Large white seagulls fly low over Brighton's pebble beach as the waves roll in. Locals and tourists alike relax on the shore eating fresh sardines and salad, or wander narrow streets lined with shops, pubs and restaurants. The scene stands in sharp contrast to the busy urban life of London, not far to the north.
King George IV brought a royal pedigree to Brighton, building monuments to encourage members of high society to visit this seaside resort. His Royal Pavilion, a creation of Indo-Chinese inspiration, remains a landmark in the middle of town to this day, housing some of the finest art collections and examples of chinoiserie style in Britain. The city became a popular destination for "the wrong kind of people" - including homosexuals and hedonists, escaping the prying eyes of London society during the reign of Victoria, for a "dirty weekend." The prudish queen didn't like the place at all and might have demolished the Pavilion if the city hadn't bought it from her. Today it's a favorite site for same-sex marriages, and picnics on the lawns.
The city has a big, boisterous and growing gay community. The pride parade and festival here, one of the largest in Britain, is held in late summer and attracts huge, diverse crowds for the non-stop parties all over town.
From London you can reach Brighton by Southern Railway from Victoria Station, in about an hour, starting at around £48 round-trip ("return"). The train takes a route through some pretty English countryside. There’s also good hourly bus service on the coaches of National Express from Victoria Coach Station, for £11-18, but taking twice as long. From Gatwick Airport the bus takes only 45 minutes, and there's service from Heathrow too.
This is a town meant for strolling, so the best way to get around is your own two feet. Many people also rent a bicycle for the day. For local bus services see Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach
During summer months the Volks Railway, the world's oldest electric railway, runs trains between Brighton Pier and the Marina, along the seafront. The gay-popular local nude beach can be reached this way.
Kemptown, once nicknamed “Tramptown” for its down-at-heel feel, is now full of lovingly restored Regency-era homes. No surprise that this is the heart of the gay community.
What to do
Take a stroll down St James's Street and the Old Steine, the heart of the gay district. For a taste of classic fish-and-chips, arcade games and thrill rides, make like a tourist and head for the Brighton Pier. The beach provides a great path to stroll while sampling the area's many art galleries and bars, stretching for miles along the coast, with cliffs, piers, and a working harbour at Shoreham.
At Black Rock, east of Kemp Town, shuck the clothes at the Brighton Nudist Beach. In summer months get here from the Sea-Life Aquarium by way of Volk’s Railway, the world's oldest operating electric railroad (since 1883). The beach is popular with gay men, but straight couples mix quite comfortably too. With no shops or cafes here, take along whatever you'll need.
On green hillsides above the town, the Brighton Racecourse, dating back to 1783, is set in the Sussex Downs with first races at 2pm, and last at 5pm. Besides the horse races, there are great views of the coast from the better seats.
The Royal Pavilion's Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is an amazing treasure trove of all nearly 1,500 oil paintings, 4,000 watercolours and drawings, including prized Chinese export watercolours and oils, over 10,000 prints, plus 13,000 items from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas dating back two millennia. There's no entrance fee and they open daily except Mondays. The Royal Pavilion Tearoom offers genteel afternoons of tea, local English wine or Sussex beer or cider. They also have a wide-ranging traditional English menu with Regency dishes.
See our events listings for the Brighton Festival, each May, with top-notch dance, theater, and music performances; and Pride Brighton & Hove in early August, a weeklong extravaganza with parade, festival, fun fair, and tents of various groups and diverse musical tastes. There's even a dog show.
Currency and Money
The pound sterling (£) is the official currency of the United Kingdom, subdivided into 100 pence. ATMs are sprinkled throughout the downtown area, in all the usual places. Contact your local bank for a possible UK bank partner to save on withdrawal fees. Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted - credit cards with a smart chip and pin number, now required by some ticket machines here and in Continental Europe, can be most useful.
Media and resources
GScene is the local gay magazine with news and opinion actually worth reading, and the best guide to what's gay and happening on any given day or night in Brighton. They also cover the nearby cities of Portsmouth and Southampton. Download a pdf of the latest issue from their website. Real Brighton is another local gay website.
Piers & Queers offers tours of Brighton from an LGBTQ perspective, taking in over 200 years of history in an 80-minute walk on the beach and in the historic center of one of Europe's queerest cities.
BN1 Magazine covers local music, culture, food, sports, accommodation, and upcoming events.
Other general public sites Brighton & Hove Tourism and What's On Brighton have listings for theater, comedy clubs, film, pubs, and such. Visit Brighton, the official city tourist information guide, has an LGBT section.
Pink Fringe "We make queer & LGBT culture" does theater, cabaret, comedy, dance, immersive art and entertainment productions/ live performances at The Marlborough Theatre, and other venues. The Old Market is another performing arts venue and cultural space with plays, dance, live music and shows and Brighton Fringe productions.
Sauce FM is a Brighton gay internet radio station featuring the best in local, national and international DJ talent playing a variety of the hottest dance music online.
See Brighton's Boho Paradise by David Walberg from a back issue of Xtra Magazine.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, and more, see our gay Brighton map & listings pages.
Ambassador Hotel (22 New Steine; 44-127-367-6869), 24 en-suite B&B rooms with sea views at the heart of everything, beach to bars; traditional full English breakfast and veggie/vegan options.
Amsterdam Hotel (11 Marine Parade; 44-127-368-8825), hotel, restaurant, bar, massage services. Sea-facing bar and terrace, busy from lunchtime on, ample sauna facilities with guys from around the world. Wide selection, large rooms for all budgets, ensuite walk-in showers. Front room views of Pier, beach and sea.
Gulliver's Hotel (12a New Steine Rd; 44-127-368-1546), an Automobile Association-selected budget hotel, personalised concierge service, clean and comfortable rooms with free WiFi.
Kipps Backpacker Brighton (76 Grande Parade; 44-127-360-4182), budget hotel rooms, views of the Pavilion, town center and seafront steps away. Laid-back Service, friendly fully-licensed lounge and bar, plus free Wi-Fi and digital TV.
Legends Hotel, Bar & Club (31 Marine Parade; 44-127-362-4462), complex at Brighton gay center. Many rooms, some with sea views, huge bar. Sunday cabaret, lavish Basement Club disco, open to 4am. Food daytime inside or in the sea air with nice views. Full breakfast with the works, until 10:30am.
MyHotel (17 Jubilee St; 44-333-240-9094), boutique hotel for cheeky weekend retreats. Opulent artist-created studios, overall sexy design following principles of feng shui, free flowing lines, curved walls, ublime colors. Cocktail bar, meeting rooms, library, jinja therapists for facials, body treatments, massages.
New Steine Hotel (10 New Steine; 44-127-369-5415), friendly, elegant and fashionable five-storey Georgian Townhouse, 50-meter hop from the beachfront. Their French restaurant, the New Steine Bistro, opens Tuesdays through Saturdays, 6 until 11pm.
Queens Hotel (1 Kings Road) overlooks Brighton Pier, promenade amusements, cafes, and attractions. Gym, pool, sauna, sun bed among amenities. Bright, spacious rooms, some panoramic coastal views. Buffet breakfast of muesli and fruit as well as classic English fare. Free wi-fi or computers, gay weddings and civil ceremonies.
Strawberry Fields Hotel (6 New Steine), gorgeous boutique hotel, sea views, short stroll to Pier. Hot bacon rolls, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels among breakfast items delivered to the room with morning coffee or tea.
See our map & listings/lodgings tab for over two dozen area hotels, hostels and B&Bs that cater to the gay community, with locations and website links for each.
Amsterdam (11 Marine Parade), Pete’s Kitchen offers breakfast, light bites and burgers, including vegetarian options, daily 10am-7:30pm. Also traditional British Sunday Roasts: beef, lamb, pork, chicken or nuts; Yorkshire Pudding, roast potatoes, vegetables and desserts.
The Blue Man (10 Manchester St), gay central Kemp Town near St. James' St, modern homemade North African cuisine, wine & champagne.
Food For Friends (17-18 Prince Albert St), Brighton's original vegetarian restaurant; innovative, gourmet, full-flavoured global cuisine.
New Steine Hotel Bistro (10 New Steine), breakfast buffet, fresh pastries, meat and cheese, vegetarian or vegan options. All-day snack menu with Tarte du Jour to steak and chips. Evening French cuisine and British standards, art exhibitions, mellow music.
Royal Pavilion Tearoom (Royal Pavilion), sunny balcony overlooking the gardens, traditional Regency English dishes or snacks, local wine, beer and cider, tea, puddings and cakes.
Sawadee (87 St James' St), Thai restaurant lunch and dinner near Brighton Pier. Stir fries using local ingredients with Thai herbs; grilled beef or chicken in spicy sauces; also seafood and vegetarian platters.
Smokeys (124 King’s Road), American heaven at the Granville Hotel by the British seaside - classic roadside cuisine with a pinch of spice from South of the border - California Brunch and Texas BBQ..
Terre à Terre (71 East St), restaurant to make meat-eaters think again about vegetarian cuisine: intense flavors, sublime textures and combinations of ingredients that few have had the imagination or daring to put together before now.
For more local cafes, pubs and restaurants, each with locations and website links, see our map & listings section.
One of the first cities in Britain to allow 24-hour bar licenses, Brighton rarely sleeps, and many clubs remain open until everyone leaves. On weekends in the clubs that means just in time for a late breakfast.
A Bar (11 Marine Parade), at Amsterdam Hotel & Restaurant, modern full bar, hassle-free atmosphere, big screen music videos, free WiFi access, karaoke & quiz nights.
Bar Broadway (10 Steine St, Kemp Town), musicals, theater-style mixed bar, jukebox, live music bands and soloists, comedy acts; world beers, wine and cocktails.
Bulldog (31 St James' St) open every night of the year, goes day and night on weekends and holidays with dancing nightly. Mostly men, all welcome, cabaret, Kruz nights, karaoke and shows.
Camelford Arms (30 Camelford St) pub to relax, read the paper, play cards, play Monoply or Cluedo or for sitting back to watch. Dog-friendly, Bear-friendly, especially Friday and Saturday nights. Thursday Quiz, food served daily, Sunday roasts, free WiFi.
Charles Street (8 Marine Parade) classy seafront warm-up bar and restaurant, light bites to three course meals, inside or terrace seating; drag, cabaret, comedy and theatrics. Popular Sunday lunches with huge portions. Upstairs Envy nightclub dancing from 10pm.
Crown & Anchor (213 Preston Rd), pub with local-brew ales, plus wines and spirits; The Preston Eatery seasonal menus daily from noon, Sunday roasts and veggie options.
Doctor Brightons (16 Kings Rd), cosy sea-side bar, pool table, video jukebox, comfy sofas, good music. Exotic cocktail creations for pre-clubbing weekend crowds.
DTM - Don't Tell Mama (75, St Georges Rd), intimate cruise den with over 600 members; men-only nights, fetish and theme nights. Non members welcome as guests on their first visit.
Funky Fish Club (19-23 Marine Parade, New Madeira Hotel), small but lively Friday/Saturday mainstream dance club. Funky music of 4 decades, good sound system, bar with terrace, Saturday Funk|Disco|Dance|House dance classics, Sunday House|Electro|Tech music.
Grosvensor Bar (16 Western St, Hove), gay pub, karaoke and cabaret bar, drag shows, open daily from 1pm with free WiFi.
Latest Music Bar (17-17 Manchester St), mainstream restaurant/bar, live music shows, cabaret show basement bar, spoken word and film events.
Legends Bar & Basement Club (31-34 Marine Parade), sea views from both the bar and the sun terrace, and nightly clubbing until 4am on weekends, where tourists and locals mix in a lively way on their modern dance-floor.
Marine Tavern (13 Broad St) cosy traditional pub at heart of the gay community, with friendly staff and customers, poplular with bears, nightly events include Tuesday Quiz, Sunday Sausages.
Marlborough Pub & Theatre (4 Princes St), quirky pub, upstairs theater buzzing year round with drama, comedy, live music, arts workshops and literary events; Pink Fringe queer/ LGBT performances/ events.
Mucky Duck (7-9 Manchester St), former Star Inn, traditional pub food, drinks, regular DJs, live music, karaoke, art, mixed gay/straight crowd, local art; amazing, and huge Sunday roasts.
The Paris House (21 Western Rd), French-styled cafe-bar, food platters for sharing, French wines, European beers and ciders; live jazz Saturdays 4pm-7pm.
Proud Cabaret Brighton (83 St. Georges Rd), former Hanbury Ballroom, the "Jewel of Kemp Town" returns as a retro supper club; 3 course menu, cabaret and burlesque performances, diverse club nights.
Queens Arms (7 George St), daytime chill-out spot, WiFi, sandwiches, baked potatoes; lively evening cabaret and comedy club with outrageous Kitty Litter, karaoke with Betty Swolocks, talent shows for cash prizes. Mixed crowd of all types and many ages.
Revenge (32 Old Steine), long-running club on three floors near Brighton Pier. Dancing all night, cabaret and strip shows, open-air roof terrace, live music, karaoke, theme and rooftop parties, plus special nights, FOMO, and Pop Tartz. Next door Bar Revenge (7 Marine Parade) is the warm-up venue for the club lounge.
Royal Oak (46 St James' St), classic Kemp Town pub, beer garden, Saturday night cabaret, quiz shows; real ales, wines, fireplace, TV sports, daily home-style meals, popular Sunday roasts. Dog and children-friendly.
Shooshh Brighton (214 Kings Rd Arches), Thursday-Saturday VIP super club, mostly straight mix, dancing, food; student nights; Brighton Pride special events.
Subline (129 St James St, basement; enter from Steine), men-only Thursday - Sunday cruise club, leather/fetish, rubber, skins, pinball machine, back rooms; mixed on Wednesdays.
The Zone (33 St James's St), right by the Bulldog bar, older crowd, live entertainment, games, cabaret and karaoke nights, WiFi.
See the maps & listings tab for locations and website links to all businesses on this page.
Boiler Room (84-86 Denmark Villas, Hove), the former TBS2 Sauna, small, cosy, friendly sauna near the Hove railway station, open 7 days/ week; regular men-only naked, leather-rubber-fetish, and bears nights; Sundays women only. Massage, bar and coffee shop. CumUnion sex parties the first and third Fridays of each month.
Brighton Sauna (75 Grand Parade) men-only, 20-man sauna, 15-man Jacuzzi, cinema, cabins, steam, watersports, dark room, slings, masseurs, hot food snacks, free internet, fetish, bears' and naked nights.
Shopping and services
Prowler (112 St James St), all-round gay lifestyle shopping with books, fashionwear, underwear, swimwear, rainbow goods, eroltic and gay cinema DVDs, sexy calenders, magazines, aromas, sex toys, MrB leather gear, and more. Also in Soho, London.
Other cities in the UK
Birmingham, Blackpool, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester in England, Cardiff in Wales, Belfast in Northern Ireland, plus Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, are other UK cities we cover.