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Brighton: City & Travel Guide - Best Things To Do & See

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Brighton City Guide

Most tourists arrive in the UK at London Heathrow or Gatwick, eager to explore Buckingham Palace, the London Bridge, and see a West End Show. But without making time for a trip to Brighton on the countrys southern coast, theyre missing out one of Englands national treasures.

Brighton is a small seaside resort city located an hour south of central London. With a population of just under 300,000, this intimate city packs in plenty to do. Its known for its vibrant culture, attractions, nightlife and stunning views. Guests to Brighton can take a stroll along the famous pier and get great snapshots on the picturesque pebbled beach. Others flock to the city dubbed Britains gay capital every August for the annual Brighton Pride Festival, considered to be one of the best LGBTQ+ celebrations in the world.

Theres something fun for everyone to do in Brighton! But if youre going to travel there, its best to do it the right way. Heres everything you need to know about travelling to Brighton and the best things to do while youre there.

Where to Stay

As a seaside resort city, Brighton has many hotels and hostels options along the water. The citys population is used to tourists coming to admire their coastal view, and many locals work in the hospitality industry or put their spare rooms up for availability on sites like Airbnb.

  • The Grand Brighton: This quintessential Brighton hotel is so famous its a city landmark. With beautiful Victorian design and amazing amenities like an on-site spa and classic cocktail bar, youll set yourself up for an elegant stay.

  • Hilton Brighton Metropole: Another historic hotel that overlooks the water with amazing balcony views and easy accessibility to bars and restaurants.

  • Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa: This medium sized hotel is picturesque, inside and out. Previously home to The Jetty Restaurant, the hotel is now home to Harbys Bar and Diner, which delivers decadent takes on traditional pub food.

  • The Charm: This quaint hotel is positioned in a traditional guesthouse. Much smaller in size than most beachside hotels, The Charm is cosy and ideal for couples. A drink tray and breakfast are included with your stay.

  • Drakes: This seaside hotel offers both intimacy and a breath-taking view of the ocean. There are only 20 rooms, but each is filled with amenities and freestanding bathtubs.

Where to Eat

  • The Salt Room: The salty smell of the ocean might jumpstart your craving for seafood, and if thats the case make a reservation at this fresh seafood emporium. Its considered one of the best seafood restaurants in the city.

  • The Coal Shed: This steak restaurant is known throughout Brighton for their chops. Theyre masters of combining old school prepared steaks infused with eclectic ingredients.

  • Il Bistro: This 18th century fishermans house was transformed into a contemporary steakhouse. Youll find a range of meats here as well as amazing seafood.

  • Terre Terre: Considered to be Brightons most eclectic restaurant, chefs at Terre Terre prepare foods from around the globe, not just steak and seafood.

  • Food for Friends: Vegetarians, vegans, and those with dietary restrictions will love Food for Friends, a local favourite even for meat lovers. Dishes come as generous-sized main meals or a variety of small plates, so bring your appetite!

Nightlife

Theres no better time than tourist season to venture into Brightons downtown and experience the eclectic nightlife.

  • Hand In Hand: Head here for a classic British pub experience infused with live music nightly. Expect to hear both local and visiting jazz and piano artists.

  • The Plotting Parlour: Go to the Plotting Parlour for a post-dinner drink or to cool down after walking around in the sun. The vibe is casual, in contrast to Brightons more lively bars. Each room is decorated from floor to ceiling, and all drinks are handcrafted.

  • Legends Bar: Located in at Legends Hotel, the Legends Bar is one of Brightons best destinations for LGBTQ+ identifying locals and tourists. Expect excitement, colourful characters, and plenty of drag queens. Theres a club underneath called The Basement for dancing.

  • The Green Door Store: Head here to see local and national live bands play in a cute cobbled bar located beneath the citys train station.

  • On the Rocks Bar Crawl: Cant decide which bar to head to? Why not try several? Go with a group to several bars on this amazing bar crawl. Its the best way to taste the beers of Brighton!

What to Do

Brighton hosts amazing attractions and events for all ages. Whether youre travelling with family or by yourself, its easy to hop from one destination to the next. Due to the citys size, everything is close by!

Read our guides to each one of these Brighton gems that bring visitors flocking to the city every year.

  • Brighton Pier: This traditional boardwalk is home to arcade games, restaurants, and amusement rides. A trip to Brighton is incomplete without a walk along the pier!

  • Royal Pavilion: This stunning Eastern-influenced palace and pretty garden in The Lanes district brings you back in time to the era of King George IV. Its always a highlight for visitors to Brighton.

  • Brighton Pride Festival: The UKs biggest Pride celebration is held in Brighton each August. Come down for music, parades and entertainment by the seaside!

  • The Great Escape Festival: This annual festival for new music brings hundreds of up-and-coming bands from all over the world to several of Brightons best music venues. This small festival a must-do for music lovers.

  • Brighton Fringe Festival: Brightons Fringe Festival is billed as Britains biggest arts festival, hosting comedy shows, theatre performances and interesting exhibitions.

3 Fun Facts About Brighton

  • The Sea Life aquarium is the worlds oldest aquarium. Its a great attraction for all the family if you have time after visiting the pier.

  • Brighton was voted the 3rd happiest place to live in the United Kingdom. In a 2017 study on the UKs happiest places to live, Brighton came top, beating Bristol and Oxford.

  • Many films and TV shows were filmed here. Brighton has a rich history with the British film industry many classic British films were filmed here including 1979s Quadrophenia and the original 1948 Brighton Rock. The city even has the oldest British cinema still in use The Duke of York Picture House!

How to Get There

From London, driving down to Brighton is easy and takes just an hour. As opposed to taking public transport, renting a car gives you the ability to explore other areas along the way, and control how you spend your time there. Otherwise, its easy to book transportation to Brighton from London at an affordable rate.

From airports: You can connect to any major transportation line (underground, train, coaches and more) from London Heathrow or London Gatwick.

Car hire: Hire a rental car from Gatwick or London Heathrow airport.

By train: Leave from London Victoria station and arrive in Brighton in approximately 50-75 minutes. The Gatwick Express train takes around half an hour!

By bus: Bus will take you the longest, but the most affordable options can be found via Trainline.

By ferry: The easiest ferry connection to Brighton arrives from France at the Newhaven Ferry Port. From there its a short drive to the city. If youre exploring Europe, this is the most scenic way to connect from France to England.

Where to Park Your Car in Brighton

Even in tourist season, Brighton hosts a lot of available street parking for visitors. Pay attention to restrictions, but tourists are encouraged to park along the coastal streets near the pier. Fortunately, even if you park a way away from your destination, Brighton is a walking city with everything in easy distance.

For easy car hire near Brighton, contact Car Rentals today!