48 hours in Brighton UK: Ultimate city break guide for 2023

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48 hours in Brighton is just enough time to sample some of the quirky things to do in this traditional-turned-hipster seaside town in the UK

Once upon a time, Brighton was considered a tired old seaside town. Exclusively populated by shrieking hen parties and coaches of day-tripper pensioners.

Brighton has since managed to shake off it’s ‘has been’ image and is now a cosmopolitan and vibrant hangout town.

Given it’s proximity to London, you can easily pop over by train and spend a glorious 48 hours in Brighton. It’s an ideal British seaside holiday for staycation seekers.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Brighton has long been a beloved destination for both locals and tourists alike.

Its rich seaside history dates back to the 18th century when it became a fashionable resort. It continues to captivate visitors with its unique blend of Victorian charm and contemporary allure.

With just 48 hours to explore Brighton, we’ll ensure you experience this captivating city’s essence with our bumer guide.

Best time to visit Brighton

With its promenade, parks and pier, you might reasonably expect that a trip to Brighton is exclusively a summer endeavour rather than a UK winter beak.

I visited Brighton in February, and it was a great time to visit as it was quiet and mostly full of locals.

If you are visiting Brighton in the off-season, check out my city break packing guide to pack smarter.

City break Brighton

A weekend break in Brighton will require a little travel planning and scheduling.

I would list the Brighton attractions you want to visit and the destinations you want to see in the city.

We discuss travel planning on my weekly travel podcast – Travel Goals. Subscribe now and catch up on all episodes.

Subscribe to the Travel Goals Podcast now

Here’s my guide on how to spend 48 hours in Brighton, so you can enjoy this beautiful beach town year-round.

Day 1 Brighton

Go Boutique shopping at North Laine

I’ll admit, shopping is not a preferred activity of mine. I’ve never fully understood the appeal of wandering around department stores on a Saturday as a leisure activity.

However, Brighton makes shopping a little more fun in the hip, North Laine shopping area. It’s one of the best things to do in Brighton, especially if you love retail therapy.

Independent shops Brighton

The bohemian North Laine shopping area is full of retro shops, vintage fashion, quirky jewellery shops and uber-hip cafes. It’s a veritable hipster paradise here.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

There are few shopping areas where you can pick up a kaftan, a slightly phallic sculpture, a retro telephone and vegetarian-friendly shoes in one retail outing. It is quirky, i’ll give it that.

Some of my favourite North Laine shops include:

  • Brighton Museum Shop
  • Beyond Retro
  • Little Beach Boutique
  • Dirty Harry
  • Wolf & Gypsy
  • Rare Records
  • The Wax Factor
How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Brighton Royal Pavilion

When in Brighton, you have to visit one of its most iconic buildings, the Brighton Royal Pavillion

It’s a superb, Grade I listed, former royal residence with a 200-year history and a captivating fusion of Indian and Chinese influences with classic British Regency style.

Originally built as a seaside retreat for King George IV in the early 19th century, the Royal Pavilion is a true architectural marvel.

Designed by the renowned architect John Nash, its extravagant exterior features domes, minarets, and intricate details that draw inspiration from Indian and Islamic design.

The result is a visually stunning palace that stands out amidst the surrounding Regency-era buildings.

Many of the items in the palace are on loan from Her Majesty the Queen [1926-2022]. The downside is that no photography is allowed inside, which means there are no #Royal Instagram photos, my loves.

Can you go in the Royal Pavilion Brighton?

You can enter and explore the interior of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The palace is open year-round to the public, allowing you to admire its impressive architecture and experience the opulence of its interiors.

Inside the Royal Pavilion, you can wander through various rooms and spaces that have been beautifully restored to reflect their original grandeur.

You can explore the Banqueting Room, Music Room, Royal Bedrooms, and other captivating palace areas.

As you explore the interior, you’ll be able to marvel at the intricate details, vibrant colours, and lavish decorations that make the Royal Pavilion truly unique.

The palace’s rich history and the stories behind its construction and use during the time of King George IV can be learned through informational displays and guided tours.

Why not book your ticket to Brighton Royal Pavilion in advance and enjoy wandering around this exotic palace?

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Lunch at Palm Court Brighton

Piping hot fish and chips at the seaside is a staple of British and English cuisine, best enjoyed after a bracing dip in the ocean.

Few can resist the lure of fryer-fresh chips on the promenade, devoured with a small wooden fork or grease-smeared fingers, even on blustery days.

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Palm Court Restaurant has a prime spot on Brighton Pier with superb sea views from its glass-fronted restaurant and bar. Order fish, chips, and a glass of bubbly and enjoy the seaside ambience in stylish surroundings.

Do a Brighton laughter workshop

There are several laughter workshops and classes in Brighton to choose from if you are looking for alternative things to do in Brighton.

During our laughing workshop, our laughing guru informed us that we would “make like Santa and release our inner ho”.

This is normally exactly the sort of woo-woo activity that has me on high cynicism alert.

Especially when the first exercise is to shake hands with your fellow group members whilst laughing and maintaining full-on, manic eye contact.

How to spend 24 hours in Brighton

Alternative activities Brighton

I eased up as the session continued, even when we had to ‘light our fuse and launch our laughter rocket’.

In fairness, I laughed awkwardly, genuinely throughout the entire session and with a slight sense of abandonment.

Mostly at my friend Hannah’s awkward face and whispers of ‘am I doing my laughter milkshake right?’ Not a question I ever imagined having to answer as an adult, if I’m honest.

How to spend 24 hours in Brighton

I imagine a laughter workshop is not for everyone. The enforced laughter will either make you smirk, or you will come over all British and uncomfortable.

It is a unique experience in Brighton. When else will you find yourself running around a room, clapping your hands together and chanting ‘ho, ho, ha, ha, ha’?

How to spend 24 hours in Brighton

Dinner at Dead Wax Social

DJs spin vinyl at Dead Wax Social, a trendy dive bar known for craft beer, pizza and vinyl beats.

This Bond Street Bar is a tribute to Brighton’s famed record shop and music industry.

Here you’ll find walls covered in Vinyl and retro playlists; it’s the ideal hangout for music enthusiasts and craft beer lovers.

It’s a perfect spot for dinner in Brighton if you are looking for a chilled atmosphere and really tasty pizza.

Live music at the Hope & Ruin

Taking inspiration from the ruin bars of Hungry, Hope & Ruin is a unique grassroots music venue that is full of character and dirty vegan food.

Rock out to various bands, surrounded by the quirky and retro decor and real grunge vibes. It’s a brilliant alternative venue in Brighton.

The crowd here is welcoming with trendy vegans mixing with ageing hipsters, all looking to support Brighton’s independent live music scene.

Day 2 Brighton

Do a Brighton Food Tour

Brighton has a rich selection of restaurants, cafes, and street food vendors, each offering a unique twist on local and international dishes.

If you want fresh seafood, the city’s proximity to the sea ensures abundant options with seafood platters, oysters, and prawns.

You can also explore the city’s lively food markets, such as the Brighton Open Market or Street Diner, where you’ll find an array of street food stalls offering everything from gourmet burgers to exotic Middle Eastern delicacies.

Brighton’s food scene goes beyond just seafood. The city is known for its thriving vegetarian and vegan offerings, with numerous dedicated eateries and menus catering to plant-based diets.

From innovative vegan cafes to upscale vegetarian restaurants, you’ll find an impressive range of delicious and healthy options that showcase Brighton’s commitment to sustainability and ethical dining.

Brighton Food experience

What better way to discover Brighton’s foodie scene than with an award-winning independent food tour of Brighton?

Discover sides of Brighton that you’d never think to put together on a guided, independent food tour, with seven stops at some of Brighton’s foodie hotspots.

You might be meeting food industry revolutionaries, discovering British seaside signatures, or learning more about sustainable solutions for the food industry.

This super hip tour lasts around 3 hours and includes seven stops at foodie hotpots.

Hear the stories behind the food and learn more about the politics and culture of the food scene and sustainability in the city.

You’ll get off the beaten track and feast on various eats from markets, food stalls and indie food producers.

Discover Brighton Street art

Brighton has loads of street art and tags across the city, from elaborate street art to rough and ready graffiti.

The kooky North Laine area features many street art murals and is home to Bristol legend Banksy’s famous ‘Kissing Policeman’ on the Prince Albert Pub.

In 2011, the original ‘Kissing Policeman’ image was replaced with a copy still there today.

Everything is a possible canvas for street artists; walls and phone boxes, even wheelie bins are all fair game.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Where to find street art in Brighton

Hannah and I spent some time hunting in lanes and side streets to see what weird and wonderful graffiti we could find in the city.

Some of the most popular street art spots in Brighton include:

  • Stranger things x Simpsons – Trafalgar lane
  • Rick & Morty – Near London Road
  • That mural with all the dead rock stars – Prince Albert Pub
  • Colourful cubes – Oxford Court
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Going on a self-guided tour of Brighton’s street art is a great way to save money on a city break and get some awesome urban snaps.

When you visit Brighton, I recommend you grab your camera and seek out some seriously cool street art.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Play arcade games at Brighton Pier

Ok, so this is a proper touristy thing to do in Brighton, but how can you not visit the most iconic landmark in the city?

Brighton Pier is a Grade II listed pleasure pier with a range of traditional fairground rides. This iconic pier also has an amusement arcade, food kiosks, bars and restaurants.

Brighton Pier

This historic pier is an icon of the city, is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Brighton, UK.

Originally constructed in 1899, Brighton Pier has undergone various transformations throughout its history. Today, it symbolises nostalgia, evoking memories of family vacations, summer days, and carefree fun.

As you approach the pier, you’ll be greeted by a scene of excitement, with the sound of laughter, the smell of freshly cooked fish and chips, and whirring arcade games

Walking the famous boards and feeding coins to the 2p machines is surely a kitsch and novel way to hark back to your childhood.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Inside the main arcade is all manner of whirring machines, flashing lights, modern video games and prize booths to keep you entertained for an hour or so.

Brighton pier rides and attractions

Walking toward the end of the pier, you will find the fairground rides, featuring several classic rides of your childhood.

There’s a retro log flume, a helter-skelter and a traditional carousel. 

As we visited in the off-season, not many rides were open, and there was minor maintenance work. So of you’re visiting Brighton in winter, be aware that some attractions might be closed.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Go to a cabaret show in Brighton

When spending 48 hours in Brighton, you have to make time to see a cabaret show. We had an incredible evening at the famous Proud Cabaret show.

The show features a three-Course Dinner with Prosecco and a glittering cabaret show.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

There are various drag acts, jazz and risqué burlesque performances to enjoy whilst food and drinks are served.

The performers are magnificent and truly the best thing about the venue.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Proud Cabaret menu

It’s fair to say that the food is not the main focus here, I had Crispy Pepper And Chilli Squid to start, followed by Duck Leg Confit for main and Oreo Cheesecake for dessert.

In all honesty, the starters and main were of very average quality. The dessert was actually the best part of the dinner.

It was gooey, creamy and extremely moreish. I recommend you skip the food and settle for drinks and a show.

How to spend 48 hours in Brighton

Proud Cabaret does put on a marvellous show of nipple tassel twirling, fire-breathing and show-stopping numbers. It’s a night out that will be remembered for years to come.

Where to stay in Brighton

There is accommodation to suit any budget in Brighton, ranging from traditional guesthouses, boutique hotels spa hotels and even rentals with Rentola.co.uk.

You can find a hotel in Brighton to suit your budget and length of time by using travel resources such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor to find the best hotel deals in Brighton.

Some of the best areas in Brighton include:

  1. Seafront: For those seeking seaside views and easy access to the beach, staying along the seafront is a popular choice. Here, you’ll find various hotels and guesthouses offering breathtaking coastline views and proximity to major attractions like the Brighton Pier and the Royal Pavilion.
  2. North Laine: This vibrant and eclectic neighbourhood is known for its independent shops, quirky cafes, and lively atmosphere. Staying in North Laine puts you in the heart of the action, with easy access to unique boutiques, vintage stores, and an array of dining options.
  3. The Lanes: This historic area of narrow, winding streets is renowned for its charming atmosphere and boutique shops. Staying in The Lanes allows one to explore its quaint alleys, discover hidden gems, and enjoy the city’s best antique stores.
  4. Kemptown: Located just east of the city centre, Kemptown offers a bohemian vibe with a diverse mix of independent shops, art galleries, and cosy cafes. This LGBTQ+-friendly neighbourhood is known for its welcoming atmosphere and vibrant nightlife. It’s a great choice for travellers seeking a lively and inclusive environment.

Hotels in Brighton

Brighton boasts a wide range of hotels to suit various tastes and budgets. From luxurious beachfront resorts to boutique hotels and budget-friendly options, there is a great choice of hotels

Some of my favourite hotels include:

where to stay in Brighton

Two days in Brighton

Two days in Brighton seems to cover a lot of UK weekend break essentials. It has an eclectic mix of the seaside, kitsch, clubbing and a splash of culture.

I would recommend taking a trip here and experiencing the delights of this cosmopolitan English city over a weekend.

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The sea air will do you good, even if all the boozy cocktails won’t.

What do you think of my Brighton Guide? Do you think 2 days in Brighton is enough time to explore a city? Let me know in the comments below!

48 Hours in Brighton, UK FAQ

Q: What is the best time to visit Brighton?

A: Brighton is a year-round destination, but the summer months of June to August are particularly popular due to the warm weather and vibrant atmosphere. However, keep in mind that it can get crowded during this time. Spring and autumn offer milder temperatures and fewer tourists, making it a great time to explore the city more relaxedly.

Q: How do I get to Brighton from London?

A: Brighton is conveniently located just an hour’s train ride south of London. Trains run frequently from London Victoria and London Bridge stations to Brighton. Alternatively, you can drive or take a bus to the city. The journey by road takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic conditions.

Q: Where should I stay in Brighton for a 48-hour trip?

A: Brighton offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Consider staying near the iconic Brighton Pier or the lively North Laine area for a central location. The seafront hotels provide stunning views, while the boutique guesthouses and bed and breakfasts in the Regency Square area offer a touch of elegance.

Q: What are some must-visit attractions in Brighton?

A: Brighton Pier, the Royal Pavilion, and The Lanes are some of the top attractions not to be missed during your 48 hours in Brighton. Additionally, exploring the vibrant North Laine neighbourhood, enjoying the picturesque Brighton Beach, and visiting the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery are highly recommended.

Q: Are there any outdoor activities in Brighton?

A: Absolutely! Brighton offers a range of outdoor activities to enjoy. Take a leisurely walk along the seafront promenade, rent a bicycle to explore the city and its surroundings, or join a kayak tour to discover the coastline from a different perspective. You can also try your hand at beach volleyball or take a boat trip to spot wildlife in the English Channel.

Q: What is the nightlife like in Brighton?

A: Brighton is renowned for its vibrant nightlife. There’s something for everyone, from traditional pubs and trendy cocktail bars to buzzing nightclubs and live music venues. The popular areas for nightlife include North Laine, West Street, and Brighton Marina. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch a show at the historic Brighton Dome or experience the lively atmosphere of the Brighton Pier after sunset.

Q: Are there any family-friendly activities in Brighton?

A: Brighton is a family-friendly destination with plenty of activities to entertain everyone. The SEA LIFE Brighton Aquarium, the Brighton Toy and Model Museum, and the British Airways i360 observation tower are popular family choices. You can also enjoy a fun-filled day at the Amex Stadium, home to Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, or visit the nearby Drusillas Park, an award-winning zoo and adventure park.

Q: What are some hipster activities in Brighton?

A: Brighton has a vibrant and diverse hipster scene. Some hipster activities to consider include exploring the independent shops and vegan cafés in the North Laine area, browsing through vintage clothing stores, attending live music gigs at local venues like The Hope and Ruin, checking out street art in the North Laine and Trafalgar Street, and enjoying speciality coffee at the city’s trendy coffee shops.

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Portia has spent years traversing the globe and having many misadventures. She now works as a freelance travel journalist, editor of Pip and the City and hosts the Travel Goals Podcast. She specialises in adventure travel, destination guides and city breaks. Her work has appeared in The Times, National Geographic and Lonely Planet. She can normally be found hiking, swimming outdoors in icy waters, or drinking coffee in bougie cafes.

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