For a town of its size, Margate has a remarkably rich variety of interesting places to stay – many of which have sprung up over the last few years (at least two new boutique hotels last year and two more this summer). On my first visit, back in the last century, there wasn’t much to choose between a few tatty boarding houses and the Premier Inn; now the place is awash with cool independents, guest houses, airbnbs and some quirky one offs. My top 10 includes more than one townhouse hotel, a rock-and-roll guest house, a 1970s-themed studio, an art deco B&B, a jazzed-up vintage caravan and, er, a prison cell. In Margate. anything goes…
Main image/above left: Fort Road Hotel (credit: Ed Reeve). Centre: Bedroom neon at Club Jupiter. Right: View from No 42 – opening in June
The Reading Rooms
Hawley Square, CT9 1PH, UK.
We stayed here (twice) soon after it first opened in 2009; at the time it was the place to stay and while its success has proved a vanguard for the many competitors who have since sprung up all over town, it’s still one of Margate’s finest. Owners Liam and Louise, spent two years restoring this splendidly Georgian townhouse – at the time divided into bedsits – making the most of its original features (including some 18th century paintwork). For guests, there are just two rooms, each occupying an entire floor, each furnished with sash windows, an ornate fireplace (in the vast Salon room), antiques, views of a leafy garden square, piles of white towels and an amazing breakfast brought to your room any time you like. B&B from £225 a night.
The Reading Rooms
Photo credit: Ollie Harrop
Fort Road Hotel
18 Fort Road CT9 1HF
One of Margate’s youngest boutique hotels makes use of one of its oldest buildings: the former Fort Castle boarding house was a derelict eye-sore until it was given a new lease of life by a cohort of creative owners (artist Tom Gidley, Matthew Slotover, co-founder of Frieze magazine, and developer Gabriel Chipperfield, the son of Turner Contemporary’s architect Sir David). There are 13 rooms (see main picture, above), one swanky penthouse suite, a lobby restaurant with friendly staff and a fresh, seasonal menu, a collection of contemporary art (there’s a Tracey Emin in the subterranean bar) and a residents-only roof terrace with panoramic views of Margate and the sea. From £140 a night.
Fort Road Hotel
Photo credit: Ed Reeve.
The Albion Rooms
31 Eastern Esplanade CT9 2HL.
A midnight-blue townhouse, the name spelt out in a squiggle of red neon, this Cliftonville gaff is owned by indie rock band, the Libertines. Indeed, the decadent night-club décor is loosely based on the band’s braided jackets (lots of black and gunmetal paintwork, brass, velvet, pops of scarlet, animal print, the odd gold ceiling and Pete Doherty’s poetry). Upstairs, seven rather glamourous rooms (robes and slippers, Apple Beat sound systems, nice toiletries); downstairs, the dark ‘gritty’ Waste Land bar and an in-house recording studio. The breakfasts, we hear, are excellent. B&B from £115 a night.
The Albion Rooms
George & Heart House
44 King St, Margate CT9 1QE
Owners Kelly and Dan bought the Grade II listed, former George Hotel in 2019 and reopened in 2022 having jazzed up the rooms by inviting local designers to revamp its six rooms. Retro ‘Poodle & Blonde’ (pictured) was the work of design duo Kierra Campbell and singer-TV presenter Whinnie Williams; glitzy Biba-inspired ‘Home Alone with Mrs Jones’ was designed by fashion designer Fee Doran (think Kylie Minogue’s jumpsuit); ‘Studio Margate’ was dreamed up by artist Amy Exton – all feature organic cotton linen, natural toiletries and loo roll made from virgin bamboo pulp. There is also a Zen Den (yoga and meditation), a two-bedroom apartment, the guest-only Reggie’s Bar and a Stable courtyard. B&B from £95 a night.
George and Heart
Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville CT9 2HL
This relative newby opened in September 2022, adding another property to Selina’s ‘global hospitality lifestyle brand aimed at design-savvy Millennials and Gen Z travellers’. This one has reinvented the former Smiths Court Hotel on the seafront at Cliftonville where they have installed a Howm (pronounced Home) restaurant, beer garden, co-working space and a Selina Arts Supper Club. Room categories include a cabin-like Micro, a compact Mini and a Standard with Sea View, plus Family rooms and dorm-like, six-berth Community Rooms (from £28 per bunk per night). B&B in a Standard costs from £85 a night.
Twentieth Century B&B
102 Minnis Road, Birchington CT7 9NX.
Owners Kat and Spencer – keen collectors of all-things Twentieth Century – from the 1930s to the 1970s – stayed in what was then the Minnis Whitehouse and loved the place so much they bought it. Built in 1935, the classic Art Deco house has three themed guest rooms, each named after a 20th century figure with a Kent connection: screenwriter and former resident, Tudor Gates (his many film credits include the 1960s classic Barbarella) or pioneering pilot Amy Johnson (whose final flight ended at Herne Bay). A fourth room, the David Bowie, has more of a 1970s vibe. In suburban Birchington, the house is little bit out of town if you want Margate proper, but the house is close to the beach at Minnis Bay or jump on a train at the local station (Margate in seven minutes). B&B from £85 per room per night.
Twentieth Century B&B
Walpole Bay Hotel
Fifth Ave, Cliftonville CT9 2JJ
This Margate classic is an old-school, family-owned Edwardian bygone, still proudly stuck in the past (think doilies, luncheon, cream teas and an original 1927 caged Otis Trellis lift), run as a ‘living museum’ by owner Jane Bishop and her son Jason. In keeping with the building’s history, the place is filled with period clutter – cameras, teddy bears, sewing machines, carpet sweepers, hats, tins, frocks, postcards, porcelain – displayed in every corner of the lobby, the lounge-bar, the old-fashioned dining room and the upstairs corridors (where you might come across a fancy-dressed mannequin en route to your bedroom). The rooms, which are relatively free of stuff, are more modern (though the style is frills-and-damask, wallpaper and brown furniture – some are more tarted up than others). Open from March until October. B&B from £125 a night.
Walpole Bay Hotel.
40 Gordon Road, Cliftonville CT9 2DN
In a quiet corner of Cliftonville, a ten-minute walk from the Old Town, this boutique guesthouse has just three rooms (note no breakfast, no lounge and no children but you do get robes, Netflix and toiletries). Rooms 1 and 2, on the first and second floors, are spacious, bright and mostly white with original fireplaces and bay windows. roll-top tubs in the bathrooms, contemporary four-poster beds and a bit of mid-century modern. The third-floor loft room is a tad cosier but it has its own little roof terrace. From £130 a night (room only).
Shottendane Road, Birchington CT7 0HD
On a holiday park on the edge of Birchington, this is a bog-standard static caravan (described as a ‘2010 Willerby Bluebird’) done up by three girly designers – TV presenter Whinnie Williams (think Changing Rooms), the Telegraph’s slow travel columnist Anna Hart and art consultant and stylist Emma Jane Palin – in a style they call ‘Pontins meets Palm Springs’. I find it hard to apply the word ‘glamorous’ (as described) to a park-home caravan, but it’s fun and quirky (loving the cowboy wallpaper and the made-for-instagram neon in the Space Disco bedroom). Club Jupiter has three double bedrooms (the others are Lonely Heart Saloon and Jungle), two bathrooms, an open-plan living space and room for one small dog. From £100 a night through Cool Stays.
Caroline Square, Cliftonville, CT9 1SS.
Seriously? Who wants to spend the night in a prison cell? Quite a lot of people, apparently. This curious little number is a creative exercise in how to monetise an otherwise useless bit of airless cellar space: install bunk beds, add chains, padlocks, tin mugs and regulation grey paintwork and call it a ‘Cell Chamber’. The toilet (a bit of trek apparently, but falls short of slopping out) is similarly themed. Unlike a real prison cell, the chamber is furnished with Egyptian cotton sheets. kettle and Wi-Fi. People say it’s ‘cosy’. But, no, I haven’t had the pleasure.
One Off Places
No 42 by Guesthouse
Trinity Hill, Margate CT9 1QD
The former Sands Hotel, right on the seafront, is soon to become the Kent-coast sister of the Guesthouse family (they currently have hotels in York and Bath). Exact dates are unconfirmed, but we are hoping to check in in June. More on this later, but for now expect 21 bedrooms, a restaurant, a rooftop bar (yay), a beachfront café, a lounge space and a spa. The design team, they say, has drawn ‘inspiration from the colourful and unfading seaside character of the town’. Rooms from £155 a night.