Just an hour’s train ride from London, Brighton is a popular weekend retreat – and for good reason. But despite the tourists, there are still some sweet little spots to explore and with its unbeatable seafront location, pretty boutique-filled alleyways and great foodie scene – this bohemian seaside town still has much to offer the discerning city slicker looking to escape the big smoke. Here we share our top picks on what to do, see and eat in the area.
1. The beach
Arriving in town after a sweltering day in the city, we headed straight for the beach to throw our hot, weary bodies in the sea. Summer or otherwise, the beach is unsurprisingly one of Brighton’s main draws – the smooth pebbles dotted with brightly coloured deck chairs and seagulls aplenty. We stopped only for a swim and pre-supper beer – drying off in the warm evening sun before heading on out – but there’s plenty enough to entertain you, with a wander down the Palace Pier stopping in for fish n’ chips shops along the way and a ’99 ice cream for afters.
2. Eating out
Since we were celebrating, I decided to splash out and booked us a table at the rather smart restaurant – The Salt Room. Set right on the front and serving predominantly seafood, we enjoyed beautifully fresh fish, washed down with crisp, white wine as the sun set before us. Other recommendations we received included 64 Degrees a cosy spot serving small sharing plates and great wines up in the Lanes (be sure to book ahead), Food for Friends – an award winning vegetarian restaurant also in the Lanes, Plateau – an organic wine bar serving tasty tapas treats and La Choza for affordable Mexican street food.
After dinner we headed round the corner to The Cocktail Shack. Serving a fab range of quite inventive cocktails to the sounds of reggae and ska – we enjoyed a night cap or two at the cool bar, built from wood salvaged from the fallen West Pier before rolling home to bed. If you’re after more of a crawl, we hear these are also good – Dandelion up in the Lanes offers a great selection of botanical-based cocktails and a rather popular happy hour and The Plotting Parlour on Steine Street for fab service. If you’re more of a pub person – The Basketmakers (try a mini Guiness!) and Hand in Hand are favourites with locals.
We awoke the next morning to foggy skies (and heads), so headed out for a little retail therapy. Brighton makes for a great shopping destination with plenty of great independent stores as well as all the high street classics. Lose yourself in Brighton’s infamous Lanes – packed full of great little boutiques, jewellers and vintage treasure troves. Whilst p’raps a little twee in some parts there are still gems to be found and plenty of sweet little coffee shops to refuel along the way.
Sadly our trip didn’t coincide with any of Brighton’s numerous festivals but we’ll certainly be making a return visit. May is a particularly big month here – with the Brighton Festival offering a line up of shows, talks, films and debates and the Brighton Fringe Festival boasting free and paid-for art, theatre and music events across the city, throughout the month. May also brings with it The Great Escape – a multi venue music festival that runs over a weekend mid-month and the lovely Artist Open Houses festival (also runs in November/December) that allows people to visit artists in their own studios buy work directly from them. Elsewhere in the year, there’s the London to Brighton Bike Ride in June, the Brighton Art Fair and Together The People and arts festival in September and the Brighton Food Festival in April/May.
See our full collection of boutique hotels in Brighton here.
There are frequent direct trains from London to Brighton leaving from London Victoria (under an hour), London Bridge (1 hour) and Kings Cross St Pancras (1 hour 30 minutes). If you are driving, more information on parking can be found here. The nearest major airport to Brighton is London Gatwick (around 45km away) and there are direct trains to/from the airport.