Nightlife in Brighton: perfect pints and creative cocktails

by BrightonExpert

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

More nightlife

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.

BrightonExpert

My career as a travel writer for national newspapers, magazines and big-name guidebook companies takes me all over the world – trekking in the Congo Basin one month, café-hopping in Sydney the next – but there’s something about Brighton that keeps pulling me home. It’s now been my base for over ten years.

There's more about me on my website: www.emmagregg.com

My Brighton

The things I like best about Brighton – apart from its fantastic location, of course – are its quirkiness and its sense of fun. It’s easily the UK’s most colourful coastal city.

Where I always grab a coffee: My favourite rainy-day café is Redroaster on St James Street in Kemptown – the owners are fanatical about quality coffee, and it shows. When the sun’s out, you can’t beat The Meeting Place in Hove, a down-to-earth spot right next to the sparkling sea.

My favourite stroll: I adore Brighton’s open spaces and big skies. Best of all are the seafront promenade – glorious at any time of year – and the gigantic pebble beach.

Shopaholics beware: There’s always something new in the North Laine, the grid of streets southeast of the station. With rows of one-of-a-kind boutiques, vintage stores, gift shops and organic food suppliers, it’s the heart of bohemian Brighton, and thoroughly addictive.

The perfect pint: In a city that’s positively stuffed with good pubs, The Basketmakers Arms on Gloucester Road is one of the best – cosy, characterful and central, with great beer on tap.

The place to be seen: The Brighton Ballroom (formerly The Hanbury) on St George’s Road in Kemptown has reinvented itself as a wonderfully eccentric little music, cabaret and dance venue. It hosts everything from indie bands to 1930s-style jazz nights and saucy burlesque parties.

The most breathtaking view: On the sunniest, calmest days of summer, it’s great to head down to the beach for a swim. Strike out, turn around, and you see the Regency seafront stretched out like a ribbon. It has to be one of the most beautiful views in Britain.

Don’t leave without… treating yourself to a pile of luscious fish and chips on Brighton Pier.