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Things to do in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex

The city of Brighton and Hove is a popular seaside resort in Sussex, best known for its pier, shops, beach and Royal Pavilion.

It is made up of Brighton, Hove and Portslade along with several other villages which were gradually absorbed into the local authority boundary.

While Brighton has a lively festival atmosphere, Hove is the quieter western side of the city.

Brighton Beach and Madeira Drive on a bright sunny day
Brighton Beach and Madeira Drive ©Shutterstock /Steve Mann

The start of Hove is marked on Brighton beachfront by the Peace Statue.

Brighton boasts a mixture of elegant Regency architecture, Victorian attractions and a unique royal heritage along with the usual seaside fun.

From The Lanes shops and cafés to the Brighton Wheel visitors are sure to find something delightful to enjoy at this fun filled resort.

Regency Terraces - built in the early 19th Century Regency Period.
Regency Terraced Houses ©Shutterstock /donsimon

The mild winters, early springs and sunny summers make Brighton a popular year-round destination for visitors. It is a successful conference destination with excellent facilities at the Brighton Centre and the Corn Exchange, and it hosts many festivals throughout the year.

Popular with couples, families and the gay community, Brighton remains a trendy resort with impressive landmarks, excellent restaurants and a vibrancy that makes its stand out head and shoulders above other south coast seaside resorts.

Areas to Explore

Ornate Brighton Bandstand illuminated at night
Bandstand at Night ©Shutterstock /Phil MacD Photography

The Old Steine is a major hub of the city, connecting the city centre with the pier and seafront. The eastern side of Old Steine is known as Kemptown and is the centre of Brighton's gay community.

The pedestrianized Lanes are the historic part of the city. These old fishermen's cottages line narrow alleyways and are a charming area of antique shops, art galleries, boutiques and gift shops along with many tea rooms and restaurants.

North Laine is the north part of the city and has a distinctly arty, bohemian atmosphere. Punks, Goths and Hippies hang out around shops selling everything from water pipes to organic beer.

Things to Do

The Royal Pavilion is a magnificent white palace with oriental domes and ornate loggias.

Panorama of the Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion ©Shutterstock /Dmitry Naumov

Inside it is beautifully furnished and lavishly decorated in Chinoiserie style.

Take a guided tour to learn more about the remarkable highlights of this unique palace which attracts over 400,000 visitors each year.

The Lanes is a delightful area of cobblestone alleyways which are perfect for browsing for artworks, jewellery, gifts and souvenirs. There is an excellent if somewhat unconventional chocolate shop on Duke Street called Choccywoccydoodah!

Enjoy a touch of culture with a visit to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery which has excellent exhibits and artworks from international artists.

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery ©Shutterstock /Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB

As a nod to this former fishing port, sample fresh seafood from the stalls on the seafront just west of the pier. Old fashioned stands sell traditional cockles, oysters and mussels as well as tasty fish soup and crab sandwiches.

You can download your own self-guided walking tour from GPSmycity. Historians will appreciate the Brighton Historical Places Tour which includes the pier, Brighton Museum, the Pavilion, Theatre Royal, Duke Street and more.

Scenic pleasure flights over Brighton are a surprisingly affordable way to get superb aerial views of the city, coastline, Seven Sisters and even the Isle of Wight on longer flights. Flights depart from Shoreham Airport and last 25 minutes or longer.

The Bluebell Steam Railway is one of Brighton's most popular attractions. Located on the outskirts of the city at Haywards Heath, the large collection of restored steam engines and memorabilia can be admired in the museum. Steam train rides run between East Grinstead and Sheffield Park stations.

Brighton on a Budget

View of people on Brighton Beach, with the line of white hotels and apartments behind
The Beach ©Shutterstock /Kamira

Brighton's pebble beach is a great place to relax and catch the sun, paddle or swim at low tide when the sandy bottom is revealed just below the tideline.

The landmark Clock Tower on the seafront was erected to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1888. Another interesting Victorian legacy is the fountain which was constructed in 1846 to mark Queen Victoria's 27th birthday. The cascade has two huge bronze bowls supported by fish.

Church in Brighton, Sussex, England
©Shutterstock /Viadislav Gajic

Another of Brighton's interesting architectural gems is St Bartholomew's Church, one of the tallest churches in Europe.

Its giant structure and interesting decoration make this a fascinating place to explore and donations will help save it from closure.

Beachy Head is a popular clifftop location which is perfect for enjoying a picnic on a sunny day.

Take a walk or cycle ride along Undercliff Path which runs from Brighton Marina to Saltdean with gorgeous sea views. Devil's Dyke is a National Trust property for walkers with a deep valley and panoramic rural views.

Fabrica is a contemporary art gallery within a renovated church on Ship Street. Entrance is free and artworks on display are by international artists.

Visiting with Kids

Palace Pier with the Brighton Sea Front and Big Wheel in the background
Palace Pier ©Shutterstock /Steve Mann

Brighton Pier is a fun attraction for families. It is one of the most visited attractions in the UK with stunning coastal and sea views, a fun fair with a roller-coaster, video games, arcades and a restaurant.

The Hove Lagoon is a wonderful centre for all types of watersports from sailing to jet skiing. If surfing is more your thing, head to the beach beyond the marina where the best waves can be found.

The Sealife Centre is the oldest aquarium in the world. It boasts one of the longest underwater observatory tunnels for viewing the fantastic array of marine life.

Sign to the Old Penny Arcade Museum
Penny Arcade Museum ©Shutterstock /Brian S

The Museum of Penny Slot Machines is fun for all ages, although the exhibits are of significant historic importance. Older visitors can enjoy a nostalgic trip down memory lane while youngsters can marvel at the wonders of the pre-video games era.

Ride the Volk Railway along the sea front and appreciate this electric railway which is over 130 years old!

If you find yourself in Brighton on a Saturday morning, take the family along to the Duke of York's Cinema Kid's Club and see what's going on.

History of Brighton

The ancient Saxon settlement of Brighton predates the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was listed as Brighthelmstone with a rent of 4,000 herring.

The famous Regency Royal Pavilion reflected in an ornamental pond
The Royal Pavilion ©Shutterstock /donsimon

Much of the old fishing village was destroyed when French raiders set fire to the thatched wooden buildings in 1514.

The only surviving architecture was part of St Nicholas Church and fishermen's cottages in The Lanes.

It was a fairly typical coastal settlement until the Prince Regent, later King George IV, built the Royal Pavilion as a royal seaside residence in the 1780s.

Georgian terraces were built as Brighton developed into a fashionable health resort for sea bathing. The arrival of the railway in 1841 made Brighton very accessible from London.

During the Victorian period, many grand hotels and attractions were built including the Grand Hotel and several piers.

Neighbouring Hove was also a fishing village between the 16th and 18th centuries while the villages of Portslade and West Blatchington had manor houses, farms and windmills.

Hove expanded in Victorian times with tree-lined boulevards, hotels, parks and a brewery. It merged with Brighton in the 1950s.

Brighton Big Wheel which originally came from South Africa
Big Wheel ©Shutterstock /Steve Mann

As Brighton expanded it incorporated many outlying areas such as Whitehawk, Moulscoomb and Bevendean.

They became suburbs of Brighton and Hove which received city status as part of the Millennium celebrations.

Recent history includes the founding of Sussex University at Brighton in 1962 and the IRA bombing of the Conservative Party Conference at the Grand Hotel in 1984.

Brighton's West Pier collapsed in the storms of December 2002 and the Palace Pier was damaged by fire in 2003. The latter has since been restored as the sole survivor of Brighton's Victorian piers.

Fun Facts

  • Brighton is one of the UK's Top 5 tourist destinations and attracts around 8 million tourists every year.
  • Brighton has been voted the UK's happiest city and the UK's coolest city by a YouGov survey!
  • It is often referred to as the "Gay Capital of Britain."
  • There are over 400 pubs in Brighton and Hove.
  • Brighton racecourse runs along Wilson Avenue. On full-length race days, turf has to be laid over the tarmac and the road is temporary closed!
  • Celebrity residents include musician Noel Gallagher, boxer Chris Eubank and actress Cate Blanchett.
  • Brighton and Hove Chess Club was founded in 1842 and is one of the oldest chess clubs in the UK.
  • Brighton's Sealife Centre opened in 1872 and is the oldest aquarium in the world.
  • Volk's Electric Railway runs along the seafront. Built in 1883 it is the oldest electric railway in the world.
  • The Hove constituency is considered a bellwether of political trends.
  • The London to Brighton Car Run is the world's longest running motoring event

Popular Events and Festivals

Brighton's festival season kicks off with the Science Festival in February followed by the Sussex Beer Festival in Hove, the health-orientated VegFestUK and the Chocolate Festival in March.

Motor car owners relax on the seafront after completing the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally
London to Brighton Veteran Car Rally ©Shutterstock /Steve Mann

The Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival in April showcases local growers and producers while families are entertained at the Children's Festival.

May sees the biggest and boldest arts event for this creative arts community with the Brighton Festival in May along with the Brighton Fringe Festival featuring comedy, drama, cabaret, concerts and artists' Open Houses. The Great Escape at the end of the month is Europe's leading new music festival.

June is Brighton Fashion Week attracting international attention to the emporium and catwalk shows. Paddle Around the Pier is part of the July Brighton Beach Festival, and the Brighton Kite Festival makes a colourful spectacle for visitors.

The historic Brunswick area of Hove hosts its own Brunswick Festival in August with a mixture of food, theatre and jazz followed later in the month by the Brighton Racecourse August Festival. Summer Pride is a major LGBT festival followed by the Bright Art Fair.

Things scarcely slowdown in autumn as October has a month-long City Reads Literary Festival, the Brighton Comedy Festival and two music festivals featuring Early Music and Sacred Music.

Crowds line the route for the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in November and the unique Burning of the Clocks celebrates the Winter Solstice prior to Christmas.

Getting Around

Brighton's attractions are widespread. Explore the seafront and main shops on foot or use the extensive Brighton and Hove Bus Service to reach other parts of the city. A one-day City Saver bus ticket offers unlimited travel for around £4.60. You can purchase the ticket from the driver or as an add-on when you purchase a rail ticket.

Fishing Museum on Brighton Sea Front
Fishing Museum ©Shutterstock /Igor Matic

Big Lemon buses run around the city centre fueled by waste cooking oil! They are a cheap alternative and are widely used by students.

There are several cycle hire options in Brighton such as Amsterdammers which operates from Brighton Railway Station. Rent by the hour or by the day from £7. There are cycle lanes and cycle parking across the city.


Brighton and Hove have a good balance of small independent shops and large shopping centres. Churchill Square Shopping Centre is considered one of the best malls in South England while Brighton Marina includes excellent factory outlet stores and markets.

Brighton Marina on a cloudy day
The Marina ©Shutterstock /Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB

The delightful Regent Arcade Shopping Centre is situated in the Lanes area and has many fashion boutiques and High Street stores.

The popular Lanes district in the heart of Brighton has many historic narrow passageways lined with 17th century fishermen's cottages which now house cafés, art galleries, antique and gift shops.

There are many markets around Brighton and Hove including the well-known Open Market between Ditching and London Roads. Dating back to 1926, it now includes a covered area and has over 90 workshop units.

Along with fresh produce, food and art works, shoppers can enjoy plenty of street entertainment and buskers. The Sunday Market takes place on Brighton Station car park and is a giant flea market with many car boot traders.

Entertainment and Nightlife

Brighton is renowned as one of the best places on the South Coast for its music scene and nightclubs. It offers everything from house music to bubblegum dancing and the nightclubs attract some of the biggest names on the DJ circuit.

Visitors on the sea front at brighton on a sunny day
The Sea Front ©Shutterstock /Kamira

Brighton Dome and the Brighton Centre offer great music while the Theatre Royal, Pavilion Theatre and Corn Exchange offer some top shows.

Head to Komedia for a fun-filled evening of laughter or take in the latest movie at the Duke of York's Picturehouse.

Where to Eat

The range of places to eat in Brighton is wide, from quaint tea rooms in The Lanes to excellent restaurants in luxury hotels along the seafront. They serve hearty English breakfasts through to gourmet dining in the evening.

The King and Queen pub on Marlborough Street is a faux mediaeval tavern decorated with portraits of England's kings and queens. Popular with students, it has traditional pub food along with live music and karaoke in the evenings.

If you want to rub shoulders with Brighton's rich and famous, book a table at the historic Havana restaurant which is part of the Theatre Royal.

Brighton Beach - pebbles, fun fair rides and striped deck chairs
The Beach ©Shutterstock /donsimon

For casual dining in Hove, try La Cave à Fromage on Western Road which has wonderful cheese platters and wine pairings. Further along the road there are many other international cuisines including African and Middle Eastern restaurants.

Where to Stay

Luxury: The top place to stay in Brighton is the sumptuous De Vere Grand Hotel right on the seafront on King's Road. Well-appointed rooms have luxurious amenities and prices usually include breakfast.

Mid-priced: Try the New Steine Hotel for modern comforts in a central location, close to the Palace Pier and The Lanes for dining and shopping.

Economy: The 12-room Cecil House Hotel is close to the beach and has sea and city views, WiFi access and a bar/restaurant.

Family Choice: The Hilton offers family rooms with additional rollaway beds. Refrigerators and tea/coffee makers are in all rooms and kids will enjoy being right across the road from the beach.

Brighton is a lively destination for all types of visitors in all seasons. From walks along the promenade to the latest cultural entertainment, a weekend or a longer stay in Brighton is sure to keep you well entertained.

Check out our other article on Brighton:

Romantic things to do in Brighton


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By Air:

Gatwick Airport is just 25 minutes by train from Brighton. Luton Airport is further away but does have direct rail links with Brighton.

By Road:

Brighton is easy to reach along the M23 from London, or along the A27 south coast road. However, it is a very busy city traffic-wise and parking is expensive. Drivers may want to use one of the park and ride options or consider parking at Worthing or Lewes and taking the train into Brighton.

By Rail:

Southern and First Capital Connect trains run to Brighton from Hastings, Portsmouth, Worthing, Lewes, London Victoria and London Bridge stations. There are also direct rail connections to Brighton from Gatwick and Luton airports.


Much of Brighton's car parking spaces are reserved for permit holders with a few on-street pay and display parking spaces. Main car parks are:

  • Black Lion Street (355 spaces)
  • Blackman Street (275 spaces)
  • Regency Square (507 spaces)

The easiest way to visit Brighton if you are unfamiliar with the area is to use the Park and Ride facility at the Withdean Sports Complex, BN1 5JD. The bus service runs every 15 minutes during the day and every 30 minutes in the evenings and Sundays. It stops at Churchill Square; on North Street for The Lanes; at Brighton Station and at several points along Marine Parade including the Sea Life Centre.

Parking is free and the bus fare is £4.60. The ticket is valid for unlimited travel on all Brighton and Hove buses for the day.


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