Brighton Travel Guide
A seaside city on the south coast of England, Brighton is a unique and quirky little place with a close-knit small-town vibe, in spite of being less than an hour by train from London. Quintessentially British with its own special brand of eccentricity, Brighton is a fiercely liberal city that is loud and very proud of its LGBT community. Considering that we are in England, good weather is never a given, but the locals are a lively bunch and when deciding what to do in Brighton, rest assured that there is plenty going on in this coastal town that doesn't require sunshine or beach umbrellas.
The best hotels in Brighton
The Artist Residence is a 23-room townhouse in the historic district close to the seafront. Their vibe is casual and eclectic and, as the name suggests, the decor is artistic but without being pretentious. A lively place, with two restaurants and two cocktails bars, this hotel is a great option for those in search of something authentically Brighton, with a sense of community and a homely vibe.
Boasting uninterrupted sea views and a great beachfront location, the Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa is the perfect place for a luxury seaside escape. Their underground spa is stone lined and reminiscent of an ancient wine cellar; a cool, relaxing place with a series of luxurious spa treatments tailored to your preferences. The rooms and suites are stylishly decorated without being stuffy, and their award-winning restaurant takes seaside dining to another level.
If afternoon tea is your thing, or (like me), you´ll take any excuse for another slice of cake, then head to Metrodeco in Kemptown, the eastern district
Things to do in Brighton
We were in search of coffee, but it was the cake that caught our eye and led us into Little Bird, in the Lanes. A decision that was repeated several times during our stay, as the cake varieties are ever-changing and it was hard to decide which one was the best. Street art is also a big feature of this part of town and Banksy’s kissing policemen, one of his most famous works, was originally painted on the side of a pub near the station. The original has since been sold, but a replica exists in the same place and is just one of many street art pieces to be seen throughout the city. If afternoon tea is your thing, or (like me), you´ll take any excuse for another slice of cake, then head to Metrodeco in Kemptown, the eastern district. With quirky and colourful 1930´s inspired decor and a range of cocktails as long as your arm, it´s a great spot for late afternoon tipple before heading off for dinner.
Being a seaside town, the Brighton Pier is a must, and in spite of being somewhat kitsch, is one of Brighton’s top tourist attractions. The suspended pier jutting out over the sea is an incongruous mix of Vegas flash and Victorian-era opulence, replete with dinging slot machines, joy rides and the smell of candy floss mixed with salty sea air. Another Brighton point of interest is the promenade that runs along the beach. Lined with the usual seaside shops and restaurants it´s a good spot for fish and chips and a stroll along the prom. For those looking to stretch their legs a bit, the town is surrounded by the South Downs National Park, an area of undisturbed natural beauty that boasts a multitude of waking and cycling trails through field and forest. Head east towards Seaford for a spectacular coastal walk along the Seven Sisters, a series of chalk cliffs along the English Channel.
Where to eat in Brighton
If fish and chips are just not your thing, then head to The Salt Room, right across the road from the seafront promenade with spectacular sea views. A modern British seafood restaurant and grill, the focus here is on locally sourced and sustainable produce, prepared simply over hot coals, a celebration of fresh, authentic Sussex flavours. The Gingerman in Norfolk Square adheres to the same philosophy, serving beautifully crafted plates of food from their unassuming and cosy restaurant tucked away in a residential area a few streets back from the seafront. A small place, booking is essential, and the dark wood and exposed brick accents create an intimate atmosphere, perfect for a romantic dinner for two.
Just around the corner, The Little Fish Market is a recently converted fishmonger and the brainchild of acclaimed chef Duncan Ray. The restaurant is light and bright, huge bay windows flood the room with natural light, and the menu matches the atmosphere; clean, fresh seafood flavours all sourced from the British Isles. The menu changes daily, according to what´s fresh, in season and readily available, and the tiny kitchen is constantly innovating and trying new products.
Across town in the arty North Laine district, Silo has taken the farm-to-table concept to another level, working with what they call a “pre-industrial food system”, harking back to a time where processed foods were virtually non-existent, and the food went directly from producer to customer, without all the steps in the middle. Their overall philosophy is one of respect: respect for the produce, whether plant or animal, their aim is to use as much as possible, reduce waste and respect for the environment in which they source their products. The vast majority of their foods are made on site or in the area, and any waste that is generated is composted and returned to the earth where the next season’s vegetables grow, just one part of their zero-waste philosophy.
Shopping in Brighton
Of the many things to do in Brighton, vintage shopping should be high on your list as the streets of North Laine are a veritable treasure trove of second-hand stores, vintage furniture and all manner of artsy, eccentric goodies that you didn’t know you needed. A neighbourhood of narrow streets and narrow pastel townhouses, the Lanes are full of character (and characters) and dotted with restaurants and coffee shops, perfect for a caffeine pit stop before hitting the next second-hand clothing store in search of the perfect pair of sequined trousers. In spite of Brighton’s penchant for the vintage and eccentric, there is a handful of homeware, and interior stores with a more modern touch tucked in-between the bric-a-brac, you just need to keep an eye out for them.
Kemptown, the seafront neighbourhood to the east of the pier, is locally known as the hub of the LGBT community
Nightlife in Brighton
Known for its nightlife, particularly with the weekend visitors from London, pub crawling is one of the most popular things to do in Brighton. Kemptown, the seafront neighbourhood to the east of the pier, is locally known as the hub of the LGBT community and where most of the gay bars and clubs are located. The Bulldog is probably the most well known and has been open and operating since 1979, featuring live DJ´s and cabaret artists; it´s a must-do on the night circuit. Just around the corner, the Charles Street Bar doubles as a restaurant during the day (downstairs) and Club (upstairs) at night. Their weekly events line-up includes pub quizzes, cabaret nights and rock-n-roll bingo, as well as hosting an ever-changing roster of DJ´s to keep you on your feet until the wee hours.
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Photo: Kerry Murray
Brighton Pier | Photo: Kerry Murray
Photo: Kerry Murray
Little Bird | Photo: Kerry Murray
Photo: Kerry Murray
Kemptown | Photo: Kerry Murray
The Little Fish Market | Photo: Kerry Murray