Brighton - this super-cool city by the sea has something for everyone; from the arts and culture to clubbing and pubbing....
Brighton, or London by the Sea as it is sometimes known, has a little bit of something for everyone.
How to get there
Just half an hour’s drive from Gatwick Airport and an hour and ten minutes by train from London Victoria. Step out of Brighton Station and you can see the sparkling sea. Breath deep and smell that fresh, salty sea air.
What to see and do
A ten minute walk from the station down Queens Road takes you straight to the vibrant, holiday atmosphere of the promenade and Brighton’s infamous pebble beach. This is the fun area of town and under the promenade are many stalls selling homemade crafts, colourful prints and original pieces by home grown artists. Brighton rock, seafood, buckets, spades and ice cream and all the usual seaside paraphernalia can be found along the promenade and around the Kings Road Arches. A carousel lends that funfair vibe and when the sun is shining the bars, cafés and restaurants fill the air with happy chatter. Brighton Pier (www.brightonpier.co.uk; free admission) has a funfair, arcades, ghost train, bars and fast food – do beware the seagulls who’ll have your chips if you look away for so much as a second.
For those seeking something a little more upmarket The Lanes is a maze of narrow alleyways yielding a cornucopia of classy shops, restaurants and even the odd celebrity. Jewellery and antique shops, designer boutiques and gift shops predominate. A ghost walk is a different way to explore The Lanes – more than just a walk and talk, a polished and humorous excursion through the mists of Brighton’s dark and ghostly alleyways is led by Victorian attired Rob Marks on Wednesdays to Saturdays (www.ghostwalkbrighton.co.uk).
Brighton’s Theatre Royal is the leading live entertainment venue offering the best West End and touring productions from across the UK and a variety of its own productions. Nearby The Dome Theatre, which used to house the Prince Regent’s horses, hosts pop and classical concerts, comedy and dance (www.brightondome.org). Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, located next to The Dome, is a definite must see. Built for George IV as his seaside retreat, this is Brighton’s jewel in the crown, a visual Turkish delight. Domes, minarets and turrets are accentuated by clever night time lighting – pink during Gay Pride. Inside gets more exotic with a riot of Chinese opulence and chinoiserie, the ultimate in seaside pad luxury (www.royalpavilion.org.uk).
If your tastes are more eclectic head to the North Laines where the shopping is more bohemian; second-hand furniture, ornaments, vintage clothes, vinyl and an assortment of oddities and kitsch collectables are to be bargained for here. The bars and cafés are laid back, hip, arty and full of interesting characters – great for people watching. For entertainment it’s worth checking out The Komedia (www.komedia.co.uk) for an evening show, its café-style live entertainment consists of music, cabaret and its Krater Comedy Club hosts live laughs every weekend.
On the edge of Brighton's Kemp Town is the glamorous and decadent Brighton Ballroom, venue for a unique retro supper club. Situated in an historic, domed building (formely used as a mausoleum and gentleman's club - but not at the same time) the Ballroom hosts diverse cabaret, burlesque and other live entertainment. www.brightonballroom.com
I dare you not to visit Bill’s for a lesson in salivation i.e. lunch – a converted depot in North Road, (www.billsproducestore.co.uk), which houses a colourful grocery store and café overflowing with fresh produce, a riot of colours, aromas and amazing home cooked quiches, pizzas and salads.
In May the curtain goes up on Brighton’s annual arts festival and if you thought Brighton was buzzing before, during the festival it's positively throbbing with life, music and colour. Founded in 1966 the festival offers over 200 diverse events during this three week cultural extravaganza. World music, dance, theatre, children’s events, comedy, literature, sculpture, street theatre, artists’ open-houses, lunch-time concerts together with its fringe festival and fantastic firework finale keep Brighton Festival amongst the top in the UK’s cultural calendar (www.brightonfestival.org).
White Night - Brighton and Hove's all night cultural arts festival takes place on the Saturday that the clocks go back each October (this year it's on 30th). Well since we've been given an extra hour it'd be rude to waste it. Say so long to summer with a conucopia of street art, graffiti, drama, photography, music - even a midnight half marathon for the energetic, magical lantern bike rides across town and a veritable feast of foodie fusions. The theme this year is illumination. www.whitenightnuitblanche.com
Fancy getting all Christmassy? Dig out your muff and fuffly earwarmers because Brighton Pavilion will be the stunning backdrop to the town's first outdoor Christmas ice rink. Open 13 November - 16 January 10am-10pm. Tickets Adults £9.50 - £11 and children under 12 £6.50-£7.50 from Ticketmaster. Pop up bar, mulled wine and food all available.
Where to sleep
The Hotel Seattle offers contemporary and stylish accommodation at Brighton Marina, with its bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs (Karma Club) close at hand and about a mile and a half from the town centre. Décor in cool, calm colours. From £150 per double room B&B in high season.
Hotel du Vin Brighton is a boutique hotel in The Lanes and a stone's throw from the beach. Unique, mock Tudor building with sumptuous, cosy rooms. From £170 B&B in high season (better rates can be found on late booking websites). Good bistro restaurant downstairs with elegant bar and better than usual wine list.
Where to eat
The Gingerman (21a Norfolk Square; 01273 326688; www.gingermanrestaurants.com) is a small and inviting restaurant on the Brighton/Hove border. Simple, uncomplicated, delicious, full-flavoured food made from the freshest, high quality seasonal produce. One of my favourite restaurants and always a real treat to eat here.
Browns (3-4 Duke Street; 01273 323501; www.browns-restaurants.co.uk). This is the original Browns, which opened in the 70s, and has been a favourite of mine for many years. Classic food in a stylish setting – close to The Lanes.
Due South (139a Kings Road Arches, 01273 821218; www.duesouth.co.uk) A fantastic view, delicious food - locally sourced and expertly cooked. Don't leave without trying the delectable brown butter ice-cream.