Visitors have flocked here for centuries, and it’s not just the beach and pier combo. The self-proclaimed LGBTQ+ capital of the UK and the only place with a Green Party-elected MP, it’s no surprise that this seaside resort is considered one of the most liberal and diverse spots in the whole of Blighty. After all, where else can you share the same stretch of pavement with fabulous drag queens, fixie bike-riding hipsters and pensioner ravers? Even better – it’s just an hour’s train ride from London Town.
So, given that you can be here in about the same time that it takes most people to get to work in the big smoke, we figured we’d whip up a guide on what to see and do here. Here’s ten of the best things to do in Brighton:
1. Take a wander down Brighton Pier
Brighton’s star attraction is arguably its beachfront and impressive Victorian Pier – and boy what a pier it is. Dating back to 1899, it’s a Grade II*-listed spot that is loaded with fish and chips shops, restaurants, bars, arcades, rickety rides and *ahem* ice cream-stealing seagulls, it’s the perfect place to let your inner kid run completely riot.
If you’ve got a head for heights, don’t miss the chance to ride the ‘booster’ – a hair-raising thrill ride that takes you up 40 metres in the air – over the English Channel, might we add – and spins you upside down. Post-ride, you’ll probably need a drink to calm the nerves, so make your way to the Sunset Garden Bar, which serves ‘the best cocktails in Brighton’. Who are we to argue?
📍You’ll find Brighton Pier at Madeira Drive, Brighton, BN2 1TW.
2. Peruse The Lanes for some vintage threads and a history fix
Brighton is famous for its vintage clothing stores, the heart of which lie in The Lanes – a snaking labyrinth of small alleyways which are also home to a plethora of antiques shops, tattoo parlours, art galleries, independent bookshops and bric-a-brac stores.
Parts of this historic area date all the way back to the 16th century, when Brighton itself was a small fishing town called Brighthelmstone. The Cricketers, a beloved boozer, dates all the way back to 1547, making it Brighton’s oldest pub, and there’s even a spot here where King Charles II was alleged to have made his escape to France after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. History aside, there are plenty of places here to find some vintage clothes – Starfish Vintage Clothing, To Be Worn Again and the mammoth Beyond Retro are just some of our favourites.
3. Explore the magnificent Royal Pavilion
Now we couldn’t do a roundup of the best things to do in Brighton without mentioning this one. The Royal Pavilion is a somewhat exotic and intriguing building built for none other than King George IV all the way back in the late 18th century as a ‘pleasure palace’. It’s covered in gilded palm trees and carved palm trees, and to be honest, looks more like it belongs in India than in East Sussex.
Surrounding the palace itself are some wonderful gardens – which are regularly used as a venue for musicians and entertainers during the Summer months – and there’s also an in-house museum and art gallery for all the culture vultures among you. The pavilion is also home to some rather magical candlelight concerts, paying tribute to none other than Hans Zimmer, Vivaldi, Taylor Swift and Coldplay.
📍You’ll find the Royal Pavilion at 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton and Hove, Brighton, BN1 1EE.
4. Score yourself some vinyl records
Brighton has cemented itself as being one of the best spots in the whole of the UK to buy vinyl records – and for good reason. There are countless different spots where you can purchase your vinyl here, with everything from second-hand classics to the latest records on offer.
Head to The Record Album, Brighton’s oldest record store, if you’re wanting to unearth some jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll gems, or hit up Resident Records if you’re wanting for limited editions and gig tickets too. One of the latest spots is Capsule Records, which only opened its doors earlier this year and which also doubles as a coffee shop too. They even have regular DJs spinning the decks too! Winner, winner.
5. Soak up the panoramic vistas from atop the Brighton i360
Billed as the ‘iSore’ by many Brightonians on its opening back in 2016 (ouch), the Brighton i360 has now become one of the top things to do in Brighton – and for good reason, as the views from the top are bloody fantastic.
Towering a mighty 531-feet-tall, it’s one of the tallest buildings of its kind in the entire world, and offers panoramic vistas of the waters of the English Channel, the rolling hills of the South Downs and, of course, Brighton and Hove directly below. It’s even seen the likes of legendary DJ Fatboy Slim play a gig on it for the French record label Cercle! Try and time it so you manage to catch the sun setting – date night alert.
📍You’ll find the Brighton i360 at Lower Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2LN.
6. Go for a dip at the scenic Sea Lanes
Now, if the rather frigid waters of the English Channel are a bit too cold for you to take a dip, then fear not dear reader! Brighton has an ace up its sleeve, and it lies in the Sea Lanes – a 50-metre lido which is fully heated to a balmy 20 degrees. It opened this Summer and has proved incredibly popular since, taking up to 100 swimmers at a time.
📍You’ll find the Sea Lanes at 300 Madeira Drive, Brighton, BN2 1BX.
7. Catch a gig at one of the city’s finest venues
Giving London Town a run for its money when it comes to gigs, Brighton has everything from high-profile acts to up-and-comers play here, and there a whole host of great venues to choose from too.
One of our favourites is the student-friendly CHALK – a lively spot located in an old converted cinema – or Concorde 2, which combines legendary live bands with some pretty raucous club nights in a state-of-the-art joint right by the beach. For big-hitters, you’re best seeing what’s on at the 5,000-capacity Brighton Centre, which as well as headline tours also often has comedy, theatre and more on.
8. Delve into LGBTQ+ history on a walking tour
As mentioned above in our intro, Brighton is arguably the LGBTQ+ capital of the UK – don’t fight us other cities – and its epicentre lies in Kemptown, a charming, village-like neighbourhood which is adorned in rainbow flags and is often billed as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the whole world. Not bad right?
If you’d like to learn more about the LGBTQ+ history of this free-thinking enclave, then you can opt to join a walking tour, of which there are numerous in the city. One of our favourites is the fabulously-named ‘Piers & Queers’, which takes in over 200 years’ worth of LGBTQ+ history and political activism too. You can find out more here.
9. Tuck into some tasty seafood
Given that you’re right by the beach, it’d be rude not to try some seafood when you’re in Brighton – sorry veggies and vegans – and the city has some pretty incredible restaurants if you’re looking to sample some. One of our top picks would be The Regency, which has been rustling up some pretty epic seafood for locals and tourists alike since the 1930s.
Other options include The Little Fish Market in Hove, The Copper Clam and Riddle and Finns – a chic and upmarket spot specialising in oysters, sustainably-sourced fish dishes and Champagne. Oh darlinggggg!
10. Get your culture fix at the Hove Museum of Creativity
Culture vultures – listen up! If you’re looking to get your culture fix, then we’d recommend making your way to the free Hove Museum of Creativity – which is part museum, part art gallery and basically a bloody intriguing jack of all trades.
They’ve got a range of rotating exhibitions on here throughout the year, two interactive galleries dedicated to the history of film, and the ‘Wizard’s Attic’ – a treasure trove of toys dating back to the 18th century. You can also learn more about the history of Hove in their gallery ‘Hove History’, which traces the growth of Hove from prehistoric times to the present day via photographs, maps, objects and intricate artworks too.
📍You’ll find the Hove Museum of Creativity at 19 New Church Road Brighton and Hove, BN3 4AB.
11. Have a good old booze up in a pub or two
Now if this doesn’t make a roundup of the best things in Brighton, then we don’t know what does. You haven’t really ‘done’ Brighton properly unless you’ve done a bit of a pub crawl, and luckily for you dear reader there are loads of boozers where you can whet your whistle here.
The Mash Tun and the aforementioned The Cricketers are great spots right in the centre of town, and the Saint James Tavern is a top choice in Kemptown – their Lebanese food is absolutely bangin’ it has to be said. There’s also a few places right by the beach – it’s easy to lose a few hours at the Fortune of War, and Ohso Social right next door is good for more upscale cocktails. No ‘sex on the beach’ though mind…
12. Take a wander through the scenic South Downs
Rounding off this list of the best things to do in Brighton is, well, something that’s not technically in Brighton. But you know here at Secret London we like to bend the rules so… The South Downs National Park is just a stone’s throw away from Brighton and Hove, and is easily accessible by car, bus, or even bicycle.
Synonymous with rolling green hills, chocolate box-esque villages, ancient woodlands and towering chalk cliffs lapped by the waters of the Channel. It’s a pretty magical place, and there’s plenty to explore here, from the valley of Devil’s Dyke – the largest dry valley in the UK which is owned by none other than the National Trust – to numerous vineyards like Albourne and Wiston. Perhaps our favourite thing to do here though is the country walk from Seaford to Eastbourne, which takes you right over the highest chalk cliff in Britain, Beachy Head, and past the hamlet of Cuckmere Haven.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best things to do in Brighton. From sampling some lip-smackingly good seafood to finding some vintage threads and antiques, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied here. So, what are you waiting for? Hop aboard a train and go and see for yourself!