Mini guide to nightlife in Brighton

From laidback comedy nights to wild raves on the beach, there is something for every traveller planning a night out in this southern English city.

The debauchery of Prince George, mods and rockers in bank holiday fisticuffs, raves on the beach, badly behaved hens and stags, and the UK’s leading gay scene – Brighton is the place for a hedonistic weekend.

On a summer’s day, there’s nowhere better to sit and watch the world go by than at Coalition, the popular beach bar, diner and club. It’s a cavernous place with a brick-vaulted interior and a wide terrace spilling on to the promenade. All sorts happens here, from comedy to live music to club nights (171–181 Kings Rd Arches; 10am–late, daily).

Coffee bar by day, popular pre-club venue by night, Riki Tik, a North Laine bar has been pumping out cocktails and funky breaks for years. It’s much bigger than it looks from the outside and inside is decorated to look like a paradise with palm trees and sandy beach backdrops. DJs play here most evenings and there are regular Sunday film nights (18a Bond St; 10am– late, daily).

Incongruously located in an alley of garages and used car lots, the cocktail bar Brighton Rocks is firmly on the Kemptown gay scene, but welcomes all. The cocktails are crafted with love and there’s a damn fine grazing menu – all set to a soundtrack of old school R&B, blues and soul. The bar plays regular host to theme parties and art launches (6 Rock Pl; closed Mon and Tue; Wed 5pm–11pm, Thu 5pm–12am, Fri 4pm–1am, Sat 12pm–1am, Sun 12pm–11pm).

Evening Star, a cosy, old-fashioned pub is a beer drinker’s heaven. Dark Star Brewing Co. was born here, a microbrewery with offerings such as Espresso and Dark Star Original (former Champion Beer of Britain), plus seasonal ales, all available alongside organic lagers and real ciders. It’s a short stagger from the station, but not a tourist trap (55/56 Surrey St; 12pm– late, daily).

The Dorset throws open its doors and windows in fine weather and spills tables out on to the pavement. You’ll be just as welcome for a morning coffee as for an evening pint, and if you decide not to leave between the two, there’s always the decent gastropub menu to tuck into – the moules marinière (£9.95) is a popular dish. It also hosts gigs and DJ nights (28 North Road; 9am– late, daily).

A blend of traditional Victorian boozer and hip watering hole, Saint James, a popular Kemp Town pub has lots of sanded wood, elaborate tiling and an ornate bar. While it stocks a decent pint, the rum is the real draw: at the last count there were 84 to choose from, and there are occasional Rum Club nights with talks and tastings – see Twitter and Facebook for upcoming events (16 Madeira Pl; 12pm–11pm weekdays, 12pm–1am weekends).

Funky Fish Club is a fun, friendly and unpretentious little club that plays soul, funk, jazz, Motown and old-school breaks, but draws the line at cheesy disco. There’s no big-name DJs, dress code, toilet attendants or overdesigned interiors – instead there’s cheap drinks and a welcoming, party atmosphere (19–23 Marine Parade; 10.30pm– late Fri, 10pm–late Sat).

Brighton’s best-loved music venue is a disarmingly unpretentious den known as Concorde 2. It has a fine musical heritage: DJ Fatboy Slim pioneered the Big Beat Boutique and occasionally still graces the decks; The White Stripes played their first UK gig here; and it’s where local acts such as the Maccabees made their name. There’s a huge variety of club nights and live bands each month (Madeira Dr; see website for event times).

Some of the city’s top club nights can be found at Audio, which attracts a young, up-for-it crowd. Every night is different, with music ranging from breakbeat to electro to indie. There’s a seafront terrace and bar, Above Audio, which hosts weekend terrace parties and takes its cocktails seriously (10 Marine Parade; 11pm–3am Tue–Thu, 11pm–4am Fri and Sat).

Transportation between London and Brighton is fast and frequent. The National Express bus takes from 1 hour 40 minutes (from £11), while trains take 50–70 minutes (from £10 from Victoria). If arriving by car, parking is plentiful but pricey. Most of Brighton can be covered on foot; alternatively, buy a day ticket (£3.60) for the Brighton & Hove buses.

Where to stay
If you can cope with the petite rooms and bathrooms, Motel Schmotel, an 11-room b&b in a Regency townhouse, is an affordable and lovely place to hit the sack. Rooms feature bold splashes of colour coming from the soft furnishings and oversize prints. It’s a family-run joint, centrally located and you can even have breakfast in bed (37 Russell Sq; from £60; two-night minimum stay at weekends).

The Neo, a Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse, has nine rooms, each finished in rich colours and tactile fabrics with bold vintage floral or Japanese-style wallpaper and black-tiled bathrooms (19 Oriental Pl; from £100).

Hotel Pelirocco has 19 flamboyantly themed rooms, including Betty’s Boudoir, with leopard-skin throws, Dollywood, decked out in gingham and plaid, and Soul Supreme, dedicated to Motown (10 Regency Sq; from £109).

The article 'Mini guide to nightlife in Brighton' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.