Chirpy seafront bars, homely real ale pubs, swish cocktail joints staffed by supercool mixologists – whatever floats your boat, you’ll probably find it in this most convivial of cities.
You’re never more than a street or two from a pub or a bar in Brighton. There are fantastic neighbourhood locals all over the city, and an impressive concentration in the city centre. Some pubs and bars double as galleries and restaurants, others tempt families with gardens, plates of hearty nosh and jars of sweets behind the bar. Standing firm among the more modish hangouts are a healthy number of splendid Victorian hostelries. There are even some creaky old boozers which date back to the 1700s, when the town was a busy stagecoach stop.
As soon as the first rays of summer hit the beach, you’ll have to be quick to grab any of the outdoor tables at the bars on the Lower Esplanade. But if you’re after something a little more flavoursome than a pint of lager in a plastic beaker, you’re better off looking elsewhere anyway. Try the Lanes and the North Laine: they’re stuffed with great little watering holes.
The locals’ favourite for a quiet pint of Harvey’s bitter in central Brighton is The Basketmakers Arms, a cosy, traditional spot where the beer is expertly kept and the walls are decorated with old tobacco tins and other oddments. I know people who have been dropping in here just about every weekend for the last 20 years.
Another fine choice for fans of British bitter is The Evening Star, which always has several real ales on tap, made in its own off-site brewery. If you like a chaser with your pint, you’ll love The Great Eastern. It’s famous for offering a huge range of whiskies, including around 40 different bourbons.
One of the coolest places for a cocktail is currently Merkaba, a swish designer hangout with a beautifully lit, curvy interior. You’re guaranteed a glass full of something special in the front room at Drakes of Brighton, the city’s smoothest boutique hotel. For a taste of the South Pacific, sashay down to Lola Lo, which whips up Polynesian-inspired rum concoctions.
Brighton’s best pubs and cocktail bars
- The Basketmakers Arms - 39 Cheltenham Place, Brighton BN1 4AB; +44 1273 689006; www.thebasketmakersarms.co.uk
- Drakes of Brighton - 43-44 Marine Parade, Brighton BN2 1PE; +44 1273 696934; www.drakesofbrighton.com
- The Evening Star - 55-56 Surrey Street, Brighton BN1 3PB; +44 1273 328931; www.eveningstarbrighton.co.uk
- The Great Eastern - 103 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 4ER; +44 1273 685681; www.pleisure.com
- Lola Lo - 75-79 East Street, Brighton BN1 1NF; +44 1273 777904; www.lolalobrighton.com
- Merkaba - 17 Jubilee Street, Brighton BN1 1GE; +44 1273 900300; www.merkababrighton.com
Visit my overview on Brighton nightlife or read my other guides: Nightlife in Brighton: stage, street and screen culture and Nightlife in Brighton: the best clubs and gigs.
Where to stay
For a full list of my recommendations on where to stay in Brighton, see Brighton Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Brighton.