The train rolled into the English seaside village of Brighton just as it was getting dark. There was a noticeable change in the air from when I stepped onto the train in London. A little cooler and a little stronger; I could already pick up hints of salt in the air as I walked the mile to the shoreline from the train station.
About an hour train from London - half hour from London Gatwick Airport with direct flights on the low-cost Norwegian Airlines from Fort Lauderdale - Brighton is the United Kingdom’s not-so-little-secret queer getaway. While the secret is clearly out (Britney Spears will be headlining Brighton Pride on August 3-5 after all), it’s still a charming city with plenty to explore.
While you’re at the beach, why not stay on the beach? The cozy boutique Legends Hotel (legendsbrighton.com), or platinum gay b&b, was my hotel of choice this trip. It’s located right across the street from the beach with panoramic water views from the hotel’s outdoor terrace. It’s a lovely spot to enjoy a complimentary breakfast for guests, order lunch or drink away the afternoon - which you will see plenty of gays doing. The first floor is the gay bar, you have to walk through to get to the front desk, so immediately you’ll feel like you’re part of the action. Rooms are simple and clean here, just enough space for a weekend away. My room had a fetching partial view of the sea. The best part - downstairs turns into a club after hours with a live DJ spinning an eclectic mix of current and classic pop hits. What’s better than being able to dance the night away and then stumble up to your room without ever having to leave the building?
A few blocks away from Legends is unarguably Brighton’s biggest attraction — Brighton Pier. A familiar landmark, it’s worth checking out on a stroll down the rocky beach. Its slightly carnival vibe, with games, rides and wildly unhealthy-yet-delicious fare make it a true tourist attraction. But as the British do many things, there’s a bit more feeling of restraint in that this is a classic landmark rather than just another full-on cheesy tourist stop. Still only a few more blocks further from the Pier is the Brighton’s historic Lanes shopping district. The narrow winding roads are lined with independent shops and boutiques selling everything from chocolate and spices to shoes and vinyl records.
Fish n’ Chips galore - with mushy peas! It would be a disappointment (nay, actually a feat) to leave Brighton’s seashore without enjoying a plate of the classic British fare. It’s sold at nearly every restaurant along the waterfront and in many forms and variations - large dishes, baskets and even some beachgoers carrying it around in paper cups like a delectable dessert. That said, try grabbing a table at any of the seaside restaurants. The weather was heavenly while I was there so of course there were crowds and long waits everywhere. I grabbed an outdoor table at Ohso Social Beach Bar + Restaurant (ohsobrighton.co.uk) to try another must (even worth the long queue at the bar): Pimm’s, a refreshing, summery English cocktail made with lemon soda, fruit and gin. For a dinner out, the queer tap house Charles Street Tap (charles-street.com) was a fun find with great music, craft beer and even a cabaret show during the week. The menu here is the usual comfort bar food with a fresh twist, like crab and prawn mac and cheese bites. Delicious even if you’re not drinking.
Brighton has an impressive array of gay (and lesbian) bars. Shocking as so many big cities are losing their queer nightlife—London included—so it was refreshing to see so many options. Camelford Arms (camelford-arms.co.uk), a very English (and very cozy) pub, is an ideal place for beer and conversation. The Amsterdam Hotel’s (amsterdamhotelbrighton.com) first floor bar and outdoor terrace are slightly classier options for cocktails. And if it’s dancing and drag shows you want, there are plenty of options besides Legends—Doctor Brightons (doctorbrightons.co.uk), Revenge Bar & Club (revenge.co.uk) and The Queen’s Arms (theqabrighton.com) just to name a few. All the bars are within walking distance of one another, making a night out in Brighton simple and easy to get around.
For more information and even more options on what to see and do in Brighton, go to VisitBrighton.com.
Pride in London 2018
There’s no better time to visit London than during the summertime. Especially for LGBT people—London Pride takes over the city for almost an entire month with live theater, exhibitions and events. This year it kicks off on June 9 and culminates with the Pride parade on July 7. For the full schedule of events, visit prideinlondon.org.
Here’s what you need to plan for London Pride:
- Budget accommodations are perfectly acceptable for Pride month. Book on misterbandb.com for places to stay on the cheap and still have the comforts of home.
- Get an Oyster Card to make navigating the city’s Tube, train and bus systems even easier.
- See all the best landmarks London has to offer with London Pass (londonpass.com). Download the London Pass mobile app and you’ll have your tickets to visit 80+ tourist attractions like Tower of London and Tower Bridge. This means skipping lines, saving time and getting a discount.
For more travel tips and itineraries, visit visitbritain.com/us/en/campaigns/lgbt.