Leisure and pleasure are Brighton’s raisons d’être. Ever since the profligate Prince Regent swaggered down here in 1783 with his motley entourage, Brighton’s reputation as a good-time town has only continued to grow.
Throughout its history, from the arrival of the future George IV to its modern-day status as Britain’s hippest city, via the inns and bathing machines of the Regency period (an era which the YHA Brighton building dates from), the cheap tattle of the Victorian day-trippers, the mods and rockers of the 1960s, and the kiss-me-quick and candy floss of the beachgoers, Brighton has always been about the good life. Here are our favourite ways to enjoy a grown-up(ish) weekend in the seaside city.
Rise up i360
Emerging phoenix-like from the ashes of the West Pier, the i360 is now a fixture on the promenade. Created by the designers of the London Eye, it grants views of up to 50 miles and stands as the tallest moving observation tower in the world. Visitors arrive through the original Victoria tollbooths before boarding a large glass pod (big enough for 170 people) and taking a 25 minute ‘flight’. As well as Brighton itself, you’ll see the South Downs, the Seven Sisters and sometimes even the Isle of Wight. It’s an impressive way to start a Brighton trip…and civilised too: there’s a bar serving local sparkling wines and beer.
Design at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
The Royal Pavilion is, quite rightly, the museum that everyone goes away talking about – an unmissable jumble of caprice and whimsy with influences from all over the world. The Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is more restrained, but should definitely not be overlooked. It showcases some superb art and explores the history of the city, but for us, it’s the galleries dedicated to 20th Century Art & Design, Fashion & Style and the Willett’s Popular Pottery that particularly resonate. Tracing the major design styles of the last century from Arts and Crafts to surrealism, you can see how the avant-garde eventually works its way into daily life.
Eat your way around the world
With more than 500 restaurants and cafés in the city, you can eat pretty much every cuisine in the world here. On Preston Street alone you’ll find foods from dozens of countries. The city has also upped its game for fine dining over the last five years with buzzy restaurant openings such as 64 Degrees (Kimchi chicken wings with blue cheese? Yes please), etch., Pike & Pine and the locally sourced delights at Isaac At. And don’t forget Terre à Terre (pictured above), one of the country’s best vegetarian restaurants. Craft beer is also taking over the city. Brighton Bier’s de facto taproom Brighton Bierhaus now joins the Brighton Beer Dispensary, the Evening Star and the North Laine Brewhouse as the best places to get great beer.
Time for a run
After a night on the town, nothing clears the cobwebs like a run along Brighton & Hove’s seafront. It’s a great way to get your bearings too. There are miles upon miles to explore by foot or bike: from the Western Lawns at the far end of Hove, there’s a clear run east along the promenade, passing the i360 and the West Pier, then the Palace Pier, before heading under the Kemp Town area and on to Brighton Marina. If you’re really energetic, keep jogging east to rise above the white chalk cliffs towards Saltdean. Be careful though – that’s a big drop into the English Channel…
Brighton is a place that celebrates the counterculture, the independent, the idiosyncratic. That’s true whether you’re talking about the arts scene or the retail offering. An afternoon of café-hopping, vinyl-shopping, vintage-hunting and fashionfinding is probably Brighton’s biggest attraction. Many of the most interesting shops are based around the North Laine, a bustling maze of narrow streets that’s home to more than 400 independent boutiques, flea markets, bookshops, cafés and pubs. It was an area that once teemed with slums and slaughterhouses but is now Brighton’s alternative heart. Afterwards, cross Western Road to The Lanes, Brighton’s labyrinthine jewellery quarter.
Brighton rocks to its own beat. Whether it’s the bass-heavy clubs along the seafront, the gay clubs towards Kemp Town, or the live music venues dotted around the city, the nightlife here is legendary. Fatboy Slim, Brighton’s resident superstar DJ, also plays regular events in the city. And alongside the squall of guitars and the boom of dance speakers, Brighton also excels in theatre and comedy, with dozens of dedicated venues. The cornerstone event of the year is the world renowned Brighton Festival, directed in recent years by names such as Kate Tempest, Laurie Anderson and Anish Kapoor.
Peter Cant, Deputy Manager at YHA Brighton chooses his three essential attractions.
Royal Pavilion – If you think that building is mad from the outside, you should see the inside!
Brighton Festival – The whole of May is dedicated to the Brighton Festival, as well as the Fringe Festival and the Great Escape music event.
Brighton and Hove Pride – The country’s biggest Pride festival takes over the city on a weekend in August (this year from the 3rd to 5th) with a parade through the streets.
Originally published by YHA England & Wales