City guides

City guide: What to do in Brighton

January 9, 2023

Brighton, only an hour from London, is bohemian, vibrant and very cool. All year round. It’s been charming visitors with fresh sea air since the railway first arrived in 1841. But modern Brighton offers more: trendy cafes; restaurants catering to simple, vegan and gourmet tastes; a huge selection of pubs and clubs, with a thriving music scene. What’s more, there is a wide array of attractions and things to do for those on family holidays, a couples getaway or even a weekends away with friends.

What to do in Brighton with the kids

Immerse yourself in the worlds oldest working aquarium at Brighton Sea Life. Built in 1872, it contains over 5000 species, including sharks, turtles and, for “Finding Nemo” fans, some clown fish. Kids can also get hands-on in several interactive zones and enjoy activities in the feeding areas.

For children (and adults) with no fear of heights, climb aboard the Brighton i360 which provides 360-degree views of Brighton, the Channel and the stunning South Downs. You’ll get around 25 minutes of ‘flying time’ at an altitude of 162m above the promenade. But if heights aren’t your thing, or theirs, then head over to the Volks Railway and take a ride on the world’s oldest operating electric railway. The heritage listed line was built in 1883 and runs daily in season along the seafront.

Always popular with kids, big and small, is a visit to the Toy and Model Museum. It has an extraordinary collection with an impressive model railway, and large displays of LEGO, Meccano and model aircraft. All 12,000 items are located within four Victorian cellars beneath Brighton Railway Station.

Brighton's best cafes

What to do in Brighton as a couple

City break or a romantic holiday? Couples will find plenty to explore in Brighton’s bustling heart. Spread between the maze-like passages of the Lanes and the cosy streets of North Laine you can find countless small shops and boutiques selling everything from custom jewellery and vintage clothes to antique books and classic vinyl LPs. You’ll also find some of the city’s best cafes where you can take a breath or simply watch the world go by. And most of Brighton’s best street art can be found here as well.

However, if you want to escape the crowds, or you’re looking for somewhere fun to go on date night, then The Duke of York’s, Britain’s oldest cinema, could be the ticket. The picture house has regular showings of independent, foreign and Disney movies, together with pre-screenings and cinematic events.

Or you could escape on two wheels using the BTN BikeShare scheme. For a flat easy peddle of about 30 minutes, follow the Undercliff Path along the shoreline from Brighton Marina to the village of Saltdean, which has several tasty cafes and some interesting architecture.

Brighton Pride Festival

What to do in Brighton with friends

The festivals. Brighton Festival celebrates music, film and theatre while Brighton Fringe is a power-house of arts, comedy and culture; second only to Edinburgh’s Fringe. In summer Brighton explodes in colour, noise and flamboyance with the UK’s largest Pride festival. Promoting diversity and equality for the LGBTQ community, it’s also Britain’s biggest party with a colourful parade and excellent concerts. There are also beer, music and summer/winter solstice festivals during the year.

With over 700 performances every year, Komedia is a hit with those looking for a laugh - with stand-up comedy from local, national and international artists - or perhaps some music or even cabaret. It’s one of Brighton’s most popular venues and has won numerous comedy awards. It also offers excellent meals.

For a lively night out, the music scene here delivers. Groups and couples can enjoy songs from up-and-coming live acts and new artists at any number of small venues around town. Taking centre stage are the Green Door Store, Hope & Ruin and the Rossi Bar.

What we like to do in Brighton

Brighton is famous for its cafe culture. It offers a staggering array of choices for those interested in specialty coffees, cheeky mid-morning snacks, or a lazy brunch. Plus, there’s no shortage of restaurants to suit all tastes and wallets: from amazing fish and chips - well, it is the seaside - and award-winning vegetarian fare, to upscale French cuisine and places offering a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours.

Nestled against the very edge of the city, the South Downs National Park is the UK’s newest park and it offers fresh air, walking and biking trails, as well as impressive views. Drive, or take a short open-top bus ride to the Devils Dyke with your camera or your walking shoes. It sits smack bang on top of the 100 mile long South Downs Way.

Brighton's Royal Pavillon

What not to miss in Brighton

The Royal Pavilion is a sumptuous, blend of British Regency, Indian and Oriental styles and a must see for all ages. The decadent short-reigned King George IV transformed a humble lodging house into a magnificent oriental palace in the early 1800s. Perfect for admirers of history, the exotic and dragons! Next door, in the lovely Pavilion gardens, the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is brimming with artefacts, paintings and designer items.

Brighton Palace Pier has been a landmark since 1899 and with 4.3 million visitors in 2021, it’s still a hit. There’s ample funfair rides to thrill adults and children alike, arcade games, restaurants, cozy cafes and even a soft play area for little ones.

And beneath the Pier is the famous shingled beach, one of Brighton’s biggest draw cards. Take a dip, catch some waves, skim a stone, scream out loud on the 300m Zipwire, or take a romantic walk along the shoreline.

Where to stay in Brighton

Brighton has a wide selection of affordable self catering options and holiday lets that will suit families, couples or mates on a group holiday. Pass the Keys provides ample choice in accommodation, from studio flats with sea views in Kemptown to spacious garden homes in Queens Park for small groups. Brighton really does have something for everyone.

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