Monday, July 15, 2024
DestinationsTravel Guides

Queer Travel Guide to Brighton, England

The vibrant city of Brighton is situated on the English south coast, an hour by train from London. Nestled between the rolling hills of Sussex, the seaside city is an enticing destination for LGBTQ travelers. Brimming with pubs, clubs, and restaurants, Brighton manages to combine traditional seaside fun with a quirky non-conformist outlook. Not only does it have a substantial queer population, but Brighton is home to artists, writers, musicians, and eco-warriors who have chosen to make it their home due to its unique free-spirited vibe. Here’s a quick overview of the best places to visit and things to do when planning a visit to this LGBTQ+-friendly beach town.

Palace Pier in Brighton
Palace Pier in Brighton (Photo Credit: Wilhei)

The Seafront
Brighton’s seafront stretches from the white chalk cliffs of Rottingdean to the colorful beach huts of Hove. In the summer, the area between the iconic Palace Pier and the West Pier has a carnival atmosphere. With a traditional carousel, beach bars, and seaside amusements aplenty, it’s also home to several festivals and events. Bars and restaurants such as Riddle and Finns, renowned for its seafood, and Ohso Social which transforms itself from a daytime café to a disco under the stars, overlook the pebble beach. It’s a perfect spot for a sundowner as starlings flock over the ravaged remains of the West Pier.

Another top sunset spot, preferably with a glass of champagne in hand, is from the futuristic viewing pod of the 531-foot i360 tower. Brighton’s newest tourist attraction offers 360-degree views of the sea, countryside, and the city itself.

Shop in North Laine (Photo Credit: Sue King)

North Laine – The Spiritual Heart of Brighton
The shopping area of North Laine encapsulates the Brighton spirit perfectly. The narrow streets are lined with cool cafes and funky indie stores. It’s worth exploring the surrounding alleyways where eye-catching street art is hidden in the nooks and crannies. You won’t find any global brands in the North Laine,  instead, there are specialty stores such as Kissing Fish and Vegetarian Shoes selling offbeat temptations. Snooper’s Paradise is a Brighton institution, a treasure trove of antiques and curios.

A stone’s throw from North Laine, the Royal Pavilion, with its domes and minarets, looks as if it has been transported from the sub-continent. Back in the day, it was the party pad of playboy Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. During Pride Week, the Royal Pavilion is spectacularly illuminated in hot pink. 

Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion (Photo Credit: PicGaz Photography)

Brighton’s LGBTQ History
Brighton has a rich LGBTQ history dating back to the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century when soldiers were stationed in the town. By the 1930s, several clandestine gay pubs had emerged, and word soon spread. The town consequently became a place to escape for people who were forced to live repressed lives in less tolerant towns. The first Pride was held back in 1973, when a handful of activists took to the streets, a far cry from the 200,000 revelers who attend these days.

Kemptown – Party Hotspot
The majority of LGBTQ bars, pubs, clubs, and establishments can be found in Kemptown, the area situated just east of the city’s Victorian Palace Pier. This is where the majority of the city’s rainbow flags flutter and it’s the place to head to for a fun night out. The bars are all within convenient staggering distance of one another and there are numerous restaurants lining the main drag of St. James Street. Revenge is the city’s largest and most established nightclub. Spread over three floors, the club has a state-of-the-art sound system and LED screens along with a rooftop bar overlooking the beach and pier.

The Queen Arms pub sign with Golden Girls mural
The Queens Arms pub in Kemptown (Photo Credit: Sue King)

The Best of the Bars
Most of the dedicated LGBTQ bars of Brighton are in Kemptown, although there are a few situated in other areas of the city. Wherever you drink, it’s likely to be queer-friendly as the vibe throughout Brighton tends to be laidback and welcoming. 

Velvet Jacks
An intimate cocktail bar on the Brighton-Hove border, this chill venue has previously been voted Brighton’s ‘Best Women’s Bar’. Velvet Jacks has a strong community vibe, and its diminutive size means that it’s an ideal place to make new friends.  

Charles Street Tap
Sprawling Charles Street is a popular venue situated on the seafront. Weekly events range from cabaret to quiz nights that are hosted by resident drag queens, Lola Lasagne and Sally Vate. Open from 10 a.m. to midnight most days, there’s an extensive food menu and a bottomless brunch served on weekends. 

Local police wave rainbow flags at Brighton Pride
Local Police join in the fun at Brighton Pride. (Photo Credit: Sue King)

The Camelford Arms
The Camelford Arms is a traditional boozer complete with a pool table. Although this hangout tends to be favored by older gay men and bears, everyone is welcome. The ambiance is congenial. The pub is known for its Sunday roasts, which are the best to be had in Kemptown.

Le Village
Relatively new, Le Village makes a delightful addition to the Kemptown scene. There’s something going on most days of the week at this small bar from excellent drink deals on Cheeky Tuesdays to delicious Asian cuisine on Thai Sunday, as well as theme nights galore. Le Village has already established itself as a firm favorite with locals and visitors alike due to its welcoming and all-encompassing attitude and value-for-money food and drinks. 

Drag queens twirling in dresses at Brighton Pride
Fabulous drag queens at Brighton Pride (Photo Credit: Sue King)

Brighton Pride
Pride takes place on the first Saturday of August. Although the last couple of years have been canceled due to COVID, Brighton Pride is set to return bigger and better than ever in 2022. Following a flamboyant parade through the city, the party continues at Preston Park with cabaret tents, stages, stalls, and funfair rides. Previous headliners have included such queer pop icons as Kylie Minogue, Pet Shop Boys, and Britney Spears. In the evening, the celebrations switch to Kemptown, where a huge street party continues for the rest of the weekend.

Useful Facts
Getting There
Brighton is easily accessible from London by rail or road. Trains leave Victoria Railway Station every half an hour and the journey takes about an hour. By road, the M23 route is direct but can take a couple of hours depending on traffic. The nearest airport to Brighton is Gatwick, about 25 miles away. 

Getting About
Brighton is very easy to traverse on foot. Although there is an excellent bus network and taxis are plentiful, all major attractions are within walking distance of one another.  

Around Brighton 
The city has easy access to the beautiful coastline and countryside of Sussex, including the South Downs National Park.

Sue King

Sue is a travel writer who is based in Brighton, England when not traveling. She has written articles for a variety of websites and magazines. She has visited or lived in over fifty countries and her favorite destinations to date are Mexico and India. She does, however, love to return to her hometown of Brighton by the sea.

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