Perfect Weekend: 48-Hours in Brighton and HoveBy Rose Dykins
“It’s always sunny in Brighton,” my dad likes to say. It’s obviously not – but what I think he’s getting at, is the feeling many people experience when their train pulls in to Brighton Station, with hills of colourful terraced houses either side of them and the shrill seagull calls echoing in the air.
People come here for the bohemian, carefree vibe – to play, to relax, to celebrate, to escape. Even when it’s not sunny in Brighton, the outlook generally is. Here are some suggestions for a fun-filled weekend in the city:
Where to Stay
Follow the swarms of people down the hill from Brighton train station, then meander for ten minutes until you reach Regency Square, where you’ll find the cosy Artist Residence Brighton.
If you appreciate eclectic design with contemporary touches – matt wooden furnishings, vintage decor and pop art – this 23-room boutique property is perfect for you. Nestled within a sea-facing townhouse on the square, it’s right where you want to be; just behind the shops of Churchill Square, with the seafront on your doorstep.
Some of the rooms feature jazzy artist murals, and all have a young, fun feel. If you can, fork out for a Bigger Sea View room, as others are a little on the small side, and this room type comes with a lovely free-standing bath facing the sea.
My favourite thing about Artist Residence Brighton is The Cocktail Shack. With a tiki-bar atmosphere, and enough space for no more than a dozen or so people, the hotel’s bar is a million miles from the stag dos and Wetherspoons on West Street, and is perfect for an intimate, fun date or girly catch-up.
Bar manager Max is constantly concocting new delicious and highly instagrammable creations, such as the fiery “Cachaca in the Rye”, infused with mango, elderflower and scotch bonnet pepper (£8.50), and “Rosemary Mother of God” with gin, rosemary, rose, lime and egg white – and a touch of holy spirit (£9).
Where to Eat
Can I tempt you into Hove? Sure, it’s quieter, and a little bit more grown-up than Brighton, but it’s straight down the road – or the seafront – and home to some of my favourites, such as Archipelagos, which is hands down the best Greek restaurant I’ve found outside my native North London suburb so far.
Try the Mydia Ahnista mussels marinaded in a rich tomato, cream onions and white wine sauce (£6.95) with a side of feather-light pitta and cool tzatziki (£4.30), and wash it down with a carafe of crisp rosé.
Hove’s excellent brunch offering includes the kooky Cafe Salvage, where you can buy pretty much any of the antique furnishings – from ageing musical instruments to entire sofas.
Or, just down the road, there’s 42 Juice (part of Six restaurant), with its ultra-raw juice bar boasting a cacophony of recipes, including the aptly named “I Am Hungover”, with coconut water, maca, pineapple, mango and cold-pressed coconut milk (£5.95).
Back in Brighton though, you can’t leave without dinner at The Chilli Pickle. Be sure to book in advance, or you will be disappointed. It’s Brighton’s answer to Dishoom. Its service is top, its atmosphere is buzzy, and its fine-tuned Indian dishes are prepared to perfection – I can vouch for the succulent scarlet tandoori chicken Ppatter (£16.50), the Nepalese pork momos dumplings and rib broth (£8.25), and the fluffy paneer.
Set in the boho North Laine shopping area, La Choza’s decor is all bright colours and Day of the Dead skulls. Its ostentatious vibe and authentic Mexican food at a super reasonable price will make you throw caution to the wind and order a couple of blood orange margaritas with home infused chilli with lunch.
Finally, if you’re into vegan food, and even if you’re not, Iydea is a must. Choose from delicious mains – satisfying lasagnes, (dairy free) cheesy enchiladas and, add toppings, crunchy vegetable sides and sauces, such as a dollop of sour cream with a spoonful of candied beetroot.
If your plate doesn’t look like a rainbow by the time you reach the till, you’ve failed. On a sunny day, get your meal to take away and pop round the corner to enjoy it sitting amid the flowers of the Pavilion Gardens.
Where to Shop
You could send a whole day shop-hopping around the North Laine . The colourful boutiques full of chic homeware, artisan clothing and local character will excite both vintage and modern tastes, and it’s my favourite place in the world for blowing my pay cheque.
Part of the fun is stumbling upon somewhere interesting-looking and stepping inside, but here are a few tips.
Photo Credit: Love Brighton
Hope and Harlequin is full of breathtaking and carefully curated vintage clothing, and if you or a friend is getting married anytime soon, they do the most incredible wedding and bridesmaid dresses, much more spectacular than your average strapless meringue gown.
Check out To Be Worn Again for Levi Jeans and jackets, Dirty Harry for dungarees and tailored dresses from a more flattering era, and Dave’s Comics for some truly imaginative comics that tackle everyday subject matters as well as the usual superhero sagas.
Snoopers’ Paradise is like a museum of items pilfered from the homes of highly eccentric people, and there’s bound to be something in there that’s your definition of treasure. Upon my last visit, I stumbled upon an entire set of knights’ armour, a singing robotic lobster and some neon pink goggles/sunglasses with novelty spikes, to name a few…
Back down the road in Hove, Fold is the place for statement pieces – cotton shift dresses with beautiful bold prints and hand crafted leather sandals (a fraction of the price you’ll find them in Office).
Where to Drink
If day drinking is on your agenda, head to the Fortune of War on the seafront for a cider in the sun and people watching. Its also rather atmospheric and cosy on a stormy day, with an interior designed like the inside of a ship.
If you like jazz, The Paris House is the place to go on a Saturday afternoon, where there’s free entry to watch a top jazz performers from 4pm. And if craft beer is your thing, check out the Brighton Beer Dispensary. Back in the North Laines The White Rabbit another great spot for watching the world go by – it’s a laid-back pub with outdoor benches and a friendly crowd.
My personal favourite joint for birthday celebrations and pre-clubbing drinks is Deadwax Social. Lined with vinyl records that you can rifle through and choose one to hand over to the DJ to play, it does great cocktails, has the right amount of buzz, and will get you in the mood for dancing.
Where to Party
It’s best not to make a plan with Brighton, and just see where the night takes you. But I can recommend ending your night screaming your head off to “Footloose” and “Africa” by Toto at The Haunt, which blares 80s classics until about 2am every Saturday night without fail.
Then, gather everyone up and head to Buddies for a compulsory post-party fry-up. You’re bound to meet some characters, and on past visits, the entire restaurant broke out into song. Sitting there at 4am, swaying my arms while singing Backstreet Boys’ “I want it that way” was a very special moment.
Where to Relax
Being a hen do magnet, Brighton is home to plenty of spas, but my favourite treatment can be found at Schmoo by the Sea spa at the Hilton Brighton Metropole hotel. Its Warm Bamboo Massage, involve heated bamboo sticks – which give better pressure and heat than human fingers – being gently but firmly rolled all over your neck and back. The spa’s bespoke Schmoo products are all made from natural ingredients, and you’ll leave smelling better than a plate of fresh strawberries.
On a brilliant sunny day, you’re going to want some beach time, but if you fancy something different, take the 77 bus (which runs April until October) to Devil’s Dyke.
Wondering where the name comes from? According to folklore, satan himself began digging a trench in the rolling hills to try and flood the local churches, and thereby creating the v-shaped valley we have today. Scientists put it down to river erosion and tens of thousands of years of movement from thawed snow.
It’s a beautiful part of the UK, and a reminder for city dwellers how far removed we are from nature. I remember feeling nervous but fascinated while hiking past a herd of roaming cows that were in my path. There are loads of clearly marked trails, and it’s a stunning place to escape with a picnic and a good companion.