25 Awesome Things to Do in Brighton This Winter

  • By: Carlo
  • Date: October 21, 2021
  • Time to read: 21 min.

Stuck inside on a cold winter’s day, can’t bear the thought of listening to David Essex sing about it again? Then why not get out and about and come to Brighton, instead? Sure, we know that Brighton is a seaside resort and it’s amazing in the summertime, but the truth is, it’s pretty amazing in winter too and you’re far less likely to have to face down massive crowds to enjoy them. Check out what’s on offer!

Our 25 cool winter things to do in Brighton include The Sea Life Centre, a stroll on the South Downs, a Brighton Bike Tour, a trip to the Old Market, catching a movie at the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, enjoying Brighton’s museums, change your reality at the World’s End Pub, buy an umbrella and do a pub crawl, go shopping, enjoy comedy at the Komedia and win or lose a fortune at the Casino or Penny Arcades.

The Second Oldest Aquarium In The World: The Sea Life Centre

One thing you can be certain of is that it will be warm inside the walls of Brighton Aquarium, now known as The Sea Life Centre, because it’s owned and operated by The Sea Life group which runs 53 Sea Lifestyle aquariums and parks across the world, 13 of which are in England.

Brighton’s Sea Life Centre is the second oldest aquarium in the world (it was beaten to the title of “oldest” by 5 years by an aquarium in France which opened in 1867) and it originally opened its doors in 1872. Though Brighton Aquarium was bombed in World War 1 and had to be restored to its former glories.

It is home, today, to more than 5,500 species of aquatic life! They are all kept in good conditions and Sea Life has an ethical “Breed, Rescue, Protect,” policy that governs all of its sites including Brighton.

They invested nearly £3 million on an artificial coral reef which allows visitors to chart the changes on a reef throughout the day and night.

You’ll find The Sea Life Centre next to Brighton Pier (which is also a great place to visit but can be a bit nippy in Winter). Tickets for the sea life centre aren’t cheap though and you get better prices by booking online in advance than you will on the day.

If you want to, you can enjoy a ride in a glass-bottomed boat (it costs a little extra money over the ordinary ticket) – make sure you buy the boat ticket at the door, though, or you may find you can’t get on the boat even if you’re willing to pay.

A Winter Stroll On The South Downs: Britain’s Newest National Park

Brighton is also right next door to Britain’s newest national park, the absolutely splendid South Downs. Now, let’s be fair about this – it’s probably going to be a little bit chilly on this walk-in Winter, so you’re going to want to wrap up warm.

However, it’s well worth it. One of the most striking times of the year for the natural world is Winter when the leaves are gone from the trees, frost (or sometimes snow) is on the ground, and everything is quieter thanks to hibernation.

One of the most popular walking routes is the Devil’s Dyke to Ditchling Beacon stretch and depending on how much time you have and the experience of your walking party – you can choose from 3 different routes of differing lengths and difficulty.

If you have somebody with you who has mobility challenges, then you might want to go a bit farther from Brighton and check out the Seven Sisters Country Park route near Seaford which has a short but pleasant route that is fully wheelchair accessible.

If you use a smartphone then you might want to download the ViewRanger application from the respective app markets and then you can load up dozens of different walking routes for the entire country including all the available and recommended South Downs walks.

Get Your Energy Up With Brighton Bike Tours

I’m completely confident to recommend Brighton Bike Tours (now rebranded to Jolly explorer tours) and not just because they sit proudly at the top of Tripadvisor’s recommended outdoor activities in the city but also because I’m the lead tour guide and owner of this little business.

Brighton is a brilliant city, but it can be hard to get to grips with unless you’ve got somebody who knows the place well and can open it up for you. A walking tour would take too long to get around the city but a bike tour? That’s the perfect way to see everything that you want to see, learn a little about it and to have time left on the day to go and explore a bit more on your own afterwards.

You’ll need a coat, hat, gloves and scarf (at least to get started with) to get the most out of a bike tour in the Winter in Brighton but it’s a super time to do it. There are fewer people on the streets and means you can get a little more out of your tour than in the busier summer months.

Brighton Bike Tours offers several choices of tour but the two most popular (which are ideal for casual cyclists or those who haven’t been doing too much cycling at home) are the Grand Brighton Bike Tour and The Grand Coastal Bike Tour.

The Grand Brighton Bike Tour

See all the major sights in just 2 ½ hours. This is the best way to get acquainted with the city and find out what makes the place tick. There’s a stop for cake and tea and some excellent people-watching in Pavilion Garden as well as a pleasant run down the seafront.

A Full List of Places You Will See on this Tour:

  • Brighton Dome
  • Brighton Pier
  • Brighton Rock Garden
  • British Airways i360
  • Eagle – Great Eastern Pub Stop
  • East Street- Brighton’s oldest street
  • Fishing Quarter
  • Graffiti Adorned back streets
  • Graffiti adorned Kensington street
  • Grand Hotel
  • Grand Parade
  • Icons Wall – Banksy
  • Little St Peters church
  • Pavilion Gardens
  • Pavilion Gardens Cafe
  • Pet cemetery
  • Poppy Filled Wild meadows
  • Preston Manor House
  • Preston Park
  • Preston Twins
  • Royal Pavilion Palace
  • Secret Garden
  • St Bartholomew’s church
  • St Peters church
  • Sydney Street
  • The Lanes
  • The Level
  • The North Laine – Bohemian Quarter
  • The Railway Viaduct

The Grand Coastal Bike Tour

If you’d prefer to focus your efforts on the seashore, then this Grand Coastal Bike Tour should be the perfect choice for you. You’ll get to grab some grub at Fat Boy Slim’s Café (yes, the world-famous DJ has a café) and take in the i360 on the way back.

A Full List of Places You Will See on this Tour:

  • Beach Huts
  • Big Beach Café – Fat Boy Slim’s place
  • Brighton Dome
  • Brighton Pier
  • Brighton/Hove boundary
  • British Airways i360
  • Eagle – Great Eastern Pub Stop
  • East Street- Brighton’s oldest street
  • Fishing Quarter
  • Graffiti Adorned back streets
  • Graffiti adorned Kensington street
  • Grand Hotel
  • Grand Parade
  • Hove Lagoon
  • Hove Lawns
  • Hove Promenade
  • Icons Wall – Banksy
  • Pavilion Gardens
  • Pavilion Gardens Cafe
  • Peace statue
  • Queen Victoria Statue
  • Royal Pavilion Palace
  • St Bartholomew’s church
  • St Peters church
  • Sydney Street
  • The Lanes
  • The Level
  • The North Laine – Bohemian Quarter
  • Victorian Birdcage Band Stand

Both tours are super reasonably priced at between £19.50 and £22.50 per person which includes bike hire, all safety equipment and, if you need it, secure luggage storage too.

Brighton is wonderfully level and that means even people who haven’t cycled in a blue moon shouldn’t find it too challenging. If there’s anything you’d like to see that hasn’t been included in the stops – please let me know and I’ll do what I can to accommodate your request.

Old School Shopping At The Open Market

If you fancy something quite “old school” then Brighton’s Open Market might be a great place to spend a day in the depths of Winter. It’s a covered market which means that it’s not going to be as cold as some of the nation’s other markets are at that time of year.

You’ll find it on the London Road and though it was refurbished in 2014, the market has been in the city for nearly 50 years now. There are 45 stallholders to choose from and 7 places to eat. You can buy anything from clothing to toys from art to music at the market. It’s also home to the local radio station Radio Reverb.

The market opens at 7 a.m. every day except Sundays when it opens at 10 a.m. but closing times are earlier on weekends at 5 p.m. than weekdays when it shuts at 7 p.m.

Duke Of York’s Picturehouse: The Oldest Purpose-Built Cinema In England

Aleen Eyles, the cinema historian, says the Duke of York’s Picturehouse deserves the title of oldest cinema in the UK. The public voted it the best cinema in the UK in 2012.

It was originally opened in 1910 and it was funded by Violet Melnotte-Wyatt who, when she wasn’t running a cinema, was a well-known actress which might explain why the cinema is so good.

It is home to only a single screen and can accommodate 278 people at each show. It once allowed for 800 but adding a bar, a concession stand and some measure of comfort in the seating has shrunk that number considerably.

It was purchased by the Cinemaworld chain in 2012 and, so far at least, they have kept their promise that it would remain one of the world’s best-loved art house cinemas. It’s a great place to get out of the cold in Winter and you can book your tickets online here.

7 Brilliant Brighton Museums

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Brighton is home to many museums and art galleries but for our winter treats list, we had to narrow it down to the best of the best and these are our 7 top picks:

The Best Of Them – Booth Museum Of Natural History

In the days before David Attenborough was on the TV, there was good old-fashioned taxidermy to keep the kids entertained. Even though the David’s now got the attention of the nation (and rightly so), you can still see the remnants of the Great British taxidermy industry in the Booth Museum of Natural History.

It’s our favourite museum in Brighton and it contains the country’s largest collection of stuffed birds. It’s also free to get in which is good.

The museum is named after Edward Thomas Booth the Victorian-era naturalist and collector. He donated his collection to the city with just one catch – they weren’t to alter any of the 300 dioramas in his bequest.

If you think you’ve seen some of the pieces before – you might have glimpsed them in the TV adaption of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

The Chance To Be A Criminal – Old Police Cells Museum

If you’ve ever fancied walking in the footsteps of criminals long gone, then the Old Police Cells Museum might be what you’ve been searching for all of your life. It is set in amongst a genuine collection of old police cells which were condemned back in 1929 but have now been dolled up and made safe for visitors.

The Chief Constable of Brighton was beaten to death in 1844. The criminal who carried out this heinous act can’t have been very bright because he carried out the murder in front of a bunch of witnesses in the Chief Constable’s office! Yes, he spent some of his final days in these cells before he was hanged.

You have to book in advance if you want to visit the Old Police Cells Museum but the guided tours are free and the stories are quite spooky. It’s a great way to escape the cold and wet Winter.

A Culture Vulture’s Paradise – Brighton Museum and Art Gallery

It’s £5 to get into the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery unless you are a local resident, in which case, it’s free. However, it’s worth a fiver to enjoy one of the finest collections of art in Southern England and the excellent building which is part of the Royal Pavilion Complex.

It was given a £10 million facelift in 2002 and you can find a ton of interesting stuff inside including a Kinemacolour Camera (made in 1910 by Moy & Bastie), some of George IV’s breeches, Lewis Caroll’s handmade toy toolbox, a portrait in beeswax which adorned the face of a mummified Roman in Egypt, water puppets from Vietnam, a horn drinking beaker, and the Hove amber cup (one of the best Bronze age finds in the UK).

One For The Child In All of Us – Brighton Toy and Model Museum

It’s not free because the Brighton Toy and Model Museum is privately owned and operated by a registered charity, but at £6.50 for adults and less for children, it is good value. You can also occasionally buy discounted tickets online, so, it’s worth having a look before you go.

If contains one of the best collections of model railways anywhere and was involved in the Frank Hornby 150th Anniversary Project but they have much more than Hornby onsite. You’ll also find a wealth of puppets, Corgi toys, Dinky toys and much more. Their Steiff bear collection’s not too shabby either.

The focus is on toys made up until the first half of the 20th century, so please don’t expect too much in the way of Star Wars or Harry Potter but other than that, it’s a great day out for the family. During the Brighton Fringe, it also hosts an exhibition from the Brighton Science Festival which is always fun.

Touching History – The Brighton Fishing Museum

The Brighton Fishing Museum is free to enter and it’s possibly the best museum in the city if you want to get in touch with Brighton’s history and roots. As a seaside town, you’d expect Brighton to have a glorious fishing heritage and it does.

It also had a key role to play in the shipping of troops to the continent during the World Wars and many of Brighton’s fishermen would take part in the heroic evacuation of Dunkirk. Whatever the history of seafaring Brighton, you can find it in the Brighton Fishing Museum.

There’s a nice tribute to the “dippers” of days gone by, the ladies who ran the machines that enabled women to bathe on the beach whilst retaining their modesty.

Get Arty – The Hove Museum and Art Gallery

Hove’s finest museum is The Hove Museum & Art Gallery which is run by the local authority and is free to enter. It’s part of the wider Royal Pavilions museum collection though the museum wasn’t opened until 1927 and is housed in a converted 19th-century villa which was once known as “Brooker Hall”.

Brooker Hall was designed by Thomas Lainson, the well-known architect, for Major John Vallance about whom not much is known now.

If you can’t (or won’t) afford the Toy Museum then there’s a wonderful gallery of toys in this museum and kids are usually very happy to meet all the dolls, teddy bears and rocking horses on display. There are also regular displays of local art and history.

Many people don’t realize that Brighton played a fairly important role in the early history of cinema and there’s a nice exhibit of early cinema artefacts from the 19th century onward.

Get Away From It All – Grange Museum & Art Gallery of Rottingdean

This museum is so small that it doesn’t even merit its own Wikipedia page! Yet, this converted vicarage offers some splendid entertainment on a Winter’s day in Brighton. Rudyard Kipling is the local lad who did very well indeed and there’s a nice exhibition dedicated to his work as well as to Edward Burne-Jones who was a famous pre-Raphaelite painter.

Sir Edwin Lutynes, the famous architect, was responsible for the design of the garden at The Grange Museum & Art Gallery. During the Brighton Arts Festival, they have an Artist’s Open House even which hosts a bunch of really cool talks and workshops for budding artists of all ages.

See A New World At The World’s End Pub

The World’s End is more than just a pub, it’s also the home to Brighton’s only pub-based arcade and Virtual Reality suite and if that wasn’t quite enough, it also has an Escape Room to enjoy. Students should go on Wednesdays when they offer a bargain of £15 for as much VR as they can consume and cheap drinks with an NUS card.

The Escape Room is run by Lady Chastity’s Reserve and it’s a perfect experience for a winter day but be warned – it’s not in the slightest bit child-friendly and you must be over 18 to take part. When you finish, there’s a nice bottle of wine to be consumed.

The beer in the pub consists of a super craft ale selection and the food menu is enticing too. This is a super day out all in the shape of a pub.

Buy An Umbrella And Go On A Pub Crawl

If one pub is not enough then you might want to consider more than one pub and go on a pub crawl. The downside is that if you don’t have an umbrella, it might be a little wet. The upside is that you’re going to warm up every time you get inside and enjoy a beer.

If you can’t be bothered working out your own pub crawl route, you can always join in with the On the Rocks Bar Crawl which is highly rated on TripAdvisor and helps you navigate the highways and byways of Brighton’s drinking scene and offers you the chance to make some friends into the bargain. The price is reasonable considering you get a bunch of free drinks and VIP entry to several bars. Why not give it a whirl one windy winter day?

The Shopper’s Parade: Brighton Is The South’s Finest Shopping Destination

There are so many great places to shop in Brighton that you’re never going to run out of ways to be parted with your money, no matter how much money you have to spend. The good news is that even if you’re not loaded, you can have a good time wandering Brighton’s shopping centres and just soaking up the atmosphere and looking for the occasional bargain.

We suspect that most famous people move to Brighton after a trip around the Lanes and the North Laine and their associated shops because they just can’t get enough of the charm and character of retail in the city.

Winter Shopping When It Rains – Churchhill Square

Brighton’s biggest and best shopping centre is based at Churchill Square and the good news is that there’s plenty of parking close by (and even one onsite) which means it’s a good place to go on even the rainiest and coldest days of winter. It’s also on several bus routes if you don’t drive.

There are 85 storefronts inside and most of the time – they’re all fully let. It’s fair to say that many of them are big chain stores, so if you’re looking for quirky or unique, you might be better off having a look elsewhere in Brighton’s retail landscape.

There is an Odeon Cinema next door which means that you can always while away a few extra hours catching the latest and greatest box office hit. If the weather’s not too bad, there’s also a direct walkway to the seafront from Churchill Square.

Winter Shopping When It’s Not Raining – North Laine Brighton’s Bohemia

North Laine considers itself to be the “soul of the city” and we think that they may have a point. What’s certainly true is that North Laine is home to a real mix of small, diverse and independent shops that cover nearly everything that a person might want to buy on a dry winter day.

It’s not covered, so you will want to give it a skip when it’s raining but otherwise, you should stay warm enough by jumping from shop to shop. You have 300 shops to choose from in the area and if that’s not enough – they have 37 cafes, 22 pubs, 4 theatres and even a museum to keep you happy.

If you visit North Laine on a Saturday, they have an open-air flea market on Upper Gardener Street which gives the whole thing a touch of the Mediterranean (OK I may be stretching it a bit here). This is Bohemia English style and it’s a fabulous place to shop in Brighton in winter or at any time of year.

Get Snooping in Kensington Gardens

Snoopers Paradise is a great place to find collectors gems, such as Dr who or Starwars figures.

Kensington Gardens is one of the areas of North Laine and its home to Snoopers Paradise which is Brighton’s best-known flea market. It’s the perfect place to while away some time in the winter and you can get the warmth back into you before you continue to explore North Laine.

Snooper’s Paradise is described as a “a veritable Aladdin’s cave of wonderful things” by Peter R on TripAdvisor and we couldn’t agree more.  You can lose yourself for an hour or more just wandering around the offerings on its two floors.  There are nearly 90 stalls to choose from.

A case of Antiques Cameras at Snoopers Paradise

Other highlights of Kensington Gardens include Brighton Books (which has a great range of second-hand books), Brighton Coffee Company (because coffee is essential for a walk on a long winter’s day), Mo: Mo Dumpling Bar (the first dumpling bar in the UK, apparently), Sensation (one of several jewellery brands represented in the area) and Tanta (the hippiest of hippy stores in the South).

Gardener Street’s Shopping Pleasures

Shoes in the Vegetarian Shoe Shop (But really everything is vegan)

Staying in the North Laine area, you’ll want to explore the pleasures of shopping in Gardener street too. We can recommend stopping at Capers restaurant to get a nice traditional English breakfast or some of the Swedish meatballs that they are justly famous for.

Tea lovers might want to spend some time at the Bird & Blend Tea Company or Pearls’ Bubble Tea and don’t forget Brighton is an English seaside town, there’s nowhere better on earth to enjoy a cup of tea (even India or China).

If you want to go cruelty-free with your fashion, there’s the vegetarian shoe shop that makes animal-free footwear and clothing using a synthetic alternative to leather that is both breathable and water-resistant.

Then you could grab a piercing and/or a tattoo at Punktured and Tattooed and don’t worry if it turns out that you’re unhappy with your choice of tattoo, they also offer laser removal though be warned, it’s not cheap.

Sydney Street’s Shopping Wonders

Sydney Street is also part of the North Laine area and there are some super highlights for shoppers there too. We like the Brighton Bead Shop, where they say “the staff are trained not to behave like robots” and where you can get into beads and pendant making for very little investment at all – it’s a great place to take young ones and get them a hobby you can afford.

If you want a taste of the fashion of yesteryear, then we can thoroughly recommend Wolf & Gypsy Vintage clothing. It’s quite a lot of fun just to play dress-up with friends there even if you don’t eventually buy anything.

The flour pot bakery is perfect for all of your bread needs and, of course, the emphasis is on local, organic and quality ingredients. The Pelican Coffee Shop is a really cool place to grab a cup of Joe before heading back out onto the winter streets.

Trafalgar Street Record Shopping

Trafalgar Street is home to many of North Laine’s pubs and if you’re thinking about a pub crawl in Brighton, this might not be a bad place to start as you can definitely grab a few winter drinks without having to walk very far between beers.

It’s also the home of Rarekind Records which specializes in new and used vinyl from around the world From Hip Hop to Jazz and from Latin to Techno, they’ve got you covered.

We’d also suggest popping into Suck it and Sea which isn’t as naughty as it sounds. It is, in fact, a sweet shop which specialises in the kind of sweets that they used to weigh out in every corner store in England, but which have now nearly been lost to the passing of the years.

Bond Street’s Eclectic Shopping

Last but very definitely not least in the North Laine is Bond Street. There you’ll discover the most excellent Animal House which is for children and adults who want to feel like children to buy the cuddly toys of their dreams plus other animal-themed items.

Irregular Choice is a very popular choice for shoes and accessories shopping in the city. You can grab the best bagel in the land at Bagel Man before popping into Pretty Eccentric which is exactly as it sounds.

The Art Republic should be a mandatory stop for anybody who enjoys rare limited edition prints of great art and you can even find unique pieces from some of the world’s best-known artists upon its walls.

Comedy Classics At Komedia

Komedia is one of the nation’s premier comedy venues and there are only two of them – one in Brighton and the other in the lovely city of Bath. They are famous for their live comedy shows and it’s worth having a look to see who is on before you come to Brighton, so that you can book tickets online.

The award-winning radio show “Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show!” was produced by the team which runs Komedia and they have hosted many of the live recordings. The team is also strongly involved in writing broadcast comedy and if you’re looking for a career in the comic arts, it might be worth getting in touch with them to see if they have any vacancies.

There is a comedy stage, Komedia Downstairs, a bar called the Studio Bar and Dukes at Komedia which is a two-screen cinema that replaced the second comedy stage (which was, imaginatively enough, called Komedia Upstairs).

The Komedia team also has a strong presence at the Brighton Fringe Festival as you might expect, and the venue often hosts some of the Fringe’s comedy acts. When they’re not at the Brighton Fringe, they’ve been known to venture farther afield and maybe caught at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival too.

So, if you want to get out of the wet and cold weather, why not laugh yourself warm at Brighton’s Komedia? It’s a wonderful place to make happy memories.

Make Your Fortune (Or Lose It) In The Grosvenor Casino (Now Pier Nine)

They say that they are “so much more than a casino” but the primary purpose of The Grosvenor Casino which is now formally “Pier Nine” is to part you from your money in an enjoyable fashion. We would note that problem gambling is not a good look in the winter or in the summer and if you have an addictive personality – you might want to skip this one, you really can lose more than your shirt if you want to.

However, as long as you’re not silly about things, you can get started playing electronic roulette from as little as 10 pence a game and work your way up to the more expensive stuff as you choose. There are live gaming experiences as well as electronic ones and blackjack and 3-card poker are the big favourites here.

If you’ve been gambling for a while, they do allow table staking but you have to clear it with a senior member of staff first. The cash games starting at £1 a hand, run 7 days a week if you want to sharpen your traditional poker game too.

If you want to set a strict budget and stick to it then you might want to book a “casino experience package” which lets you try some things out without spending a fortune (you can start at £15 a head).  You have to take your ID on your first visit, and you are required to become a member before you can place a bet. If you’re under 18, don’t go at all – you won’t be allowed in.

Keep The Stakes Low At Brighton Pier’s Penny Arcades

There was a time, long ago, when the stakes for Brighton’s gamblers were much lower. The traditional British fairground penny arcade allowed gamblers to put a penny or sometimes tuppence into a machine and see how much cash they could get back (or in the case of some machines, just for the fun of putting the money in the machine to see what would happen).

These penny arcades were found in every seaside town in the land but in the age of the PlayStation and the high stakes casino – they soon began to vanish. Fortunately, Brighton wasn’t willing to surrender this part of its history quite as easily as other towns were and there are still some excellent Penny Arcade machines to be found on Brighton’s Pier.

Inside “The Palace of Fun” which may not be the most imaginative name to be used within the city limits, you’ll find everything from old school 2p pushers (which are immune to having other people pushed into them, now) to the latest and greatest simulator games. In fact, the UK’s obsession with Guitar Hero is said to have been born on the grounds of Brighton’s Palace of Fun.

You’re unlikely to end up in debt or selling your house to pay for the amusements here and, in fact, you’re more likely to find fun for all the family, instead. There are some nice prizes to be won on some of the games too – you can win an iPod Touch or even a PlayStation 4!

There are other rides and attractions at the pier, but they may not be the most fun in the middle of Winter, but the penny arcades are always warm and dry.

Conclusion

So, there you have it – 25 cool winter things to do in Brighton. The city is just full of fun at any time of the year and while you might need to pop on a little extra clothing in December, January and February – there’s never a bad time to be here. I hope that you’ll come on a bike ride with me when you do visit so that I can show you the real secrets of the city that most tourists never get to see.

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