Only the second-coolest place in Britain? The citizens of the south coast resort are outraged that the London Eye should be judged even cooler in a survey this week. After all, from the urban jet-setter looking for weekend respite to the earthy hippie looking for a place to paint pots, there's something for everyone in Brighton. And let's not forget the seaside treats: eels, whelks, slot machines, striped candy and deckchairs for hire.

Despite the problems bedevilling the redevelopment of the derelict West Pier - it has gone up in flames twice this year - Brighton continues to flourish. This is due in part to the economic boost from Londoners in the market for cheaper housing (earning it the nickname Islington-on-Sea), as well as non-stop commercial development. The Corn Exchange and Dome venues had £22m spent on them, and another £15m was spent on the seafront. Chintzy B&Bs are fast being replaced by sleek boutique hotels - the new Hotel du Vin and Hotel Seattle are among the recent additions - while Frank Gehry and Piers Gough's plans for the city, should they be put into effect, will up the "cool" factor further.

Brighton & Hove may have city status but it's no heaving metropolis - rather a clutch of neighbourhoods bound together by seagulls, shingle and shore. Above all, people flock here for the atmosphere. You can breathe in the tranquility and joie de vivre as soon as you step out of the train station. Veer left to the North Laine and you'll find yourself amid market stalls, health food shops and clothes stores selling "vegetarian shoes", grunge gear and acres of fluorescent fur; go right and you'll find rows of pretty pastel houses with bright front gardens. The gay population has set up home in Kemp Town while Hove, the land of the three-wheel buggy, is a haven for young families resisting the move to suburbia. If you want more proof of Brighton's pleasure-seeking spirit, then note that the city has more pubs per square mile than any other in the UK.

Brighton hasn't lost its old-fashioned charm, either. On winter mornings the seafront is still awash with pensioners clutching Thermos flasks - while Saturday nights are hen-night heaven. On the Palace Pier you can ride the Ghost Train and indulge in a meal of cod, chips, mushy peas and a glass of Champagne. And you can't beat the sunset on Brighton beach. Whether it's a new life or a naughty weekend you're after, Brighton hits the spot.

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