Brighton is an amazing place to visit but it is also the country’s second most expensive city to live in. Don’t let this put you off, though, because you don’t have to spend money on having fun in Brighton. In fact, there are a huge number of free things to do in the city and we’ve got all the information you need to get the most out of them.
See our table of contents to see our 33 super fun & free things to do in Brighton:
1. Art Galleries (Phoenix, Art Republic, Two Kats & A Cow, IO, ONCA, etc.)
Brighton has one of the most exciting art scenes in the country, when you’re not busy checking out the street murals (oh and the Kissing Policemen by that relative unknown, Banksy) then you can wander the cities galleries and they’re nearly all free!
Of course, they’re hoping that you’ll fall in love with something and want to take it home, but there’s no obligation to do so. Check out Phoenix, Art Republic, Two Kats & A Cow, IO, ONCA, etc. they are all open at least 6 days a week.
2. Booth Museum
The Booth museum was meant to house the largest collection of (stuffed) birds in the country but sadly, though not for birds, it never quite got there. However, there is an enormous collection of birds there which is still very impressive.
It’s also full of quirky stuff that might not catch the eye of your average museum curator. It was the first museum in the country to use dioramas to display specimens as though they were in their natural habitat. Booth donated his collection to the city in his will and the museum has been free to enter ever since. You can see some of the exhibits in the TV version of His Dark Materials.
3. Brighton Beach
Brighton’s biggest attraction is its beach and deservedly so. While some may moan that it’s not made of sand, the beach attracts millions of people a year and there are few places in the nation that are as pleasant to slump in a deckchair on a hot summer day than Brighton Beach.
It is entirely free throughout the entire length of the beach and there are sections, even at the busiest times of year, for dog lovers and for naturists (nobody has to participate – there’s plenty of beach for clothed folks too).
4. Brighton Fishing Museum
Like any seaside town, much of Brighton’s history can be found in the fishing industry and the best place to learn about it is in the Brighton Fishing Museum. There are some super exhibits of boats and paying tribute to Martha Gunn (a world famous “dipper” operator – a dipper was a machine to help women in and out of the water, whilst retaining their modesty) and “Captain” Fred Collins who owned the Skylark pleasure boat.
One of the big highlights is a moving tribute to the Brighton fishermen (and other boat operators) who helped with the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War 2.
5. Brighton Flea Market (and Snooper’s Paradise)
It’s free to explore Brighton Flea Market and it’s one of the most interesting places in the country to do a little window shopping. This is where you’ll find a cornucopia of antiques and fascinating memorabilia. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, you’ll want to take a few photos while you explore.
Snooper’s Paradise is a 7000 square foot home to an independent Flea Market on Brighton’s North Laine. It can take a couple of hours to wander around the two floors of bric a brac that it holds. It’s one of Brighton’s most memorable shopping experiences and very much worth your time. It’s like being transported back in time to an earlier, simpler age.
6. Brighton Marina
You might expect Brighton’s premium shopping and entertainment centre to be all about emptying your pockets and while you can spend a fortune there, you certainly don’t have to. Freebies include the ping pong tables and the giant chess boards.
You will also find in the Summer months a big screen set up that allows you to watch sport or even the opera.
7. Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is only free for local residents, if you’re visiting the city you will have to pay £6.00 to get in (though you can buy them a little cheaper online before you go). It’s worth it, however, as they have one of the most impressive collections in the country of decorative art.
We’d also recommend checking out The Fine Art Collection which incorporates the Heyer Bequest of 20th Century American paintings.
8. Brighton Pier
Alongside the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Pier is one the truly iconic features of the city and unlike the Pavilion, it’s completely free to enter and enjoy a stroll along this spectacular Victorian Pier. It’s a true taste of the British seaside life and if you’re feeling a little tired, don’t be afraid to sit and relax – the deckchairs are free to use too!
Brighton Pier is the country’s most visited free attraction outside of London and deservedly so, don’t miss it.
9. Brighton’s Big Screen (June & July)
If you’ve never been to the cinema on the beach, then Brighton’s the place to do it! If you want to watch football on some of the biggest screens that you’ve ever seen, then it’s completely free to do so (though if you want premium seating or even a bed, yes really, Ibis hotels provide beds for this, you will need to pay).
Just make sure to visit their Facebook page to check the details before you go as the movies aren’t free.
10. Burning Off the Clocks (Winter Solstice)
Brighton marks the shortest day of the year by everyone parading through the streets with paper (or willow) lanterns. Each lantern is hand-made and is made with the Same Sky kit that’s provided to them. It is free to watch the parade though if you want to make a lantern and join the parade, you’d need to visit the Burning the Clocks store and buy one.
11. Codebar Workshop
Now, for something completely different. Codebar is a series of free events run around Brighton designed to get people into technical skills. Not only are they 100% free to attend but they also provide free drinks and even free pizza! You can’t argue with that.
We like Codebar for a chance to make new friends whilst developing the skills you need to succeed in the modern world.
12. Cycle To Rottingdean
We’re not sure if needing a bicycle is cheating but if you have a bike then the cycle to Rottingdean is not just free but absolutely lovely. It takes in the seafront of both Brighton & Hove as well as this pleasant village in the English countryside.
It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours there and back (though if you want to – you can make a day of it and stop off along the way but be warned, the pubs aren’t free, sadly).
13. Eat Steak & Chips (The Old Bank Steak & Ribs)
We warn you in advance. This is only free if you can eat a lot of steak and chips and you can eat them fast. You have 45 minutes to eat chips and 72 oz. of steak (that’s 4.5 lb or 2 kg of steak in total) and if you can do it, you get them free.
If you can’t do it, then you have to pay £79.95 for them. So, if free is an essential part of your day out – you’d better be hungry before you visit The Old Bank Steak & Ribs. The good news is that if you fail and have to pay, the profits go to a local charity.
14. Hove Museum & Art Gallery
Unlike its big sister in Brighton, Hove Museum & Art Gallery is completely free to get in whether or not you are a resident. Its big draw is the toy gallery which contains a wonderful collection of toys through the ages and the teddy bears and dolls are amazing! The early cinema artefact collection is also worth a look.
15. Kemptown Carnival (June)
The Kemptown Carnival is a free festival and while it doesn’t run every year, it runs almost every year and that makes it a perfect addition to our list. In 2019, the festival had 9 stages and a ton of additional community performances to enjoy.
Attendance is completely free though if you are feeling generous you can donate to local causes or the carnival itself and get some rather awesome rewards in return.
16. Learn To Fix A Bike at Brighton Bike Hub
Brighton Bike Hub is a wonderful thing and one of the best things about it, is that there’s a team of highly-skilled mechanics who would be happy to teach you how to maintain and/or fix your own bike and they won’t charge you a thing for their time! (Obviously, if you need new parts for your bike, though, you’ll have to pay for those).
17. Mechanical Memories Museum
At the Kings Road Arches on Brighton Seafront, you can find one of Brighton’s lesser-known museums. It houses a small, but perfectly formed, collection of coin-operated amusement machines of the style that would once have dominated arcades on the piers of Britain and elsewhere in the world.
If you want to use the machines, you’ll need to splash out and buy some old pennies from the museum shop, but entry is free, and you can watch other people play as much as you like for nothing.
18. North Laine Graffiti
Brighton is absolutely bursting with artistic brilliance but one of the best places in the city to get a slice of free genius is on North Laine where the street art absolutely excels. We’d recommend taking a camera to capture the best of it, but you won’t have to pay a penny to experience this, however you want to enjoy it.
19. Old Police Cells Museum
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be locked up in a cell in bygone Britain, this is you chance to find out. Fortunately, the experience is completely free, but you must book in advance for a guided tour, you can’t just turn up on the day.
Inside, you’ll find cells, police memorabilia, some prisoner inspired graffiti and much more. This is a museum that represents excellent bang for no bucks.
20. Paddle Round The Pier (July)
This is the largest free beach festival in Europe, and it’s run completely for the benefit of local charities. All the events are held around Brighton Pier and include swimming, Paddle Boarding and umm… doggy paddling too. The Big Paddle is the biggest event of them all.
You can also get involved in the Paddle Village if you’d prefer to stay in dry land and you’ll find live music, entertainment and a bunch of other stuff to enjoy. The only thing you have to pay for is food and drink (if you want some).
21. Paddling Pools (May to September)
Brighton has four public paddling pools set up across the city and they are completely free to use from May to September. The biggest (and busiest) is the one down near the old (and disused) West Pier. If you’re looking to find a way out of the sun and into something cooler without getting into the sea – this is what you’ve been searching for.
22. Pavilion Gardens
The best time to enjoy a free stroll in the Pavilion Gardens is a Monday when there is normally a live band playing. However, there’s never a bad time to visit the country’s only completely restored Regency Garden.
The garden is a celebration of British agricultural talent and everything that you see is designed with “organic” in mind. This promotes an incredible level of biodiversity as you will see from the bees, butterflies and birds that gather within its peaceful confines.
23. Preston Park
One of Brighton’s largest parks, Preston Park covers approximately 63 acres with a green and pleasant attitude. You can enjoy the rose gardens, lawns and much more for no charge at all. We’d also recommend that you visit The Rockery (the largest rock garden in the UK) while you’re there as it’s just across the road.
The park stays green all year round thanks to an underground river which is not used for drinking water. If it rains too much, it can become a problem to the surrounding area, though.
24. Brighton Pride
The main pride event at the park, is definitely not free, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get into the spirit of Pride in Brighton without spending any money. In fact, there are plenty of opportunities to promote love and equality that won’t cost you a penny.
Firstly, you can watch the Pride parade which meanders all the way through much of the city, then head to The Level or North Laine and enjoy a street party with no entry fee (though if you want to have a few drinks, then you will, of course, need to pay for those).
25. See A Starling Murmuration (Winter)
One of the finest sights of the natural world is a Starling Murmuration which is the phenomenon of thousands of starlings which swoop through the skies en masse to create beautiful and intricate patterns to anyone fortunate enough to be watching while they do it.
You can see Starling Murmurations in many places in the UK but one of the best places to do so is Brighton seafront during the Winter.
It might shock you to learn that in order to maintain a position in a Starling Murmuration, a starling must be aware of the exact place in the sky of its nearest 7 neighbours! That’s a feat of brainwork that most humans would find impossible to replicate.
26. South Downs National Park
The South Downs National Park only achieved its national park status in 2011, which makes it the country’s newest national park. That doesn’t mean, however, that it didn’t deserve this status it’s one of the most attractive places in Southern England and offers more than 628 square miles of unspoiled countryside to explore.
It is home to the South Downs Way, one of 16 national trails in the UK and the only one which is completely within a national park. It runs for 100 miles across the park and you could hike it in 3-4 days if you were determined to do so. Access to the trail is, of course, also free.
What makes the South Downs National Park really distinct from other national parks is that nearly a quarter of the land is on chalk and there are many dramatic chalk cliffs along the outside of the park including the world-famous, Beachy Head.
27. St Ann’s Well Gardens Spring Festival (May)
Brighton loves its free festivals and for the last 11 years, St. Ann’s Well Gardens have been home to a super Spring Festival. You’ll find music, food stalls and entertainment galore within its walls and as with all of the city’s free festivals you only need to pay if you want to buy food and drink or attend some of the activities.
Last year, they introduced a “sensory garden” for people with special educational needs and we hope to see it return each year from now on in.
28. Stanmer Park
If you want to enjoy one of Stanmer Park’s guided walks then you may be asked to contribute a little cash to cover the cost of running the event but otherwise, access is entirely free. The park used to be a private property, but the local authority obtained it in 1947 and opened it up to the public when they did so.
The name “Stanmer” comes from “Stony Mere” which is a reference to the stones which surround the local village pond.
If you want to check out Stanmer House while you are there, you can but it’s mainly used for weddings and functions now. Turn up on a Thursday, however, and you can explore the elm trees on the University of Sussex’s campus which was designed by Sir Basil Spence, the architect.
29. Sunset Spotting At West Pier
The story of Brighton’s West Pier is a sad one. It was opened in 1886 and was the first pier in the country to be given Britain’s highest listed building status – Grade 1. At the end of the First World War, nearly 2 million visitors a year were treading its boards.
Sadly, it fell into decline and in 1975, the pier closed after the owner fell into bankruptcy. Since then, it has remained closed. Despite several attempts to renovate the local residents (and owners of the Palace Pier) fought off the pier’s restoration.
In the 21st century, the West Pier began to crumble and much of what hasn’t fallen into the sea was destroyed in two fires. Almost anything remaining was then demolished after England Heritage declared the pier to be beyond saving.
None of this, however, matters when it comes to spying Brighton’s finest sunset shot which is always over the remains of the West Pier during the late summer and autumn months. Take your camera but you don’t need to take any money.
30. The Naked Bike Ride (June)
There are many cities around the world which hold a naked bike ride and Brighton’s one of them. It is the only time of the year when you can take all of your clothes off and ride a bicycle through Brighton without, at the very least, getting a stern ticking off from a policeman.
You don’t have to strip naked to enjoy the Naked Bike Ride through and fully clothed participants are welcome. There’s an after-party each year, which is also free to attend, though it has recently moved from the Volks Club to the naturist section of Brighton beach.
31. Upper Gardner Street Market
If you want a street market that is truly buzzing and which offers all the character of the city, then look no farther than Upper Gardner Street Market which you can find in the heart of the North Laine area.
The area is famous for its extraordinary jewellery but you can also enjoy antiques, fashion, food, retro stuff and much, much more.
32. Window Shopping in The Lanes
The Lanes is the city’s best-known shopping area and it’s a far cry from the chains that dominate many of Britain’s high streets. Here you’ll find nothing but local artisans, craftspeople and artists and some of the most unique shopping experiences in the country.
The local architecture is also very attractive and that means you’ll want to take a camera as you enjoy your stroll on The Lanes.
33. Yoga at The Phoenix Centre (Monday Nights)
We couldn’t find something free beginning with “Z” in Brighton, so we finish with yoga. There are free yoga lessons available at The Phoenix Centre on Monday Nights and they are the perfect way to relax and unwind after doing all the other exciting free stuff on our list. Enjoy!
Not free but essential: Brighton Bike Tour
If you’re not entirely budget-constrained, then the one thing we do recommend that you spend money on in Brighton is a full city tour by bike. It’s the best way to explore Brighton.
Unlike when using the city’s bike-share scheme, you get an organized trip around Brighton with a knowledgeable guide, who can show you all the sights, share all the information you need, help store your luggage, and provide safety gear for you and your family.
You can also ensure that you get proper memories to cherish of your time in Brighton by asking your guide to take photographs for you. Then you can be in the pictures and not just be behind the camera.
As you can see, Brighton has a lot to offer and you don’t need to go broke to enjoy the city. It may be one of Britain’s most expensive cities but there are at least 33 free things to do in Brighton and we’re sure that if you put a little thought into things, you can find many more.