Folkestone Harbour

Folkestone, a charming coastal town in Kent, England, is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. With its unique blend of historical significance, natural beauty, and a burgeoning cultural scene, Folkestone offers a multitude of attractions that cater to all interests.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, an art enthusiast, or a foodie, this seaside town has something special for you. In this guide, we’ll explore the various facets of Folkestone that make it a must-visit destination. From its rich historical heritage to its vibrant contemporary culture, the town is a canvas of experiences. Join us as we delve into the heart of Folkestone, uncovering the best it has to offer across different spheres.

Beaches in Folkestone

Folkestone, a picturesque coastal town in Kent, is blessed with some lovely beaches that offer a mix of natural beauty, recreational activities, and historical significance. Here’s an overview of the beaches in and around Folkestone:

Sunny Sands Beach

Sunny Sands is Folkestone’s most popular beach, especially known for its sandy shores – a rarity in the region. Situated near the harbor, it is a family favorite, bustling with activities in the summer. Here, visitors engage in traditional beach activities like swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles. Its proximity to local amenities and its sandy terrain make it an ideal spot for a classic beach day.

The Warren

This pebbly stretch is part of a nature reserve and offers a more serene beach experience. The Warren is renowned for its scenic walks, diverse wildlife, and opportunities for fossil hunting. Its unique flora and fauna, along with stunning cliffside views, make it a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat by the sea.

Mermaid Beach

Hidden beneath the cliffs, Mermaid Beach is a secluded spot known for its quiet and natural setting. Accessible via a steep path, it offers a sense of seclusion and privacy. This beach is excellent for rock pooling and exploring the shoreline, especially during low tide, and is perfect for those looking to escape the more crowded beach areas.

Sandgate Beach

Located between Folkestone and Hythe, Sandgate Beach is characterised by its shingle surface and beautiful promenade. It’s ideal for those who enjoy scenic walks with views of the sea on one side and attractive architecture on the other. The beach is also a popular spot for water sports enthusiasts, offering conditions suitable for kayaking and paddleboarding.

Lower Leas Coastal Park

While not a traditional beach, the Lower Leas Coastal Park provides access to pebbled coastal areas. It’s particularly family-friendly, with playgrounds, picnic spots, and landscaped gardens. The park is a venue for various events and concerts, especially in the summer, making it a lively spot for both locals and tourists.

Creative Quarter

Folkestone Creative Quarter

Nestled in the rejuvenated heart of Folkestone lies a vibrant oasis for the arts known as the Creative Quarter. This area, a once-forgotten part of town, has been ingeniously transformed into an urban village brimming with creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit. The metamorphosis was no small feat, requiring the restoration of 90 buildings which now encompass a rich tapestry of 80 flats, 115 studios and offices, and over 50 retail spaces. The result is a buzzing hive where artists’ brush strokes dance within galleries, where music notes drift from open windows, and where the air is thick with the click-clack of keyboards as web developers bring digital realms to life.

The Creative Quarter of Folkestone is a testament to what can be achieved when community and creativity coalesce. Here, skilled makers don’t just offer classes—they invite you into their world, offering a tangible connection to the arts. Cafés and bars spill over with the vibrant conversations of patrons, many of whom are makers and doers themselves, their dialogue peppered with plans for future projects or reflections on their latest creation.

What sets it Apart

What truly sets the Creative Quarter apart is its palpable sense of community and collaboration. It’s a place where barriers between disciplines blur, where a fashion designer might commission a local copywriter to finesse their website, or where a filmmaker finds the perfect photographer to capture their vision. Each shopfront, each studio, isn’t just a place of commerce but a window into a world of artistic passion and digital innovation.

The Driving Force

Moda Emporium in Folkestone Creative Quarter

Creative Folkestone, the driving force behind the Creative Quarter, has done more than just breathe new life into old buildings; they’ve fostered an ethos of support and creativity that permeates every cobblestone. This is visible not only in the varied architecture that harmonises the historic with the modern, but also in the very fabric of the community that dwells within. The Old High Street, with its restored facades, invites leisurely strolls and spontaneous conversations, encouraging visitors to become participants in this creative experiment.

The Quarter is not just a destination but a journey in itself. It encourages pause, contemplation, and interaction. Folkestone’s Quarterhouse, a contemporary architectural feat, stands as a beacon for culture, hosting a diverse array of events from comedy to music, from the cerebral explorations of the Normal? Festival of the Brain to the environmental reflections of the SALT Festival of the Sea and Environment.

The Creative Quarter’s model of regeneration is one that doesn’t just rebuild but reinvents. With affordable rents and a selection process geared towards curating a diverse mix of talents, it offers a melting pot where creative minds from different backgrounds and disciplines come together to build something greater than the sum of its parts.

For visitors, the Creative Quarter is more than just a neighbourhood to explore; it is an immersive experience. One where the boundary between audience and artist is blurred, where every shop and studio visit becomes a dialogue, and where the fabric of the community is interwoven with the spirit of innovation and artistic expression. It’s a place where you can watch the city’s cultural heart beat in real time and see how it pumps vitality back into the wider town of Folkestone, making it a destination not just for art lovers but for anyone drawn to the allure of creative possibility.

The Harbour Arm: A Revival Tale

Folkestone harbour sign

The Harbour Arm in Folkestone is a vibrant blend of historical significance and contemporary culture. Once a gateway for travellers across the English Channel and a poignant farewell point for soldiers during war times, the Arm’s transformation has been nothing short of remarkable. Since its reimagining and reopening in 2015, the Harbour Arm has become a central figure in Folkestone’s revitalisation and a symbol of its dynamic future.

The rejuvenated Harbour Arm is not just a relic of the past but a living, bustling destination. Striking the perfect balance between nostalgia and modernity, the refurbished architecture hearkens back to its historical roots while providing a setting for an array of modern indulgences. Whether it’s the renovated station, once a hive of activity for cross-channel travellers, now a portal to culinary and artisanal experiences, or the lovingly restored signal box that now serves coffee instead of railway commands, the respect for history is evident in every detail.

End of Folkestone Harbour Arm

The Harbour Arm’s nearly 30 independent food and drink vendors offer a cornucopia of flavours, catering to both traditional tastes and modern palates. The vendors are a testament to the Arm’s support for small businesses, helping to foster a sense of community and local pride. Each visit is an opportunity to sample a new delicacy or to savour a familiar favourite, all while enjoying panoramic views that stretch to the horizon.

Live music and events add another layer to the Harbour Arm’s appeal, making it a cultural hub where art and entertainment meet the salty sea air. It’s a place where one can spend a few leisurely hours or an entire day, perhaps starting with a stroll along the scenic walkways, exploring the eclectic mix of traders, and ending with a memorable sunset that dips behind the iconic lighthouse.

Visitors’ Views of The Harbour Arm

Visitors’ accounts underscore the success of the Harbour Arm as a destination. The praise it garners for its variety, the quality of its refreshments, and the way it has repurposed historical space into something vibrant and new highlight the impact of thoughtful regeneration. With each mention of specialty beers, artisan markets, and the enjoyment of the area’s bracing winds, it’s clear that the Harbour Arm is much more than a historical footnote; it’s a chapter that continues to be written in Folkestone’s ongoing story.

Moreover, the Harbour Arm is a reflection of Folkestone’s wider commitment to regeneration and cultural renaissance. The presence of art, the careful preservation of history, and the embracing of new businesses show a blueprint for rejuvenating a town by honouring its past while boldly stepping into the future. The Harbour Arm isn’t just a place to visit; it’s an experience that encapsulates the spirit of a town reborn.

The Leas Promenade

Folkestone’s promenades and cliffside vistas offer residents and visitors alike an enchanting blend of natural beauty and historical charm. The Leas Promenade, with its panoramic sea views, is a delightful stretch perfect for leisurely walks and relaxation. This well-maintained path boasts an impressive backdrop of Edwardian buildings, whose grandeur recalls the town’s heyday as a seaside resort. The Victorian bandstand is a nostalgic touch, often serving as a reminder of more genteel times, while the zigzagging paths provide access to the beach, revealing a different perspective on the town’s relationship with the sea.

The area is not only a testament to nature’s beauty but also a living gallery of Folkestone’s history, with monuments such as the Remembrance arch serving as a sombre yet dignified homage to the past. The well-tended flower beds and the presence of an ice cream stall add to the allure of the promenade, creating a picture-perfect setting that is both inviting and serene.

The Leas Cliff Hall

This iconic venue, perched on the cliff edge, offers a panoramic view of the English Channel. It’s not only an architectural marvel but also a cultural hotspot. Known for hosting a diverse range of events including concerts, theatrical performances, comedy shows, and conferences, Leas Cliff Hall is a must-visit for those interested in arts and entertainment. Check their event calendar to catch a live performance or show during your visit.

Leas Cliff Hall Café

Leas Cliff Café Patio

Situated within the Leas Cliff Hall, this café offers a relaxing spot to enjoy a meal or a drink with stunning sea views (such as in the photo above which was taken from the patio outside the café). It’s a perfect place for a leisurely brunch or an afternoon tea after exploring the town or attending an event in the Hall. The café often features locally sourced ingredients and offers a variety of options, catering to different dietary preferences.

Visit the Leas Lift

A historic water-balanced funicular railway, offering a unique way to travel between the seafront and the town. It’s not only a convenient mode of transport but also an experience in itself, with great views during the ride.

Lower Leas Coastal Park

The Lower Leas Coastal Park, which opened its first phase in 2000, is a modern reimagining of Folkestone’s coastal experience. Funded through a mix of regional and European grants, this park is a masterclass in regeneration, transforming once-neglected spaces into award-winning areas of community pride. With its pine avenues, flower gardens, and inviting picnic sites, the park is an oasis for both people and wildlife.

The stone labyrinth, introduced in 2008, adds a spiritual dimension to the park, offering a path for meditation and reflection within the serene environment. The labyrinth’s unicursal design — a single path leading to the centre and out again — is a physical metaphor for life’s journey, inviting contemplation amid the coastal backdrop.

The Coastal Park is not just a green space; it’s a canvas for cultural expression. The involvement in the International Sculpture Triennial has established the park as a venue for global artistic conversation. The integration of art installations among the natural flora and coastal pathways brings a contemporary vibrance to the historic landscape, demonstrating the town’s commitment to cultural as well as environmental revitalization.

Whether it’s a tranquil walk along The Leas, absorbing the storied architecture and sea vistas, or an explorative stroll through the Lower Leas Coastal Park with its harmonious blend of art, nature, and community spaces, Folkestone offers promenades and cliffside escapes that cater to a wide array of tastes and interests, preserving the past while embracing the future.


The Quarterhouse, nestled in the heart of Folkestone’s Creative Quarter, is a dynamic and modern venue that plays a pivotal role in the town’s cultural and artistic scene. This contemporary arts centre is not just a building; it’s a vibrant hub of creativity, hosting a wide range of performances, events, and community activities.

Architectural Design

The Quarterhouse stands out with its striking architectural design. The building’s modern, sleek façade is a visual symbol of Folkestone’s contemporary arts scene. Its design not only complements the creative ethos of the area but also provides a versatile space for a variety of events and performances.

Performing Arts and Events

As a key venue for performing arts in Folkestone, the Quarterhouse offers an eclectic mix of music, theatre, dance, comedy, and spoken word performances. The venue is renowned for showcasing both emerging and established talent, providing a platform for artists from diverse backgrounds and genres.

Community Engagement and Workshops

The Quarterhouse is deeply rooted in community engagement. It hosts workshops, educational programs, and participatory events for all ages. These activities range from dance classes and art workshops to educational talks and seminars, reflecting the venue’s commitment to fostering creativity and learning in the community.

Festivals and Cultural Celebrations

The venue is a central figure in many of Folkestone’s festivals and cultural celebrations. It hosts events for the Folkestone Book Festival, Folkestone Film Festival, and other significant cultural events throughout the year. The Quarterhouse thus becomes a gathering place for cultural exchange and artistic expression.

Facilities and Accessibility

The Quarterhouse is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including a flexible auditorium that can accommodate both standing and seated events, a bar, and a foyer area. The venue is designed to be accessible to everyone, ensuring that all visitors, regardless of ability, can enjoy the artistic offerings.

Supporting Local and Global Talent

In line with Folkestone’s vision of supporting arts and culture, the Quarterhouse not only promotes local artists but also brings in national and international acts. This blend of local and global talent contributes to the town’s growing reputation as a cultural hotspot.

Venue for Private and Corporate Events

Besides public performances and community activities, the Quarterhouse also serves as a venue for private and corporate events. Its modern facilities and central location make it an ideal choice for conferences, seminars, and private functions.

In conclusion, the Quarterhouse is a cornerstone of Folkestone’s artistic and cultural identity. Its diverse programming, community focus, and modern facilities make it a beacon of creativity and a key player in the town’s ongoing cultural renaissance. Visitors to Folkestone seeking a rich cultural experience should not miss the chance to see what the Quarterhouse has to offer.

Art Walks and Trails

Folkestone, with its vibrant artistic scene, offers a unique experience through its art walks, which have become an integral part of the town’s cultural identity. These walks provide an opportunity to explore the town’s rich tapestry of public artworks, galleries, and creative spaces. Here’s an overview of what you can expect from the art walks in Folkestone:

Folkestone Artworks

The largest urban outdoor exhibition of contemporary art in the UK, Folkestone Artworks features a collection of over 70 permanent works by artists of international acclaim. These artworks are scattered throughout the town, turning the streets and spaces of Folkestone into an open-air gallery. The art walk through these installations is a journey of discovery, where each piece tells a story or challenges the viewer with thought-provoking themes.

The Creative Quarter Walk

Nestled in the heart of Folkestone, the Creative Quarter is a hub for artists and creative businesses. An art walk here takes you through cobbled streets lined with independent shops, studios, galleries, and cafes. It’s a vibrant area where you can witness artists at work, explore contemporary art exhibitions, and perhaps even chat with the artists themselves.

Street Art and Murals

Folkestone’s urban landscape is also home to an impressive array of street art and murals, many of which are the result of the town’s annual festivals or independent projects by local artists. Walking through the town, you’ll encounter large-scale murals that transform ordinary buildings into canvases, showcasing a range of artistic styles and subjects.

Triennial Tours

Held every three years, the Folkestone Triennial is a major event in the art calendar. Guided tours during the Triennial offer insights into the newly commissioned temporary artworks displayed around the town. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who provide context and background, enhancing the appreciation of the artworks.

Gallery Visits

Besides the outdoor artworks, Folkestone’s art walks can also include visits to various galleries. From contemporary art spaces like the Brewery Tap UCA Project Space to more traditional galleries, these walks offer a glimpse into the diverse art scene of the town.

Historical and Cultural Context

Many art walks in Folkestone are enriched with stories about the town’s history and culture. This context adds depth to the understanding of the artworks, many of which are inspired by or reflect upon local narratives and themes.

Community Art Projects

Occasionally, art walks include community-led projects, where local residents contribute to the artistic landscape of the town. These projects often focus on social themes and foster a sense of community and shared experience.

Interactive and Participatory Experiences

Some art walks in Folkestone offer interactive experiences, inviting participants to engage with the art in a hands-on way. This could include workshops, artist talks, or even participatory art-making sessions.

Seasonal Variations

Depending on the time of year, the art walks in Folkestone can offer different experiences, from sunny summer strolls with vibrant festival atmospheres to quieter, reflective winter walks.

Customised Routes

Many art walks can be self-guided, with maps and apps available for those who wish to explore at their own pace. This flexibility allows visitors to tailor their experience to their interests, whether it’s contemporary art, street art, historical sites, or a mix of all.

An art walk in Folkestone is more than just a walk; it’s an immersive cultural experience that offers a window into the town’s soul, showcasing its commitment to the arts and its evolving identity as a creative hub.

Kent Battle of Britain Museum

The Kent Battle of Britain Museum, located in Hawkinge, near Folkestone, stands as a significant tribute to the heroes of the Battle of Britain. This museum, which is the oldest established and largest collection of Battle of Britain artifacts on display in the country, offers a profound insight into this pivotal moment in World War II.

Historical Significance

The museum is situated on a former RAF airfield, making its location historically relevant. During the Battle of Britain, Hawkinge was the closest operational airfield to the conflict, playing a crucial role in the air defense of the United Kingdom. This historical context adds an authentic layer to the visitor experience.

Exhibits and Collections

The museum boasts an extensive collection of aircraft, artifacts, and memorabilia related to the Battle of Britain. Among its most prized exhibits are aircraft such as the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire, both of which were instrumental in the battle. The museum also displays engines, weapons, uniforms, and personal items belonging to the pilots, providing a tangible connection to the people who lived through these events.

Interactive and Educational Experiences

The Kent Battle of Britain Museum goes beyond traditional displays. It offers interactive exhibits, including audio-visual presentations and detailed information panels that narrate the story of the battle, the strategies employed, and the personal accounts of those involved. Educational programs and guided tours are available, making the museum an invaluable resource for history enthusiasts, students, and researchers alike.

Memorials and Remembrance

The museum is also a place of remembrance. It houses several memorials and honors the pilots and personnel who served during the Battle of Britain. The site allows visitors to reflect on the sacrifices made during this critical time in history.

Special Events and Activities

Throughout the year, the museum hosts various events, including commemorative ceremonies, talks by historians, and special exhibitions. These events often attract veterans, historians, and military enthusiasts, adding to the museum’s community and educational value.

Visitor Experience

Visitors to the Kent Battle of Britain Museum can expect a comprehensive and immersive experience. The museum’s location, combined with its rich collections and educational efforts, offers a unique opportunity to understand and appreciate a significant chapter in Britain’s history. The museum’s staff and volunteers are knowledgeable and passionate, enhancing the educational aspect of the visit.

Accessibility and Facilities

The museum is accessible to a wide audience, including families and school groups. It has facilities such as a gift shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and educational materials. The museum also provides amenities to ensure a comfortable visit for all.

In summary, the Kent Battle of Britain Museum is not just a collection of war artifacts; it is a living tribute to the bravery and resilience shown during one of the most critical battles of the Second World War. Its engaging exhibits, historical significance, and educational value make it a must-visit for anyone interested in military history, particularly those visiting Folkestone and the surrounding areas in Kent.

Restaurants and Eating Out in Folkestone

The town boasts an array of dining experiences that cater to every palate and occasion. Dr Legumes leads a plant-based revolution, presenting a menu that transforms local produce into creative, flavourful dishes that even non-vegans will find irresistible. For those seeking a high-end dining experience, The Folkestone Wine Company comes highly recommended by critics, offering an exquisite selection of wines paired with delectable dishes.

Great Food to be had

The street food scene flourishes, particularly on the Harbour Arm where one can indulge in an assortment of global cuisines — from the traditional Argentine grill at Portenio to the South African street food flair of Saffa Bru. Freshness is a promise, with Chummys serving seafood direct from the sea, allowing diners to enjoy the fruits of the ocean while taking in the view.

Bakery and brewery collaborations such as Docker Bakehouse and Brewery team showcase the innovative spirit of Folkestone’s food artisans, while The Pullman, Lubens, Market Square, and The Harbour Inn — all run by Ben and Lucy Cuthbert — highlight the town’s commitment to quality and community.

For those with a sweet tooth or looking for a caffeine fix, The Leas Lift Café offers modern coffee in a Victorian setting. And for the adventurous drink connoisseur, Wild Box entices with glamorous bespoke cocktails.

Marleys is a cornerstone, reflective of Mark and Charly’s dedication to the culinary craft. Meanwhile, the Harbour Arm is a bustling hub of flavours where one can sip on boba tea from Baoboba or savor the rustic charm of a pulled pork sandwich from Brewery of Angels and Demons.

Folkestone’s Visionary Status

Folkestone’s visionary status is cemented by Plamil, pioneers of the vegan movement who now produce plant-based milks and chocolates. Additionally, the town’s food market is a treasure trove of local produce, offering everything from freshly caught fish to artisanal cheeses.

Creative pop-ups provide a dynamic landscape for food entrepreneurs, and with the support of local independent businesses, Folkestone’s food scene is ever-evolving. Authentic Spanish tapas at El Cortador and award-winning sparkling wines from Terlingham Vineyard represent the international palate, while the Pleasant Land Distillery and the Folkestone Trawlers maintain the local spirit.

To conclude, Folkestone is not just about dining; it’s about experiences that engage all senses. From street food to fine dining, bakeries to cocktail bars, it’s a place where culinary dreams are woven into the fabric of the town’s culture, promising every visitor “A Taste of Folkestone” that’s as delightful as it is memorable.

Events and Festivals

Folkestone, a vibrant coastal town, burgeons with cultural festivities and a community keen on celebrating arts, music, literature, and the environment. As a melting pot of creative endeavours, Folkestone thrives throughout the year with its festivals and events that are as diverse as they are engaging.

Festivals and Community Engagement

The Folkestone Festival epitomises the town’s ethos of communal involvement and entertainment. With events spanning from June to October, the festival transforms the iconic Folkestone Bandstand into a hive of activity. Weekends come alive with an eclectic mix of live music and performances, all under the auspices of the ‘Stand By Your Bands’ project, which showcases an array of local talents. From the mesmerizing beats of the Invicta Jazz Orchestra to the unique sounds of Beans on Toast, the program caters to a wide range of musical tastes. The Old Tyme Sailors’ inaugural performance promises an immersive experience with their sea shanties, offering a festive conclusion to the vibrant summer events.

The Folkestone Festivals are more than just music; they’re about creating memorable experiences that resonate with locals and visitors alike. The festivals are meticulously organised with support from the district and town councils, ensuring that every event is seamlessly integrated into the fabric of Folkestone’s cultural scene.

Creative Folkestone: A Hub of Artistic Innovation

In the broader scope of cultural celebrations, Creative Folkestone is a beacon of inspiration. It’s not only an organization but a movement that spearheads the transformation of the town through the arts. The initiative encompasses a variety of festivals and projects that touch on different aspects of the arts, from the Tune In Folkestone, celebrating music, to the profoundly engaging Normal? Festival of the Brain.

Events like the Folkestone Book Festival and the Folkestone Documentary Festival cater to literary and film enthusiasts, offering a platform for thought-provoking dialogue and discovery. Meanwhile, the SALT + EARTH Festival reminds us of our connection to the landscape and environment, interweaving artistic expression with ecological awareness.

A Visionary Legacy

Creative Folkestone’s legacy extends to the Creative Quarter, a vibrant neighbourhood that’s the beating heart of the town’s creative spirit, and to Folkestone Artworks, an open-air gallery that turns the town into an art aficionado’s paradise.

These events and institutions are more than just entertainment; they’re a testament to Folkestone’s belief in the transformative power of creativity. They make Folkestone not just a place to visit, but a place to experience, a place where every corner, every event, every conversation is imbued with the potential for artistic discovery and personal growth.

In summary, Folkestone is a town where festivals are not just seasonal highlights but pivotal moments that help to shape its cultural identity year-round, fostering a sense of unity, pride, and celebration of the arts in all its forms.

Just the Beginning

We’ve just skimmed the surface of Folkestone’s charm. Each nook crannies a chapter of a story that’s both deeply rooted and freshly penned. From the echoes of history to the paint strokes of tomorrow, Folkestone invites you to be part of its continuing tale. So, when will you step into this seaside narrative? Keep an eye out for our in-depth articles that delve into each of these wonders, beckoning you to explore, taste, and experience all that Folkestone has to offer. After all, this isn’t just a trip—it’s a journey into the heart of Kent.