The big trip

A weekend in Brighton and Hove

Everything you need to know for a seaside city break in East Sussex

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Why you should visit Brighton and Hove

The East Sussex seaside city of Brighton and Hove is known for being “quirky, bohemian, artsy, and very LGBTQ-friendly”, said the Nomadic Matt travel blog. Considered one of the “hippest” places in the UK, it really comes alive with festivals and events in summer, but it’s actually a fun year-round destination. 

Twenty-five years ago, Brighton merged with Hove in a move that “proved controversial at the time”, especially among some residents in Hove, said The Argus newspaper. The newly-united town then gained city status four years later in January 2001.

This “vibrant” city by the sea is where “hipsters, drag queens, hippies and families blend into a happy urban whole”, said destination expert Louise Roddon in The Telegraph. With “colour and character in droves”, it’s hard not to be “wooed” by Brighton’s “inclusive impulsive vibe”.

It’s “without a doubt” one of the best places to visit in England – and it’s even a strong contender for the best places to visit in the UK, said the We Are Global Travellers blog. The alternative lifestyle, buzzing nightlife, shopping, fish and chips on the pier and the surrounding countryside make Brighton unique.

Whether you love “rummaging for cool vintage clothes, sipping on single-origin coffee or heading to the seaside for a family adventure”, this is the place to be, said Time Out. If you want to marvel at “glorious Regency architecture”, explore some “excellent” museums or eat at some of England’s best rated restaurants, then Brighton has got your back.

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The British Airways i360 tower in Brighton

The British Airways i360 tower in Brighton

Mauritius Images GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

Top attractions: things to see and do

Brighton Beach 

Brighton’s pebbly beach is one of the most famous in the UK, said The Beach Guide. Its four-mile promenade “buzzes with life in all seasons” and “unsurprisingly”, it can get very crowded on bank holidays, but “that’s all part of the appeal”. Although the water “can be chilly”, it’s a popular spot for swimming and watersports such as windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and wakeboarding. “They all look good from the comforts of a deckchair!”

Brighton Palace Pier 

On the seafront you will find Brighton Palace Pier, an “iconic” part of the skyline, said Yasmin Syed on SussexLive. One of the city’s main tourist attractions, the Victorian pier is “the first thing most people think of when they hear Brighton – especially out-of-towners”. The ultimate tourist stop, it feels as though “us locals” rarely frequent it. “Maybe we’re missing out.”

British Airways i360 

If you want spectacular views of Brighton, then you can’t beat the British Airways i360 – a 162m-tall moving observation tower on the seafront which opened in August 2016. It could have been designed to “feel less like a corporate entertainment lounge on a stick”, said Oliver Wainwright in The Guardian. “But by night, when it glows like a sword plunging down from the heavens, it is hard to resist.” 

Royal Pavilion and Museum 

Located in the heart of the city, the Royal Pavilion is a “most remarkable” building that’s a “delightfully over-the-top domed and pinnacled fantasy”, said Fodor’s Travel. The spectacular seaside palace of Prince Regent George IV was transformed by British architect John Nash between 1815 and 1823. Today, the Royal Pavilion is a popular museum and attraction. 

Shopping in The Lanes

Brighton’s artiest district is packed with independent shops, restaurants and traditional pubs, said Time Out. Much of Brighton “oozes character and cool”, but The Lanes are definitely leading the charge. The narrow streets are home to “brilliant” independent cafés, record stores, vintage emporiums, bookshops and art spaces. “Wandering this maze of passageways” is an “excellent way” to spend an afternoon. Don’t get The Lanes confused with North Laine though, said Jennifer Barton on Insider. North Laine is “another cool shopping area brimming with independent boutiques”.

Hove: ‘seriously hip’

If you are heading to Brighton for a break, then don’t forget to visit Hove as well. It has a quieter seafront and “seriously hip” artisan shops, gin bars and niche restaurants, said Roddon in The Telegraph

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The Grand Hotel in Brighton

The Grand Hotel in Brighton

Robert Harding/Alamy Stock Photo

Hotels and accommodation: where to stay

Brighton is “continuing to evolve into a chic weekend destination”, said Louise Roddon in The Times. And staying in the city “has never proved so pleasurable”. The Grand gets top billing on many lists of the best hotels in Brighton. Nicknamed the “Palace by the Sea”, it carries “stacks of history” and a third of its bedrooms boast “unbeatable sea views”. 

Spread over two early 19th-century townhouses in Kemptown, Paskins Town House is “charmingly quirky” and one of the first vegetarian-friendly hotels in the city, said The Telegraph. Other top places to stay include The Square Hotel, “a golden eagle amidst a flock of seagull B&Bs”, and Hotel du Vin & Bistro Brighton, which is “ideally placed for The Lanes and the city’s major attractions”. 

If a boutique B&B is what you desire, then head to Hotel Una, said The Independent. With side views onto the sea and the i360, this 18-room hotel “exudes good looks”. Think “handcrafted furniture, funky pendant lamps and sparkly abstract paintings that enhance rather than mar the regency footprint”. 

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The Salt Room restaurant on Brighton seafront

The Salt Room restaurant on Brighton seafront

Simon Dack/Alamy Stock Photo

Where to eat and drink

Restaurants 

Brighton is a “food lover’s paradise by the sea”, said The Eat Your World Blog. On the seafront there are plenty of eateries offering traditional fish and chips wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper. But for those who “prefer their lunch on a plate”, the city is home to some excellent seafood restaurants, including The Salt Room, which offers a signature surfboard platter, and English’s Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar, whose menu is “impressively extensive, incorporating lots of British ingredients”. 

There may be no Michelin-starred restaurants in Brighton and Hove, but there are some otherwise notable entries worth celebrating, said RestaurantsBrighton.co.uk. Three restaurants – Cin Cin (Italian), Chilli Pickle (Indian), and Burnt Orange (Mediterranean) – have been awarded Michelin’s Bib Gourmand. 

Pubs 

According to readers of The Argus, The Regency Tavern topped the list of the best pubs in Brighton. This is a “wonderful” pub, said Green councillor Tom Druitt. “The decor, the colours, the piano, the atmosphere, the bar staff, the ale selection and the punters... it’s a real gem.” Other highly regarded pubs include the Ancient Mariner and The Exchange, both in Hove.

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Brighton railway station

Brighton railway station

Geoff Smith/Alamy Stock Photo

Transport: how to get there

Trains 

Brighton Station, the city’s main railway station, is about a 20-minute walk to and from the seafront and pier. Some train services take less than an hour from London Victoria, making Brighton an easy day trip from the capital. 

Flights 

The nearest major airport to Brighton is London Gatwick, which is 23 miles away. Trains take an average 39 minutes from Gatwick to Brighton with services operated by Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Southern. 

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Brighton rock is a local specialty

Brighton rock is a local specialty

James Boardman/Alamy Stock Photo

What the locals say…

The beach is not the only place to lounge in Brighton, said Rosie Fluskey on The Travel Hack. “You will find fantastic parks throughout the city, as well as the South Downs National Park that backs it”. If you like “cute little museums that are utterly niche”, then Brighton has some wonderful choices, including The Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton Toy and Model Museum, and the Brighton Fishing Museum. 

In her local’s guide on Insider, Jennifer Barton offers some tips for foodies. If you’re new to English chips, “make like a local” and order them topped with peas or beans. Also, if you’re “tempted by the junk food on offer”, Brighton rock – a colourful, stick-shaped boiled sugar candy – is a “local specialty”.

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