Bristol vs Brighton? Riverside City or Seaside Resort?

bristol vs brighton
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Bristol or Brighton? Two very different English cities, each offering an abundance of charm, culture, and vacation amenities.

On the one hand you have Bristol, the lively university city, situated on the River Avon. Filled with buzzing markets, colorful houses, and a multi-cultural nature, it is a welcoming city with plenty to fill any vacation itinerary. But on the other hand you have Brighton. This vibrant and trendy seaside resort, just an hour train ride from the bustling capital, London, is brimming with quirky boutiques, vegan eateries, and beachside fun aplenty.

But with so much going for each destination, how do you even decide between the two? Well, we’ve pitted Bristol and Brighton against each other in all things vacation-related. So, from which is cheaper to which has the best nightlife and entertainment options, we hope to give you a helping hand in making up your mind.

Bristol or Brighton: Price

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

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) 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). The average daily cost is said to be around £73($100) per person.

Over in Brighton, you’re looking at heftier price tags on pretty much everything. A standard double room in a hotel will cost around £86($118), and for beachfront properties, you’re looking at upping that to more in the region of £130-150($178-206) per night.

Expect to pay around £12-16($16-22) for a main meal. However, the good news is that there is plenty of seaside food options here, which will keep you going for much cheaper. You can find fish and chips for around £5($6). Overall, you would be looking at spending roughly £100($137) upwards per day if you want to make the most of your trip.

Winner: Bristol

Bristol or Brighton: Entertainment

bristol square
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Bristol, like many cities has all the usual haunts to keep any sightseer satisfied, such as museums, galleries, cafés, restaurants, and bars. However, if you’re after something a little out of the ordinary, why not take a hot air balloon from one of the several operators running throughout the city. And if you’re there 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, truly a sight to behold.

But no trip to Bristol is complete without marveling at the iconic and multi-award-winning Clifton Suspension Bridge, which even has its own visitor center. And Bristol is also the birthplace of world-famous street artist Banksy, so you might want to go on the hunt for some of his gems at the cultural quarter, Stokes Croft.

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 you there. Think antiques, craft shops, art galleries and even a shop dedicated entirely to rubber ducks – so if you’ve always wanted to see the Friends characters in duck form, you’re in luck here.

And once you’ve soaked in the quirkiness of the Lanes, why not 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 or Brighton: Beaches

beach in brighton
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Okay, so technically Bristol doesn’t have its own beach, but with beautiful beaches within an hour’s drive away, it’s still in the running.

In just 30 minutes you will find the slightly more rugged types of Severn Beach and Clevedon Beach. But if you’re after something a little more traditional, roughly a 50-minute drive will take you to one of the UK’s busiest sandy stretches, Weston-super-Mare Beach. Here you will find a host of activities, from donkey rides to the many events held throughout the year, including the Weston Air Festival, beach races, and concerts. And of course, what’s a seaside resort without a plethora of arcades and ice cream shops for that ultimate summer vacation feel.

However, if based in Brighton, you have the convenience of a simple stroll to the beach. Yet, although winning hands down for proximity, the beach itself may leave a little to be desired.

With pebbles instead of sand, it may not be the most comfortable spot for soaking in the sun. However, if that’s not a deal-breaker, the atmosphere here is guaranteed to make up for any lack of golden sands. Shops, restaurants, and bars line the seafront, and the famous Brighton Palace Pier houses a variety of arcades, rides, and attractions. And don’t miss a photo opportunity next to the surreal Upside Down House located just a few minutes from the pier.

Winner: Brighton, for the convenience

Bristol or 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 5-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 nearby. Or if you’re one with the animals, you may enjoy a stay at the Lodge. Nestled in the grounds of Bristol Zoo, this luxury resort allows you to enjoy breakfast with the gorillas, have meals prepared by a private chef and be treated to exclusive behind-the-scenes action with the animals.

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 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 away from all that Brighton has to offer. There are also several low-budget hostels to choose from if Brighton is simply just one stop on a backpacking adventure.

Winner: Bristol, for the choice

Bristol or Brighton: Nightlife

brighton pier
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Luckily neither of these destinations become a ghost town after dark, so if you’re a bit of a night owl and prefer to soak up the evening atmosphere, rather than perhaps unwinding with tea and a movie back at the hotel, you’re in luck.

As Bristol is home to two world-class universities, it is 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.

Over in Brighton, you certainly won’t be forced to get an early night either. 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.

Fancy trying a little chicory root or mushroom in your cocktail? Well, you certainly can here. Or if a pub crawl takes your fancy, there are plenty of options to choose from, starting from the historic Lanes area to a drink by the waterfront. Then, when it’s time to dance the night away, there is an abundance of clubs to showcase your best moves. And 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, for the vibes

Bristol or Brighton: Food

classic fish and chips
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The UK may not be known for its exotic foods, and in fact, fish and chips, pies, and sausages and mash are usually what spring to mind when thinking British dining, however, there are plenty of eateries in both locations in which to try a range of traditional and international cuisines.

Bristol has all the offerings of any big city. Fine dining restaurants, cost friendly markets, and traditional pubs can be found dotted around every corner, so you should never struggle to find a place to eat here.

Head over to Wapping Wharf, a former ship building yard, fast becoming the food and drink quarter of Bristol. Here you will find shipping containers housing a variety of flavors. If seafood is what you’re after, check out Clifton Seafood Company, where you can choose from a variety of fresh produce or if Indian cuisine is your food of choice, 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, or fill your boots with the many international cuisines on offer. Also, you can visit Brighton’s oldest pub, 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 it also (perhaps plotting his next murder).

And, for any vegans on vacation, Brighton has you covered, with many vegan cafes and menu items to choose from. Finally, you simply can’t go to Brighton without indulging in a stick of Brighton Rock. Sure, it might do a number on your teeth but, trust us, this sweet treat is worth it.

Winner: Draw

Bristol or Brighton: Nature

bristol bridge
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Bristol is home to several parks, nature reserves, and green spaces of which to get your fill of the great outdoors. It is also situated on the River Avon, perfect for a morning or evening stroll. For the best hikes on offer, head to the Clifton and Durdham Downs, an expansive grassland with views of the Avon Gorge and nearby caves. It is also a perfect spot to bring a picnic for when you’ve tired yourself out with the walking.

So how does Brighton compare? Well, Brighton is home to a fair few parks and nature spots also, and, of course, the beautiful sea. For woodland walks and expansive views over the city, head to Wild Park. This nature reserve also features the Iron Age hillfort, Hollingbury Castle. Or you can head roughly an hour outside of the city to visit the massive South Downs National Park, home to vast amounts of wildlife, unspoiled views, hiking trails and even a pub to grab a bite to eat or a well-earned drink.

Winner: Bristol

Bristol or Brighton: Conclusion

So, we’ve reached the end of the Bristol or Brighton battle, but which one came out on top? Well, it’s a very close call but our winner is Brighton.

While Bristol holds all the amenities you could want for a vacation, as well as being within an hour of some beautiful sandy beaches, Brighton is a more unique city with the benefit of a beach right on its doorstep.

However, we definitely recommend adding both to your UK travel bucket list if possible.

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