Illustration by Julia Rothman
Our Brighton City Guide comes from Michelle Butler, a printmaker and web designer based in Brighton. Her prints are influenced by folk traditions, dark tales, mid-century design and Forteana. Today Michelle shows us around her city’s artistic sites, classic shops and charming cafes. Thanks, Michelle, for this wonderful tour of Brighton! — Stephanie
CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!
Brighton is an English bohemia by the sea. Throw a pebble on the beach, and you will hit an artist or a musician. It’s known for its thriving independent shops, non-chain cafes, the largest gay scene outside of London and a reputation for “anything goes” events, such as the Brighton Naked Bike Ride and Gay Pride, where even the dogs dress up.
Brighton is a hub for creative people, with a big arts festival in May and Artists Open Houses trails in May and December. Only an hour from London by train, it still has an air of the naughty postcard to it. This comes in part from the influence of the Prince Regent, famous for building the fantastically kitsch Royal Pavilion and for his enormous appetite for pleasure.
Unlike London, you can walk just about everywhere, and if the weather is too bracing for you, there are many pubs and cafes in which to take shelter.
Things to See in Brighton
Brighton Royal Pavilion — Designed by John Nash, the Prince Regent’s seaside villa is a riot of Indian onion domes, Chinese dragons, gold leaf and colour. Exotic and fanciful, check out the banquette menu of 1817, which lists 112 dishes!
The Palace Pier (seafront) — A pleasure pier with amusements and dodgy food, this may not be everyone’s taste, but the view of Brighton from the pier is superb. And it’s free.
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Royal Pavilion Gardens — The museum features 20th-century decorative art and design, local finds, world costumes and traveling art exhibitions. Look out for the history of fashion exhibit, which includes a pair of the Prince Regent’s huge breeches. The museum also has a rather nice tea room.
Come out of the train station and head left into the North Laines — this is the main alternative shopping area with narrow streets and brightly painted regency cottages. It makes for a great wander as all the streets are close together, and it’s fantastic for people watching.
A word of warning: no one gets up that early, so don’t expect everything to open at 9am!
Abode, 32 Kensington Gardens — Contemporary homewares featuring Donna Wilson, Ed Carpenter and Rachel Barker.
Pussy Home Boutique, 3a Kensington Gardens — Cute kitsch homewares that also includes cards, local artists prints, owl plushies, and art books and items from Paul Frank, the Moomins, Miffy and Tatty Devine.
Utility, 28a North Road — Hardware and household stuff made in a simple but hard-wearing style.
Black Out, 53 Kensington Place — My absolute favourite shop, a jumble of everything bright and colourful: clothes, cards and home goods, much of it sourced from the Far East. Giant plastic bunnys, Mexican hearts and Indian posters.
Clothes and Makers
Get Cutie, 33 Kensington Gardens — Handmade dresses in vintage cuts with unique retro print fabrics.
Yoma, 39 Gardner St. — Amazing shoes made with wacky shapes and materials.
Red Mutha, 92 Trafalgar Street — One-off, customised, recycled products and clothes by husband and wife team Red and Dan.
Jump The Gun, 36 Gardner Street — Quadrophenia was filmed in Brighton. You too can be a 60s mod Ace Face.
Last, 6 Bond Street — Beautiful handmade shoes and local craft accessories by original designers, both in-house (Alex Herdman) and from other countries.
Posh Totty – 1 Bond St Cottages – Jewellery, gifts and all things small in this tiny shop down a alley in Bond Street and also an arch on the sea front in summer.
Mama San, 102 Gloucester Road — 80s-inspired cuts, pop culture prints and vintage fabric. Local designers like Gemma Correll.
Appendage, 36 Kensington Gardens — Gallery and a shop, this is one of the few places with mainly Brighton and south coast designers and makers.
IO Gallery – 39 Sydney street – art and a bit crafty.. showing local artists and makers.
Most of the best independent record shops are in this area.
Edgeworld Records, 6 Kensington Gardens — Obscure noise/experimental artists.
Borderline, 41 Gardner Street — Funk and soul, psychedelic, krautrock, soundtracks and other quirkier genres.
Other independent record shops: The Punker Bunker, Across the Tracks, Wax Factor and Resident Records.
Brighton Books, 18 Kensington Gardens — Second-hand books with very knowledgeable staff plus Simeon, the famous black cat, lolling about on the counter.
Sandpiper, 4 Kensington Gardens — Design, art and music but also a selection of remainder and bargain books.
Dave’s Comics, 5 Sydney Street — Comics, graphic novels, anime and small-press editions.
There are loads of lovely cafes here that cater to all tastes. Here are just some:
Ideya, 17 Kensington Gardens and Infinity, 50 Gardner Street — These offer vegan and vegetarian choices.
The Farm, 99 North Road — Organic and fair trade.
Bills Produce Store, 100 North Road — Organic and fresh produce also for sale in the cafe.
Wai Kika Moo Kau, 11a Kensington Gardens and RED VEG, 21 Gardner Street — Vegetarian with some vegan selections.
A classic fry up can be sampled at The Dumb Waiter, 28 Sydney Street or Kensington’s, which has a balcony overlooking Kensington Gardens.
In My Room, Dirty Harry, Loot and Starfish are smaller mid-priced shops.
Beyond Retro and To be Worn Again are the larger warehouse-style shops.
Hope & Harlequin, Kate & Aud, Tramp and Wolf and Gypsy are the more upmarket vintage clothes shops. All can be found on Trafalgar St., Sydney Street and Kensington Gardens.
Antiques and Indoor Flea Markets
Snoopers Paradise is a large covered market area in Kensington Gardens with furniture, vintage clothes, books and antiques.
The North Laine Antiques & Fleamarket on Upper Gardner Street (very near to The Farm) — A weekend covered local produce and craft market.
The Yard at Diplocks — on Saturday – local food produce market and two good cafes.
Every Second and Fourth Sunday in the month, Vintage and makers market.
You will also find a mixed market at Upper Gardner Street on Saturday – high points are Andrew’s haberdashery stall with a mix of vintage French and English materials, ribbons and buttons.
South Lanes and Seafront
Take a turn around the twittens (Sussex alleys) and narrow streets and wind your way down to the seafront.
Castor and Pollux, Kings Arches, just on the seafront — Gallery and bookstore specializing in print and illustration. They also have textiles, glass, pottery and jewellery by local and international designers.
Eikonoclast, 7 Kings Road — Loads of cute gifts, cards, amazing clocks;
also, incredible blends of tea from Parisian company Mariage Freres. The shop window usually has a interesting display.
Florentin Boutique, 2 Pool Valley — Women and children’s clothing and accessories from both local makers and other countries such as Sweden and Wales. Sheepskin slippers, hand-knitted scarves and hats with a twist.
Penelope’s Portmanteau, 42 Ship Street — Vintage handbags and 50s costume jewellery. The bags vary from Art Deco to vintage-beaded bridal bags. Offers loads of classic brands including Dorset Rex, Midas of Miami, Gucci, Chanel, Enid Collins, Mappin & Webb.
Jewel Thief Gallery, 26 Dukes Lane — Something really different here: dead rabbits, skulls, cherries, contemporary jewellery by designers such as Momocreatura, Tina Lilienthal, Sophie Harley, Diana Porter and Bena.
The Mock Turtle in Pool Valley — This is the place for authentic cream teas in a whimsical cottage-style setting, massive home-baked cakes, lemon curd and jams.
Tick Tock, 53 Meeting House Lane — Light bites with a French flavour set in vintage mix-and-match decor.
Choccywoccydodah, 24 Duke Street — Chocolate shop with a difference: fantastical sculpture in chocolate, the Alice in Wonderland of the chocolate world. Also a cafe at the address below.
Bar Du Chocolate, 27 Middle Street — Here you can get hot chocolate and light bites.
Marwood Cafe, 52 Ship Street — Great coffee, eclectic decor with action men, alien paintings and giant toy cube stools. You can also get your Mac computer repaired upstairs.
Terre Terre, 71 East Street — One of the best vegetarian restaurants in the UK! Innovative veggie ideas where everything is always beautifully presented and complemented by organic and biodynamic wines. The place to go for a treat.
Scoop and Crumb – 5-6 East Street – excellent ice cream, sundaes, snacks, open sandwiches and some Swedish products like
Cloud Nine – 15 Brighton Place – very pink and fun! ice cream and cakes with lessons in ice cream making offered.
Boho Gelato – 6 Pool Valley – traditional Italian ice cream parlour with a twist has a daily choice of at least 24 flavours.
Kemptown village is the unofficial gay area of Brighton and has some amazing antique markets and quirky shops.
Most of the gay bars and clubs are based around the bottom of St James street and the seafront.
Handmade, St. James’s Street — A non-profit shop formed by a group of over 25 local designers and makers, featuring Joanna Zara, Georgina Rose Shire and Doylishus tee shirts.
Magic Brighton shop – 80c St James Street – proper magic tricks and a big scary looking dummy head on the outside of the shop. www.magic-brighton.co.uk
Kemptown Flea Market, 31a Upper St. James’s Street — Covered flea market with tons of stalls and, for some reason, lots of stuffed squirrels, sometimes on motorbikes!
Kemptown Trading Post and Coffee Shop, 28 St Georges Road — Loads of different stalls selling mid-century modern furniture, lighting, ceramics, clothing, collectibles and jewellery.
Alex Macarthur’s, 101 St Georges Rd. — Furniture, mirrors, lighting and decorative objects. 17th-century ecclesiastical to 20th-century industrial. Some amazing stuff here: giant clocks, wrestling mats and large garden statues are just some of the items.
Pardon My French 104 St. Georges Road — Gifts and home decor goods. Also a great range of 40s-style swimming costumes.
Kiss Me Kwick, 4 George Street — Naughty card shop with designs from Modern Toss, Dave Anderson and Simon Spicer.
Kemptown Bookshop, 91 St. George’s Road — Independent bookshop selling a wide range of books and prints from British artists like Eric Ravilious; it also has a cafe and a lovely, friendly dog upstairs.
Red Roaster, 1d St James’s Street — Loads of different coffee beans, all hand-roasted on the premises. Also art exhibitions and talks.
The Tea Cosy, 3 George Street — A truly eccentric tea shop with loads of royal family china and Lady Di memorabilia.
Bom Banes, 24 George Street — Cafe-restaurant run by musicians Jane Bom-Bane and Nick Pynn.
The tiny theatre space hosts nights as diverse as “Sing Along Wickerman” to “Spacedog and Professor Elemental.” Fantastic food with Belgian beer. Book ahead as it is very small.
Metrodeco, Upper St James’s Street — 30s-themed tea shop with Art Deco antiques and over 18 bespoke blends of fine tea. A very glamorous spot — somewhere to take your favourite aunt.
Real Patisserie – 34 St George’s Road – Bread, sandwiches and cakes with a small cafe space, enjoy fresh out of the oven delights.
Ground Coffee house – 36 St George Street – best for the very good coffee and recycled wood decor.
Hudson and Bridges – 237 Eastern Road
Lovely cafe and deli which makes a proper hot chocolate with the chocolate in a pot to pour in.
Local produce, pies and cakes.
“Hove actually,” as the locals call it, is an extension of Brighton, seen as slightly posher than Brighton with its large Regency squares and less commercial seafront.
Box Bird Gallery and Shop, 14 St. Johns Road — A gallery and workspace set up by Alice Carter and illustrator Graham Carter that showcases illustrators, printmakers and fine artists including Fiona Hewitt, Jon Burgerman, Zara Wood, Sally Elford, Tom Frost, Ben Newman and many more.
Cocoon, George Street — Knitting supplies with a haberdashery. The Knit & Natter group meets every Friday at the shop and they hold regular classes for Beginners Knitting & Crochet.
Domain, 100 Church Road — 20th-century classic furniture and smaller home-decor goods from Holland and Brussels as well as the UK, all at a very good price. If you love mid-century design, it is well worth a look, and Jo the owner has now expanded to another shop next door.
Rume, 54 Western Road — Contemporary English-made furniture by designers Baker and Belgae and Jet Baker, who also take commissions.
Altjeringa, 70 Western Road — Accessories, jewellery and bags from around the world using sustainable working practices. Items from Cambodia, Martinique, Sri Lanka, Morocco and the Congo.
Imi Loa, Western Road — Gifts and hand-knitted scarves and accessories by local designers, such as Wendy Ward.
I Gigi 31a Western Road and 37 Western Road — Rustic-style store selling homewares and men’s and women’s clothes with a cafe upstairs. Some of the items stocked are Royal Staffordshire, Wonki Ware South African pottery and Henry Dean hand-blown glassware, Nygårds Anna, Privatsachen, Albam, Hartford and 120% Lino. Upstairs is the organic cafe serving light bites, cream teas and cakes; my favourite are the lunch boards served with salad, bread and pickles.
Koba Cafe -135 Western Road – bistro and cocktails in the evening, brunches and coffee in the day, a cut above the usual service in Brighton, nothing seems to be too much trouble.
Small batch Coffee co. – 67c Church Road – great coffee in a modern interior with wholesale coffee for sale as well.
Treacle & Co, 164 Church Road — Hand-baked cakes and lunch specials set in an old shop with original fittings. I have spent many a dreamy hour sampling lovely pastries here, beetroot and chocolate, pecan tarts, violet cupcakes . . mmm.
Sugardough, 12 Victoria Terrace — Everything is baked on the premises here — pies, artisan breads, pastries, teas, coffees and cakes. The eating area is small but if there’s no room, you can always take your hoard down to the beach a few minutes down the road.
Ethel’s Kitchen, 59 Blatchington Road — Organic and fair trade cafe with a charming interior. Specials at lunchtime and some outside seating. Vintage interior style with cups and plates from the 50s and 60s.
Hove Museum and Art Gallery, 19 New Church Road — A significant collection of toys plus local craft and makers exhibited. Local film history is covered, along with a tea room surrounded by very old teapots.
A village-like area on the hill above Brighton.
Sixty Seven, 67 Dyke Road — A tucked-away gem but well worth the look. Sells gifts and prints from local and international makers and sometimes some mid-century furniture. They stock Barbara Wiggins, Rob Ryan, Petra Boase and Tocca.
Big Bead Boutique, 12 Dyke Road — Vintage haberdashery with custom-made wedding tiaras and handmade jewellery. An Aladdin’s cave of all the notions you might need.
Murasaki, 115 Dyke Road — Japanese canteen-style food and sushi, with lunch menus but also an evening restaurant. Unpretentious, minimal style with friendly staff that can help you with the menu.
Benio, 87-93 Dyke Road — Stylish and all-day bistro with a modern European French flavour and wooden-rustic decor.
The Booth of Natural History Museum, 194 Dyke Road — Victorian collector Henry Booth’s stuffed birds and butterfly collections with over 650 types on display, along with some local history, rocks and minerals.
Places to Stay
Neo Hotel, 19 Oriental Place — Boutique Georgian grade II listed townhouse, 30s style and very opulent.
Drake’s Hotel, 43-44 Marine Parade — On Brighton’s seafront. Decadent, contemporary luxury.
Kemp Town House, 21 Atlingworth Street — Blending old-world elegance with contemporary style and English eccentricity.
Hotel Pelirocco, 9-10 Regency Square — Funky-themed rooms inspired by pop culture, super-kitsch style explosion and singstar.
Snooze Brighton, 25 St Georges Terrace — Uniquely styled rooms with a vintage-style breakfast room.
Ink_d, 96 North Road — Contemporary gallery featuring more edgy artists like Dan Baldwin, Kate McMorrine, Maria Rivans and new up-and-coming talent.
Permanent Gallery, 20 Bedford Place — Artist gallery and also a bookshop with small editions, a space for artistic experimentation inside and outside the gallery space.
Coachwerks, 19 Hollingdean Terrace — Performance space with workshop spaces. Dance, theatre, music, film and experimental performance.
Fabrica 40 Duke Street — Old church venue exhibiting contemporary installation art; it also houses an arts resource library with art-based development courses.
Sallis Benney Theatre and University of Brighton Gallery – Grand Parade. University gallery featuring art, film and theatre.
No Wall gallery and shop – 13a Prince Albert Street. Urban street art style, stencils, Banksy, Blek Le Rat, Jon Burgerman are some of the artists.
Two Kats & A Cow – 167 Kings Road Arches. Pretty archway gallery open most weekends – Local artists: John Marshall, Katty McMurray and Kathryn Matthews.
Bellis Gallery and shop – 8-9 Kings Road. Prints, ceramics and jewellery from mostly local artists and makers.
Duke of York’s Cinema, Preston Circus — You can’t miss this building with it’s large striped black-and-white legs sticking out of the roof. Art house films, current releases and classics shown in this lovely 100-year-old cinema.
There are so many pubs to list that I am just selecting my personal favourites for each area..
Please add your own favourites in the comments.
Basketmakers – 12 Gloucester Road – good basic pub food with local beers and special whiskey malts each month, look inside the tins on the walls a people leave messages.
Mrs Fitzherberts – New Road – real ale, ciders and local beers.
The Great Eastern – 103 Trafalgar Street, – All local beers plus bourbons and whiskies.
The Foundry – 13-14 Foundry Street – real ale, ciders and local beers and pizzas – folk music some nights.
The Colinnade – 10 New Road – Plush red velvet theatre bar, a little bit of glamour.
Three and Ten – 10 Steine Street – Theatre venue and pub.
Malborough – 4 Princes Street – gay friendly pub with a theatre upstairs.
The Hand in Hand – 33 Upper St. James’s Street – Micro brewery beers and ales, this tiny place manages to have live music.
Lion and Lobster – Corner of Silwood street and Bedford place – A hectic popular pub for locals decorated with an art collection gathered from various auction rooms.
Good for basic pub food and upstairs a very fine restaurant in private rooms – not so keen on the use of TV’s in every room.
Farm Tavern – 13 Farm road – Real ales and some life drawing classes upstairs.
The Bees Mouth -10 Western Road – every possible drink.. plus Jazz and other music nights, very popular with locals.
The Greys – 105 Southover Street – Really superb food, real ale, ciders and Belgium beers also top notch music nights.
The Setting Son – 1 Windmill Street – good food and local ciders and beers, after the climb up the hill you will need a drink or two.
Other Places of Interest
Charleston — The country home of the Bloomsbury Group (near Lewes). Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, David Garnett and Maynard Keynes lived at Charleston for considerable periods; Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry were frequent visitors. The house and gardens are open to the public and well worth the visit in summer as the gardens and setting are very beautiful. The interiors feature original artwork and decoration by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. The Charleston Festival is held here every year and features talks and drama relating to literary, artistic and Bloomsbury themes.
Twenty minutes on the train from Brighton, Lewes is a picturesque old Sussex town with its own castle built in 1069. Famous for Thomas Paine who wrote the “Rights of Man,” and celebrated for one of the wildest Bonfire nights in the UK.
A great day out, you can browse the many antique shops, The Fifteenth Century Bookshop, Anne of Cleves house and museum and other independent shops. Have a pint of the local brew — Harvey’s — in the Lewes Arms or the Snowdrop Inn, or take a bite at the family-run Buttercup Cafe, set in an antique market.
The Tom Paine Printing Press & Press Gallery -151 High Street – Printing Press and work by contemporary printmakers.
Wickle – 24 High street, Lewes – Art, Gifts, toys and clothes with a very good cafe at the back.
The Needlemakers – Lovely old factory building with all sorts of shops from vintage to books with a local produce cafe.
Bills – 56 Cliffe High Street – Local produce and cafe
South Coast Galleries Worth a Visit by Train or Bus
All these galleries feature international exhibitions as well as core local collections.
Towner Gallery — Eastbourne.
De La Warr Pavilion — Bexhill on Sea.
Pallant House — Chichester
Sussex Guild Arts & Crafts – The North Wing, Southover Grange, Southover Road, Lewes.