Take a walk along Brighton beach and you can't fail to notice the remains of the long-abandoned burnt out West Pier brooding off the shoreline.
In many other seaside towns in Britain, this would seem sadly symbolic. But here, the demise of the traditional British seaside resort hasn't left the city trapped in time.
Far from it, in fact. Brighton may have its fair share of faded souvenir shops and kiss-me-quick hat sellers, but it has a life of its own that doesn't depend purely on tourism. Thanks to great eateries, a blossoming art and music scene and brilliant nightlife, this buzzing university city is still one of the most exciting weekend destinations in the country, and promises lots to see and do even if you never lay eyes on its most famous tourist hotspot: the second, fully working pier at the other end of promenade (pictured below).
Getting your bearings
From central London you can get a direct train in around an hour from Victoria. By road, it's approximately 90 minutes (50 miles) depending on the traffic. Just take the A23/M23 south until you reach Brighton.
If you arrive by train (Brighton is less than an hour from London Victoria), it's a straight walk from the station down West Street to reach the beachfront for some day time fun. Other key areas are all close to hand. Those worth a visit include the Lanes, the Culture Quarter and North Laine where the night life is the most vibrant.
Where to stay
There are plenty of good places to stay in Brighton, including some excellent contemporary style hotels. Among our favourites is the Queens Hotel on the seafront. Clean, affordable and with its own spa and leisure club, it ticks all the boxes – including the possibly of a room overlooking the sea.
Day 1: Get some sea air
There's no point going to the seaside and not seeing the sea, so make your way down to Brighton's huge pebble beach for a little sunbathing or a brisk walk (depending on the season of your visit). As you'd expect, there's excellent fish and chips and the pier will enable you to tick off the fun fare rides, slot machines and coconut stalls that are a traditional necessity – meaning you're free to enjoy the more modern reasons to visit Brighton.
The ferris wheel is also worth a whirl, and the Volks Railway, the world's oldest operating electric railraod, along the seafront which runs all the way to Brighton Marina, is definitely worth a ride (but it's closed in winter).
Rock n roll lunch
Just a 10-minute walk away from the seafront, and a stones throw away from the majestic Brighton Pavilion, is The Basketmakers Arms on Gloucester Road, a pub which in the past was occasionally frequented by Joe Strummer and beloved of Brighton's music lovers (young and old alike). But even if you don't spot any rock royalty, the pub lunch menu is excellent, as is tucking into it in a cosy atmosphere with a (proper) pint of beer.
After a relaxing day enjoying the sights, why not up the excitement stakes by taking advantage of Brighton's excellent go-kart centre? A 15 minutes drive away from the beachfront, TeamSport Indoor Karting, is a converted warehouse that offers the perfect adrenaline fix for adults and families alike where the staff, training and facilities are all top notch.
Day 2: Hit the Lanes
Having satisfied the speed demon in you, the following morning you might want to head for Lanes of a different kind. The Lanes area just north of the beachfront contains some of Brighton's best independent shops around a series of winding, car-free roads. Venture a little further uptown to find plenty of small markets and antique shops.
Go on - treat yourself
Brighton has a number of large spas and treatment centres, many of which can be quite expensive. A great alternative for anyone looking for a little TLC is The Lanes Health & Beauty salon where treatments start for as little as £20. This is no cut price massage though: the friendly service, beautifully-finished rooms and treatments are all of the highest standard.
A fish supper to remember
The beautiful thing about Brighton is the way it combines a traditional seaside atmosphere with modern urban options. Nowhere is this typified better than the fantastic Moshimo Japanese restaurant. What could be better than sushi a stone's throw away from the ocean? Moshimo is the sort of place you could enjoy a relaxed meal with friends or a formal dinner on a special occasion: the mixture of the conveyor belt of dishes and the softly-lit tables is pitch-perfect. But it's the quality and flavour of the dishes - from the freshest of fish to the succulent beef sashimi - that makes it so hard to leave.
Have you been to Brighton? Give us your tips below and we'll add them!