Flamboyant, flirty and a lot more fun than your average weekend break, Brighton’s gift for tickling the senses is unparalleled across the UK. A city of contrasts, there’s history dating back 300 years weaved between new developments, a flourishing laneway culture that celebrates independent business, and a thriving nightlife typical of a seaside resort - though this certainly ain’t no Blackpool.
There’s a burgeoning food scene, which has grown in recent years to include some of the best food in the country, oodles of world-class street art, and one of the largest vegetarian and vegan populations across the globe. In fact, there’s so much to shout about in Brighton & Hove, it can be difficult to know just where to start. Just as well, then, that we’ve compiled a definitive guide to make sure you don’t miss the best of it. Read on for our top things to do in Brighton.
Step into another world at the Royal Pavilion
The former palace of the rebellious Prince Regent (later King George IV), the Grand I listed Royal Pavilion stands proudly in Brighton’s centre, its Arabesque grandeur a sight to behold. While its exteriors take inspiration from Indo-Saracenic architecture (explaining its similarities with India’s Taj Mahal), its interiors are more reflective of China’s historic intricacies, offering an ornate mix of cultures unique to this part of the world.
Eat ice cream on the Brighton Palace Pier
The last still standing of three historic piers on Brighton’s seafront, Brighton’s Palace Pier opened originally in 1899 and has served as an entertainment hub ever since. With bars, arcades and a funfair, there’s plenty to do here to while away a couple of hours, though the trick to save a few bob for all those machines is to avoid the expensive ice cream available on the actual pier. Instead, head to Pool Valley’s Boho Gelato just a short walk away for your sweet fix. You’ll thank us later.
Spot a Banksy as you explore Brighton’s street art scene
There’s no shortage of murals and street art adorning Brighton’s buildings, but did you know it was once home to one of the most iconic Banksy pieces of all time? While the original was sold at auction years ago, a replica of the Kissing Policemen still stands below the famous musician mural of the Prince Albert pub. Elsewhere, you’ll spot various nostalgic game-inspired pieces (Super Mario, anyone?), and you needn’t walk far to see one of Cassette Lord’s much loved decorated cable boxes.
Get lost in the lanes
Brighton’s laneway culture is one that goes back to when it was a mere fishing village, marking the beginnings of the city as we know it now. Spanning between East and West Street, The Lanes is a maze of so many quaint jewellery shops, restaurants and delightful creations, you’ll be happy to get lost in them for a while. The North Laine, just over the road from North Street (see the pattern here?), is a little more of a mish-mash, but is just as charming - perfect for finding something unique and undeniably ‘Brighton’.
Fall in the drink at Hove Lagoon
Being the seaside city that it is, you can’t get away with a visit to Brighton without trying your hand at some watersports, and the lagoon in Hove is the best place for it. There’s stand up paddleboarding, surfing and kayaking to start with, plus specialist guidance for full beginners so visitors don’t feel thrown in the deep end straight away. We can’t promise you won’t fall in at least once - but then that’s part of the fun, right?
Dine in some of the best restaurants in the city
There’s been quite the improvement in cooking across Sussex over the last decade or so, with more restaurants earning AA Rosettes in Brighton & Hove than you can shake a stick at. The Little Fish Market and Steven Edwards’ etch are two of the best, both featuring in 2019’s National Restaurant Awards as among the best 100 in the country, however 64 Degrees, The Flint House and Isaac At also put up a good fight. Looking for something a bit more different? Head to Preston Street - the foodie centre of Brighton - the selection available has got you sorted!
Take to the skies with the British Airways i360
Be mesmerised by the sights of the south coast with a trip skyward on the i360, which offers unparalleled 360-degree views of Brighton and beyond, allowing you to map out your trip and see not only miles of coastline but also the South Downs National Park. Nearby, you’ll find a quirky upside-down house and a colourful footpath by local artist Lois O’Hara, plus a smattering of small boutiques in this delightfully rejuvenated area.
Take the oldest electric railway in the world to an outdoor sauna experience
An exciting new development is coming to Brighton, and it’s in easy reach thanks to the oldest railway in the world. The Sea Lanes area already boasts an outdoor sauna and pop up pub, but is soon to incorporate retail spaces in shipping containers and an outdoor pool, and is easily discoverable by a short walk west from the Palace Pier or a trip on the Volks Railway, the first to be opened in the world by Magnus Volk in 1883.
Cycle the Undercliff Walk
Brighton & Hove may boast 11 kilometres of shoreline, but most tourists tend to gravitate towards the centre, settling somewhere between the Palace and West Piers. Fortunately, this means for locals and ‘those in the know’, there’s around 10.5 kilometres of seafront left to play with. Take like a local and hire one of the Brighton Hourbikes (or Life Cycles, as they’re locally called) from Black Rock to Rottingdean. The further west you go on the Undercliff Walk, the quieter it is and the more turquoise the waters; before you know it, you’ll forget tourist hordes exist. In fact, you’ll probably forget you’re in the UK altogether.
Bar/pub hop your way through the city
Legend has it that there were once more licensed premises across Brighton & Hove per capita than anywhere else in the UK, and with so many pubs and restaurants lining Brighton’s North Laine, we’d be inclined to believe it. With this in mind, what better way to explore the city at night than to bar crawl from one side to the other? With award-winning pubs such as The Basketmakers Arms (frequented by some of Brighton’s glitterati), The Joker, The Robin Hood and the Hand in Hand, there’s plenty of choice - and you won’t have to search far for the next one.
Listen to some live music
If there’s something Brighton isn't short of it's booty shaking, mosh pit quaking, hardcore raving, live music venues. From raucous Friday night rock nights to chilled Sunday afternoon folk sessions, this is a city never lacking in musical talent. There’s a plethora of free gig nights so it’s worth checking out current listings here.
Party at Pride
The Brighton Pride Festival in Preston Park is a glittering and truly inclusive community celebration that has to be seen to be believed. If you’re yet to pop your Pride cherry, we’re here to tell you that if you’re a little tight on the budget, you don’t need to have tickets to the park or St James St to have a truly wonderful Pride. There are plenty of free ways to get involved such as ogling the parade then heading to the beach, pretty much any of the central parks - The Level in particular is a fun spot, party at one of the many street festivals - The North Laine is always jam packed and fun filled, or drop into a house party (or host your own if you’re feeling brave enough).
Bare all at the Naked Bike Ride
Since 2006 there has been an annual display of liberation and awareness of car culture across the city. The Naked Bike Ride usually takes place at the beginning of June and sees around 1,000 riders streak through the streets of Brighton in the name of cyclist safety. The protest demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists on the road, and aims to illustrate that message loud and clear to drivers. It’s free to take part in the ride and we should point out - it is not vital that you are 100% naked, you can cover your modesty however you feel appropriate.
Get cultured at the Theatre
In our very own cultural quarter it seems none more fitting than to attend a play at one of the country’s oldest theatres - The Theatre Royal. Check out their programme here for all upcoming shows and book yourself in for night of Dirty Dancing or Swan Lake. You can often catch a show here before it hits London's broadway so it's definitely worth checking out.
Get your ROFL on at Komedia
Spend an evening at Krater Comedy Club with your crew and we can guarantee you'll be rofl'ing all the way home. Booze, bants and bangin' bites. Perfect for group hangs (SIT AT THE FRONT AT YOUR OWN PERIL) and big celebrations. Their stellar lineup showcases some of the best comedians in the world so it’s well worth checking out the upcoming programme to see which show tickles your fancy.