Time well spent

Shop till your jaw drops, with Simon Calder's guide to the best Bohemian boutiques

Sun, sea, sand: how does Brighton score? Rather well in the first category, being pinioned between England's two sunniest locations, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis. Sea? The Channel defines the place, from the original fishing village to the allure of the pier(s). Sand? Wrong place, I'm afraid, as anyone who has returned from a day on the beach feeling dented rather than cosseted will testify. Which is perhaps why the city has a few more "S"s in its civic back pocket to tempt visitors.

Sun, sea, sand: how does Brighton score? Rather well in the first category, being pinioned between England's two sunniest locations, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis. Sea? The Channel defines the place, from the original fishing village to the allure of the pier(s). Sand? Wrong place, I'm afraid, as anyone who has returned from a day on the beach feeling dented rather than cosseted will testify. Which is perhaps why the city has a few more "S"s in its civic back pocket to tempt visitors.

Sex is an enticement to some, including the original sinners who moved down with the Prince Regent to establish Europe's most monumental pleasure palace, the Royal Pavilion. Sightseers see the Crown's jewel as the city's leading attraction. But the city's specialist subject may prove even more satisfying and surprising: shopping.

Even a jaded old grouch who is brassed off with the offerings of the average British High Street will love the variety of speciality shops in Brighton. All the usual retail suspects can be found around North Street, Western Road and the concrete precincts of Churchill Square. Individuality and intimacy, though, are Brighton's strong suits: you can shop till your jaw drops. Brighton is the place to find everything from trash to treasures, whether lingerie, long-players or liquorice. And while wearing out your shoe leather (which, handily, you can replace with vegetarian footwear), you will also stumble across some of the city's hidden sights.

THE LANES

The Bohemian refuge on the south coast, indulged by royalty, has preserved its roots. So begin your shopping expedition in the Lanes: the maze of alleyways at the medieval heart of Brighton. Just south of the Clocktower, turn left into Duke Street. You find yourself funnelled through a dozen dining and drinking opportunities, and you can start buying instantly. At Choccywoccydoodah (easier to say than to spell) at number 24 you can indulge in chocolate as an art form. And then, because competition (like chocolate) is inherently beneficial, you can compare the repertoire with Montezuma's at number 15.

Anyone seeking a gift with some certainty of uniqueness should head for Gustamps at 12 Prince Albert Street; more an art gallery than a philatelist. For the Elvis fan: a block of Senegalese commemorative stamps, yours for £2.50. If JK Rowling wonders how far the Harry Potter motif could stretch, she could invest £3.50 in a complete set of stamps from Tajikistan that celebrates the young wizard.

Beaumont Grey will make a T-shirt as deeply personal as you wish; and the sweet-smelling Spiritual Matters can separate your yin from your yang, and your cash from your wallet.

For some visitors, Brighton is solely about clothes: either taking them off, or buying new ones. If you fall into the latter category, aim for East Street, where the Lanes begin to unravel into a more conventional street network. It contains a close approximation to a Continental piazza, plus Kurt Geiger, Mango, Monsoon, Jigsaw and French Connection. At Ship Street, try Simultane for off-the-mainstream-and-off-the-peg clothing, then Jeremy Hoye for some silver, gold or platinum jewellery to set it off nicely. And for the feet? Back on Duke Street, the dainty shoes in the window of Nine West face Offspring, dispensing industrial-strength trainers.

NORTH LAINE

One moment you are steering through Brighton's shopping streets, the next you are confronted with the Sussex offshoot of the Taj Mahal. The twirling domes of the Royal Pavilion give an exotic zest to the town, which could explain why such curious characters are attracted here.

To meet some of them, head along Bond Street, which runs just west of the Pavilion and feeds into Gardner Street. This is North Laine, a slightly wonky grid of streets that represents Brighton at its most Bohemian.

Take a look at three adjacent properties on the east side of Gardner Street: Air Born Kites, whose elaborate designs exploit the sea breeze; Borderline Records, one of Brighton's excellent sources of rare vinyl; and Elir lingerie. Opposite you can buy Vegetarian Shoes - intended for non-leather walking rather than as a dining option - or legal hemp products from the Hemp Shop.

Jink right then left at the end of Gardner Street and you find yourself in Kensington Gardens. Nowhere near the posh London district and far from verdant, this is the location for a retail miscellany: Caramela (promising 15 varieties of Dutch salted liquorice), The Vintage Magazine Company, Dave's Comics and Paul Clark's Music Meltdown, interspersed with classy fashion designers such as Appendage at number 36.

The next right-left manoeuvre will take you into Sydney Street. To redefine yourself, try a tattoo from Penetration. Close by, the G-Spot promises club- and street-wear. Brighton Designers and Makers is at 39; downstairs is the cutting-edge IO Gallery. Between them, they challenge your assumptions about colour, form and function.

Brighton station looms at the top of Trafalgar Street. But there are still temptations: the Singles Bar for vinyl 45s and albums, and Paint Pots - where you decorate your own pottery.

KEMP TOWN

Kemp Town is the place to come for arguably Britain's finest charity shops. Donors tend to be well-off individualists; you can find retro clothing, plus shelves heaving with books that are as eclectic as the customers.

The first you meet on St James's Street is Sussex Beacon, opposite the Redroaster coffee house. Just up the road you will find Mind and Age Concern.

At Camelford Street, look for a line of dainty cottages. Then admire the jewellery at Spiral, buy an LP for £1 at the record shop that bears the faint sign "O'Neill's", and reach a retail climax at the What Not Shop. Beyond here, the dreamy High Street feel begins to fade - but if you feel the need for some stylish furniture, try The Red House at 34 Upper St James's Street.

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album