If you’re looking for a fun-filled weekend away, Folkestone Kent is the perfect destination!
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Folkestone is one of England’s busiest ports and has embraced all the tourists coming to the town in recent years. Most buildings still have the feel of Victorian times but with a modern touch.
There are plenty of things to do in Folkestone, from its harbour, Kent Battle Museum, the charming old town centre to the stunning cliffs that overlook the English Channel, this seaside town has something for everyone.
And with easy access from London, it makes the Folkestone a great day trip from London, there’s no reason not to visit Folkestone today.
Here you’ll come across a blend of touristy things to do and local spots that need more attention. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know before visiting this spectacular destination.
The city’s neighbour is Dover in the southeastern parts of England, and both overlook the English Channel.
The port town has a rich history and has evidence of human habitation dating back 12,000 years, during prehistoric times. Over the years, the city has become occupied by Brits, Romans, and Saxons.
One of the biggest mysteries that have no clear answer is how Folkestone got its name. The origin of the name is associated with ‘Folca’s Stone’. This term ‘stone’ was known as a meeting place in historic times.
The mystery lies with ‘Floca’, as no one knows what it means. Only during the 19th century was the spelling of Folkestone decided by the Earl of Radnor.
Now that all the formalities are out of the way let’s get to the best part, the fun adventures that await.
Folkestone isn’t just a significant port town known for the harbour, but the city keeps its parklands in great shape and offers plenty of activities.
If you’re planning a visit to Folkestone, here are the best things to do in the port town.
Located in the heart of Folkestone, the Creative Quarter is a perfect place to explore. Exploring the entire quarters can keep you entertained for a whole day; that’s how many things there are to see. The quarters has shops, galleries, studios, and much more.
It is a charming place with some of the most historic streets in Folkestone and is not far away from the sea. The Quarters were created during the 2000s and started the city’s transformation.
The Quarters has fantastic venues that host live music and events regularly. There are also arcades that are perfect for kids or those who consider themselves to be young at heart.
You’ll find a good selection of restaurants and cafes located in the busy Old High Street.
Sunny sands is one of the three main Folkestone’s beaches to visit. Locals will let you know that this is one of the trendiest beaches in the city. These sandy shores provide an idyllic environment to soak up the sun and build sandcastles.
Since it’s one of the closest sandy beaches to London, it does get pretty busy during summer.
On this Folkestone beach, you can also find many facilities located close by. If you’re feeling peckish, there will be food stands available. The beach is crammed between the Stade and the Country Harbour but is big enough for everyone.
The Channel Tunnel
Both a way to travel and a sight in itself, the Channel Tunnel was just an idea people had nearly 250 years ago. Today, it is the longest underwater tunnel in the world. Stretching 38 kilometres, it links Folkestone to Coquelles in France.
The Eurotunnel began its operation in 1994 and has been going strong since. Although there are many other ways to travel to France, this mesmerising journey is certainly one to consider. There is none other than taking you there underwater.
Experience this harbour promenade with all its amazing views. After the port closed in 2014, there were worries about what to do with the open space.
But one year later, the Harbour Arm came into existence and had been going strong ever since.
There is also tons to do at the harbour, such as restaurants, food trucks, and many more vendors. The Harbour Arm is one of the top Folkestone attractions to see.
If you want to view fascinating historical pieces, then a visit to this museum is perfect. Located in the city’s historic Town Hall, the Folkestone Museum is well worth adding to your itinerary.
The museum’s origin dates back to the 1800s as a fossil collector got liquidated and forced to sell his collection. Over 200 years later, these fossils and more exhibitions began to fill up the museum. The museum officially moved to Town Hall in 2013.
Only in 2017 did the museum open its doors to the public. It is now showcasing historical fossils, exhibitions, clothing, and artefacts dating back to the 1800s. The museum is a great place to find out more about the history of Folkestone.
East Cliff and Warren Country Park
Located just east of Folkestone harbour is a regularly used park for relaxation. The landscape is over 300 acres of natural beauty and wildlife. The park is a protected site because of the importance of nature and vegetation.
East Cliff and Warren Country Park is a great walking spot. There’s a cliff overlooking the ocean with tons of flowers all along the park.
The park splits into various zones that each offer something. It also has over 150 species of birds, making it an excellent place for bird watching.
The National Memorial to the Few is a historic statue dedicated to pilots who fought for their country in the Battle for Britain.
Located at Capel le Ferne, the Battle for Britain Trust maintains this unique monument and symbolises a big part of British history.
The memorial includes over 3,000 men’s names that flew and fought in the battle during the 20th century.
The statue is part of The Battle of Britain memorial and is close to The Wall and The Wing. At this spectacular site, you can learn more about the intriguing history of the battle.
The area is a great place to honour those who fought for the United Kingdom and a must-see for history buffs.
Along a coastal cliff is a large land area known as the Leas. The site is a field clifftop promenade that is a great place to sit down, relax, and take in the magnificent views.
It is a regular venue used to host events such as The Carpenters Story or Dreamboys. Locals and tourists also visit for horse riding, dog walks, and more.
Decimus Burton designed the Leas in the late 1800s, a well-known artist for creating gardens at the London Zoo. The area features several zones for you to explore. The Lower Leas Coastal Park is a free adventure play area and amphitheatre.
The Leas Bandstand is a regularly used venue for concerts in Folkestone together with the Leas Cliff Hall. The final zone is the Leas Lift which used to be a water-balanced funicular railway, one of the oldest in the country.
The Leas is a wonderful area that all can explore and enjoy. It can entertain you, act as a relaxation area, or be used to take a walk-in nature. The Leas is one of the top things to see in Folkestone.
If you are looking to take a short trip with tons of picturesque moments on the way, then head to the small coastal village of Sandgate. Just three kilometres from Folkestone, the town has a great beach and is excellent for picnics.
Sandgate has an interesting history since it became a smugglers’ hangout during World War II.
The city is famous for its antiques and has many local shops and eateries worth a visit. If you’re feeling up for it, why not hire a few bikes and take the short trip to this lovely location.
There are many attractions to see in Folkestone, so you’ll want to fill your belly before touring the spectacular sites. You’ll find many restaurants in Folkestone scattered all around – it’s just a matter of which one is best.
One of the best parts of Rendezvous Street is Lucky Chip. It is much more than just a tiny chip shop. Lucky Chip is a burger joint that offers fantastic side dishes and homemade sauces.
The Lucky Chip is perfect on a summer’s day. It is a great restaurant and a lovely spot to hang out and enjoy pints and craft beer.
Located in Cherry Garden Lane, this pub and cookhouse caters to everyone that walks into their doors. They take tons of pride in their menu and use nothing but the freshest ingredients.
The cookhouse also offers a great ‘meatless’ menu and serves great kid’s meals. The bar also offers tons of beers on tap with a great bar menu to match their drinks.
If you are travelling as a family, this is a great place to get your food and relax.
Located in the Creative Quarter, this Folkestone restaurant brings traditional Spanish dishes to the port town. Their menu is about classical, small dishes made with old school recipes. They offer amazing tapas as well as great drinks.
Choose from sitting inside or outside as you enjoy a tasty, traditional meal with great hospitality and Spanish inspired drinks.
Rocksalt is located right next to the gorgeous English Channel in Folkestone. This beach restaurant makes unique seasonal Kentish dishes that will have your taste buds tingling. And they offer great traditional roasts on Sundays.
Rocksalt doesn’t just have fantastic food but has an incredible view as it sits above the channel.
Rocksalt has expansive floor-to-ceiling windows so that you can experience spectacular views from everywhere in the restaurant.
You can also book the rooms and bars at the restaurant in Folkestone for private events.
When you travel, the part that can make or break a holiday is a hotel. Finding the right hotel can be tricky, but Folkestone in Kent has excellent options for any stay.
Below are the best accommodation options in Folkestone.
Royal Norfolk is a stunning establishment located at the seaside village, Sandgate. It is an excellent accommodation for couples travelling to Folkestone.
And it’s just a short stroll away from the beach and Sandgate Castle, a famous local fishing hole.
The hotel is just a 15-minute walk outside of Folkestone, so it’s a great place if you want a quieter location. The classically styled hotel also has a bar and serves breakfast in the mornings.
The rooms are comfy and spacious enough for you and your partner, with some rooms having a great view over the sea.
Located one minute away from the Leas, the Southcliff Hotel offers many rooms mostly suited for couples.
You can choose either a balcony, sea view, or general rooms at the hotel. The hotel is pretty central and within walking distance to the beach and many activities in Folkestone.
The harbour is a 15-minute walk away, while the railway is one kilometre away. The rooms offer a comfortable stay, and there is an on-site bar with regular live music performances.
Located close to the Channel Tunnel, this countryside hotel is a superb pick for couples and families.
Although the property is 20 minutes away from the beach, the hotel is fantastic for anyone looking for a countryside stay.
The Holiday Inn is also one of the few places that allow you to bring your pet with you. They have a Great Room that serves dinner and drinks, so you won’t have to go far for a delicious bite.
This countryside venue is a fantastic place if you are looking for a quieter place away from the busy city.
Located just five minutes away from Eurotunnel, the Beachborough Park accommodation offers all your basic needs in each room.
This bed and breakfast is an excellent option for couples and families. The site has a scenic garden and a bike route close by.
The Beachborough offers breakfast that you can enjoy with breath-taking views of the beautiful garden.
While on an extended solo vacation or family trip, it’s a good idea to explore surrounding areas. Why settle for just one location when you can travel even further and discover more of England.
Below are a few suggestions of nearby places you should take time to visit.
Dover is a lovely location if you are looking to find your next destination after exploring Folkestone to the ground.
There are various touristy things to do in Dover, including museums, the White Cliffs, and the Dover Castle.
More activities to try in Dover include:
- Touring the Dover Museum and Bronze Age Boat Gallery.
- Exploring the Secret Wartime Tunnels.
- Visiting the Roman Lighthouse.
- Enjoying a relaxing day at the Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens.
- Visiting the South Foreland Lighthouse on a mesmerising cliff.
If you have a lot of time on your hands and are willing to take a 1 hour and 40-minute drive from Folkestone to London, it can make for a great trip. There are tons of things to do in London, so be sure to visit the capital city.
A few of the top activities in London include:
- Exploring the British Museum.
- Viewing the Tower Of London.
- Taking a picture in front of Buckingham Palace.
- Visiting the National Gallery.
- Catching a glimpse of Big Ben.
Take a short 14-minute drive to Hythe for more exciting adventures. The small town has stunning views of the English Channel and has old-age houses that give the area even more character.
One of the most popular attractions in the cosy city is the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
What makes it so popular is that the trains are fully functional and date back to the 1920s. You can view them travelling down a 13-mile railway with a picturesque countryside backdrop.
A few of the top activities in Hythe include:
- Visiting the Crypt at St. Leonard Church.
- Swimming at Hythe Beach.
- Fishing at Fisherman’s Beach.
- Taking a walk at the Brockhill Country Park.
If you are looking to discover more of Kent, making the trip to Canterbury would be worthwhile.
The cathedral city has lush greenery and looks more mediaeval than Folkestone. Canterbury has tons to do and is a town that is a sight in itself.
Some of the best things to do in Canterbury include:
- Exploring the Roman Museum.
- Relaxing at the Westgate Gardens.
- Visiting the famous Canterbury Cathedral.
- Looking at the remains of the Canterbury Castle.
- Touring the Westgate Tower Museum and Viewpoint.
Travelling to Folkestone can be a bit tricky unless you reside in London. They do not have an airport, and the only way to get there is by train, bus, or car.
The closest airport to the port town is in London (Heathrow). So, you can use London as the nearest major city unless you are in a nearby town.
If you want to travel to Folkestone by train, you can stop at Folkestone Central or Western. The closest and quickest way to get there is from St. Pancras International or London Cannon Street.
The fastest train would take around 50 minutes and the regular train takes one and a half hours. Overall, a trip from London by train is a great way to get to all the adventures on offer in Folkestone.
You can also travel to Folkestone by car or bus. There are various buses travelling from Folkestone to other cities around Kent.
However, if you are travelling from London, they have direct buses that travel from the Victoria Coach Station to Folkestone’s bus station. The ride will take you just under three hours.
You may have some concerns about visiting Folkestone, especially if you’re a first-time traveller.
Below are a few frequently asked questions and answers that most would like to know before visiting the wonderful port town.
Yes, Folkestone is a bustling port town, one of the busiest, but it is a pretty touristy destination with plenty of must-see attractions and activities.
Folkestone is a pretty safe city. However, petty crime does occur in this busy destination.
The locals are very welcoming in Folkestone, and it is a city with high spirits. It’s a great family-friendly port town that embraces tourists visiting the fantastic city.
What makes the town popular is the Channel Tunnel. The city is also a famous countryside and seaside holiday destination. It boasts several attractions and Georgian structures along its cobblestoned streets.
Yes, the Folkestone Market is still on. For those who don’t know much about the market, it is a stretch of boutiques. It starts at Meander all the way to the harbour. It’s opened every Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00 from April until October.
Yes, you can see France perfectly in the distance on clear days. You can also view France from the neighbouring city, Dover.
Folkestone is a wonderful city that is certainly worth adding to your UK travel itinerary. The city’s people are proud and welcoming, and their attractions are well worth the visit.
The port town has been progressing a lot more throughout the years but look forward to must-see sites from the famous seaside city.
I hope you enjoyed this Folkestone guide and if you’re looking to explore more places in the UK, check out this guide on a day trip to Canterbury.