Festive things to do in Brighton

Silly season is officially in full swing. The magical time of year when your social feed is filled with endless elaborately decorated trees, bleary Christmas party outtakes and Spotify Wrappeds in the top one percent of Taylor Swift’s listeners.

Now, you’ve already skated your socks off in front of a beautiful backdrop, booked your panto tickets and you’ve got the Burning the Clocks parade, the street advent calendar, a luminous, magical trail walk and a new light show in your diary, but what else is going on in and around the city to get you feeling festive?  

We’re firm believers that you can never have too much Yuletide merriment, so we’ve rounded up a Santa sack full of fun, from camp Christmas cabarets and sub-zero swims to festive foodie feasts and copious options for somewhere to sing along to Slade.

Take a festive walk with a difference

A Christmas walk doesn’t have to be resigned to a post-turkey sandwich Boxing Day stupor. The lovely folk at Leonardslee have transformed their gorgeous gardens into a twisty, twinkling trail of illuminations and interactive light installations. After you’ve enjoyed a leisurely amble through the gardens, make sure to take an even more leisurely stroll around their gift and gourmet-packed Christmas market.
Various dates until 21st December; first trail starts at 4.15pm; from £9
Leondardslee Lakes and Gardens, Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, RH13 6PP

Get Christmas tree envy

Some places always do Christmas beautifully and The Grand is one of those places. Their Christmas lights have been on a while, but if you haven’t been inside, you’re missing out. Their 15-foot tree is a thing of beauty and having a few drinks (we rate their festive specials) in the opulent Victoria Lounge-Bar and admiring it gives us all the festive feels. If you’re lucky their pianist might be playing too. They’ve also teamed up with loneliness charity Together – if you buy a Cosmo, they’ll donate £5 of the £12 price to the local charity.
The Grand Hotel, 97 – 99 Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2FW

Get inspired at these Christmas light displays

We’ve just about managed to get a tree (and a very festive gingerbread rat) and reckon we’re doing pretty well, so we are always in awe of the people who really go to town with their Christmas decorations. Thornbush Crescent in Portslade have done it again with their lights to support the Purple People Kitchen food bank – the cul-de-sac is home to 20 beautifully decorated houses. Donate money if you can or you can also leave donations (tinned/dried goods, long-life milk, juice and squash, toiletries/personal hygiene items, etc) in the boxes outside number 37. And if you need some more Christmas light action in your life (and why wouldn’t you), there’s a brilliantly decorated house on School Rise, off Whitehawk Road, and another on Chorley Avenue in Saltdean – both collect for charity, too.
Every day until Monday 2nd January 2024; 5pm – 8pm; free, but please donate if you can to Purple People Kitchen (sort: 30-98-74, Account: 51916968
Thornbush Crescent, Portslade, BN41 2GW (park on Bush Farm Drive and walk up)

Brave the chill with a cold-water swim

Dig out your Santa hat and dive headfirst into one of the city’s Christmas Day dips. Saltdean Lido (they’ve got all the good stuff this month) will be warming their waters to a balmy 19 degrees for anyone who fancies a more bracing start to Christmas Day. Advance tickets have sold out, but they are allowing drop-ins. They’ve also got tickets for your poolside cheer squad who can participate from the sidelines with a mulled wine. Make sure you pre-book a session in their sauna to warm up post plunge. And for the truly brave, you can join the crowd taking part in the famous Christmas Day Swim at Brighton Beach. Santa-decorated budgie smugglers optional.
Monday 25th December, Saltdean Lido opens 10am – midday and the Brighton Beach swim kicks off at 11am
Saltdean Lido, The Oval Park, Saltdean Park Road, Saltdean, BN2 8SP

Let the train take the strain at an illuminated spectacular

There’s something special about a steam train. Decorate it in thousands of colourful sparkling lights, add in some festive scenes and a light show and you’ve got yourself something pretty incredible to hop aboard. Yes, Bluebell Railway’s SteamLights event is back for 2023 to take you on a journey through the Sussex landscape, transforming rain-sodden wintry evenings into magical moments. Book a compartment and add in one of their picnic boxes for a 1.5-hour experience that delights all the senses.
Various dates until Saturday 30th December; from £21
Sheffield Park Station, East Sussex, TN22 3QL


Rock out at a Christmassy tribute gig

Is it really Christmas if you haven’t heard Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ at least 500 times? Want to hear it at least one more before you hang your stocking up on the wall? Then you need top Slade tribute act Slade UK’s Christmas special. Playing at Concorde 2, they’ll be keeping the party going with all the classic 70s and 80s hits. It’s Chriiiiistmas!
Thursday 21st December; 8.30pm; £21.85
286A Madeira Drive, Brighton BN2 1EN

Book tickets

Celebrate Dogmas at the pub

The Twixmas period can be a bit meh, but one sure-fire way to perk things up a bit is to surround yourself with dogs in a cosy pub. Yep, it’s time for Dogmas. Central Brighton fave the Hope and Ruin is encouraging all dogs to get dressed up for the occasion, and bring their humans for a chilled-out sesh featuring dog treats and plenty of beer (you decide who gets what). Festive wear positively encouraged!
Wednesday 27th December; from 5pm; free
11 – 12 Queens Road, Brighton BN1 3WA


Get merry at a hun-filled cabaret evening

If you like your Christmas cheer served with a side of camp joy, we can definitely recommend FemFest’s FemFestive cabaret night. The night’s eclectic roster of acts includes one of our favourites, musical comedian and burlesque performer Selena Mersey, as well as bellydancer Lucy Andrina, musical comedy star Cornelius C*unty Weather the Third and Brighton’s Got Talent finalist Gaylien De Mars (with more acts still to be announced). The evening will be hosted by drag king Dad, who’ll be dishing out mince pies, raffle prizes and leading the line-up of fabulous performances.
Sunday 17th December; 7pm – 9pm; from £5
The Actors, 4 Prince’s Street, Kemptown, BN2 1RD

Enjoy a festive tipple at a wine estate

Your seasonal plonk doesn’t HAVE to come with cloves, you know! If you’d prefer a night drinking something infinitely better, Bolney Wine Estate has a packed calendar where you can get stuck into any number of their award-winning white, red or sparkling English wines. Join them every Friday night in December for an evening of live music, delicious food and vino in the Estate’s stunning surroundings. Each ticket includes a charcuterie board and welcome drink, and you can also buy small plates and more wine throughout the night.
Friday 8th and 15th December; 5.30pm – 9pm; £30
Bolney Wine Estate, Foxhole Lane, Bolney, Haywards Heath, RH17 5NB

Watch a carol concert in stunning surrounds

Nothing gets you in the festive mood like a rousing performance of Silent Night’ and Arundel Cathedral’s grand setting is the perfect place to get your Christmas carol fix. Listen to the wonderful Arun Choral Society sing their hearts out at their Christmas concert, where they’ll be performing a mix of choral festive favourites and traditional carols.   
Saturday 9th December, 7.30pm – 9pm, from £6
Arundel Cathedral, London Road, Arundel, BN18 9AY

Flex your vocal chords at an indie choral concert

Another carol concert, but this time with a tarty, indie twist. Think Joy Division not ‘Joy to the World’ and Goldfrapp instead of ‘Greensleeves’ and you get the picture. Indie choral collective Jam Tarts are hosting a Christmas party extravaganza where they’ll belt out some Christmas classics, followed by an indie disco and an opportunity for everyone to join in with a mass Christmas song sing-along.
Saturday 16th December; 7.30pm; £17.25
Concorde 2, 286A Madeira Drive, Brighton, BN2 1EN

Take in a Dickensian classic

Foreseeing a trip to watch A Christmas Carol in your (ghost of) Christmas future? The Crown’s Pip Torrens is narrating the Christmassy tale accompanied by a sparkling arrangement from the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra’s brass ensemble. Bask in the beautiful surroundings of St George’s Church in Kemptown as the classic tale of redemption and Yuletide ghouls is brought to life.
Friday 15th December; 6pm and 8pm; from £19
St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Kemptown, BN2 1ED

Have a mulled margarita-fuelled dance

Already drunk enough mulled wine and cider to sink a sleigh? Switch it up with a night of mulled margaritas and music hosted by BOTI faves Mama’s Cocktail Bar. Tuck into their menu of Christmas and classic cocktails and then dance till the early hours to Brighton-based DJs Love is the Message. If cheap cocktails are on your Christmas list (and why wouldn’t they be?), make sure to get there early to take advantage of the happy hour from 6pm – 7pm.
Friday 15th December; 6pm; free
T @ Hove, 52 Lansdowne Place, Hove, BN3 1FG
T @ Coffee

Party with pints and festive crafts

What better way to escape the bitter winter chill than with an evening of tasty beer and crafting with Bitter Women Brewery. They’re hosting a Christmas party where you’re invited to sup on £5 pints and make your very own festive embroidered ornament. Everyone is welcome, irrespective of sewing skill level, and everything crafty you need to create your masterpiece will be provided.
Thursday 14th December; 7pm; from £7
Star & Garter, Kings Road, BN1 1NE

Sing Christmas classics at ‘organoke’

Get your windpipes suitably oiled because The Mighty Organ are hosting a karaoke night for the ages. Belt out all the Christmas classics, accompanied by the Brighton Dome Organ and a live band. And for the more musically gifted and centre-stage seeking, there’ll be plenty of chances for you to take to the microphone solo. Expect to hear Slade, The Pogues, East 17 and, um, eclectic renditions of ‘Last Christmas’.
Thursday 7th December; 7.30pm; £17.50
Brighton Dome, Church Street, BN1 1UE

Discover the next big thing at an intimate Christmassy gig

Everyone’s favourite hush-hush music nights, Sofar Sounds are hosting a Christmas concert at a yet-to-be-revealed venue. If you haven’t been to a Sofar gig before, now’s the perfect opportunity to watch a line-up of incredible musicians perform at a unique venue. For the uninitiated, you’ll be messaged the gig’s location around 36 hours before the show (or on the day if you’re a last minute.com booker). Christmas jumper wearing is positively encouraged for this one.
Tuesday 12th December; 7.15pm, £19
Venue TBC

Dash through the streets dressed as St Nick

Ho-ho-how fast can you run in a Santa suit? The city’s most festive 5km, the Brighton Santa Dash, is back for more fancy-dressed frolics. If for some strange reason you don’t have a Santa costume ready and waiting in your wardrobe, you can still sign up, as your ticket includes a Santa suit for you to pose and prance in. Whether you walk, jog or sprint your way around the course, everyone gets a bespoke medal and a warm fuzzy endorphin hit at the end of the race.
Saturday 9th December; 10.30am; £19
The race starts at Hove Lawns opposite Adelaide Crescent near the Peace Statue

Learn about the band behind the biggest Christmas banger

So here it is… a night of musical musings about Slade, the band behind arguably the best Christmas song ever written (sorry not sorry, Bieber). Sound Affects host Brighton’s best music and subculture events and their Christmas party is not to be missed. Join music journalist Daryl Easlea at the launch of his book Whatever Happened to Slade? When The Whole World Went Crazee! He’ll be talking all things Noddy Holder and co with Guardian music critic Alexis Petridis and hosting a quiz for you to show off your Christmas tune nous.
Saturday 9th December; 7.30pm; from £5.42
East Street Tap, 74 East Street, BN1 1HQ
Sound Affects

Get a full house at a Christmas anthem-filled bingo show

Eyes down and dabbers at the ready – Alfie Ordinary, one of our favourite award-winning drag artists, is hosting a Christmas banger-packed ‘Now That’s What I Call Bingo’ show at Ironworks Studios. A Brighton Fringe regular, you can expect Alfie to bring trademark fabulousness, festive floor-fillers and we’re sure at least one or two opportunities to screech along to ‘All I Want for Christmas’.  
Tuesday 19th December; 7pm; from £10
Ironworks Studios, 30 Cheapside, Brighton, BN1 4GD

Watch a light switch on that’s 84 years in the making

At the outbreak of World War II, Saltdean Lido’s iconic neon sign was switched off and hasn’t been lit up since. That is until the Lido’s team lovingly recreated the original sign from scratch. They’re launching it in time for Christmas at a light switch on like no other. As well as witnessing Brighton history in the making, you can tuck into seasonal food and drink and enjoy the evening’s entertainment of a choir, DJ and an appearance from the main man, Santa Claus.
Friday 15th and Saturday 16th December, 6pm; £5.30
Saltdean Lido, The Oval Park, Saltdean Park Road, Saltdean, BN2 8SP