- I’ve been visiting Brighton regularly for 13 years, and I’m sharing the best things in the city.
- Tourists should visit Brighton Beach and Palace Pier, The Lanes, and the Royal Pavilion.
- They should eat and drink at Food for Friends, The Ivy, and Woodingdean Fish Bar.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Brighton is a seaside city on the southern coast of England about an hour train ride from London.
Nicknamed London-by-the-Sea, it’s known for its glorious beaches, unique eateries, and vintage shops. But there’s lots more to explore in the coastal town.
I’ve lived in London for 13 years, and I go to Brighton all the time. It’s the city where I feel most myself, and I’ve lived everywhere from New York to St. Petersburg.
As someone who visits Brighton as often as I can manage — sometimes twice a week — I’ve compiled a list of must-see sites and identified some of the best places to stay, visit, and eat.
- COVID-19 PROTOCOL: The UK is employing a so-called traffic-light system for international travel. The list of countries deemed “green,” “amber,” or “red” is changing regularly, but if you’re traveling to the UK from a green country, you won’t need to quarantine. Those traveling from amber countries must quarantine in place or in a government-mandated hotel. Non-UK residents from red countries are not currently permitted to enter. Most travelers will also need to take a COVID-19 test within three days of their departure and present a negative result upon arrival.
- WEATHER: Brighton is generally temperate and slightly cooler and sunnier than nearby London, but rain is common all year. July is typically the warmest month, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring and fall temperatures tend to hover in the high 40s and 50s. Those visiting in winter shouldn’t expect the temperature to drop below freezing.
- CURRENCY: The area uses pounds, and many businesses accept credit cards.
- WALKABILITY: The city is highly walkable, and it’s easy to get around by bike. There are also buses if you prefer. You can also travel to and around Brighton by car, though finding a place to park isn’t always easy. A centrally located train station makes it easy to access the city from elsewhere in the UK.
Snooze offers a fun and funky hotel experience
If you want a quirky hotel experience, Snooze might be the perfect option.
The bed and breakfast has eight guestrooms full of unique, retro styling. We’re talking orange walls, zebra bedding, funky vintage clock decor, and mirror-adorned statement walls.
Not only are the interiors charming, but also it’s located five minutes from the beach in the LGBTQ hub of Kemptown — home of the “RuPaul’s Drag Race UK” season-two star Joe Black if you’re a fan.
Snooze has six rooms and two suites that range from £80 to £155 a night.
Tip: The B&B also offers breakfast delivered right to your room for £10, and the Snooze BLT is perfect for after a night out.
Get the classic English experience at Ginger Pig hotel and pub
The award-winning Ginger Pig Pub and Restaurant is a dog-friendly gastropub known for its local Sussex fare, including rock oysters, roast monkfish, and sea bream with samphire, as well as typical pub food and Sunday roasts.
It’s also a well-appointed boutique hotel with 11 stylish rooms, starting at about £120 a night for a double bed.
It’s located in a quieter spot about a 15-minute walk from the bustle of central Brighton and only a two-minute walk from a beach.
Tip: The rooms come equipped with beach bags that contain towels and mats.
Relax and unwind at the Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa
This seafront boutique hotel is located in a restored Regency building, but the real gem lies underground. The hotel houses a gorgeous subterranean spa with a hydrotherapy pool, giant Scandinavian hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, and a gym.
It has more than 70 rooms ranging from about £124 to £293 a night.
Tip: The spa is well worth a visit if only to relax in its gigantic wooden hot tubs, but it also offers indulgent treatments, like mud body wraps and collagen facials.
The Grand Brighton makes for a luxurious and historic getaway
This beachfront hotel housed in an imposing 19th-century building is one of Brighton’s grandest and most expensive spots to stay. But its location, gravitas, and dining options can’t be beaten.
There are more than 200 rooms, so it’ll easily sleep any wedding party or friend group.
Rates range from under £100 to over £400 a night depending on the type of room.
Tip: The Grand Brighton’s tea room won best afternoon tea in the 2020 Brighton Restaurant Awards.
Enjoy the art-deco styling and occasional celebrity sightings at Drakes
If you like to take your cues on where to stay from your favorite celebrities, then Drakes Brighton shouldn’t disappoint. Stars like Cate Blanchett and Kylie Minogue have been known to frequent the hotel.
It’s centrally located 10 minutes from the Royal Pavilion, and it’s known for having impeccable service and a chic Regency townhouse-meets-art-deco vibe.
There are 20 rooms, with singles starting at about £150 or £175 a night depending on the time of year.
Tip: Look no further for the perfect cocktail than the downstairs bar.
Things to do and see
Enjoy a walk along Brighton Beach and play some games at Brighton Palace Pier
Spend an idyllic day on the seaside strolling down Brighton’s gorgeous pebbled beach.
Visitors can try out water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, stroll through some independent shops (Rebound Store in the Kings Road Arches is my go-to for preloved designer treasures), or grab some takeaway fish and chips for a picnic.
The Brighton Palace Pier is also touristy, garish fun for the whole family, with fairground rides, carousels, trampolines, arcade games, claw machines, and more.
You can pay per ride or buy a wristband for the day.
Tip: If you’re tempted by the junk food on offer, Brighton rock — a colorful, stick-shaped boiled sugar candy — is a local specialty.
Take in the splendor of the Royal Pavilion
Built as a seaside pleasure palace for George IV by the architect John Nash, the Royal Pavilion is regal extravagance at its best.
It has a stunning Regency garden and a fanciful exterior. The interior drips with opulence, featuring silk paneling on walls and exquisite decorative ornaments in each room.
Tickets are £16 for adults, and the site is open all year.
Tip: Don’t want to pay for a tour inside? Bring a picnic to enjoy in the garden.
Enjoy views of the city from 450 feet in the air at British Airways i360
For those who want to see Brighton from a unique perspective, British Airways i360 “flights” offer visitors a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Prices for the 25-minute experience start at £16.50 for adults and offer 360-degree views of Brighton and Hove from the glass viewing pod. You can even sip some English sparkling wine from your perch in the Sky Bar.
Tip: Book a sunset flight if you can get a slot for even more gorgeous views.
Spend an afternoon winding your way around The Lanes
Filled with indie jewelry shops and galleries featuring local artists, the historic Brighton Lanes were once the hub of the old fishing town and are now an artsy haven.
There’s so much packed into the narrow, twisting streets, including cute tea rooms, record shops, and antique stores, all housed in lovely 16th-century buildings.
Tip: Don’t get The Lanes confused with North Laine, another cool shopping area brimming with independent boutiques.
For a more adventurous daytime activity, hike your way around Devil’s Dyke
Just 6 miles from Brighton, Devil’s Dyke is a National Trust site with an abundance of wildflowers and a selection of walking trails to help you take in the splendor of the Sussex countryside.
The views are glorious, but all of the rolling hills make the hike more challenging than you might think.
Tip: There aren’t really public restrooms nearby, so be prepared to buy a pint at the local pub if you have to use the bathroom during your hike.
Trawl for vintage treasures in local Brighton shops
Brighton is a great place for shopping, especially if you’re a fan of one-off vintage pieces and antiques.
For size-inclusive 1940s-1950s circle dresses, pencil skirts, and embroidered cardigans in the cutest prints and colors, Collectif Brighton is a must-visit.
Tip: If you have kids in tow, Petit Pays Vintage has a plethora of vintage French and English items for kids from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Learn about Brighton’s LGBTQ history on a guided walking tour
Brighton is considered the LGBTQ capital of the UK, and tourists can learn about the history on a 90-minute walking tour from Only in Brighton.
The £35 Piers and Queers tour covers the city’s political activism and leading queer figures from the Regency period through the 1950s.
Tip: The company also has a classic tour of Brighton and one that highlights the hidden secrets of The Lanes.
Don’t forget to check out Hove
Brighton is also known as Brighton and Hove, so no trip to the English city would be complete without visiting the neighboring seaside destination.
If you’re looking for a lower-key way to spend an afternoon, Hove is well worth a visit. Head there for the beaches and green spaces, and enjoy the most English of activities: a local cricket match.
Tip: Hove is a destination for cute shops, especially those with eclectic furniture and design items. Pop into Rume when you’re in town for vibrant cushions and beaded skulls.
Where to eat and drink
Food for Friends has been Brighton’s plant-based destination since 1981
With an ethos focused on fresh, sustainable, local dining, Food for Friends is a legendary plant-based restaurant in Brighton.
You’ll find everything from veggie risottos and frittatas to a vegan twist on classic fish and chips made with beer-battered banana blossom.
The ambiance is perfect for a date night or a cozy reunion with friends.
Tip: Weekend dinner slots get booked up far in advance, so if you want guaranteed seating, opt for a midweek reservation.
Brighton’s Cereal Cafe is a fun and inexpensive spot for a nostalgic meal
At the Cereal Cafe, you can choose up to four kinds of cereal (including rare-in-England flavors like Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter, Lucky Charms, and Cocoa Puffs) plus additional toppings, sauces, and dairy and nondairy milks.
Bowls of cereal start at £2.99 before adding any toppings.
Tip: Craving cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? The cafe is open until 5 p.m. most days.
Swing by Woodingdean Fish Bar for some fish and chips to enjoy on the beach
Eating fish and chips by the seaside is practically a British institution, and everyone should try it at least once.
Woodingdean Fish Bar is widely considered one of Brighton’s best “chippies,” and you can get cod, haddock, plaice, scampi, and sausages battered in crispy deliciousness. It also serves pasties (baked savory pastries) and burgers.
Tip: If you’re new to English chips (fries), make like a local and order them topped with peas or beans.
Garden Cafe Brighton is a natural haven with beautiful foliage and tasty offerings
Located just a few minutes from the train station, the Garden Cafe is a dreamy place to have a coffee, glass of wine, salad, or sandwich. Save room for the cafe’s delicious cakes.
As you eat and drink, you can take in all the beautiful plants hanging from the ceiling and walls.
Tip: If you see a plant you like, you can buy it and take it home with you.
Tantalize your taste buds with the wide variety of flavors at Boho Gelato
No trip to Brighton is complete without an obligatory ice-cream stop.
Boho Gelato is your best bet for mind-blowing flavor combinations like cardamom, coconut, and mango ripple; jam doughnut; or cold-brew coffee sorbet.
Everything is made using local milk and cream, and there are also vegan options available.
Tip: The shop has two locations in Brighton, one on Pool Valley and the other on Ship Street.
Experience a retro afternoon tea at Metrodeco
Metrodeco is a vintage-inspired tea room with quirky furniture and an eclectic menu that expands afternoon tea beyond finger sandwiches.
Visitors can expect sweet potato, cheddar, and chili muffins and Spanish tortillas alongside their cups of tea.
Tip: If you’re looking for something stronger than tea, the cocktails here are also impressive.
Celebrate something special at The Ivy in the Lanes
It’s almost impossible to convey the sheer splendor of a meal at The Ivy. I could easily spend my whole day there.
It’s full of vibrant and eclectic art that wouldn’t be out of place in a gallery or museum.
In addition to the awe-inspiring decor, there’s a brasserie-style menu that’s bursting with fresh seafood.
Tip: There’s also a heated terrace that allows diners to sit outside.
For a less extravagant meal, grab a burger at Grubbs
Grubbs on Western Street is a Brighton institution that has been open for over 40 years.
The restaurant is such a local spot that it doesn’t even have a website, but it offers a variety of burgers.
Tip: There are meat-free burgers on the menu for plant-based diners.
Egg & Spoon is the perfect place for a fun brunch
Brighton’s Egg & Spoon is a great brunch destination whether you’re craving dahl, kedgeree, pulled-pork enchiladas, or chili eggs.
Tip: The Kemptown cafe is also a local favorite for coffee and cake.
Get a taste of pub life at Hand in Hand
For a pub that has a “proper local” feel and an on-site microbrewery, stroll over to Hand in Hand.
It has friendly staff and unusual beers like toasted-coconut porter, cocoa nib, and oat-filled breakfast stout.
Tip: The owner Jennifer Left created a mini version of the pub on her bike and hand-delivered beer and chocolate-stout muffins to customers through the pandemic.
- Brighton is a fantastic destination for nightlife. Just note that clubbing has been off-limits in England amid COVID-19 restrictions.
- Brighton is more kid-friendly than you’d expect. Bring the kids and watch them fall in love with this amazing city, too.
- Don’t attempt to dine anywhere without booking in advance. Double-check websites and make reservations because COVID-19 restrictions make it harder to have a spontaneous meal.
- Brighton is doable in a day from London. The train is so seamless that I almost want to relocate to Brighton and do the reverse commute. But if you have more time, stay over. It’s a city that comes alive at night.
- England is famously wet and rainy. Bring suitable rain gear and waterproof shoes so you can still explore when a storm undoubtedly rolls in.