day. It’s a picturesque spot for a walk thanks to a number of flowerbeds, the beautiful Victorian bandstand and the grand hotels alongside the mile-long promenade.
The views across the English Channel are not to be missed, and on a clear day you can even see over to France! It takes around 20-30 minutes to walk along the promenade, and the walk is nice and easy as it’s a relatively flat route.
At one end of the Leas in Folkestone is the now-closed Grand Hotel, and at the other end you will find the Step Short Memorial Arch – a commemorative arch to honour soldiers from World War 1. There are several installations along the route including Yoko Ono’s Earth Peace and The Whispers benches.
The promenade is also home to the famous Leas Cliff Hall venue, which has played host to a number of famous acts over the years including The Rolling Stones, Motorhead and Frank Turner. Click here for an up-to-date schedule of upcoming shows at the venue!
If you head down the Zig-Zag path from the promenade you can reach the next spot on this list – the Lower Leas Coastal Park.
Lower Leas Coastal Park
The Lower Leas Coastal Park is an award-winning park situated directly below the Leas Promenade. It’s a great spot for families to visit, with a variety of different things to see and do within the park.
There are a few different routes down to the park from the Leas Promenade, but the best option is to take the aptly-named Zig-Zag path. Once you’re in the park there is plenty to explore across three different zones – the fun zone, the formal zone, and the wild zone.
A visit to the fun zone’s playground in the Lower Leas Coastal Park is one of the best things for kids to do in Folkestone. There is plenty for children to enjoy including a pirate ship, slides zip lines, and more!
The other zones are more likely to appeal to grown ups, with the formal zone made up of flowers and gardens and the wild zone being a spot for quiet recreation to allow local wildlife to thrive.
A walk around the Lower Leas Coastal Park is definitely one of the best things to do in Folkestone for free. It’s a particularly nice thing to do on a sunny day, so fingers crossed you have good weather for your trip!
As well as the spots listed above, the park is also home to an amphitheatre. Although it isn’t used too regularly, if you’re lucky your trip may coincide with a performance there.
To find out more and see a map of the park, click here to head to the Visit Kent website.
The Creative Quarter is one of the most interesting places to visit in Folkestone thanks to a collection of arty and alternative independent shops, galleries and businesses. One of the main spots to check out is The Old High Street – a traditional cobbled street, now home to a series of quirky shops and cafes with colourful storefronts.
Creative Folkestone are responsible for the area and have restored 90 buildings, whilst looking after around 80 flats, over 50 shops, and 115 studios and offices. For anyone in the area wanted to get involved in the arts and culture, this is the spot for you!
The area is also home to the Folkestone Quarterhouse venue, with regular performances of music, film, comedy and more! Find out more about the Creative Quarter by visiting the Creative Folkestone website!
Creative Folkestone Artworks
Creative Folkestone are also responsible for the largest urban contemporary art exhibition in the UK. As of 2022, the exhibition consists of 74 different artworks by 46 artists including Yoko Ono, Bill Woodrow and Mark Wallinger.
Some of the most notable Folkestone Artworks are The Colour of Water by Spencer Finch, Holiday Home by Richard Woods, Baby Things by Tracey Emin, and Another Time by Antony Gormley. Another Time is similar to the Anthony Gormley installation Another Place found in Crosby Beach, which we recommend visiting on our Liverpool itinerary.
Walk from Folkestone to Sandgate
If it’s a nice day and you fancy a longer walk then you can walk along the beachfront to the small village of Sandgate. It’s a pleasant and easy walk along the coast, which is perfect for anyone who enjoys being by the sea.
The walk from Folkestone to Sandgate takes around 20-30 minutes, but if you want an even longer walk then you can continue on to Hythe Beach. The town of Hythe is a quiet spot with a variety of seafront restaurants and cafes, as well as a small town centre.
Folkestone is connected to the French city of Calais via the famous Channel Tunnel. The Eurotunnel Folkestone Terminal offers a shuttle service for transporting passenger and freight vehicles between England and France. Taking just 35 minutes in total, it’s a great alternative to the ferry crossing for anyone wanting to take a car over to France.
For some people, using the Eurotunnel is the sole reason to visit the area. Thankfully, for those who spend a bit longer there are plenty of great things to do in Folkestone itself.
If you’re interested in seeing the Eurotunnel terminal there are a few ways to get a look without actually having a ticket. The best way is to take a trip to Castle Hill, which offers a good view of the terminal from above. Alternatively, there is a path alongside the M20 that runs adjacent to the terminal if you want a closer look.
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