Known the world over for its inimitable and vibrant blend of hipster cool and seaside kitsch, Brighton & Hove has it all. From iconic piers, landmarks and out-of-this-world buildings – have you seen the Grade 1-listed Royal Pavilion with its onion domes and distinctive Indo-Saracenic style? – along with a thriving LGBTQIA+ scene, culture galore and even its own Millionaire’s Row with celebrity residents, including Hollywood royalty, this is more than your traditional bucket-and-spade retreat.

And even though it has been a popular seaside spot for sun-loving aristocrats and royals since the 19th century, and the arrival of the railway in 1841, and even gets a mention years earlier in Jane Austen’s 1813 Pride & Prejudice as heroine Lydia Bennett’s dream destination, the city’s allure hasn’t dimmed.

Now a hotspot for trendy Londoners who want everything the capital has to offer plus the bonus of ocean views, Brighton & Hove regularly tops the Sunday Times Best Places To Live list (most recently in 2022), was named happiest place to live in 2019, and boasts the second most Instagrammable beach in the UK, according to a study last month by photo wall art creator StoryBoards.

But with its Palace Pier, Art Deco dome, King George’s beachside residence, the Royal Pavilion, and the i360, the world’s tallest moving observation tower, London-by-the-sea is the perfect location for a day out on the sunshine coast, weekend away or full-blown staycation. So it’s no surprise then that 10.7 million day visitors flock to the Sussex city, with 3.15 million staying overnight – making Brighton one of the most popular day trip destinations and a top holiday spot for foreign visitors.

Once in the former fishing village, which expanded into Hove (known as ‘Hove actually’ to locals) in 1997, and was given city status in 2000, visitors can explore the iconic lanes, dine at the award-winning restaurants and hip cafes, catch a show or get out into the stunning surrounding countryside, including the South Downs National Park, and dramatic Seven Sisters cliffs.

Struggling to tell where Brighton ends and Hove begins? There are two distinct looks and vibes to the two areas: Hove is genteel, packed with Regency homes, independent cafes and independent stores, and that famous Millionaire’s Row which used to be home to Adele, and Peter Andre, Brighton is home to all the famous landmarks and is the colourful, vibrant bigger sister. Still confused? Simply look at the railings: Hove’s are dark green while Brighton’s are turquoise.

Time your visit right and there’s always something exciting to do. As well as the world-famous Pride Festival in August, which is the biggest in the UK, there’s the fun Paddle Round The Pier in July. Part of the world’s biggest free beach and watersports festival, adventurers and sea lovers make their own vessel for the hopefully calm journey and hope not to capsize or sink!

But in a city with this much on offer, you can do as much or as little as you want. Relax on a deck chair on the pebble beach and soak up the sunny view, tuck into fish and chips (watch out for the gulls who like to steal a fry or two!) or visit one of the beachside shops for the absolute must-have: a stick of Brighton rock.

Great British Life: Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim lives in HoveNorman Cook aka Fatboy Slim lives in Hove (Image: Jim Holden)

Famous Faces 

Rubbing shoulders with everyone from politicians, pop stars and Hollywood icons, is easy in Brighton where everyone who’s anyone has seemingly called the city home. David Walliams, Adela, Paul McCartney, Zoe Ball and Norman Cook – aka Fatboy Slim – have all lived on Hove’s Millionaire’s Row - Western Esplanade.

Cate Blanchett lived in Brighton in the early 2000s claiming that she missed it ‘enormously’ when she moved away, but plenty of other stars still live here. Simon Fuller, who created the Spice Girls, is a resident, as is boxer Chris Eubank as are mega influencers Zoella and PewDiePie.

Former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill went to school here, attending The Misses Thompson’s Prep in Hove – marked with a blue plaque – and Howard Blake, who composed Walking In The Air for The Snowman, went to Brighton Grammar School. Keep an eye out for the many blue plaques listing the homes of Laurence Olivier, actress Joan Plowright (Sir Laurence Olivier’s widow), Flora Robson and The Cheeky Chappie comedian Max Miller.

Jack the Ripper – the suspected surgeon Robert Donston Stephenson – is said to have planned his murders in The Cricketers pub on Black Lion Street in The Lanes before travelling to London to carry out the crimes.

Charles Dickens was a resident and author Graham Green wrote Brighton Rock in the room upstairs, which is now named the Green Room and can be hired for functions and private parties.

Great British Life: The Ivy in the Lanes is an art deco delights as well as a culinary haven. The Ivy in the Lanes is an art deco delights as well as a culinary haven. (Image: Paul Winch-Furness - Photographer)

Food And Drink 

Brighton & Hove’s foodie scene is every bit as vibrant as the UK’s capital with celebrity chefs creating award-winning dishes in seemingly every nook and cranny while pub and street food makes waves with delicious locally-sourced ingredients and lead the latest culinary trends.

Seasonal fare is on the menu, paired with English and Sussex wines, at Isaac At in the North Laine, while MasterChef: The Professionals champion Seven Edward runs the 3AA Rosette-awarded Etch in Hove, and social dining at the pass is on offer at Great British Menu winner Michael Bremner’s 64 Degrees.

Relax in the decadent Art Deco surroundings of The Ivy in the Lanes – the Ivy Asia is next door if you fancy some heat – or head to Alun Sperring ‘s The Chilli Pickle which is well-known for its playful and spicy spins on Anglo and Indian dishes.

Fancy a drink? Brighton has bars galore, each with its unique vibe and take on classics. Burnt Orange, in Middle Street, is owned by the Salt Room and Coal Shed restaurateur Razak Helalat, and serves mouth-watering cocktails – including martinis with olives and grilled orange skin – day and night.

Great British Life: A treasure trove of boutiques await down The LanesA treasure trove of boutiques await down The Lanes (Image: Getty)

Boutique Shopping

First stop for every visitor to Brighton & Hove should be North Laine, the city’s former industrial area, which is now home to a plethora of independent shops full of quirky finds and fabulous treasure. Looking like something out of a Harry Potter movie, this narrow twitten and the cobbled alleyways of the Lanes are worth a meander where you’ll be rewarded with troves of exquisite jewellery and antique stores.

If it’s home décor you’re after, the latest interiors trends can be found at Abode Living, or head to Yashar Bish in Gloucester Road which specialises in hand-knotted, authentic Turkish, Afghan and Persian carpets, rugs, and cushions.

Great British Life: Brighton Royal PavilionBrighton Royal Pavilion (Image: Getty)

Must See

Marvel at the iconic Royal Pavilion with its whirl of minarets, domes and mock Mogul detailing that was the seaside home of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Built by John Nash, this iconic royal ‘pad’ boasts a dragon-festooned music room, lavish banqueting room and even Queen Victoria’s lumpy-looking bed with its tier of mattresses on display. The fully-restored Regency gardens are the highlight.

Great British Life: Brighton Palace Pier is the epitome of seaside fun. Brighton Palace Pier is the epitome of seaside fun. (Image: Getty)

Must Do

At 1,722 ft long, Brighton Palace Pier dates back to the Victorian era, and has all-the-fun-of-the-fair with rides including a carousel, a haunted house, dodgems and a helter-skelter. Inside the Grade II*-listed pier’s Dome Arcade, there’s one of the biggest games arcade on the south coast complete with old-school style two pence coin pusher machines through to Guitar Hero and virtual reality simulators. No wonder it’s called the Palace of Fun!