How to spend the perfect long weekend in buzzing Brighton

Britain’s quintessential kiss-me-quick seaside resort has history, culture and cool credentials by the spadeful and it’s perfect for a cheeky weekend away by the sea.

Tucked over the South Downs on England’s south coast, Brighton is the British seaside city with a hedonistic reputation. Don’t be fooled by the cliché though because there’s plenty more beyond the fun, including a multi-million-pound beachfront regeneration, thriving independent shopping scene, quiet leafy neighbourhoods to wander around and under-the-radar cultural gems to discover. Not to mention its exciting dining scene, healthy dose of Regency-era charm and British seaside nostalgia. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in the coastal city.  


Check in to: Artist Residence, a charming 24-room boutique hotel inside two Regency-era townhouses on a historic square. It’s equally well located for seafront escapism and city centre adventures. Inside it’s a maze of cosy rooms with bohemian décor that blends original and vintage features like wooden floors, exposed brick walls and slouchy well-worn sofas with modern luxuries like rain showers and roll-top baths.  

Explore: Start with a stroll on the seafront, lined with Regency-era townhouses and modern buildings. Even on wet-weather days, it’s spectacular to watch the waves crash onto the pebbled shore beneath a moody sky. The lonely skeleton of the distant West Pier, which closed to the public in 1975 and has since falled into disrepair, is a constant reminder of Brighton’s seaside heyday. 

West Pier in Brighton from beach (Image: Steve Buckley/Shutterstock)Steve Buckley/Shutterstock

Get a heady panoramic view: Take a flight up the British Airways i360, a 531 foot-high (162m) observation tower – complete with spaceship-like glass viewing pod – for city, South Downs and English Channel views. No head for heights? Learn about the heritage of the ruined West Pier at the West Pier Centre through historic photos and modern artwork.  

Have a late lunch at: Shelter Hall. An exciting seafront gastro hub, this vibrant street food market is set inside a once-derelict Victorian waiting hall and opened last year. Grab a table on the outside terrace, balcony or inside and tuck into food from one of seven kitchens hosted by chefs from around Sussex.  

Take a stroll: Meander towards the end of the promenade, just before the Brighton Palace Pier, to an area known as the Artists’ Quarter. It’s home to lots of little galleries that are lovely to browse. Atelier Beside the Sea is one of the newest and largest, home to a gallery and shop that sells beautiful pieces by local makers. 

Savour seaside nostalgia: Scoff sweet-scented candy floss as you stroll along the boardwalk of Brighton Palace Pier. Built in 1899, it is one of the oldest pleasure piers in the UK. The crowd-averse should visit on weekday mornings when it’s at its quietest. At dusk in autumn and winter, throngs of starlings can be seen performing their murmuration dance above the pier.  

Brighton Palace Pier starling murmation (Image: Brightonpics/Shutterstock)Brightonpics/Shutterstock

For a relaxing seafront dinner: Stop at The Copper Clam, an overlooked, unpretentious seafood restaurant. Platters of fresh local shellfish are impressively presented. If it’s raining, the upstairs arched window overlooking the seafront is the place to grab a table.  


Get a culture fix: After a coffee and pastry at Pelicano on Sydney Street, head to the Royal Pavilion, a five-minute walk away in Brighton’s Cultural Quarter. This exuberant party palace is the jewel in Brighton’s Regency cultural crown. It was built in three stages, starting in 1787, as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who became the Prince Regent in 1811 and eventually King George IV in 1820.  Go inside to discover its rich history and interiors.

Brighton Pavilion (Image: Dan Breckwoldt/Shutterstock)Dan Breckwoldt/Shutterstock

Eat: Have a picnic lunch in the Royal Pavilion Gardens or grab a cuppa and a snack at the Pavilion Gardens Café. This lovely family-run place has a fascinating history and is set inside a former seafront refreshment hut that dates back to the 1930s. 

Go vintage shopping: Apart from the odd chain shop, Brighton’s North Laine area remains almost completely independent. It’s the perfect place to spend the early afternoon pottering around bookshops, antique shops and boutiques. On Kensington Gardens, Snoopers’ Paradise is a rambling emporium of retro and vintage finds you could easily lose hours in. 

Escape the crowds: on a walk around the off-the-radar neighbourhood of Seven Dials near Brighton Station. Some of the most beautiful homes in the city are here, alongside two cultural curiosities: Anna’s Museum, a tiny natural history collection in a shop window, and Dog and Bone Gallery, the city’s smallest gallery set inside two tomato-red London phone boxes.   

Grab an early dinner at: Bincho Yakitori, a buzzy postage-stamp-sized Japanese tapas restaurant on Preston Street. Go for the crispy, piping hot karaage (fried chicken) and plum wine served over ice, then you’re all set for some giggles at the comedy club Komedia on Gardner Street.  


Unwind at the sauna: After a weekend soaking up the culture and pounding the pavements, a session at the Beach Box Sauna Spa on the seafront near Kemptown is a treat. It’s a traditional Scandinavian-style sauna experience approved by the Swedish Sauna Academy. It’s open year-round and features wood-fired saunas set inside converted horse boxes, a plunge pool, cold showers and a fire pit with various natural body treatments to try.  

Your final afternoon in Brighton is best spent tucking into a Sunday roast in one of the city’s many traditional pubs, (the Sussex Yeoman or The Basketmakers Arms are good options) reflecting on the fun you’ve had. 

Getting there and around 

The best way to get to Brighton is by rail. Southern and Thameslink have regular services that link Brighton with London and Cambridge. For more information on Brighton, visit the Brighton tourist board. 

Like this? Now find out how to have a fun weekend in Folkestone.

Main image: He Drones/Shutterstock


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