Brighton is the happiest city in the UK according to a recent poll. Having lived there for many years between travels we may be biased, but we are inclined to agree. It’s certainly a fun city to live in and not a place to take itself too seriously.
Alternative, cool and quirky, Brighton is situated snugly between the rolling hills of the South Downs on the Sussex coast. It’s about 30 miles from the more sedate Eastbourne and just a one hour journey from London by train. At any time of the year, but especially during the summer months, the city receives a constant flow of day trippers from the capital.
A Traditional Seaside City with a Alternative Twist
Of course, Brighton is traditionally known for its pebble beach, pier and fish n’ chips. However, if you want to experience the real Brighton, it’s worth staying a few days. The city’s unique and laid back charms will soon become apparent. Home to artists, bohemians and eco-warriors, this is no ordinary city by the sea.
Confirming its status as being forward thinking, Brighton boasts the country’s first Green Member of Parliament, first gay marriage, an annual naked bike ride and a long established nudist beach. This small metropolis is proudly unconventional.
North Laine – Brighton’s Spiritual Heart
The buzzing North Laine and slightly more southerly Lanes are a refreshing alternative to the onslaught of globalisation. Vintage fashion, kitsch galore, movie memorabilia and Native American artefacts can all be found in the labyrinth of streets. It’s a wonderful spot for people watching too. Sitting outside one of the many cafes sipping on a Frappuccino, you may catch sight of one or two of the city’s colourful characters.
The Flamboyant Royal Pavilion
The domes and minarets of the nearby Royal Pavilion appear to have been randomly transported from the exotic east. Built for the pleasure of the hedonistic King George IV, it is at once incongruous, yet fitting in this surprising city. Surrounded by gardens, it is also an ideal spot for a picnic on a sunny afternoon.
If you are thinking in terms of fish n’ chips for sustenance, then think again. There are more restaurants per head in Brighton, than in any other city outside London. From street food to high end innovative dining, everyone is catered for. Unsurprisingly, the city is also acknowledged as the vegetarian capital of South England. It doesn’t get any better than the award winning Terre-a-Terre – non-carnivores will think they have died and gone to veggie heaven.
To state that the city’s nightlife is diverse is an understatement. Whatever your scene, Brighton will provide. In LGBTTQ Kemp Town, the drag queens belt out show tunes at the bars, while the famous Club Revenge packs them in with its choice of dance floors and beats.
Lucky Voice is private karaoke, where waiters deliver cocktails to your booth between songs. The ever popular Funky Fish is an unpretentious club playing soul, funk, motown and jazz. Coalition is a club hidden within a labyrinth of tunnels and archways situated under the arches on Brighton Seafront. Top DJ’s play, dance, pop and techno. The Yellow Book is the city’s only steampunk venue and we have enjoyed many a good night out in the convivial pub. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Brighton’s reputation as a party town is fully deserved.
A Vibrant Live Music Scene
If you prefer your music live, you have come to the right place. A thriving scene with countless small venues, it is estimated that there are more than five hundred bands performing somewhere or other in the city on any given night of the week. The Great Escape, a festival held in May every year showcases up and coming talent from all over the world.
Entertainment in Brighton
The Komedia in the North Laine has a varied programme of entertainment from burlesque to folk music and everything in between. It also has a small cinema showing independent, foreign and mainstream films. The lovely Duke of York’s Picture House at Preston Circus is another Brighton gem. Opened in 1920, it shows a similar range of films in a quintessential setting. The Theatre Royal is a traditional venue which plays host to pre and post West End productions. Brighton Centre is the city’s largest multi-purpose venue where you can catch concerts, shows and sporting events.
Festivals of Brighton
An article about Brighton wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a few of the numerous annual events held in the city. Brighton festival the second largest festival in Great Britain is a celebration of art, music, theatre, dance, film and outdoor events. One of the highlights is when local artists open their homes to the public to exhibit their work. It is easy to spend a whole day wandering from house to house, with the occasional pause at a pub for refreshments. A perfect spring day in Brighton.
In early August, the Royal Pavilion is illuminated in pink and rainbow flags flutter throughout the city. Pride kicks off with a flamboyant parade through the streets and culminates in a huge party at Preston Park. The action then moves to Kemp Town, where festivities continue at a street party for the remainder of the weekend.
Burning the Clocks is a celebration of the winter solstice and a rebellion again modern day Christmas excess. It’s a magical display. A procession of residents carry over 2,000 handmade paper and willow lanterns through the city centre. On the beach, the lanterns are burnt on an enormous bonfire and a firework spectacular ensues. Just remember to take a flask of mulled wine to keep you warm.
As you would expect, much of the accommodation reflects the city’s fun loving attitude and Brighton is awash with Boutique hotels, each unique in their own way. The funky Snooze Guest House has vibrantly decorated rooms in a mixture of contemporary and vintage designs. At the Artist Residence, local artists have given each room a personality of its own. The hip and chic Pelirocco known as the original rock n’ roll hotel is inspired by popular culture.
So, by all means, come to the happiest city in the UK and indulge in an ice cream and a stroll along the prom, but don’t forget to delve a little deeper. There is another side to Brighton that day trippers just aren’t privy to.
Check out Ku’s app guide to Brighton published by Touchscreen Travels – a photograph-led guide on the best that Brighton has to offer. It consists of 141 images, 13,000 words and includes sections on neighbourhoods, sights, activities and places to eat & drink.
In the light of COVID-19, don’t forget to check out updated opening times and any changes on the individual websites. You can also have a look at Brighton and Hove Tourist Information for the latest updates and news related to COVID-19 in Brighton.