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Top things to do on a Brighton city break

Discover the best things to do in Brighton

Iconic Brighton is loud and proud. Sometimes known as ‘London by the sea’, this cosmopolitan coastal city is both a cultural and environmental powerhouse. With its endless pebble beaches, boutique shopping, Regency monuments and huge LGBTQ+ community, it’s no wonder why people from all over have been flocking to Brighton for hundreds of years. From gay-friendly clubs to seafront saunas, here are some of the best things to do on a Brighton city break.   

With restrictions easing across England, please continue to follow government guidance and remember to plan ahead and check attraction websites before travelling. Take a look at our top tips on how to escape the everyday responsibly to see how you can make the most out of your day trips and breaks. 

1

Step inside England’s most exotic palaces

Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion, a former royal residence built in 1787, as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent. A Chinese couple, a man and woman walking through the grounds with the domes, lattice screens and minarets of the pavilion in the

Built as a seaside retreat for King George IV (at the time Prince Regent), Brighton’s Royal Pavilion is one of the most dazzling buildings in the UK. Blending Regency grandeur with Indian architecture and Chinese-inspired interiors, this pleasure palace is not only packed with history but is a treat for the eyes too. Discover the Pavilion’s colourful past – from holiday home to World War I hospital – through its maze of restored rooms and exhibitions. See the elegant original 19th-century Chinese export wallpaper in Queen Victoria’s bedroom, admire the sumptuous saloon with its ornate furnishings and don’t miss the imposing dragon chandelier in the banqueting room. 

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See colourful clownfish, seahorses and rays at the world’s oldest aquarium. Sea Life, which originally opened its doors in 1872, is now home to over 5,000 underwater creatures from habitats around the world. Another must-see attraction is the British Airways i360. Glide up 450 feet in a spacious glass viewing pod to enjoy 360-degree views of Brighton, the South Downs and the coastline. Or enter an amazing museum of illusions at the Upside Down House. Walk on a ceiling, do handstands off the loo and take mind-boggling pictures to show your mates back home.

Find more of Brighton’s top attractions
2

Splash some cash on vintage fashion

North Laine

A birds eye view of the North Laine in Brighton with bunting and flowers.

Away from the amusement arcades and traditional seaside fair of Brighton’s promenade you’ll find a shopping paradise where you’re guaranteed to pick up something unique. North Laine is a bohemian bustle of criss-cross streets in Brighton’s cultural quarter and is home to a real mix of ethical, exotic and funky wares. Look out for Snoopers Attic, a vintage cult collective specialising in one-of-a-kind clothing, Jump The Gun, with its 1960s Mod apparel, and Beyond Retro, a sky-lit warehouse packed with over 10,000 unique fashion staples. You can even have your photo taken with your new purchases in Brighton’s only analogue photo booth.

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The Lanes, just south of North Laine, are also packed with independent shops and cute little cafés for your post-purchase pit stop. Made up of atmospheric alleyways and narrow streets lined with pretty 16th-century buildings, these former fishermen’s homes now house vintage emporiums, record stores and art studios. For more unique buys, head to Open Market, a vibrant covered market brimming with independent stalls, street food and boutique shops, where you can pick up some fresh nosh or buy your next read from a dinky bookshop.

Find more places to go shopping in Brighton
3

Learn about Brighton’s LGBTQ+ history

Brighton

Large graffiti depicting famous musicians and singers on facade of the Prince Albert Pub in The North Laines, Brighton, East Sussex.

Get under the skin of this seaside city’s history, heritage and downright out-there personality with a walking tour around a mixture of Brighton’s main sights and hidden corners. Only in Brighton! offer an insight into what makes Brighton unique, with their 90-minute fact-filled and tongue-in-cheek walk around the city. If you want to delve into the UK’s gay capital and its LGBTQ+ history, join their Piers and Queers tour, where you’ll get a lowdown on the Regency Dandies, Brighton’s political activism and even an Edwardian ‘drag king’.

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With an international reputation for its original street artwork, Brighton’s colourful corners are best seen on a self-guided street art tour. See a replica (the original has been sold) of Banksy’s ‘Kissing Policemen’ which adorns the wall of a pub near Brighton Station before stumbling across impressive graffiti scrawled on cable boxes, murals on the side of pubs and pictures painted on shopfronts. If you’ve got the kids in tow, treat them to a ride on the world’s oldest operating electric railway. Volk’s Electric Railway, kitted out with ornate old-school carriages, takes you on a slow trundle along the seafront, past lots of local sights, towards Brighton Marina.

Find more sightseeing tours in Brighton
4

Ride a rollercoaster on a traditional pier

Brighton Beach

Brighton Palace Pier, Brighton, East Sussex, England.

Hipster vibes aside, Brighton Beach and its seaside amusements have been this city’s biggest draw for centuries. If the weather’s in your favour, put a towel down anywhere on Brighton’s five-mile-long pebble beach and soak up the sun. If you’re not one to sit still for long, make your way to the Palace Pier to ride the dodgems, devour ice cream and spend all your 2ps on arcade games. Look out for the burnt-out West Pier, the ruined Victorian structure is a Brighton landmark and one of the best places to see Starling murmurations. We can smell the scent of fish and chips wafting through the air already!

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On a secluded part of Brighton Beach you’ll find Beach Box Spa, a year-round authentic Finnish sauna experience. Climb into a beautifully converted horse trailer and unwind in the heat before using the English Channel as a plunge pool. It’s a sauna-bathing experience you never knew you needed. East of Brighton Pier you may stumble across former fisherman Rory McCormack’s flint grotto. This unique art garden is full of huge stone sculptures inspired by historical and religious characters.

Find more things to do on Brighton Beach
5

Dig into Brighton’s most desirable dessert

The Salt Room

Afternoon tea at The Salt Room, Brighton, England

From veggie restaurants to beachfront brunches, Brighton is bursting at the seams with every type of culinary creation you can imagine. The Salt Room, one of the best restaurants in Brighton, is a modern British seafood restaurant with uninterrupted views of the seafront. It’s known for its dishes cooked over coal, but the desserts deserve your attention too. Dive into a sharing plate of British seaside classics with a twist, including homemade fudge, doughnuts, ice cream and candyfloss. Your sweet tooth will thank you.

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With so many flavours to try, pack them all into one meal on a Brighton Food Tour. Experience a selection of Brighton’s favourite foodie hotspots, and go off the beaten track to meet some of the city’s most exciting independent vendors, before trying some tasty samples. Or hop on board a Regency Routemaster for traditional afternoon tea (accompanied by a glass of bubbly if you’re feeling extra fancy) as you travel through the city, taking in the sights as you go.

Find more places to eat in Brighton
6

Potter around Brighton’s biggest museum

Brighton

Exterior of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Brighton is home to plenty of museums to feed your curiosity. One of the most famous is the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, located in a building that was intended as the Prince Regent’s tennis court. Inside you’ll find a mish-mash of treasures, from fine art to ancient Egyptian trinkets, Brighton seaside memorabilia to Art Deco furniture. For the kids, there’s downloadable trails and quizzes, and a dressing up box full of vintage costumes (cameras at the ready). Keep an eye out for the giant cat by the entrance that talks to you… but only if you cough up some pennies first.

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Relive your glory days at the Brighton Toy and Model Museum – a kitsch homage to the last century of toys. With more than 10,000 items on display, from Meccano kits to puppet theatres to incredible model railways, there’s enough to keep the little ones in awe for hours. Or visit the historic murder scene and holding place for infamous felons under Brighton’s town hall. Typically open between April and October, the Old Police Cells Museum gives you an insight into 200 years of local crime.

Find more museums in Brighton
7

Get involved in some impromptu karaoke

Shuffle

Entrance to Komedia in Brighton

With its historic music venues, wacky watering holes and cool coastal clubs, fun-loving Brighton has heaps of after-dark spots to suit your speed, style or scene. Hunker down in Shuffle, where the DJ for the night is, well, you. This quirky cocktail bar puts musical control in the hands of the punters, letting you pick songs from your phone to play on the retro jukebox. More often than not, you’ll end up starting an impromptu karaoke sesh.

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If you’re into theatrical drinks, make for Bohemia - a Gothic-style bar set over three floors, complete with stylish roof terrace. Or laugh your socks off at Komedia, Brighton’s premier live entertainment venue that hosts over 700 comedy, music and cabaret performances each year. If after a few drinks you’re still going strong, join the queue for Club Revenge, Brighton’s biggest LGBTQ+ nightclub. With regular appearances from international pop stars, DJs and drag queens, this award-winning club will have you dancing until morning.

Find more pubs and clubs in Brighton
8

Stay in the country’s quirkiest B&B

Hotel Pelirocco

Dollywould room at Hotel Pelirocco

Brighton’s eccentricity is what makes this East Sussex city so appealing, and its quirkiness doesn’t stop when you go to bed. Hotel Pelirocco – just one of Brighton’s jazzy boutique accommodations – is a rock’n’roll bed and breakfast with 19 individually themed rooms to choose from. Inspired by pop subcultures and maverick musicians, you can check in to the likes of Lord Vader’s Quarters, chock-a-block with Star Wars memorabilia and a cabin-style room dedicated to the country queen herself, Dolly Parton.

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Over in Brighton’s Kempton district, you’ll find award-winning guesthouse, Snooze. This funky hotel takes you back to the 1970s with its retro décor and vintage design, without compromising on luxury touches. Oh, and the breakfasts are brilliant too. For bubble baths with sea views, book a room at four-star Drakes, an uber-romantic hotel slap bang on Brighton’s seafront. Each room is furnished with handcrafted beds and free-standing feature baths perfect for indulgent soaks. If it’s good enough for Kylie Minogue (yep, she’s stayed here), it’s good enough for us.

Find more places to stay in Brighton
14 Jun 2021(last updated)

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  • 1

    Royal Pavilion

  • 2

    North Laine

  • 3

    Brighton

  • 4

    Brighton Beach

  • 5

    The Salt Room

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    Brighton

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    Shuffle

  • 8

    Hotel Pelirocco

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