Bristol vs Brighton? Riverside City or Seaside Resort?

bristol vs brighton
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So, here we have it: Bristol vs Brighton. These two English cities have lots of similarities and differences, but both are uber-popular among travelers looking to explore Old Blighty.

On the one hand you have Bristol, a lively university city situated on the River Avon. Filled with buzzing markets, colorful houses, and some intriguing historical sights, it’s welcoming and multicultural, touting plenty to fill any vacation itinerary. Then you have Brighton. This vibrant and trendy seaside resort, just an hour’s train ride from the bustling capital in London, is brimming with quirky boutiques, vegan eateries, and beachside fun aplenty. It’s hard to deny that they both have their draws!

So, how can we decide between the two? Enter this guide. Here, we’ve pitted Bristol and Brighton against each other in all things travel-related. Our piece will reveal everything from which is cheaper to which has the best nightlife and entertainment options, all with the aim of giving a helping hand when it comes to making up your mind.

Bristol vs Brighton: Price

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First up, let’s talk money. From accommodation to food to entertainment, which city will leave a bigger dent in the ol’ bank account?

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Well, according to cost comparison website, Budget Your Trip, you’re looking at spending around £78 ($107) for a typical hotel room for two people in Bristol. However, prices in luxury hotels tend to be more in the range of £108 ($148) and upwards. Food in the city varies widely, depending on what establishments you choose, but you can generally get a decent meal in Bristol for around £10-15 ($13-20). That adds up to an average daily cost of around £73($100) per person.

Over in Brighton, you’re looking at heftier price tags on pretty much everything (mainly because of the proximity to London). A standard double room in a hotel will cost around £86 ($118), and, for beachfront properties in the summer months, you’re looking at upping that to more in the region of £130-150 ($178-206) per night. You can also expect to pay around £12-16 ($16-22) for a main meal. However, it is possible to get excellent fish and chips – a Brighton specialty – for around just £5 ($6). Still, you’re looking at spending roughly £100 ($137) upwards per day if you want to make the most of your trip in East Sussex.

Winner: Bristol – it’s a touch cheaper.

Bristol vs Brighton: Activities and entertainment

bristol square
Photo by Stux/Pixabay

Bristol hosts the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, where the displays showcase a menagerie of things as varied as Egyptian sarcophagi and replica WWI biplanes. There’s also the M Shed, a museum that details the evolution of the city itself. We also think first-time visitors here should take some time to wonder at the soaring Clifton Suspension Bridge (a real feat of British engineering) and hit the gritty urban maze of Stokes Croft on the hunt for edgy graffiti murals (Bristol is a hub for street artists – it’s the home of Banksy!). Oh, and if you’re around Bristol in August, be prepared to be mesmerized by the hundreds of colorful hot air balloons that take to the skies for the annual Bristol Balloon Fiesta!

When it comes to Brighton, the Lanes is the place to be. A maze of winding alleyways filled with independently owned shops and cafes await visitors there. Think antiques, craft shops, art galleries and even a shop dedicated entirely to rubber ducks – you know, just in case you’ve always wondered what the cast of Friends looks like in rubber duck form! After that, you could head up to the British Airways i360 for epic views across the city or visit the breathtaking Royal Pavilion, the seaside residence of King George IV. But of course, in Brighton, you always have the option of simply lazing on the beach too.

Winner: Brighton, for the quirkiness.

Bristol vs Brighton: Beaches

beach in brighton
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Okay, so technically Bristol doesn’t have its own beach, so it’s hardly going to win this one. However, there are beautiful beaches less than an hour’s drive away, so all is not lost. Let’s take a closer look…

In just 30 minutes from Bristol, you will find the wild estuary sands of Severn Beach and Clevedon Beach. Roughly a 50-minute drive will take you to one of the UK’s busiest sandy stretches: Weston-super-Mare. That’s a proper family summer resort, where you will find a host of activities, from donkey rides to Punch and Judy shows. Keep going even further and you could enter the epic coastal reaches of north Devon and north Cornwall, where sands like Woolacombe and Bude beckon with surf breaks and hill-backed golden sands.

Being based in Brighton, you have the convenience of a simple stroll to the beach. Cue Brighton Beach. With pebbles instead of sand, it may not be the most comfortable spot for soaking up the sun. However, if that’s not a deal-breaker, the atmosphere here is guaranteed to make up for any lack of powder. Shops, restaurants, and bars line the seafront, and the famous Brighton Palace Pier houses a variety of arcades, rides, and attractions. You could also venture to the west to see the lovely pebble stretches of Lancing or Worthing, which are both a touch quieter than Brighton itself.

Winner: Brighton, for the convenience.

Bristol vs Brighton: Accommodation

cheap accommodation

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Luckily, finding the perfect accommodation in either of these places shouldn’t be too tricky. Bristol has a variety of hotels to choose from, ranging from five-star luxury and traditional English inns to the more budget-friendly hostels and B&Bs. Live like royalty in the Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa ($$-$$$), which even provides complimentary gin and sherry on arrival, or live out your English cottage fantasy in one of the many countryside lodgings in the nearby Cotswolds. Those who like to keep the company of animals may enjoy a stay at the Lodge ($$-$$$). Nestled in the grounds of Bristol Zoo, this luxury resort allows you to enjoy breakfast with gorillas! We can also recommend the Rock ‘n Bowl Motel ($) for budget travelers – it’s a vintage Rockabilly club with bunk beds and bowling lanes!

Over in Brighton, you may not have something quite as quirky as your own zoo quarters, however there is still plenty to choose from. You have the luxury of having sea views from beachside properties such as Malmaison Brighton ($$$) and Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa ($$). Or if you’re after something a little more characterful, the boho Artist Residence Brighton ($$) should do the trick. Situated across from the iconic West Pier, this hotel offers a unique blend of rustic and modern charm and is just a stone’s through from all that Brighton’s downtown has to offer. The YHA Brighton ($) is the best pick for budget travelers in the southern city.

Winner: Draw – both have plenty of hotels.

Bristol or Brighton: Nightlife

brighton pier
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Neither of these destinations will become a ghost town after dark. There’s oodles going on in both…

As Bristol is home to two world-class universities, it’s brimming with a range of places to let your hair down. Whether you’re looking to party it up in the city’s biggest club, the multi-roomed Motion, get your comedy fix in the unique magic-themed pub, Smoke & Mirrors, or belt out some tunes in one of Bristol’s most popular karaoke bars, 98 Club, there is truly something for everyone in these parts. The areas around Park Street and Stokes Croft are two of the top party districts – the first for chic cocktail lounges, the latter for hipster venues.

There’s also no chance of being forced into an early-nighter over in Brighton. If you’re a bit of a cocktail connoisseur, we recommend heading over to Gungho. This eco-friendly cocktail bar, with jungle theme décor, sources local ingredients to make a range of unique fruit and veg-based cocktails. If a pub crawl takes your fancy, there are plenty of options to choose from, starting from the historic Lanes area to a drink (or 10) by the waterfront. Brighton is also famous for its thriving LGBTQ scene, with the most popular area located in the Kemp Town district, home to a lively assortment of bars and clubs adorned with rainbow flags.

Winner: Brighton, but only just!

Bristol vs Brighton: Food

classic fish and chips
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Bristol has the varied offerings of any big city. Fine-dining restaurants, cost-friendly markets, and traditional pubs can all be found dotting the corners of the town, so you should never struggle to find a place to eat…

Head over to Wapping Wharf, a former ship building yard that’s fast becoming a hub for food and drink in Bristol. There, you will find shipping containers touting everything from Caribbean gumbo to Spanish tapas. If seafood is what you want, check out Clifton Seafood Company, where you can choose from a variety of fresh British fish. For Indian cuisine, Bandook is the place to go. For more traditional pub grub, The Bell is a favorite with the locals.

Over in Brighton, there is also plenty to take your fancy. Find imaginative twists on classic British dishes, sample fish and chips by the sea (a must!), or fill your boots with the many international cuisines on offer. Perhaps a visit to Brighton’s oldest pub is in order? Cue The Cricketers. This Victorian establishment in the Lanes area is said to have been a popular haunt with author Graham Greene, who paid tribute to it in his classic novel Brighton Rock. Oh, and for a grizzlier namedrop, serial killer Jack the Ripper was said to frequent the spot, perhaps plotting his next murder! The Lanes itself is a cracking place to go more generally, what with vegan kitchens, artisan bakers, and craft coffee emporiums galore.

Winner: Draw.

Bristol vs Brighton: Nature

bristol bridge
Photo by David Mark/Pixabay

Bristol is home to several parks, nature reserves, and green spaces where you can get your hit of the great outdoors. The best of them include the National Trust land of Leigh Woods on the north side of the city, and the wide River Avon Gorge, which hosts a cycle path that’s perfect for a morning or evening ride. For the best hikes on offer, head to the Clifton and Durdham Downs, an expansive grassland with views of said gorge and their own cave systems. For more adventurous trips, pack the car and drive northeast into the rolling fields of the Cotswolds, one of the UK’s areas of outstanding natural beauty.

So how does Brighton compare? Well, Brighton is home to a fair few parks and nature spots, and, of course, the beautiful seafront and beaches that line the city aren’t to be missed. For woodland walks and expansive views, head to Wild Park. This nature reserve also features the Iron Age hillfort of Hollingbury Castle. Or you can go roughly an hour outside of the city to visit the massive South Downs National Park, you’ll be rewarded with vast amounts of wildlife, unspoiled views, hiking trails and even pub lunches in quaint country taverns.

Winner: Bristol, mainly because it’s on the cusp of the Cotswolds and has more urban parkland.

Bristol vs Brighton: Conclusion

So, that’s it: Bristol vs Brighton. As you can see, it’s a pretty tough decision to call. Both these towns have plenty up their sleeve. Overall, we’d say that Brighton is the buzzier and more youthful of the two towns. It boasts the Lanes shopping quarter, a big LGBTQ+ nightlife scene (probably the biggest in the UK) and fantastic bars and cafés. Bristol is arty and edgy, with boho areas like Stokes Croft where you can see works by Banksy and others The hub of the South West is also probably better for nature lovers, because it sits right on the cusp of the Cotswolds (only Brighton does beaches better because they are just a short walk from the downtown there!).

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