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City Breaks

The Best Of Brighton For Summer 2023

Brighton will always have a place in the heart of Citizen Femme’s deputy editor, Katie Silcox, after she called it home for three years during university. But the city has elevated since then; this is the best of Brighton for 2023. 

KS: I look back fondly on my time living in Brighton as a student but have more recently discovered a different side to the popular UK seaside city. It’s not only the city that’s changed, I’ve changed too. And so has my budget. While some things remain the same – the stony beach, the Palace Pier, and the delicious fish and chips – there’s also new experiences to try, alongside a wave of new restaurants to explore. 

This May, the Brighton Festival, guest directed by Nabihah Iqbal takes place (6 – 28 May 2023) showcasing music, dance, theatre, art, film and more, so there’s perhaps no better time to pay this seaside city your first visit, or to reacquaint yourself with it. With a spattering of old favourites as well as newer places to discover, here’s where to stay and eat, plus what to do in Brighton this year. 


The Grand Brighton

Brighton is synonymous with boutique – stores, dining and hotels – but if you want to make your visit to this seaside city truly special there’s only one place to stay: The Grand. The Dame of all Dames, this elegant hotel has stood proudly on the Brighton seafront for nearly 160 years – 159 to be exact – and has seen its fair share of events and high-profile guests in its time. The past is still present here, though it’s been carefully updated over recent years with a multi-million pound makeover. The iconic Victorian façade of the hotel has been married with modern statement furniture inside, while doormen in bowler hats and chequered trousers guide you into the lobby, where the statement staircase is the star of the show.

While here, pay a visit to the subterranean spa (currently closed) for its lauded bee-venom facial. Location is everything and at The Grand you have sweeping sea views from almost a third of the rooms –  opt for the Deluxe Sea View for the best of the best – and are just a leisurely 10 minute stroll to most of Brighton’s top attractions.


The Grand Brighton

With a world of dining options on your doorstep (more on that later) it may be tempting to head straight out and explore the vibrant Brighton foodie scene, but stop and stay a while at The Grand. Their traditional afternoon tea on the Victoria Terrace remains a classic – finger sandwiches, quiche, sausage rolls, plus a variety of cakes and pastries served with tea or champagne – but has been updated with vegan and gluten free options. It’s still a favourite with old-timers but has also been discovered by the Instagram crowd. The Grill serves sustainably-sourced meats, pastas and fish – as does Cyan where you can also stop in for a hearty Sunday lunch or for drinks at the sleek central bar. After-hours drinks at the Victoria Bar are another stylish way to enjoy the evening; low-slung sofas and deep blue decor with accents of gold make this an ideal spot for a glass of champagne or two.

Shelter Hall

On the beach directly opposite The Grand you’ll find Shelter Hall. This Victorian-era building – originally a place for the public to shelter from the rain – has been converted into a rotating seven-kitchen venue showcasing the best of Brighton’s restaurateurs. Kitchens and menus change, but expect the likes of burgers and milkshakes from Patty Guy, Neapolitan pizza from VIP Pizza and Egyptian street food from the latest resident to the hall, Cairovan. Upstairs is a chic cocktail bar with pier-to-pier views across Brighton beach.


Indian street food restaurant, Mowgli, first opened doors in Liverpool in 2014 and has gone from strength to strength. The Brighton branch – the 16th outpost – opened in February 2023, quickly followed by Edinburgh in late April and with a Bristol branch set to follow soon. Visit for authentic Indian dishes such as Goan fish curry and Manchurian chicken alongside street food favourites such as bhel puri, chilli cheese toast and pani puri. The restaurant has an unmistakably Instagrammable vibe – fairy lights and swing chairs – and there’s a buzz about it with happy chatter filling the air; perhaps on account of it being one of the hottest new dining scenes in an already energetic city. 

Brighton Harbour Hotel

Another hotel boasting prime real estate on the seafront, the bar and kitchen and Brighton Harbour Hotel offers all-day dining with a strong seafood focus; visit for rock oysters, scallops, mussels, seafood pasta or a classic seaside fish and chips. At the bar you’ll find a long wine, cocktail and spirits menu served in a fun and friendly atmosphere. There’s a nod to British seaside kitsch with decor and art inspired by piers, amusement arcades and circus shows – but here it’s elegant and tasteful. Every weekend and bank holiday Monday in May they’re also serving a Royal Brunch with dishes including caviar crumpets, truffle omelette and champagne poached eggs.

Burnt Orange

As you enter Burnt Orange, notice the slogan above its courtyard gate: ‘Right Here Right Now’. Not only do the words of Brighton’s most famous DJ, Norman Smith aka Fatboy Slim, adorn the entrance to this restaurant but his curated playlist rings out within. This sets the tone for your evening where the line between restaurant and bar is blurred, but both executed with sophistication. Start with a dish in their signature style, wood-fired. Seabream, octopus, miso aubergine, butternut squash and chicken thighs are just some of the options on the menu and pair well with coconut panna cotta or wood-fired cheese for dessert. Brighton has somewhat of a reputation for kiss-me-quick fun but Burnt Orange, pitching itself as a ‘grown-ups hangout that’s open all day and just the right amount of night’, is here to prove it wrong.


Brighton Beach and The Palace Pier 

No visit to Brighton is complete without a trip to the beach, and on a sunny summer’s day it seems most of the city’s residents – as well as many who call London home – agree. Pitch up early to get the best space on the main stretch between the two piers, or head to the beach on the west of Brighton Palace Pier, which attracts less of a crowd. The Palace Pier is worth a stroll, if not for the tacky decor or fun fair at its end, visit for freshly-fried hot sugared donuts. After time in the sun, take a wander along the promenade where countless restaurants and bars await – the Fortune of War pub opened doors in 1882 and is the oldest venue on the seafront but remains a favourite, Brighton Music Hall is the place to head for live music, or drop in at Osho Social for relaxed family dining by day and local DJs by night.

Royal Pavilion and Garden

There’s no mistaking the Royal Pavilion, its impressive Mughal and Islamic-inspired exteriors are the most unique in the city, and perhaps even in the country. Finished in the early-1800s, its exterior domes and minarets were designed on the instruction of Prince Regent, later King George IV, for whom this impressive piece of architecture was built. Inside, he requested Chinese-inspired interiors which remain to this day, though mostly via restoration. From WW1 until the 1920s the building served as a public hospital and today operates as a museum to share the rich and fascinating history of both the building and its people. The public gardens surrounding it are a popular meeting place and the estate can also be hired as a wedding venue: it was the location of one of the UK’s first same-sex weddings when a local couple married here at 00:01 on 29 March 2014, just one minute after gay marriage became legal in the UK.

Brighton i360

For the best views of Brighton and beyond, visit the Brighton i360. One of the tallest moving observation towers in the world, its doughnut-shaped pod starts at ground level and climbs 138 metres into the sky – boasting views of the city and its sea, but also across Eastbourne, the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and the South Down National Park. Designed by the same architecture firm as the London Eye, views are best enjoyed at sunset on a clear day. The pod takes approximately 25 minutes from ground to sky and back again, and it is also available for longer private-hire sessions or public events including sky dining and wine tasting. For a truly unique morning, look to Brighton Bella Yoga for a yoga class in the sky (pod). Bella also hosts group and one-to-one yoga classes firmly back on the Brighton ground. 

Walking Food Tour

There are two fail-safe ways to explore a destination: on foot or via its food. Brighton Food Tours offers the best of both with themed or location-focussed walking tours of the city’s best foodie spots. Each tour takes around three hours and range from the Brighton Wine Rebellion tour which aims to ‘rebel against pretentious wine snobbery’ to the V.I.B (Very Independent Brighton) tour spotlighting local vendors and street stalls. Expect to discover vintage tea rooms, micro-breweries, fresh seafood, freshly-baked pastries, and a whole lot more. Come hungry.

Shop at Independent Stores 

Brighton has two sets of lanes (or laines). In the south, edging towards the seafront are the South Lanes, a warren-like maze of narrow, vehicle-free paths that were once home to many independent jewellery stores. Some remain, but many of the buildings have become restaurants or bars over the years. It’s in the North Laines that you’ll discover what true, independent shopping streets can look like. Colourful and eclectic, these streets are home to local vendors with stores dedicated to selling everything from vegetarian shoes, art supplies, Moroccan furniture, hats and even beads. Refuel with a blackcurrant crumble or apricot tart at Real Patisserie, or with bubble tea and waffles at Yue.

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