While Hastings is boldly bookended by the bang-on-the-beach Jerwood Gallery and the Modernist De la Warr Pavillion at Bexhill, the Old Town keeps its treasures more hidden. Drive along the seafront and the city lulls you into a false sense of insecurity: burnt-down pier, Iceland supermarket, amusement arcades and spit-and-sawdust pubs. However, on the Old Town's high street of characterful, centuries-old townhouses is Laindons – a Grade II-listed building with a curiosity shop below and a B & B upstairs.
This simple guesthouse has you letting out a sigh of contentment after climbing up the narrow stairs. It's just what you hope for from a B & B: pristine spaces with super comfortable mattresses and hotel-quality Egyptian-cotton linens, plus top-drawer tea and coffee-making treats: flasks of fresh milk, blue-and-white crockery and Tunnocks teacakes.
We stayed in Bedroom One, which felt like our own sitting room looking out over Old Hastings. The two other bedrooms only have en-suite showers, but ours came with a corner bath and the decor is less outmoded. Stripy Room 4 is a new family-friendly option, with a fifth room on its way.
The Laindons' light-flooded conservatory shares that grandstand view of the Old Town. Perch on soft grey Gotland sheepskins draped over benches and wooden chairs at a civilised 8.30am to 10am, for a locally sourced affair: sausages and bacon from a nearby free-range farm, fruity jams and marmalade made in nearby Battle and lashings of home-roasted coffee. For snacking, an honesty larder in the homely lounge has gourmet sea-salt crisps and bottled water.
If you detect a scent of Scandinavia, you're on the right track. Jon and Sara Young took over the B & B last year after spending their first five years of marriage in Stockholm, where Jon was a designer and Sara worked for Design Hotels. The tale of how they got together is touching – their mothers met at a party and exchanged phone numbers on their behalves. Jon has family in Hastings and holidayed here as a child, while Sara's grandparents lived in Bexhill, so they chose to move here with their two small children. "It was important that guests feel 'by the sea' here" says Sara. "I wanted it to have coastal touches without going Disney, or creating a style you could find in a room in London." Hall lights from Vita, reupholstered Parker Knoll and original Ercol seats, ensure their simple uncluttered chic has substance.
There are a number of vintage and antiques stores to riffle through on the High Street, including the curiosity shop downstairs. Nearby, A G Hendy & Co is as though Downton Abbey's below-stairs staff created their own homewares store and had it art directed by Wallpaper* (01424 447171; homestore-hastings.co.uk). Made in Hastings promises locally made crafts and gifts (01424 719110; madeinhastings.co.uk). 20th Century Fashion & Design has two floors of quality retro furniture and perfectly pressed vintage dresses (01424 460068).
In the B & B's immediate patch you can also ogle the country's most impressive private collections of 20th- and 21st-century at the Jerwood Gallery (01424 728377; jerwoodgallery.org). There's also interesting art at the De La Warr Pavillion, which is compelling in itself as an example of the first Modernist public space built in Britain (01424 229111; dlwp.com).
Whether your poison is Monmouth coffee, cheekily named craft beers or bacon jam, Penbuckles Delicatessan is a delight for provisions or for a pause between shopping and sightseeing (01424 465050). For beer-battered cod and hand-cut chips, Webbe's at 1 Rock-a-Nore Road is a favourite, overlooking the historic tall, fishing huts, and the Jerwood itself, where they also have a chic café outpost (01424 721650).
For a romantic dinner, St Clements is worth the trip to St Leonards: fish suppers don't come more delicious. I was torn between salt cod, gravadlax, squid, turbot and tuna steak, but the waitress happily talked me through which might best match my taste and appetite. Peanut butter and chocolate torte was a top tip (01424 200355; stclementsrestaurant.co.uk).
The Laindons, 23 High Street, Hastings TN34 3EY (01424 437710; thelaindons.com). Doubles start at £115, including breakfast.