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Lewes Castle, Lewes, East Sussex, England
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best things to do in Lewes

For bohemian vibes, bracing dips and bougie boutiques, head to Lewes in East Sussex

Written by
Emma Hughes

'You can see Lewes lying like a box of toys under a great amphitheatre of chalky hills,’ wrote William Morris of this pretty patch of East Sussex. Less rowdy than neighbouring Brighton, it’s had a reputation as an arty enclave for the best part of a century, thanks to links with the Bloomsbury Group. 

Of course, Lewes is largely known across the UK for its bacchanalian Bonfire Night celebrations, visited by people travelling from far and wide, but there's a hell of a lot more to the town then just fireworks. On our list you'll find vintage shops, a magnificent bakery, and the beloved Lewes Arms, the UK's most bonkers pub. Read on for the best things to do in Lewes. 

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At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

A perfect day in Lewes

First up, head to Charleston
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. First up, head to Charleston

Take the quick trip to Charleston, a rambling farmhouse that used to be the rural retreat of artists and writers such as Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Virginia Woolf. As well as evoking a long-lost world of interwar glamour, it’s a treasure trove of LGBTQ+ history.

Hit the shops on the High Street
Photograph: Bob Deering/

2. Hit the shops on the High Street

Taste your way through dozens of artisanal gins at Symposium, browse household goods at Freight and The Good Times Homestore, or go full ‘Peaky Blinders’ at Darcy Clothing which sells gents’ replicas, from the sixteenth century to the 1950s.

Stop for lunch at Flint Owl Bakery
Photgraph: Flint Owl Bakery

3. Stop for lunch at Flint Owl Bakery

Flint Owl Bakery regularly gets namechecked as one of Europe’s best breadmakers. Stop by the subway-tiled café for lunch in the courtyard (buttermilk fried chicken and slaw on one of its own ciabatta rolls, a falafel ‘sausage’ roll or a bowl of panzanella), and don’t leave without one of its sourdough loaves to take home.

Soak up the vibes at Pells Pool
Photograph: Rob Read

4. Soak up the vibes at Pells Pool

Just a quarter of a mile from the town centre, Pells Pool shimmers invitingly. It’s the country’s oldest recorded freshwater outdoor public pool (try saying that three times while blowing bubbles), and although it’s unheated, the water can reach a balmy 20C. Fiercely loved by locals, it’s open to all – and costs little more than a cup of coffee.

Drink like a local at The Lewes Arms

5. Drink like a local at The Lewes Arms

Pub-wise, you’re spoilt for choice. The Lewes Arms has a winningly traditional feel. Or try The Snowdrop Inn, which pulls in a younger crowd with its range of Sussex-brewed ales and vegan sourdough pizzas

Finally, check out Lewes Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Finally, check out Lewes Castle

Climb all the way up to the keep of Lewes Castle and drink in the view (while catching your breath). Work started on these imposing fortifications way back in 1066 - you can learn all about local archaeological history next door in the Barbican House Museum.

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