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The Muddy Insider Guide to Brighton

Staycationing this summer? Then you'll be needing our bang-up-to-date insider guide to Sussex's iconic city by the sea, including the tourist classics and hipster hangouts.

Creative, quirky, and inclusive, Brighton & Hove is often dubbed London-On-Sea yet it’s within easy reach of the South Downs, wrapped in the green arms of the rolling hills. With a vibrant, buzzing cultural and foodie scene and real independent spirit, it’s a fabulous place to live, and an equally brilliant place for a mini-break or staycay. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, there’s so much going on you’ll always find new things to do and places to discover.

EAT

Etch

Where to start? Brighton’s foodie scene has exploded over the last few years and there’s never been a better time to eat out here. For fine dining with a creative tasting menu head to etch in Hove, the first permanent restaurant from MasterChef the Professionals winner Stephen Edwards. Neighbourhood bistro Wild Flor is also well worth a visit for classic cookery and world-class wines, set across two dining rooms. 

For fish classier than the battered kind try The Salt Room or champagne and oyster bar-inspired Riddle &  Finns, which has two locations in Brighton, one in indie shopping hub Hanningtons Estate in the Lanes, and one on the seafront. Fancy Japanese? Kusaki on Circus Parade got a nod in the Michelin Guide and is worth it for the Insta-opps alone under it’s indoor blossom tree.

Really blossoming at Kusaki

After some great food on the beach? You’ll be spoiled for choice with Brighton’s seafront food market and bar Shelter Hall, which features seven unique kitchens from local chefs including Masterchef winner Kenny Tutt, and Worthing’s Crabshack which is famous for the quality and freshness of its seafood. The arches are home to critics favourite Due South, which specialises in wild food cooked over wood – it’s small but perfectly formed and has a view over the famous beach huts.

Socialite, in the Lanes

Among many great small plates-style eateries are French-slanted PlateauThe Set on historic Regency Square, 64° in the Lanes (run by Great British Menu winner Michael Bremner), modern Italian Cin Cin, and wine bar-style Market and Fourth & Church in Hove.

Socialite (above), in the Lanes is a great spot for dinner and drinks with a hidden roof terrace – plus look out for their cocktail masterclasses and DJ events. New kid on the block Burnt Orange only opened in the summer of 2021, but has already made it onto the Michelin Bib Gourmand listings.

Burnt Orange

But of course, eating out isn’t all about the fine dining and hipster joints. Let’s face it sometimes you just want good old comfort food and Brighton has this in spades.

For casual dining, check out contemporary Indian Curry Leaf Cafe, pizza restaurants Fatto A Mano, (vegan) Purezza and busy Mexican La Choza. Veggies are very well catered for, with Terre A Terre and Food for Friends and their newest baby Botanique the best known meat-free restaurants.

Want a cafe? Walk a few paces. There must be over a hundred independent coffee shops in Brighton, the majority excellent. For the best pancakes in the city head to either Seventies-tastic Nowhere Man or Hove’s Jo & Co, and for brunch you want Starfish & Coffee, which is about as Brighton as cafe names get, or one of the 5 branches of Wolfox (below), the Insta-grammable cafes which are sister to the Michelin mentioned Kusaki.

Wolfox, Prestonville

Over in Hove Oeuf cafe has an enviable location (right next to relaxation haven The Float Spa, so that’s at least one of your mornings in the city sorted) and a reputation to match.

For afternoon teas head just outside town to Stanmer Park, for an Alice in Wonderland themed treat at the Stanmer Tea Room, or if you’re in hipster haven Kemptown try the vintage surrounds of Metro Deco, which also does a mean brunch.

If you’re more of a hot choccy fan you simply must grab a takeaway from Knoops. Their Brighton store in the Lanes has a mind-boggling menu of more than 20 different % chocolates, all of which are available hot and 10 of which are available as milkshakes and iced chocolates. Mmm!

DRINK

Bohemia Brighton scooped the Best Bar award in the Muddy Awards last year, and it’s a unique venue across three floors with theatrical mixologists whipping up spectacular cocktails and DJs spinning old-skool tracks at the weekend. For a more refined vibe head to The Plotting Parlour for table service or the hipster Six Brighton, who are famed for their bottomless brunch.

Soho House is set to open it’s long awaited branch Little Beach House Brighton in late Spring 2022. Set over two floors with views out to the sea, it will have areas for eating and drinking, events spaces, and a pool terrace – ooh snazzy!

For something a bit more low-key gin specialists include The Colonnade Bar next to the Theatre Royal and the recently revamped Old Albion pub in Hove. Look out for homegrown Brighton Gin, served with orange slices.

Prefer a pub? For craft beer try Brighton BierHaus (home of Brighton Bier), North Laine, BrewDog, or The Cow. Or straddle the pub/bar divide with eccentric decor and retro DJ sets at Black Dove in Kemptown while in Hove, Cafe Malbec serves up great South American wine with authentic empanadas.

Sussex wine is having a bit of a moment of late, so if you fancy a trip out of town to sample some of the best local wines produced on the South Downs, family-owned Albourne Estate is just eight miles away.

STAY

For the ultimate Brighton experience, follow Cate and Kylie’s lead and stay at Drakes of Brighton in a sexy seafront room. Take a free-standing bath (champers and rose petals optional but recommended) before swaddling yourself in a waffle robe and slippers and sipping a freshly ground coffee as you devour the in-situ glam mags.

Alternatively, Brighton Harbour Hotel right opposite the seafront has fresh and stylish seaside-slanted rooms and a fabulously quirky spa set in the brick arches of its historic basement. When you’re done pampering, surface for a meal or afternoon tea in its respected restaurant The Jetty. If you want smart and creative head to Insta-fave Artist Residence and Hotel du Vin are old favourites.

Wolfox Townhouse

Prefer a bit of independence or with a big group? The people behind Wolfox have a boutique townhouse in the heart of the Laines with chic minimal interiors and roof terrace. While the more traditionally minded will be happy at The Grand the old dame of the seafront.

SHOP

If you’re not local, the first thing you need to know is the difference between The Lanes and North Laine. The Lanes is an historic higgeldy-piggeldy area near the sea, chocful of antique and contemporary jewellers. Here is where you’ll find food, shopping and culture hotspot Hanningtons, a pedestrian-only area home to makers, designers and foodies with a lovely intimate atmosphere and plenty of iconic Brighton street art. Muddy fave The Lip Lab lives here and if you want a bespoke lipcolour this is the place to head.

North Laine runs for several blocks between Trafalgar Street (just under the station) and Church Street near The Dome and is where you’ll find hundreds of independent boutiques – quite unprecedented in most cities. Browse designer-makers, indie galleries, quirky interior stores like DIGS, gorgeous children’s toys at Whirligig, vintage fashion at Beyond Retro and Wolf & Gypsy and much, much more! There are also a clutch of newer shops in the King’s Road arches beside the iconic BAi360. Brighton Photography gallery here is always worth a pitstop.

Gresham Blake fashion

Brighton’s detractors would most commonly cite its hipster side as their irritation but if you embrace that beardy vibe you’ll love Brighton’s craft beer scene and it’s numerous tattoo parlours. The Mod culture of the Sixties still lingers in the city with retro men’s boutiques like Quadrophenia Alley (right by the iconic spot where the film was made), and Jump the Gun. While designer Gresham Blake invokes the spirit of the 90s and has dressed numerous stars of the Britpop and Fatboy Slim era.

While vinyl fans should head to Resident in North Laine or The Record Album, near the station that lays claim to being Brighton’s oldest record shop.

THINGS TO DO

Naturally the beach is the big draw in warmer months. Most day-trippers hang out round the Palace Pier but anywhere West of the skeletal West Pier will be quieter. 

Brighton Pavilion – the famous onion domed palace built by King George IV is Indian on the outside, Chinese on the inside, with swoon-worthy decor. There’s a pretty ice rink here in winter. The newer landmark is, of course, the BA i360, the giant doughnut up a stick that’s Brighton’s answer to the London Eye. There’s a bar inside and you can even dine at the top on selected dates.

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BA i360

But it’s culture where the city really comes into its own. In May, Brighton Fringe alongside the main Brighton Festival is the biggest in England and you can catch many acts here warming up for summer’s colossal Edinburgh Fringe. May also sees The Great Escape weekend festival showcasing new music and usually supported by BBC 6 Music. Musos also rate the programme at offbeat pub The Hope & Ruin which features a lot of grassroots indie talent.

Brighton Dome (in George IV’s ostentatious former stables), is the major venue for big name music and comedy acts and it was on this very stage that ABBA shot to fame by winning the Eurovision Song Contest. The historic Theatre Royal has many strong touring productions, while the Brighton Centre on the seafront makes up for it’s exterior by welcoming the biggest names in music.

The impact of Covid saw Brighton Open Air Theatre come to the fore, this lovely outdoor venue, perfect for a picnic whilst catching a show in summer, was one of the few arts venues able to keep going throughout restrictions. For good bands not big enough to fill the Dome keep an eye on Concorde 2 on the seafront. The Brunswick pub in Hove also has a busy live music line-up plus some spoken word events. Independent theatre The Old Market in Hove is worth checking out for a strong line-up and a commitment to female representation.

Hope & Ruin

Komedia in North Laine is part cinema, part award-winning comedy club with regular multi-act weekend shows plus a series of decent stand-up and fringe one-offs.

There are numerous independent galleries include Phoenix, and Muddy Award-winning Cameron Contemporary Art and newbie Katherine Richards in Hove. Don’t miss the chance to pop-in on local creatives during Artists’ Open Houses in May and again before Christmas.

Katherine Richards

Of course Brighton is famous for its LGBTQI+ scene, in fact the city’s Pride celebrations in August are the biggest in Europe! Kemptown, to the east of the Palace Pier, is the area with the highest concentration of gay bars. Check out too the monthly Bent Double comedy nights at Komedia and busy LGBTQI+ arts programme at The Malborough pub and theatre.

Pride parade

KIDS

Hove is the hotspot for young families and it’s here beside the beach you’ll find Hove Lagoon – a small watersports and boating lake where (with your own kit) you can fish for crabs for free. There’s also a popular skate park and playground here either side of Fatboy Slim’s family-centred Big Beach Cafe.

Cycling lanes run the length of the front and beyond and on-the-spot hire bikes are newly available in several places (don’t forget your helmets!). There’s a nice cafe, a kids’ sandpit and diverting action at the Yellow Wave volleyball courts east of the Palace Pier and a playground and crazy golf next door. 

Take a walk through the shark tunnel at the ever-popular Sea Life centre set in Victorian arches near the pier, or see the skeletons at Booth Museum of natural history which has an interactive gallery and events for pre-schoolers. More centrally Brighton Museum near the Pavilion includes Ancient Egyptian exhibits. There’s also a tiny Toy & Model Museum with vintage train sets near the station and look out for visits from children’s authors at Muddy Award-wining The Book Nook in Hove. Rainy day? Head to Globalls, a neon indoor crazy golf, happily with a bar for parents or the 150 year old Sealife Centre near the pier.

Sea LIfe

If you must have your well-worn favourites, Brighton Marina is overrun with family-focused chain eateries. You can also take kids out on a boat trip mackerel fishing from here or to see the offshore windfarm.  And at high tide you’ll find great rock pools at the beach just beyond as you walk or cycle towards Rottingdean.

WALK

There are plenty of walking tours that take in the city’s heritage, among them the Blue Badge-guided Only in Brighton tours which feature themes such as Piers and Queers, a nod to the city’s LGBTQI+ status, Secrets of the Lanes, and History Women Brighton.

Ditchling Beacon

But if you want to really stretch your legs, head up out of the city and onto the South Downs. Devil’s Dyke and Ditchling Beacon both provide fabulous views, hours, if not days, of walking via the well-signposted South Downs Way and a network of footpaths and bridleways, and both have car parks, frequently featuring ice-cream vans and coffee trucks. If you make it as far as Truleigh Hill in Shoreham, around five miles West of the Dyke, the Cadence Cycle Cafe will be waiting for you with open arms and top-class coffee. Alternatively pop across to Stanmer Park for yet more easy parking, open parkland and wooded trails, mountain biking, and coffee and cakes at the cute Stanmer Tearoom.

Have we missed any hidden gems? Do add any of your favourite Brighton spots in the comment box.

1 comment on “The Muddy Insider Guide to Brighton”

  • Sarah May 12, 2022

    Brighton – use the park and ride. Buses are excellent here. Don’t forget to look up at the beautiful buildings, look up. Take the small alleyways you can’t get lost.

    Reply

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