Bedside the seaside

From sea views to deep comfort - there's a hotel here for everyone, says Siobhan Dolan

From luxury on a grand scale to understated boutique elegance, and great value B&Bs, Brighton is well-equipped to embrace all tastes and budgets. Beachfront landmarks such as the De Vere Grand and The Metropole are surrounded by an impressive supporting cast of medium-priced hotels along with a wide range of guesthouses. For a selection of what's available for tired tourists in need of a comfy bed see below - and remember, Brighton is always busy at weekends, so it's worth booking from Sunday to Thursday to get the best deals.

From luxury on a grand scale to understated boutique elegance, and great value B&Bs, Brighton is well-equipped to embrace all tastes and budgets. Beachfront landmarks such as the De Vere Grand and The Metropole are surrounded by an impressive supporting cast of medium-priced hotels along with a wide range of guesthouses. For a selection of what's available for tired tourists in need of a comfy bed see below - and remember, Brighton is always busy at weekends, so it's worth booking from Sunday to Thursday to get the best deals.

TRADITIONAL LUXURY

Rooms with a view don't come much more impressive than those at De Vere Grand (01273 224 300; www.grandbrighton.co.uk) on Kings Road, Brighton's most famous hotel. The 200-room landmark also features an indoor swimming and spa pool, sauna and gym. If you can't afford a room, then consider dropping in for the impressive afternoon tea (triple-tiered trays of cakes, sandwiches and scones). Doubles start from around £260 per night.

Next door sits The Hilton Brighton Metropole (01273 775 432; www.hilton.co.uk/brightonmet) on Kings Road, Brighton's other big hitter. The Victorian hotel has recently completed the first phase of a multi-million pound refurbishment, and many areas of the hotel provide uninterrupted sea views. Facilities include the LivingWell Health Club, the Windsor restaurant and the Metropole bar. Doubles start from around £115 per night.

ULTRA COOL

Square (01273 691 777; www.squarebrighton.com) at 4 New Steine is situated in a Regency garden square in Kemp Town, just off the beachfront. Nine super-cool double and king rooms, many with sea views. There's also the "reverse penthouse" that takes up the whole of the lower-ground floor. Doubles start from £140 per night including breakfast.

FAMILY FORTUNE

Still in Kemp Town, among the hotels jostling for custom on New Steine is the choice of a former tourism minister. Strawberry Fields (01273 681 576; strawberryfields@pavilion.co.uk), at number 6-7, was Dr Kim Howells's accommodation during a Labour Party conference. Families are welcome, and there is even a play area in the residents' lounge. Doubles start at £50 per night.

ROMANTIC APPEAL

The Royal Pavilion Townhouse Hotel (01273 722 123; www.rpthotel.co.uk) at 12a Regency Square offers extravagant kitsch. Perfect for a romantic break, there are just eight rooms, each individually decorated to the highest order and with jacuzzi baths or double showers. An ideal hideaway within a few minutes of the pier, town centre and beach. Doubles start from £89 per night including breakfast.

The 20-bed Drakes Hotel (01273 696 934; www.drakesofbrighton.com) at 43-44 Marine Parade has already earned a reputation for its "nothing is too much trouble" service ethos (if you let them know, they'll even run a bath for you on your arrival). More than half the rooms have a sea view. It also boasts the acclaimed Gingerman restaurant, free-standing baths and a flat-screen TV in every room. Doubles from £125 per night.

HOSTS WITH THE MOST

A warm welcome, fantastic breakfast and excellent value for money go some way to explaining the growing popularity of the brightonwave (01273 676 794; www.brightonwave.com) at 10 Madeira Place. Work by local Sussex artists provides a backdrop to the stylish interior. Doubles start from £70 per room per night.

For value, friendliness and style, the quiet White House B&B (01273 626 266; www.whitehousebrighton.com) at 6 Bedford Street is unrivalled. Located in Kemp Town, it's close to the beachfront and a short walk from the centre of Brighton.The Iron Room on the top floor has a four-poster and views of the sea. Doubles start from £65.

CHAIN REACTION

Brighton's Ship Street remains one of the flagship locations for the Hotel Du Vin chain (01273 718 588; www.hotelduvin.com). Situated in the Lanes conservation area, a stone's throw from the beachfront, the 37 bedrooms are housed in a collection of gothic revival and mock Tudor buildings erected by a wine merchant on the site of an old inn. The elegant rooms feature handsprung mattresses, Egyptian linen, deep baths and power showers. The original double-height hall now houses the acclaimed wine bar overlooked by the billiards gallery. Doubles start from £130.

HISTORIC BRIGHTON

Dating back to 1559, The Old Ship Hotel (01273 329 001; www.oldshiphotel-brighton.co.uk) at 31-38 Kings Road is housed in a listed building, situated on the beachfront with a sea-facing bar and restaurant. Refreshingly unboutiquey, its 152 bedrooms have recently been refurbished in an elegant and comfortable style. Doubles from £89 per night.

BOHO CHIC

The Oriental (01273 205 050; www.orientalhotel.co.uk) at 9 Oriental Place is a charming Brighton favourite, located in a Regency listed building one street from the beach by the West Pier. The rooms are individually decorated in rich, soothing colour schemes and also feature flowers and aromatherapy lights. Organic breakfasts and snacks available from the bar. Spa therapies on request. Doubles start from £80 per night.

Less imposing (and considerably cheaper) than some of its beachfront neighbours, yet with bags of personality, The Granville (01273 326 302; www.granvillehotel.co.uk) at 124 Kings Road sits opposite what's left of the West Pier. Its 24 rooms range from minimalist to modern and art deco to Gothic and Japanese. Doubles start from £85 per night.

AFFORDABLE ELEGANCE

Paskins Town House (01273 601 203; www.paskins.co.uk) at 19 Charlotte Street prides itself on its "green" credentials, along with its excellent organic breakfasts. Characterful rooms, some with four-posters. Situated in a Grade II listed building on a quiet street just off the beachfront and 10 minutes' walk from the middle of town. Doubles start from £70 including breakfast.

Claremont House Hotel (01273 735 161; www.claremonthouse.co.uk) at 13 Second Avenue, Hove, is the only establishment in Brighton and Hove to be awarded VisitBritain's prestigious five-diamond grading. It combines Victorian architecture with a contemporary boutique interior and is located in a quiet conservation area of the city, within a short stroll of the city centre. Doubles start from £80 per night. Family rooms available.

BEST BUDGET

The concrete exterior of the Premier Travel Inn (0870 990 6340), 144 North Street, may not draw you in. But it's a great budget alternative: unfussy, functional and situated right in the middle of town. The food is good value for money, too. Rooms will accommodate one or two adults, or two adults and two children - all for the same per-room price, from £46.95 per night.

See www.visitbrighton.com for more information on places to stay

TRAVELLER'S GUIDE

RAIL

The train is perhaps the best way to reach Brighton, because the city's grand 19th-century station is a rail terminus with services from across Britain. The most frequent links are with London. The fastest link is the Southern express service from London Victoria, descendant of the luxury Brighton Belle - and even faster, taking as little as 51 minutes. This is the train preferred by Sir Paul McCartney and other local luminaries. From Victoria, a Saver is £23, while a Cheap Day Return is £16.80. An extra payment of £2 entitles you to all-day access to Brighton's buses.

Southern also runs services from Watford Junction, Kensington Olympia and West Brompton. Thameslink offers a fast and frequent service from London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and King's Cross. From London Bridge, a Network Awaybreak costs £21; a Cheap Day Return is as little as £13.10.

Direct trains run to the city from Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester and many other towns and cities. For more information on schedules and fares call 08457 48 49 50 or visit www.nationalrail.co.uk.

AIR

Gatwick airport is 27 miles north, with frequent trains to Brighton taking around half an hour. Gatwick has links from most leading UK airports. Luton airport also has a direct rail link - or at least it will have from May, when rebuilding work at St Pancras is finished.

BUS

National Express buses serve Brighton from a wide range of points, including Cambridge, Exeter and Southampton. Services run hourly from London's Victoria Coach Station to Brighton, taking around two hours 15 minutes, with Funfares as low as £1 each way available online at www.nationalexpress.co.uk. It is in competition with Megabus ( www.megabus.com), which has the same opening fare - but adds a 50p transaction fee.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Brighton station, a splendid amalgam of Victorian ironwork and 21st-century design, confers a suitably ceremonial air upon the visitor. It is also well located for an easy geography lesson. Go straight ahead, down the gentle slope of Queens Road and West Street to the sea. To your left (east) is the Pavilion and the Lanes, to the right (west) the main shopping area of Western Road and Churchill Square. North Laine, the "alternative" area, is directly east and sharply downhill from the station. Kemp Town is the area just inshore and east from the Old Steine, the open space that affords a terrific view of the Royal Pavilion.

The main tourist information office is at 10 Bartholomew Square, at the heart of the Lanes. Call 0906 711 2255 or see www.visitbrighton.com.

GETTING AROUND

Brighton has an excellent network of buses, all of them running on Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel. The flat fare is £1.40, covering the area from Shoreham in the west to Falmer and Newhaven in the east. On many routes, the single payment entitles you to a round trip. You can also buy an all-day ticket from the driver for £2.60. See the memorable website www.buses.co.uk for full details of fares and schedules.

The city also has some interesting rail services. Hove and London Road have useful stations, and the run between Brighton and London Road provides a dramatic high-level view of the city. but on the beachfront east of the Brighton Pier you can find the oldest operating electric railway in the world: the creation of Magnus Volk has been running intermittently since 1883. See volkselectricrailway.co.uk for more details.

Simon Calder

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