Brighton has been a seaside resort for several hundred years – in fact, it was called “London by the Sea” in the 1700s because the who’s who of the capital would come here on holiday. That draw remains today, and many celebrities such as Noel Gallagher and Cate Blanchett have owned homes or lived in the city at some point in their lives.
But far from a snooty city, Brighton is a hotbed of indie culture and art, boasts a great bar scene and has the UK’s most vibrant LGBTQIA+ scene – not to mention thriving a beach life. Best part? It’s just an hour by train from central London, making it an easy hop on your next visit.
Here are our top spots to hit for shopping, dining and exploring in this cool city.
Attractions: Skyscrapers and Victorian architecture
The 18th-century Royal Pavilion is one of Britain’s most remarkable buildings. An eye-popping mash-up of Far East and Indian influences with lavish Georgian English panache, it was built for the Prince of Wales (soon-to-be King George IV) in the style of the British Raj, with domes and minarets drawing heavily from Mughal architecture.
Just south of this masterpiece, jutting into the ocean, you’ll find the Palace Pier, a centre of action since Victorian times. From here, ride east along the beach on the 140-year-old Volks Railway, the world’s oldest working electric railway. Then head west to the soaring i360 tower, where you can sip Champagne at the Nyetimber Sky Bar while drinking in the spectacular views.
Back at sea level, reflect on the skeletal ruins of the West Pier, destroyed by fire but left as a poignant memorial to beautiful decay.
Food: Vegans and vegetarians rejoice
After 30 years, gourmet vegetarian pioneer Terre a Terre still ranks among the UK’s best plant-based diners, while haute vegan newcomer Botanique offers seasonal, farm-driven cuisine in its cottage-like space by Brunswick Square.
Seafood lovers should check out the outstanding Riddle & Finns, which has two contrasting spaces – a pared-back hideaway in The Lanes and an expansive beachside restaurant. Buzzing nearby food market Shelter Hall, meanwhile, showcases a changing roster of seven local kitchens. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.
On restaurant-lined Preston Street, Bincho Yakitori is an unfussy beacon of Asian sharing dishes (mainly Japanese and Korean). On Western Road, 20-seat diner Palmito centres the action around the charcoal grill, serving inventive, spice-driven sharing plates fusing South Asian and Latin American flavours.