The Handbook
The Handbook

This is a love letter for you, Brighton.

When you work in a city as fast paced, electrifying and bewildering as London, it’s so easy to forget where your heart lies. Mine, however, still lies with Brighton.

If you didn’t know already, I live in Brighton, more specifically Hove, and I can happily say it’s been my fun-loving home for the past five years. For the last year, I’ve begrudgingly woken up at 6am every morning for a monotonous and lengthy commute into the big smoke, before returning into Hove station at 7pm (depending how delayed the pesky Southern Rail is feeling). If I’m being honest, it’s hard work. I’m forever yawning my way through mornings in the office, getting home late into the evening, and it’s bloody expensive too (thanks again for that, Southern Rail). But, why do I go through it everyday? Because I love waking up every morning knowing the sea is a minute down the road, the amusement of the squawking seagulls waking me up pecking at my window and the sense of feeling complete and utterly at home.

Journalism is so rewarding in many ways, and I’m the last one to complain about forsaking my night for a cheeky cocktail party or an indulgent dinner out in London’s finest, but when I was invited to check out the best that Brighton has to offer by VisitBrighton, Brighton and Hove’s official tourist information site, you’ve never seen me reply to an email quicker. As I’m a local, here’s my real insight into Brighton’s undiscovered treasures.

As tempting as it is to jump on the next flight outta the city and soiree your days away on a sun-kissed sandy beach, sadly it’s not always feasible. Just an hours train ride from central London however is Brighton, a quirky city bursting with a huge independent spirit, and one that’s won the hearts of oh so many, and here’s why:

Accommodation

First up, it’s accommodation. And, let’s be honest, it’s always a little odd wining, dining and reclining in the city you call home, but I took to the challenge as easily as one might. If you’re after pristine sea views just a short stroll from the hub of the city, Malmaison Brighton is the ideal spot. 

Nuzzled inside its own little town, Brighton Marina is home to quaint boutiques, endless eateries and has become a prime spot for those lucky enough to anchor their yacht in the harbour, and it’s where my partner and I laid our head for the evening. We’d already agreed that we’d treat the trip as a mini holiday break, as if we’d never stepped inside the city before, and with a hotel room boasting views over the busy marina, boy did it help us revel in the holiday fling. The hotel itself was slick, contemporary and wild. The latter thanks to the quirky artwork adorning the walls the moment you step inside. Waking up to a balcony overlooking the litter of boats was really rather special, and it certainly doesn’t come with the price tag of fleeting off to Ibiza for a quick soiree with the sun. 

One reason so many people love the city and flock here in a heartbeat is thanks to its cosmopolitan attitude

Activities

When you’ve finished running around the cobbled lanes, explore the city’s shoreline in style with a cycle ride courtesy of Electric Bikes Sussex. If you’re new to the electric cycle scene like I was, you’re in for an absolute treat. It’s essentially a bicycle with a motorised engine attached, which helps to assist you when you’re pedalling and will zing you up a hill in no time. Explore the best of the shoreline and cruise along the Brighton Marina undercliff walk, just be wary of the billowing waves that’ll catch you no matter how fast you’re cycling.

Not to be confused with an alien spaceship, the British Airways i360 is a bit of an eyesore but it’s well worth the trip to capture Sussex’s rolling fields, shoreline and even spot a few street art spots too.

Culture

One reason so many people love the city and flock here in a heartbeat is thanks to its cosmopolitan attitude. Seriously just one stroll down around North Laine and you’ll see what I mean. Anyone and everyone can feel at home here and there’s no judging, comparing or complaints. Find flocks of flea markets, vintage clang and really hipster boutiques here, as well as seriously moreish food stands too.

For the theatre enthusiasts or those looking for an evening to remember, explore Brighton’s wild theatrical and event scene. A few personal favourites include The Old Market and their #TOMtech series, Komedia for all things comedy and the Theatre Royal Brighton’s vibrant theatrics. Brighton Dome is also a must-visit too.

Despite all of this and the draw of the sea, The Royal Pavilion has made quite the name for itself too. And, rightly so, it’s bloody beautiful. Its exteriors draw inspiration from the Taj Mahal, whilst inside it’s the Chinese influenced interiors that really capture your eye. No matter how many times I explore this building, I’m taken aback by its beauty. It’s seriously worth a visit.

Top Right Credit: @greenlena

Move along London, Brighton is a foodie hub of its own

Food 

Move along London, Brighton is a foodie hub of its own. It’s a city that captivates every culture, cuisine and cooking technique all just a matter of minutes from one another, and I could honestly spend all day reeling off just a fraction of my favourites. But, I’ll keep it short and sweet with three of my go-to favourites. First up is newcomer Kindling, a restaurant that stole my heart within moments of gracing the floor. Driven by the transitioning seasons, Kindling’s food focuses on three main elements: land, sea and fire. Each dish has been flawlessly prepared to draw out each ingredients natural flavours, as well as being as cruelty-free and sustainable as possible. A menu highlight is their sharing roasted cauliflower braised with caramelised hazelnut and a wild fennel caper dressing, which on Sunday is served alongside Yorkshire puds, grilled hispy, roast potatoes, roasted roots and vegan jus. 

Another favourite among my partner and I is the Curry Leaf Cafe empire, boasting posts in both the Brighton Lanes and Kemptown. Personally I prefer the Kemptown venue thanks to its cosy atmosphere and open-kitchen, allowing you to catch the chefs marvel in their Indian street food magic. My go-to lunch spot has to be The Pond, and their current foodie residency Baby Bao, who’s knocking out Taiwanese-style bao like there’s no tomorrow. These guys have perfected the art of the pesky bun and deliver on real flavour punches. (Top tip for you plant-based enthusiasts, head down on a Monday. Their menu is entirely meat-free!) Oh, and hands down, The Hope & Ruin is the place to go for seriously indulgent vegan junk food (but more on that later). 

Bars

It’s not everyday a brand new street is made out of nowhere but last Summer saw the arrival of Hanningtons Lane and some brand spanking new eateries and bars paving their way into Brighton’s nightlife. One that’s surely become a favourite among many a Brightonian is The Flint House. Part of the Gingerman Restaurant Group, the restaurant-cum-bar serves up expert counter-level dining, delectable small plates and boasts an infamous cocktail bar on the first floor. 

For a truly Brightonian experience (fun fact: the word Brightonian has just been added to the English dictionary!), settling in for a night at The Hope & Ruin is a needs must. Possibly the weirdest pub in the city, it delivers great booze, vegan junk food and electrifying live music up in the venue. For a cocktail soiree, enjoy a tipple or two at Brighton’s very own speakeasies, Twisted Lemon, Hotel Pelirocco or The Fix inside Artist Residence.

Credit: Thom Holmes

They say home is where your heart is, and mine is with you, Brighton.