Plan what to do in Brighton with these top tips for attractions, sights, festivals, shopping, walks and more.
Best Things to do in Brighton this year
1. Brighton Pavilion and Dome
One of Brighton’s best-loved icons is the Royal Pavilion, the famous onion-domed palace built by King George IV. Indian on the outside and Chinese on the inside, it’s stuffed with gorgeous antiques including a spectacular dragon-topped chandelier. See tables laid out for historic banquets and emerge to find couples posing for wedding photos. There’s an ice rink here in winter. Neighbouring Brighton Dome once housed the king’s fantastically ornate stables. Beautifully preserved, it’s now a major concert venue and was the setting for ABBA’s 1974 Eurovision triumph.
2. Brighton beach
Brighton Rock and Quadrophenia helped make Brighton’s Palace Pier famous and no day out in Brighton is complete without a spin on a fairground ride and a quick chance on a slot machine.
Near the pier you can also watch alfresco films at Luna Beach Cinema (summer only), take a hair-raising ride on Brighton Zip and walk through a shark tunnel at the newly refurbished Sea Life Brighton.
Head west along the beach promenade and you’ll find quiet beach areas around the West Beach and the British Airways i360 viewing tower. Pop into one of the stylish shops and eateries tucked into the West Pier Arches and take a selfie in the new Upside-Down House on the West Beach Plaza.
Hove Lagoon, further west still, has a boating lake and skate park, and is popular with families. Spin it out and explore the whole seafront on two wheels on a BTN BikeShare hire cycle.
3. Brighton’s best views
Rising 530ft above the seafront and offering Brighton’s best views is the British Airways i360 viewing tower – the highest on the south coast. During a 25-minute ‘flight’ on the giant glass pod you’ll get slow unfolding 360-degree best views of Brighton and Hove, the South Downs National Park and the Sussex coastline. On the clearest days you can see all the way to the Isle of Wight and Beachy Head.
As the day ends, watch Brighton’s best sunsets from the pod with a glass of sparkling wine from the south coast’s highest bar.
4. Museums in Brighton
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, near the Pavilion, includes not only a history of the city but interesting galleries on Ancient Egypt and modern design. This summer (2019) enjoy ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ and ‘All the Kings Horses’, the story of the Royal Stables and Riding House.
For something quirkier, head to Booth Museum for a Victorian natural history collection of taxidermy birds, bones and butterflies plus a children’s interactive gallery. There’s also a tiny Toy and Model Museum near the station and a charming Fishing Museum on the beach promenade.
5. Festivals in Brighton
Lovers of culture, art and comedy should plan a visit around one of Brighton and Hove’s fantastic festivals.
Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe (now the biggest in England) take over the city in May, with theatre, comedy, family events and more. The Great Escape weekend is also in May, with hundreds of gigs showcasing new music. Brighton Pride is the highlight of August – the largest such LGBTQ+ celebration in the UK. In May, and again before Christmas, stop in at Artists’ Open Houses to browse and buy from local creatives.
6. Eating out in Brighton
Brighton and Hove’s foodie scene has boomed and its eateries now rival London’s for quality and innovation. TV chefs Steven Edwards and Michael Bremner have Etch and 64-degrees respectively – book well in advance.
Many of Brighton’s best restaurants offer small plates-style dining and the higher-end have creative tasting menus, perfect for special occasions. Naturally, there are also good fish restaurants – try Riddle & Finns on the promenade or The Regency on Regency Square.
Indulge in afternoon tea in a Brighton seafront hotel or for something practically on the shingle try West Beach Bar & Kitchen. In autumn, plan a visit around OctoberBest when popular restaurants run discounted set menus.
7. Shopping in Brighton
The Lanes is an historic area of crooked alleys near the sea where you can get enjoyably lost browsing antique and contemporary jewellers.
For designer-makers, galleries, quirky interior stores, vintage fashion and more, head to vibrant North Laine, which runs for several blocks between Trafalgar Street (near the station) and the Brighton Dome. It’s also stuffed with cafes for that all-important pit stop.
8. Brighton walking tours
Several walking tours cover the city’s unique history. Blue Badge-guided Only in Brighton and Notorious Women of Brighton are among regular jaunts. For more on the city’s strong LGBTQ+ heritage join a Piers and Queers walk. Award-winning Brighton Food Tours will introduce you to celebrated and under-the-radar culinary heroes, and with more vineyards in Sussex than in any other English county, why not visit a few on South Downs day trips from Brighton with Great British Wine Tours.
9. Brighton Marina
Brighton Marina, at the eastern end of the city, is where you’ll find popular family-focused chain restaurants overlooking some swanky yachts. Go bowling, catch a film, or head out from here on a boat trip to try your hand at mackerel fishing or visit the new Rampion offshore wind farm. Just east of the Marina there’s a beach stretching to Rottingdean that at low tide is a top spot for exploring rock pools. The restored Art Deco Saltdean Lido is also in the area.
Back near the Marina, hop on the Volk’s Railway – the world’s oldest operating electric rail – for a Victorian-style ride back towards town.
10. Brighton starling murmurations
Brighton is of course buzzing year-round and if you are visiting in winter then you’re in for a special treat. Join groups of Brightonians gathering on the seafront with their cameras – they’re here for one of the south coast’s most impressive natural shows, the starling murmurations. Thousands of birds gather at dusk and move in great swooping clouds in the sky before coming to roost on one of Brighton’s piers. The amazing aerial dance, with directions changing in a split second, lasts for up to an hour against the sunset, making it a photographer’s dream. The starlings most commonly hang out beside the remains of the West Pier in front of British Airways i360.
Photography in this article is by courtesy of Visit Brighton, David Matthews and Paul Raftery.