Brighton’s charms are no secret: thanks to its long pebbled beach, bohemian spirit and unique architecture, visitors have flocked to this seaside city for centuries – in search of fresh air, freedom and fun. But beyond its star attractions, and away from the crowds, there are many off-beat gems to discover: concealed gardens, tiny beach cafés, outdoor adventures and more. Will you drink cocktails in a cave, enjoy a sauna on Brighton beach, or scuba dive on a shipwreck? Whatever you’re into, here’s how to experience Brighton differently.
The Brighton Pavilion is unmissable in every sense: this opulent, Indian-inspired palace was built in the 1700s by a young Prince George – who later became King – as a decadent retreat from his London lifestyle. Today, visitors congregate in its gold-covered, hand-painted interiors, but its garden is just as glorious and far quieter, filled with exotic plants and architectural follies. The Mindful Garden, a new audio tour, reveals the hidden details that visitors rarely spot – and brings this idyll’s history to life.
An icon on Brighton’s seafront is the British Airways i360 viewing tower, a 162 metre-tall platform with panoramic views of the coast and South Downs countryside. While its observation pod is spectacular, the Tower Top Climb takes you even further: up to a secret open-air platform, right at the summit. This is a new tour, and numbers are limited, so you’ll be among the very few people who’ve ventured this far! Meanwhile, inside the observation pod, sunset yoga sessions and pop-up dining put a fresh spin on this landmark.
On the waterfront, Sea Lanes will open this spring, combining a 50-metre pool with outdoor fitness sessions, a friendly beach bar and open-water swimming lessons. But it’s not the only quirky addition to join the Brighton Palace Pier along the coast: did you know there’s a wood-fired beach sauna too? In addition, there’s an over-water zip line, and even skating lessons on the promenade. Out on the water, Lagoon Watersports offers thrilling jet ski safaris, while Channel Diving runs scuba trips to the shipwrecks off-shore from Brighton Marina.
A beacon of inclusivity, Brighton is renowned for its thriving LGBTQ+ scene, with buzzing nightlife and vibrant Pride events in the summer. This year is its 30th celebration, so look forward to the Pride Parade filling the streets with music, dancing and a rainbow of floats, before live music galore at the Fabuloso festival (6–8 August). But even when Pride isn’t on, Brighton knows how to party – whether with Silent Disco walking tours, glow-in-the-dark crazy golf, or cocktails in the caves at the Tempest Inn. The Electric Arcade serves craft beers and stand-up comedy, while Brighton Food Tours reveal the city’s indie eateries and street food.
Do you love cycling? Explore Brighton and beyond on a Living Coast bike trail, with routes for all abilities. For solitude seekers, discover the secret gardens and craft workshops at One Garden, where home-grown vegetables are on the menu too. Or if you’re feeling brave, join an after-dark tour of the Lanes, searching for ghosts in the historic alleyways. And football fans, if you’re visiting in July, don’t miss the UEFA Women's EURO 2022: Brighton will host two group stage matches and one of the quarter finals (11, 15 & 20 July).
The Rampion Wind Farm is a treasure hiding in plain sight. Its enormous off-shore turbines are visible all along Brighton’s coast, but few people realise that it’s possible to visit them on boat trips. Brighton Diver’s cruises venture through this awe-inspiring seascape, a treat for adventurers and engineering fans alike. Back on dry land, the visitor centre – next to the British Airways tower – reveals the impressive technology at work.
Calling all music lovers! From the rockabilly room with its very own jukebox, to the Dolly Parton and David Bowie themed suites, Hotel Pelirocco offers a stay with a big dose of rock-and-roll. For a grownup getaway with a naughty twist, check out its adults-only boudoirs: each one is named after a sexy pin-up star. The hotel is also wheelchair accessible.
When Artists Residence gave local creatives free-reign to decorate its rooms, the result was always going to be unique. The art is big and bombastic, with limited-edition prints, sculptures and murals at every turn, while the vintage furniture and warm welcome makes it feel more like a home than a gallery.
One Broad Street is just a few steps from Brighton beach, so the light simply pours into its New York loft-style rooms and suites. Think exposed red brick walls, reclaimed wood and plush leather armchairs – plus mini kitchenettes for fixing breakfast. For front-row sea views, book Drakes of Brighton: its ‘Yin Yang’ double rooms even have roll-top baths overlooking the waves.
Proud Cabaret isn’t just a fine dining restaurant – it’s set in a glamorous ballroom, where burlesque dancers, drag queens and aerial acrobats will make your jaw drop. It’s a dazzling, daring night out, and offers a taste of pure Brighton: from the inclusive atmosphere to the locally-sourced ingredients on your plate.
Great food, lively company and plenty of laughs: that’s what’s in store at Komedia, Brighton’s comedy club and restaurant. Every Friday and Saturday, it hosts stand-up stars and new talents alike, while weekdays are all about live music, plays and storytelling – all while you tuck into loaded nachos, burgers and Philly cheesesteaks. For more live entertainment and bottomless brunches, check out The Mesmerist – tucked away in the twisted alleyways of Brighton’s Lanes.
‘Kind to the environment and good for the soul’ – that’s the motto of Kindling, whose seasonal, Sussex-sourced fare has earned it recognition from the Michelin Guide. Though the menu changes regularly, sample dishes include barbecued venison, grilled South Coast hake, and salt-baked celeriac with hazelnuts.
Brighton is just a 30-minute rail journey from Gatwick Airport – the second busiest air hub in Britain – which serves both international and domestic destinations. There are also direct trains from London Victoria (one hour) and London Blackfriars (one hour 15 minutes), and regular rail connections with cities along the south coast of England.
Thanks to its diminutive size, Brighton is simple to navigate on foot or bike, with BTN BikeShare providing cycle hire throughout the city. For longer journeys, the Brighton & Hove bus network is extensive and wheelchair accessible. From the train station, it takes just 10-15 minutes to walk to the beachfront.