Margate is on the whole a rather depressing mixture of fading Georgian and Victorian seaside grandeur and squalid 'bedsit-land' although there are some pleasant residential suburbs. There has been a decline in the tourism industry for which Margate was famed until the 1980's when many families opted for overseas holidays as living standards rose.
The best way to make the comparisons is by bus if you do not arrive by car. There is a bus called the 'loop' which runs a circular route around the Isle of Thanet as well as Margate. Fares are cheap and the service runs every 10 minutes in each direction linking with Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
Margate is easily reached by train from London Victoria or Charing Cross in under 2 hours from either.
The town used to be served by nearby Manston Airport, which when it was operating, offered daily flights to Edinburgh, as well as seasonal flights to Jersey and other European destinations.
The seafront and clock tower area are close to Margate rail station and is a typical example of a busy but 'tacky' English seafront with a string of amusement arcades, chip shops and bingo establishments. The beach is frankly a let down but is nonetheless sandy and proves popular with Londoners who often come for day trips.
There is a link with the artist Turner and a visitor centre close to the harbour where you can examine the facts behind his links with the town.
The Turner Contemporary art gallery opened in 2011 just by the Margate Harbour Arm. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays. Admission is free. This is an excellent contemporary art gallery with new shows every 3 months. An interesting counterpoint to the rest of Margate, it might be said. http://www.turnercontemporary.org/
Tucked away in one of Margate's most squalid back streets is the Shell Grotto, a mysterious cave decorated from floor to ceiling in shells. The Grotto is a surprisingly worthwhile attraction, one that is hard to describe in such a way as to do it justice. While not particularly large, the shell encrusted tunnels and chambers rarely fail to elicit surprised gasps from first time visitors.
The Shell Grotto is a very worthwhile visit. Discovered in 1835 by accident by construction works, this underground grotto is covered in over 4 million shells. Theories about its origins range from the Romans to the Knights Templar. It's at once very impressive and very, very creepy.
There are two, yes two, bowling alleys within half a mile of each other.
Margate is famous for its stick of rock and novelty items such as printed tshirts with expression logos.
The town has a wide range of eating options, from fish and chips through to new wave burgers and fine dining. The streets fronting onto the beach and harbour are crowded with the usual range of sea-side cafes and pubs, whilst the streets of the Old Town contain a wider range of contemporary cafes and restaurants.
There are many pubs and clubs throughout the town but beware of rowdiness and aggressive behaviour late at night in the town centre.
The town has a number of reasonanly priced pubs selling local real ales.