Brighton Travel Guide

Brighton Travel Guide

The quirky and queer queen of Britannia with her small-town vibe, sloping pebble beaches and cultural vitality, Brighton is the gaycation destination of dreams. Less than an hour by train from London, this seaside city is hedonistic yet eco-minded, cool yet unpretentious. Quintessentially British with its own special brand of eccentricity, Brighton is a fiercely liberal city that is loud and very proud of its LGBTQ community. Despite the high chances of grey weather (this is England, after all), the locals are an upbeat bunch, ever welcoming and ever in the mood to party. While concentrated in St. James Street and Kemp Town, Brighton’s gay scene lays claim to pretty much the entire city with regular LGBTQ events throughout the year, including Brighton Bear Weekend in June and Brighton Pride in August. Interested in what to do in Brighton beside beach lounging and gorging on Fish & Chips? Mr Hudson’s Brighton gay city guide has got you covered.

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The best hotels in Brighton

Let’s kick start our ultimate Brighton gay travel guide with a roundup of the best hotels. First up we’ve got the five-star show-stealer, A Room With A View, a Georgian heritage build, based in the trendy gaybourhood of Kemp Town and boasting uninterrupted sea views. Just a 12-minute walk from the city centre, this hotel offers the best of both worlds; a countryside feel with proximity to the best of the city’s nightlife! Wake up to garden or sea views and the choice of a full English or smoked salmon brekkie. Another Georgian building so fancy it needs government-protection is The Square Hotel, also based in Kemp Town. Overlooking the Regency garden square, this hotel is both stylish and luxurious in equal measure, complete with playful design (featuring kinky rubber ducks…), cheerful staff and a chic cocktail bar hosting lively entertainment.

Not for the shy and retiring, Hotel Pelirocco is as loud and as fabulous as they come. A gay-owned, rock ‘n’ roll boutique hotel, guests here are able to choose from a range of luxe rooms kitted out with mirrored ceilings, spa baths and plush furnishings for an over-the-top experience, be it romantic or risqué. The casual and eclectic Artist Residence is a slight change of tone; a townhouse in the historic district close to the seafront, with unpretentious yet artful interiors. With two restaurants and two cocktails bars on site, this hotel is a great option for those in search of something authentically Brighton, with a sense of community and a homely vibe. Then there’s the elegant 27 Bed & Breakfast a small Georgian townhouse on the Upper Rock Gardens just a 10-minute walk from the pier and even closer to the seafront. With a fancy chandelier-laden dining room serving full English and continental options, as well as personal fluffy bathrobes, you may never want to leave.

Artist Residence, The Set Restaurant & Café

Artist Residence, The Set Restaurant & Café

27 Bed and Breakfast

27 Bed and Breakfast

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Recommended hotels in Brighton
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Artist Residence

Artist Residence

Things to do in Brighton

As well as a delightful view and bracing sea breeze, Brighton’s seafront has a lot more to offer. In fact, Brighton was voted one of the top 10 city beach breaks in the world. Visitors can enjoy a day of traditional beachside fun, chowing down on newspaper-wrapped Fish & Chips on a deckchair for dinner before heading to the streets nearby to soak up some funky night time club culture (and probably some pub spirits). If you’re feeling too pumped to sunbathe, there’s also the option of trying various water sports such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, or volleyball and Frisbee on land.

A symbol of the city, Brighton Palace Pier is a tough old bird, having withstood two world wars, all manner of storms, and millions of visitors trampling all over her for well over a century. Join the crowds as they meander along the vendor-lined decking on a pilgrimage towards the pier’s famed arcade, home to slot games, fairground-type rides and gloriously tacky fun. Another of the top Brighton points of interest on the seafront is the British Airways i360, a new slow-spinning observation tower that stands on the site of the burnt-out west pier and offers visitors 25 minutes of 360° panoramas, 162 metres above the city. When the sun’s out, you might catch a glimpse of the Beachy Head cliffs and the Isle of Wight over 50 miles to the west. And how about a nice spot of sparkling wine from the i360 Sky Bar?

Photo: Marcus Cramer

Photo: Marcus Cramer

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As the greenest and most LGBTQ friendly city in England (arguably the LGBTQ capital), Brighton has a truly unique story to tell

Travellers interested in the arts will want to check out Brighton Dome, the south coast’s first multi-arts venue presenting over 600 events each year spanning music, dance, comedy, visual arts and more. The organisation behind the internationally renowned Brighton Festival, Brighton Dome has a history of over 200 years, starting out as the Prince Regent’s horse riding house and since becoming a huge space for eclectic live arts as well as a hub for local artists. Come to the dome to flex your creativity, whether at a Saturday singing class or a theatrical make-up workshop. Eco-warriors and the sustainably minded will not want to miss Earthship Brighton, a pioneering project from the Low Carbon Trust who have created a low-impact, sustainable community centre dedicated to education and inspiring more climate-friendly lifestyles through tours of the space and educational talks.

As the greenest and most LGBTQ friendly city in England (arguably the LGBTQ capital), Brighton has a truly unique story to tell, one of a rainbow-painted history, with a long-time reputation as a place for rebels and outsiders. To learn more, go on an LGBTQ History Walking Tour through the atmospheric lanes of the city and along the beachfront while listening key facts about Brighton’s past and how it came to be as proud and diverse as it is today. You’ll also get to cover some of the key Brighton sightseeing spots all at once. While in Brighton, you don’t have to stay in the city; you’ll be wise to get to know the other perks of the region, such as the wineries of Sussex. The South West countryside is famed for its world-class sparkling wines, making for a perfect day of both booze and culture. Enjoy the tour from the comfort of a private hire bus, taking in the region’s characterful scenery before stopping off for a quintessentially English pub lunch.

Brighton Dome

Brighton Dome

Photo: Nitin Tulswani

Photo: Nitin Tulswani

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Recommended experiences in Brighton
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What to see in Brighton

During your visit to Brighton set some time aside for the regal grandeur of King George IV’s exotic pleasure palace, the Royal Pavilion. Back in the day, old George was a stylish 20-something Prince Regent who came to Brighton in 1783 and, quickly becoming enamoured with the place and keen to be noticed, he commissioned Buckingham Palace architect John Nash, to create an epic palace by the sea. Although neoclassical at first, King George later ordered Nash to redesign it to reflect his taste for the oriental. Long story short, the palace is an intriguing build with an even more intriguing history. Also, a part of the Royal Pavilion is Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Although charging a fiver for entry, this place is well worth it thanks to the various treasures on display, from ancient Egyptian relics and fine art to 20th-century design, fashion and more contemporary works. And, if you happen to be much of an entomophile, make a beeline to the Natural Sciences collections, where half a million little critters await.

Brighton Pier | Photo: Kerry Murray

Brighton Pier | Photo: Kerry Murray

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Many of the businesses here are oriented towards the LGBT community, making Kemp Town a great place to go for chic design, antiques and diverse cuisine with gay-friendly hosts

While you walk through Brighton city make sure to pass through The Lanes, a bunch of cool narrow streets cram full of unique boutiques, vintage emporiums, art shops and independent cafés. Vinyl and book fanatics are also bound to come across something to take home. All the houses within the maze are 16th century builds and as quirky as they come. Another quarter that might be more up your alley is Kemp Town, Brighton’s premier gaybourhood and home of a few of our top accommodation options. Go as far east as Black Rock along the King’s Cliff to find this cosmopolitan neighbourhood largely populated by artists and creatives. The architecture here is largely from the Regency and Victorian periods meaning that Kemp Town has a number of beautiful green squares and seafront crescents to complement the quirky architecture, such as the 1892 Sassoon Mausoleum which is now a nightclub. Many of the businesses here are oriented towards the LGBT community, making Kemp Town a great place to go for chic design, antiques and diverse cuisine with gay-friendly hosts.

North Laine meanwhile is another top choice of where to go in Brighton, a half square mile along the south coast lined with over 300 bespoke and boutique stores where you can find almost anything. Embodying the spirit of Brighton, North Laine hosts the weirdest and wackiest of local culture. With creativity abound in the city, it’s little wonder that Brighton’s street art is second to none. Internationally renowned, Brighton has a ton of graffiti dotted throughout, formerly including the original Banksy’s ‘Kissing Policemen’. Although this one has since been sold, many impressive pieces remain for you to stumble upon, including the music mural on Trafalgar Street’s Prince Albert Pub beside the Banksy replica. Lastly, for when the pebble beaches lose their allure, Preston Park Rockery is a good place to go. Britain’s largest municipal rock garden, here you’ll find a woodland oasis to explore providing a haven for bees, birds and laid-back locals.

Photo: Kerry Murray

Photo: Kerry Murray

Seven Sisters | Photo: Kerry Murray

Seven Sisters | Photo: Kerry Murray

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.

The Little Fish Market | Photo: Kerry Murrayt

The Little Fish Market | Photo: Kerry Murray

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.

Silo | Photo: Kerry Murray

Silo | Photo: Kerry Murray

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 | Photo: Kerry Murray

Kemptown | Photo: Kerry Murray

Photo: Clem Onojeghuo

Photo: Clem Onojeghuo

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For something a bit different, try BYOC (Bring Your Own Cocktail), where you are invited to bring your own liquor to be mixed by an expert bartender into the drink of your choice

Nightlife in Brighton

Now for Mr Hudson’s Brighton gay scene guide. Known for its nightlife – particularly at the weekend when the lively London scene rocks up – and pub crawling is one of the most popular things to do in Brighton. One of Kemp Town’s best bars is Charles Street Bar, doubling up as a pub-style 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 an ever-changing roster of DJs to keep you on your feet until the wee hours. Another gay pub worth a gander is The Camelford Arms, a local bear den with affordable drinks, friendly staff and a weekly Sunday roast. The Camelford is more modern than you might expect from a British pub, with light, airy design and a Moroccan-style patio, allowing full enjoyment of the classic pub grub and extensive selection of ales.

For something a bit different, try BYOC (Bring Your Own Cocktail), where you are invited to bring your own liquor to be mixed by an expert bartender into the drink of your choice. You’ll pay a flat fee for a set amount of drinks and be able to experience the art of cocktail making in a modern setting. To keep it old school, The Plotting Parlour on Stein Street in Kemp Town is an intimate bar known for its quality cocktails, such as the chili martini, and a wide range of beers and wines. The parlour’s interiors are all of 1920s style, complimented by swing music of the same era and a laid-back atmosphere.

After the cocktails have loosened you up a bit, head to Bar Broadway for a bit of live cabaret. Bringing New York glamour to the heart of the Gay Village, Bar Broadway is a slice of musical heaven, most renowned for its open mic night, generous prosecco refills and regular pub quiz. Next up, we’ll head to Legends Hotel – not to sleep but to drink on site at the hotel’s very vibrant, very gay Legends Bar & Basement Club. Take in the sea views on the outside terrace before heading inside to unleash your best dance moves to the tune of cheesy queer classics with other fun-seeking LGBTers. The queer entertainment is spread throughout the week so chances are that whenever you come, there’ll be something interesting happening!

Photo: Georgia de Lotz

Photo: Georgia de Lotz

Artist Residence Brighton The Set Cafe Bar

Artist Residence Brighton The Set Cafe Bar

Photo: Faye Bridgwater

Photo: Faye Bridgwater

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