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Brighton pier
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 18 best things to do in Brighton

Want to know what’s what in ’London by the sea’? Here’s our ultimate guide to the best things to do in Brighton right now

By Beth Doherty
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Coffee shop fiend? Into your vintage? Got the kids in tow? Whatever your priorities, you’ll be amply satisfied in Brighton. Sometimes known as London by the sea, this beautiful seaside town may feel slightly kitsch in parts, especially down the harbourfront, but it’s also home to all manner of excellent independent boutiques, a wide array of fantastic restaurants and a LGBTQ+ party scene that’s famous the world over. Not to mention a whole load of photo-worthy architecture harking back to the city’s regal heyday. So what are you waiting for? From first-rate museums and some frankly magnificent architecture to a handful of more offbeat sights and attractions, here’s our pick of the best things to do in Brighton right now.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Brighton

brighton pier

1. Brighton Palace Pier

Brighton Palace Pier is a tough old bird. Having stood for well over a century now, this Grade II-listed pier has survived two world wars, constant battering by storms (one of which almost destroyed it before it opened in 1899) and millions of visitors every year. Join the masses in a pilgrimage to the arcade games, fairground rides and chippy vans.

Brighton
Photograph: Adam Bronkhorst

2. The Lanes

Much of Brighton oozes character and cool, but The Lanes are definitely leading the charge. These narrow streets brim with brilliant independent cafés, record stores, vintage emporiums, bookshops and art spaces – all housed in pretty 16th-century buildings. Wandering this maze of passageways is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.

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Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Photograph: Flickr / Dun.can

3. Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion looks like it should be perched on the banks of the Yamuna in India. This ornate, Grade I-listed structure was designed by John Nash in the early 19th century – in the Indo-Saracenic Revival style, FYI – and was once a holiday home for George, Prince of Wales (later George IV). Today it’s frequented by visitors after a glimpse inside its quaint replica rooms, art galleries and very impressive grounds.

Snoopers Paradise in Brighton
Photograph: Flickr / Paul Hudson

4. Snoopers Paradise

If you’re after some antique knick-knacks to decorate your room, look no further. Enter through the old-school turnstile of this gigantic emporium and you’ll find two floors positively overflowing with vintage treasure. Each stall inside Snoopers Paradise is independently owned. And good thing – more diversity the better. Grab a quirky hat and jump in the black-and-white photo booth to snap a keepsake.

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Sea Life Brighton
Photograph: Shel Mills

5. Sea Life Brighton

The Sea Life centre in Brighton is in the world’s oldest operating aquarium. It was built in 1872 and as you enter it’s hard not to be taken aback by the striking original Gothic arches. We particularly like the Lagoon, populated with beautiful sting rays, and the interactive rock pool where you can touch a starfish or sea anemone. 

Brighton Pride party
Photograph: Flickr / Dominic Alves

6. LGBTQ+ walking tour

Rainbow flags fly proudly in Brighton, arguably the LGBTQ+ capital of the UK. If you’ve ever wondered how Brighton became the town it is today, a walking tour from a local expert is a pretty good place to start. Walks take you through 200 years of history to chart the progress from bravery and achievement in very different times to the more progressive attitudes of today. Plus you’ll get to see some of Brighton’s best sights, from the grandeur of the seafront, through The Lanes, to the ‘gay village’ of Kemptown.

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Open Market in Brighton
Photograph: Paul Gillett / Geograph

7. Open Market

Soggy out? Here’s where to head when it’s sheeting it down. This undercover market packs independent boutiques, artists’ studios and traditional market stalls all under one roof. Shop local and pick up some fresh nosh, grab a book from the dinky bookshop or snuggle up with a coffee from the Flying Saucer Café.

BA i360 Brighton

8. British Airways i360

Some might see it as a bit of an eyesore, sticking out like a tent pole on the seafront, but the views from this 150-metre-high observation tower are pretty impressive. Here you can gawp at pretty much all of Brighton, out across the South Downs and over the Channel – including, if you’re lucky, the Isle of Wight. Plus, you can pair your tickets with afternoon tea, should you wish to be terribly sophisticated (or are in desperate need of cake).

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Grubbs
Photograph: Flickr / grassrootsgroundswell

9. Grubbs

Every self-respecting Brightonian considers themselves a Grubbs aficionado. This Sussex burger chain has no website or Facebook page – but bloody hell, their menu’s good. Get down to Lewes Road, St. James’s Street, York Place or Western Road to sample some of the tastiest patties in town.

10. Sail into the sunset

Talking of sophisticated, how about setting sail on the open seas off the coast of Brighton as the sun sets? You’ll be with a qualified RYA (Royal Yachting Association) instructor, so you can relax with a glass of bubbly and take as many cheesy photos as you like. If you’re feeling brave, your knowledgeable sailor will show you the ropes and let you take the helm of the yacht as part of the two-hour trip. Pack swimwear.

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Shuffle cocktail bar in Brighton
Photograph: Beth Doherty

11. Shuffle

At cocktail bar Shuffle, the retro jukebox is given a truly modern twist. Here tipplers can play selector via their phones. So whack on your faves and host an impromptu karaoke – sing-alongs are highly encouraged. From Monday to Wednesday, you can get your hands on two-for-one cocktails.

Brighton Centre, 2013, from Wiki

12. Brighton Centre

This seafront exhibition centre and performance venue may not be much of a looker (unless you’re a fan of brutalist architecture) but it’s the place to go in Brighton for big-name comedy, music and theatre. Many of the UK’s highest-profile tours head here, presumably undeterred by the venue’s history of hosting final gigs – both Bing Crosby and The Jam performed their last concerts here.

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Devil’s Dyke
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons / AndyScott

13. Devil’s Dyke

Just a few miles out of town, Devil’s Dyke is a timeless beauty spot on the sprawling South Downs. The largest ’dry valley’ in the UK, this place makes the perfect location for a dog walk or simply an aimless ramble as the sun sets. The Dyke has been a major tourist draw since the 19th century, and it’s very easy to see why.

Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Photograph: Brighton Toy and Model Museum

14. Brighton Toy and Model Museum

Because who doesn’t enjoy a hit of childhood nostalgia? This wonderfully kitsch homage to the last 100 years of toys and models displays more than 10,000 items – everything from Dinky cars and Meccano kits to vintage penny arcade games, puppet theatres and one of the country’s best collections of model railways, including a 1930s three-rail O-gauge layout (which is apparently pretty rare).

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Brighton helicopter ride

15. Get a bird’s-eye view of the pier

Celebrating this seaside town’s reputation for ‘kiss me quick’ hats, saucy postcards and wicked weekends away, the Brighton Quickie helicopter ride offers a personalised 20-minute flight over Brighton and Hove. The tour can be booked for any day of the week and your party (a maximum of three) will have sole use of the chopper. Well, there is a pilot, but they should be fairly busy. 

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Photograph: James Pike

16. Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Part of the Royal Pavilion, this city-centre museum and gallery is free for locals, while visitors are charged £5.20. And that’s actually good value, given the treasures on show – from fine art and ancient Egyptian treasure to 20th-century design fashion to exhibitions from contemporary artists. And if insects are your thing, make a beeline for the Natural Sciences collections, where you can meet half a million of the little critters.

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World’s End
Photograph: Geograph / Roger Kidd

17. The World’s End

What’s better than arcade games? Drinking while you play them! With its own escape room, a remote-control racetrack and a whole of VR booths where you can kill some aliens (or play one of several other games), this pub really is the epitome of a good time. Did we mention you can play Pac-Man here, too? Hell yeah.

Brighton Dome
Photograph: Brighton Dome

18. Brighton Dome

Another big performance venue, the Dome is the Brighton Centre’s slightly more refined sibling. That means you can expect a programme of classical music, dance, theatre and poetry rather than big-hitting UK music and comedy tours. It’s actually three venues (Concert Hall, Corn Exchange, Studio Theatre) and the whole complex is connected to the Royal Pavilion by an underground tunnel, apparently built so the overweight George IV could visit the royal stables unseen.

Looking for somewhere amazing to stay?

Photograph: Booking.com

The best hotels in Brighton

With sea air, a sophisticated food scene and more than its fair share of bars and clubs, this town has been drawing fun and sun-seekers for decades. Here’s where you should rest your head between all that sightseeing.

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