Fish and chips, gaudy arcades atop an ageing pier, striped deckchairs and pebble beaches; there are few things more quintessentially British than a seaside resort. Yet, unfortunately for these towns that time forgot, the increasing popularity of low-cost airlines mean that fewer people are choosing to spend their holidays in a caravan on the southern coast.
Thankfully, for those of us keen to keep our carbon footprint down or to simply discover our own back garden, there are a handful of coastal towns that are still worth a visit - even for a hipster!
Heralded as a beacon of cool since the heyday of Fat Boy Slim and Zoe Ball (the city's very own 'it' couple), Brighton has been one place we've both meaning to visit for years. The fact that we lived just 40 minutes away by train for a good few years makes our failure to visit until this summer all the more surprising. You see, Brighton isn't just trying to be alternative - that counter-culture spirit is running through its streets. It is a city with the only elected Green MP in the UK, where tolerance isn't just the most recent buzzword to which we should subscribe, where the kale-smoothie drinking middle classes mix effortlessly with the dreadlocked hippies and live music isn't just a past-time - it's a religion.
Brighton is the place that makes these two perpetual nomads feel at home.
There's a reason Brightonian's are the biggest consumers of coffee in the UK - you can barely walk down a street without falling over another painfully cool coffee shop offering expertly roasted beans and stunning interior design. And with menus boasting single-source espressos, original roasts and the latest coffee brewing techniques, this is a place for those serious about the black stuff.
A number of the shops in town are also fantastic co-working spaces - in fact, it can at times feel like half of Brighton's employed are working out of its many coffee shops!
Check out a few of our favourites to get you started: Cafe Coho, Small Batch, Ground, Bond Street Coffee and Mr Wolfe.
If you like the alternative, then this is the city for you. With club nights of practically every genre and dozens of live music venues offering gigs almost every night of the week you will never be short of entertainment.
We barely had time to scratch the surface, but for those who enjoy rockabilly music as much as us, be sure to check The Mesmerist - the most fun we've had on a night out in quite some time!
For reviews and details of upcoming gigs check out XYZ Magazine and Brighton Source. And, remember, Brighton is also crazily popular with hen and stag-dos on the weekend, so just be prepared for some rowdy crowds in certain places.
amazing vintage finds
For a city that loves all things retro, it is not a surprise that some of the UK's best flea markets, bric-a-brac stores and vintage shops can be found in Brighton.
By far the most well-know are Snooper's Paradise and Beyond Retro (both located in the North Laines area), but there are many other smaller stores dotted around, as well as great markets such as Vine Street Vintage, The Brighton Flea Market, The Open Market and The Upper Gardener Street Market (Saturdays only).
loads of veggie options
Despite the ever-growing numbers of vegetarians and vegans in the world, finding good cruelty-free food can sometimes be tricky. Not so here! Brighton is literally teeming with amazing veggie options - even in restaurants that cater to carnivores, the meat-free option is a considered affair and not a perfunctory after thought.
two words: that pier
There's something so old-fashioned and wonderful about piers in British seaside resorts - and Brighton may just be our favourite! Explore the amusement arcade, sample the world famous fish and chips or simply take a nap in one of the free striped deck chairs.
On a perfect summer day in the UK, there's no better place to be than strolling along the pier!
RELAX IN THE PAVILLION'S BEAUTIFUL GARDENS
Brighton Pavillion is an interesting place. Built as a seaside pleasure palace for King George IV more than 200 years ago, it's full of oriental inspired furnishings - a tad garish if you ask us.
Whilst we spent an hour or so exploring the interior, for us the palace is much more spectacular from the outside. Stunning architecture, beautiful gardens - it's simply begging for an impromptu picnic in the sun!
If your trip to Brighton just wouldn't be complete without a self-guided tour, then see this site for details on ticket prices and opening times.
So many sweets!
With every other store along the sea front selling iconic 'Brighton rock', bumper sized bags of candy floss, and giant boxes of fudge, only the most strong-willed amongst you will be able to deny that sweet tooth.
This perpetual seaside town is a perfect excuse to get all hopped up on sugar, ride a dodgem and remember what it was like to be a kid.
lose a day exploring kemp town
Brighton has a thriving and diverse gay scene, and no more so than along the colourful streets of Kemp Town. But, even if you're not up for dancing on a podium in the evening, there's plenty of reasons to spend a few hours exploring this delightful neighbourhood, and what was once known as the artist's district.
Shopping, cool coffee shops, gorgeous architecture, vintage stores and excellent restaurants can all be found here, putting it firmly in the 'must-do' section for any visitor to the city.
hang out at the beach
Sure, it's covered in pebbles, but that certainly doesn't stop locals and tourists alike from flocking to the water's edge at the slightest suggestion of sunshine.
Rent a famous striped deckchair, bring a towel or sit at one of the many bars with decked seating - you'll soon be singing 'oh I do like to be beside the seaside'.
the buildings are beyond pretty!
Wow, is this a photogenic city. Vintage buildings holding vintage shops, huge mansions, and a perfect pallet of pastel colours everywhere.
Take our word for it, you'll have a hard time keeping the camera away from your eye.
it has a fairground. enough said.
Rides that seem to travel at a million miles an hour, throw you upside down with no consideration of when you last ate and make you scream like a 14 year old. Who doesn't want to go spend some time at the fair?!
The charmingly kitsch affair on Brighton's famous pier will make all your British seaside dreams come true - and when you need a break from being thrown around, be sure to pull up one of the free deck chairs to the pier edge and see and watch the world go by.
For £17.50 you can buy an unlimited one day pass which allows you to go on all the rides, as many times as your stomach can handle.
a-ma-zing fish and chips
There are few things more British than fish and chips, and there are few places that do it better than Brighton.
Perform a cursory search in google and you will discover dozens of people ranking their favourite local chippy in town, but there's one place that comes up in every list: Wolfies of Hove.
After fumbling our way towards their shop the morning after a particularly drunken night out, we discovered perhaps the best fish and chips either of us had ever had! Perfect chips, delicately battered fish (done in their secret blend that didn't leave us nauseous) and delicious slightly sweet mushy peas.
Two things are certain right now: 1- we'll definitely be going back to Brighton, and 2 - we'll definitely be going back to Wolfies!
it has the UK's most colourful street!
We stumbled across a picture of these colourful houses a few days before we visited Brighton - and we knew we had to visit! Perfect for instagrammers, or anybody that enjoys posing in front of ridiculously bright walls!
Luckily, it's not too far away from the pier - just google 'Blaker Street' and follow the map.
the most fabulous beach huts in all of the country
It took us a little while to find these iconic beach huts. It wasn't until a hungover day spent exploring Hove that we stumbled across the picture-perfect miniature clapperboard houses - and we jumped for joy.
At around £14,000 for little more than a brightly-coloured shed, we can't say we're in any rush to buy one for ourselves, but they certainly make a pretty backdrop don't you think?
A few notes to help you plan your trip
Brighton is a huge weekend-break destination, and as such, there is an abundance of accommodation options, including hostels, cosy B&Bs, chain hotels and more boutique affairs. One word of warning however: prices often double at weekends (with some hostels tripling their prices on Saturday nights), so try to book as far in advance as possible to keep prices down.
Check out the best hostels in Brighton - whatever you're in to!
Additionally, as we discovered arriving at our sea front hostel, hostels in the UK are a little different to those we have experienced elsewhere in the world - with a number being used to house some less desirable members of society when social housing is lacking.
Trains from London
There are multiple trains to Brighton hourly, from both Victoria and London Bridge. Average journey time is an hour. Click here to check out the best ticket for you.
There are several festivals held in Brighton throughout the year, showcasing upcoming talent and old favourites from the world of comedy, art, spoken word, music and theatre. The two to look out for are:
Brighton Fringe Festival: 6th May - 5th June
The Brighton Festival: May 6th - 28th
See the websites to book tickets.
Thank you to Visit Brighton for supporting us during our stay. As always, all opinions are our own.