Well-known for its eccentric outlook and beer-fuelled beach parties, Brighton has always been a favourite seaside escape. But in tandem with the city’s wild side are hundreds of holistic therapists and serene sanctuaries – the perfect antidote to excessive nights out and a welcome retreat for overworked urbanites. Exploring these contrasting characteristics reveals Brighton’s two extremes of escapism.
Wild: Only when you’re back on solid ground do you realise that you haven’t drawn breath for a full 20 minutes; flying across the English Channel at 50mph, a Zapcat hovercraft ride is the perfect pick-me-up after a hedonistic night out. Or, for old-school thrills, experience the roller coasters, river rapids and horror houses of Brighton Pier; be sure to ride The Booster, a giant slingshot that launches you in the air with a stomach-sickening swoop before plummeting you back towards the sea. For festival-style fun, head to the city’s beach bars. On a sunny day, you’ll see more people than pebbles, a kaleidoscope of beachwear and the occasional streaker. Bring your own booze or find a seat in a patio bar, where you can expect live music and resident ravers. If ‘going wild’ means ‘back to nature’ for you, visit Britain’s first official nudist beach – it’s discretely hidden behind a bank of pebbles, to the east of the pier.
Mild: Stone massage or salt glow, colour therapy or timeline treatment, Brighton is teeming with health spas and healing hands. Head to The Treatment Rooms, a day spa offering more than 50 different chill-out treatments. Proving that men can be pampered, too, the ‘Olympian Ritual’ involves a deep-muscle massage with essential oils and black pepper. Or escape the crowds and walk west from the Pier, towards Hove’s more salubrious shores. Pack a picnic and recline on The Lawns, or enjoy a sunset barbecue on the beach and see the starlings dance around the West Pier.
Take a break
Wild: Some of the best independent coffee shops are found in Kemp Town or The Lanes. On a self-proclaimed mission to ‘caffeinate Brighton’, The Marwood is, without doubt, the city’s quirkiest café – enjoy super-strong coffee while surrounded by stuffed cats and hang-gliding action men.
Mild: Herbal teas and fresh-fruit smoothies aren’t hard to come by in Brighton. Visit the cafes on Gardner Street, in the North Lanes, or swap morning coffee for a guarana-seed shake at the Guarnaco Bar – try their signature Acai smoothie or sweat it out with a shot of wheatgrass.
Wild: The elaborate bars on St James’s Street can always be relied on for larger-than-life nights out; in the heart of Brighton’s gay quarter. On the other hand, if pints-in-pubs are more your scene, stick to the North Lanes, where the best collection of lively watering holes can be found. The boldest nightclubs all have a sea view. For booming bass, make a beeline for The Volks and you’ll be guaranteed chest vibrations and ear ringing that will last for months. For Brighton’s latest nights, try Coalition, which stays open till 7am.
volksclub.co.uk / drinkinbrighton.co.uk/coalition
Mild: For drinks without the debauchery, Brighton’s classy cocktail bars and more peripheral pubs are the answer. Early evening or early-hours, the balcony bars on New Road are a great place to people-watch; or for board-games and beers, venture out to the calmer corners of the city – try the pubs in Hove, Hanover or Seven Dials. For entertainment, catch a classical music concert at The Brighton Dome, or see what’s on at The Theatre Royal. Film-wise, the arts cinema, The Duke of York’s, has been a favourite with locals ever since it opened in 1910 – see classic movies or select new releases, while enjoying slabs of homemade cake.