Noisy hen parties wearing pink cowboy hats, out-of-towners shivering on a chilly beach, teenagers swigging bottles of cider on the pier – all part of your average Brighton break? Apparently not anymore.

These days the city is bursting with as much contemporary culture as good old-fashioned seaside fun, so I’m here for the weekend to pack in as much as I can of both.

Of course, the first stop on any coastal jaunt is to head straight to the seaside.

I’m spoilt for choice, torn between exploring the pier’s funfair, the Sea Life Centre and the newly installed Brighton Wheel. 

I venture on to the pier first, to take some snapshots of the pretty Victorian architecture set against the more garish, modern seaside attractions of slot machines and funfair rides.

Not feeling the need to scare myself witless on the ghost train or rollercoaster, I head back to shore and get straight on the Brighton Wheel instead.

This opened about a year ago and sweeps riders 50m above sea level, affording views across Brighton and Hove and out to sea.

As I gaze out the window, a recording starts and I find myself listening to those distinctive nasal tones of local celeb Steve Coogan, who tells the history of the wheel itself which started life at the 2010 South Africa World Cup before being brought to Brighton. 

As soon as I climb off the wheel, the rain starts – a regular occurrence here, summer or winter – so I dash into the safety of the newly refurbished Sea Life Centre, where I’m greeted by some scary-looking spider crabs and slippery moray eels.

The gloom of the moody lighting makes me feel as though I’m in the depths of the sea. Most beautiful of all is the underwater tunnel from where I watch the turtles and sharks circle overhead. 

It’s only a few minutes’ walk from here to the iconic Royal Pavilion.

The India-inspired architecture of the former royal palace looks like the set from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, but inside the decor is lavishly Oriental, the pièce de résistance a huge dragon-shaped chandelier descending from the ceiling in the cavernous dining room.

I wish my London flat looked this sumptuously gorgeous.After all the excitement of the seafront, I check into the retro boutique B&B Snooze.

I’ve booked my stay in the boudoir suite, which comes complete with luxe red curtains and vintage photographs of nudie ladies on the wall, a brilliantly saucy, tongue-in-cheek take on the traditional seaside style I’ve been soaking up all day.

The following morning, it’s out with the traditional and in with the new, as I head off to Create Studios, a modern photography centre which relaunched last year.

There are various courses on offer, from specialist portrait tuition to general brush-up lessons. I learn some advanced DSLR techniques, before spending some time trying them out in the studio. 

Then, with my newly acquired flash skills, I head back to the beach to do some shooting.

There is a huge group of bikers who roar into Brighton most weekends.

They line the seafront as far as the eye can see and I take the chance to snap as many pictures of the gruff, leather-clad gang as I can.The day is disappearing fast so I hit the winding Brighton Lanes for some shopping.

The area is a mixture of organic cafes, off-beat boutiques and improvised car boot sales selling anything from DVDs to vintage knick-knacks.

It certainly is a feast for the eyes and senses, even if it’s tough on my wallet. 

Eventually I collapse with my bags at the fashionable new Lanes restaurant Yum Yum Ninja, which serves pan Asian tapas – so innovative, the dishes would have Heston Blumenthal gourmet-foaming at the mouth. 

I chomp what I can only describe as a posh scotch egg which looks like a deep-fried puffer fish  – a fittingly surreal end to what has been a genuinely quirky weekend beside the seaside.


Eat, Drink, Sleep

Pan Asian tapas delights await you at Yum Yum Ninja on Meeting House Lane. Dishes range from £1.50 for snacks to £60 for a Ninja House sharing platter.  

Moshimo (formerly Moshi Moshi) in Bartholomew Square offers up famously authentic Japanese dishes.

Small plates from £2.20 and mains from £8.50.  

Popular with locals and tourists alike, classic boozer The Bath Arms in the heart of the Lanes has a lively yet cosy atmosphere. Pints from £3.80.

Chill out with a cocktail or two at speakeasy-inspired Under The Tap (103 North Road, tel. 01273 933 484). With drinks starting at £5.95 you are sure to have plenty of change left for your taxi home.

Rest up at boutique guesthouse Snooze and have an amazing slap-up breakfast in the morning. Rooms from £55 per night.  

The Grapevine hostels are the perfect base for backpackers – one venue is near the beach and the other near the Lanes. Dorm beds from £8pppn.  


Getting there

Take the train from London Victoria, Blackfriars, St Pancras or London Bridge to Brighton with Southern Railways. Tickets start at £15.50 return.


Photos: TNT; Thinkstock