We all like to be beside the seaside, but which Victorian-era holiday destination would we rather splash about in: Blackpool or Brighton?
Hotel: A fresh-out-the-catalogue ‘boutique’ hotel, is one of the better options, while there are two Number One hotels in the town – Number One South Beach, which has its own restaurant, and its little sister B&B Number One St Luke’s (at 1 St Luke’s Rd, funnily enough).
Eat: Fans of fish and chips will think they’ve died and gone to heaven; health freaks might be less enthusiastic. Catering squarely to the former, one of the classier eateries is posh chippy haunt The Cottage (apparently even Dawn French and John Major have eaten there). It might not be haute cuisine, but it’s far less egocentric than Brighton’s offerings. Not into fish and chips? Try Toast Café Bar & Grill or Beach House, on the town’s shiny new Tower Festival Headland, for ‘contemporary’ and ‘bistro’ cuisine.
Drink: Blackpool’s Queen Street turns into a total booze parade at the weekend with more bars and cabaret joints than you can shake a stick at. (FYI, for more upmarket bars, it’s your hotel bar or nowt.) Just make sure you don’t end up a ‘frequent flier’ – Blackpool A&E staff shorthand for staggering weekend drunkards.
Do: Blackpool has plenty to keep you amused, like its cheesy Pleasure Beach – featuring a Wallace & Gromit Thrill-O-Matic ride – and the Eiffel-inspired Blackpool Tower. New exhibition piece Comedy Carpet – a 2,200m2 patchwork floor at the end of the pier paved with more than 1,000 comedians’ quotes – is worth a look and is loads funnier than most floor coverings. Except crazy paving, obviously.
Inhabitants: Hen and stag parties essentially dominate the town. They sit not so happily alongside angry residents who complain about the noise.
Hotel: Boutique hotels are to Brighton what vinegar is to the chips you’ll eat on its pebble beach. Head to recently opened Room With A View, which provides just that. All ten rooms in the beachfront hotel boast a view of the channel, so guests can lay back and watch the waves crash in each morning. The décor is minimalist – beige tones and wooden floors – so not to distract from the vistas. If your eardrums can handle it, book into Hotel Pelirocco – a maverick rock’n’roll hotel dedicated to providing the ultimate dirty weekend. So hip it has two cats named after it.
Eat: What Blackpool has in, er, unpretentious restaurants, Brighton has in quirky eateries. For some seaside indulgence, seek out oyster and champagne joint Riddle & Finn’s, in its new beachfront outpost.That said, its first restaurant in the Laines proves oldest is best: grab a high table and order fresh oysters. Veggie spot and fellow Laine resident Food For Friends churns out superfood salads and cheese soufflés like they’re going out of fashion.
Drink: The North Laine pub brews its own ale – try a pint of Laine’s Best. In the summer, Ohso Social bar opens up onto the seafront and is about as close to Ibiza as you’ll get in the UK. Set slightly back from the beach, Funfair is new onto Brighton’s party scene. With fun cocktails like the Funfair Wallbanger and a ball pit, this little club is the place to end the night on a giant swing, dreaming of your childhood.
Do: Brighton Pier, with its sticks of rock, poorly designed rides and slot machines, is a must-see for any weekend visitor. Wander through the Laines: a spider’s web of narrow streets selling everything from Tarot readings to tie-dye scarves; or head to the Royal Pavilion – an oriental-style former royal residence – for a pimped-up picnic.
Inhabitants: More hen and stag dos abound in Brighton. But added to the eclectic mix are environmentalists, drunk students and Guardian journalists.
Who wins? Let us know below.