Rain or Shine: 44 Of The Best Things To Do In Brighton
Brighton is one of the sunniest towns in the UK, and visitors have been swarming its beaches and promenades every summer for the last 200 years. But you don't have to bank on good weather; there's enough going on throughout the year to keep you occupied. It makes a brilliant place for a day trip from London, or just as a weekend break if you're coming down from further away. To prove it, we've got 44 reasons to visit this seaside town, come rain or shine, from discovering what drew the Victorians down, to the latest bars, shops and attractions.
1. Visit one of Brighton's beach bars
Brighton Music Hall is a good bet in summer or winter, as it has Britain's largest heated beach terrace for when it's chilly. Head there in the summer to lap up the festival feel and live music. Otherwise, for a pint in a pub that resembles an upside-down boat, try the Fortune of War, Brighton's oldest seafront pub, or the The Tempest Inn; a lovely foodie pub with views out to sea, with a dozen grottoes which divide into rooms for an intimate evening of wine, beer and cheese. And although comparing Brighton beach to the Caribbean might be stretching it, the rum will still be flowing at Riki Tik Beach Bar.
2. Watch a film on the beach...
Brighton's Big Screen has matinees and evening showings throughout August and September on the beach near the Palace Pier. There's a bar, street food stalls as well as half-time ice-cream.
3. ...or in one of the oldest UK cinemas
The Duke of York's first opened as a cinema in 1910 and has been in continuous use ever since. This Grade II listed building hosts Brighton's film festival each year and is a specialist arts cinema.
4. Have a bash at Beach Volleyball
Hire a court at Yellowave, a permanent sports beach club on Madiera Drive (they supply the ball), and you and up to 12 friends can battle for beach supremacy.
5. Then put your feet up at its Barefoot Cafe
Sit on the decking and enjoy the views of the games and Pier. They do sandwiches, soups and light bites. You can also book a private beach barbecue if there's more than ten of you.
6. Lose hours in Snooper's Paradise vintage emporium
Housed in a former department store, this independent covered market uses its labyrinth location to pack in memorabilia, furniture, clothes, jewellery and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Celebrating Brighton’s diverse culture, this is definitely the place to bag a retro bargain.
7. Try your luck at the Brighton Flea Market
This second-hand market is open every day selling bric-a-brac and furniture.
8. Browse the shops from the station to the seafront
Residents rightly get upset with visitors rebranding parts of the city, so get to know your shopping streets: the North Laine area comprises the streets between the train station and Brighton Dome. The Lanes are narrow streets just south of Pavilion Gardens, between North Street and Prince Albert Street.
9. Get on your bike at the UK's oldest cycle track
Preston Park's Velodrome is free to take a spin round (unless there's a track meeting on). If you're feeling particularly competitive you can join in on a Wednesday night from April to August, where guest races take place.
10. See a Punch and Judy show
The Original World Famous Brighton Punch and Judy Show has been a seaside staple for decades. You and the kids will be in the safe "hands" of Prof. Glyn Edwards, who has been performing for more than 50 years. The outdoor summer season starts in June and runs to the end of August.
11. Complete the walking trail of sculptures
This trail of 15 public pieces of art has a few monarchs, war memorials and clock towers to discover more about. Download the trail map.
12. Cook up a nighttime beach barbecue
Lighting BBQs during the day is banned, but after 6pm on certain areas of the beach you can cook up a storm. See council guidance for dos and don'ts.
13. Try the local ice cream
As you'd expect from a seaside town, there's no shortage of ice cream parlours, shops and vans around here. Marroccos is one of the oldest ice cream shops in Brighton (serving up cones since 1969) and Boho Gelato has more than 300 flavours (including vegan-friendly) options.
14. Ride a vintage railway
Children (and adults) have been riding on Volk's Electric Railway (Association - now called VERA) since August 1883. It's a gentle way to explore the seafront in Brighton - return journeys take 30 minutes.
15. Visit the Brighton Marine Palace and Pier
Behind the Palace Pier's Victorian facade, the attractions have been brought firmly up-to-date. You can get everything from fish and chips to doughnuts if the sea air gives you an appetite, and at weekends there's live music and performances entertaining the crowds.
16. See model railways underneath the main station
Housed in four Victorian arches underneath Brighton Station is the Brighton Toy and Model Museum which has a priceless model train collection all laid out. The larger exhibits include a quarter-scale radio-controlled Spitfire suspended from the ceiling, and there are plenty of antique teddies and puppets to give it the cute factor.
17. Meet the Mods
The Brighton Weekender has been running for over a decade. Famous for its scooter cruises and competitions, it's held on the August Bank Holiday and celebrates the best of 60s music and fashion.
18. Learn more with a walking tour
Let an expert guide you round the town, and learn about the Prince Regent and Georgian Brighton. Or come more up-to-date by touring the haunts of Peter James's Brighton-based detective, Roy Grace. See Blue Badge Brighton walking guides for a list.
19. Visit Castle Hill
Brighton is flanked by the English Channel on one side and the South Downs National Park to the north. So take a short bus (or car) ride to Castle Hill, famous for its chalk grassland, rare orchids and the numbers of butterflies. Views aside, you'll be able to hear the grasshopper and cricket colonies as well as see some birds of prey in the sky.
20. Listen to music at the Bandstand
The Brighton Bandstand (built in 1884) underwent a major facelift in 2009 to restore it to its former Victorian glory. Now every summer Sunday afternoon (June, July and August) you can hear bands playing there.
21. Check out the tombs at Lewes Road Cemeteries
One of the prettiest spots in the city, you can get a real feel for Brighton's history by taking a walk through the burial grounds - all 42 acres of them. Along with some fine examples of Victorian monuments, this is also a nature reserve.
23. Find out more about King George IV's Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion is a historic house designed by John Nash, and is one of the most striking and iconic buildings in Britain. What's an Indian and Chinese style palace doing in Brighton? Get on a tour and find out.
24. See a cabaret show
If you want some cheeky seaside humour - you can't go wrong at Proud Cabaret Brighton, with its mix of burlesque and variety performances.
25. Try some seaside street food
Fridays are foodie days in Queen's Road as the Street Diner sets up its stalls from 11am to 3pm. Taste your first Vegan Doner Kebab or Venezuelan tapas, or maybe go old school with an organic burger (although it might be via Peru).
26. Find a beer garden to relax in
The White Rabbit has a small but perfectly formed beer garden at the back in the middle of The Lanes. You can have some Thai Tapas with your drink in the garden of The Caxton Arms, or down by the beach in Kemptown you'll find the Neighbourhood bar - which has a great outdoor space.
27. Stuff yourself with vegan and vegetarian food
When it comes to veggies and ethical food trends, Brighton has long led the way. Food for Friends is one of the town's oldest vegetarian restaurants, and has won countless awards for its commitment to ethical eating and great value. For a quick bite try one of the fast veggie food cafes like Idyea, or for fine dining and indulgence desserts, Terre à Terre continues to win rave reviews for its plates that are almost works of art. Otherwise, check Restaurants Brighton for the latest openings and reviews.
28. Visit the world's oldest operational aquarium
SEA LIFE Brighton is open every day, except Christmas Day, making it a good option if it's raining. Tropical sharks, rays, octopus and turtles are on show, and you can even tickle a starfish in the interactive rock pool. The glass bottomed boat that moves slowly across a specially-built Ocean Tank gives great views of the turtles and reef fish.
29. Attend the annual Brighton Speed Trials
One of the oldest racing events in the calendar usually takes place in early September. Join the thousands of spectators along Madeira Drive and watch more than 200 cars and motorbikes tear down the course for bragging rights. You can even enter your own car in the race, but you'll need a fireproof race suit, helmet and gloves.
30. See some vintage cars
The Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run held in November is a much more sedate affair. More than 500 pre-1905 vehicles set off from Hyde Park, with some drivers replete with goggles, and make their way to Brighton's Madeira Drive.
31. Have a flutter on the horses at Brighton Racecourse
Races run throughout the summer, with August being the busiest month. The course has views over Brighton and the South Downs.
32. Gobble up some fish and chips
The Regency on the promenade is one of Brighton's most famous fish and chip restaurants and has outdoor seating - without the premium prices. Its celebrity fans include chef Rick Stein - but more bizarrely it has a Chinese Facebook tribute page, as revealed by The Argus.
33. Eat cockles and mussels at the
Brighton Shellfish & Oyster Bar is one of the oldest stalls on the seafront, just look for the Union Jack. If it's flying - they're open. The Brighton Fishing Museum also recommends local family-run fishmonger, Sea Haze. Selling the catch of the day, you can pick up Dover soles, sea bass, local lobsters and crab. Or keep it simple with a smoked mackerel sandwich from Jack & Linda Mills Traditional Fish Smokers.
34. Discover more about the local fishing industry
Free to visit, the Brighton Fishing Museum takes you on a local journey from net to plate. Originally just the small fishing community of Brighthelmstone, find out how the industry has evolved from the 1700s to the present day. A traditional Sussex fishing boat takes pride of place in the museum.
35. Bare all on Brighton's Naturist Beach.
Our latest survey revealed we're a nation of prudes when it comes to stripping off on the beach. However for the braver souls out there, you can bare everything on this stretch of beach. A pebble bank has even been built there to protect your modesty.
36. Pretend to get arrested
The staff at the Old Police Cells Museum is a fascinating insight into Sussex Police's past in the basement of Brighton Town Hall. It also has one of the largest collection of truncheons.
37. Cheer on the Seagulls
That's the football team, not the birds trying to steal your chips. Brighton & Hove Albion football Club, was founded in 1901, and if you're planning to go watch a game, the home colours are blue and white. You can also book a tour of the American Express Community Stadium (known as The Amex).
38. Anyone for tennis?
39. Get a birds eye view
Ride round the Brighton Wheel from 10am in the morning until 11pm at the weekend (Fri/Sat) and see panoramic views of the city, 50m above sea level. Each capsule has a commentary telling about the landscape and local culture, and you can also book a champagne VIP experience.
40. Check out some film locations
Brighton has been the backdrop for many films, like Brighton Rock and Quadrophenia, and you can take a specialist walking tours to indulge your geeky side. Find the full list of films here.
41. If you're not doing anything on December 21st...
Take part, or just watch, as a procession of thousands of illuminating paper lanterns are taken to the beach to be burnt in a giant bonfire. The Burning The Clocks is an annual community event is to mark the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year.
42. Have fun at a festival
Brighton give Edinburgh a run for its money in May, with two of their biggest festivals taking place. Here are five of the best:
- Brighton Festival - May to June - See everything from music to circus performances, along with family-friendly events.
- Brighton Fringe - May to June - One of the largest arts festivals in the UK with more than 150 different shows.
- Paddle round the Pier - July - Wade in and enjoy this major beach and watersports festival
- Pride - August - Celebration of the LGBT+ community.
- Brighton and Hove Food And Drink Festival - Free festival aimed at showcasing the city's gourmet credentials. Main event: August (also Easter, May and Christmas)
- Apple Day Brighton - September - Seasonal orchard harvest tribute to the humble apple.
43. See some dinosaur bones
It might not be Jurassic Park, but the Booth Museum has plenty of bones, birds and butterflies to please any Natural History fan. Naturalist and collector Edward Thomas Booth founded the museum in 1874, and while it has had a major update, there is plenty of eccentric Victorian taxidermy to keep purists happy. Admission is free.
44. See a free Starling spectacular
The Palace Pier in the winter is one of the best places to see one of nature's quirks - the Starling murmurations. The RSPB liken the flocks of birds to the "Red Arrows" of nature as they twist and turn in unison as part of their roosting ritual before settling down for the night on and below the pier.
We've also researched the best places to have breakfast or brunch in Brighton so you can get your day off to the best possible start. And if you want to keep on going well into the evening, here is our guide to where you can see live music in Brighton. For all the latest news and travel information, visit the Brighton & Hove City Council website. If you’re planning on spending more than a day in Brighton, then we have plenty of Brighton hotels. And finally, remember to check out the weather forecast.