You won't need a car if you plan to stay anchored in the city itself, but if you want to explore the coast or the South Downs, your best bet is Hertz in Brighton (+44 (0)1273 738227), as Smith cardholders get a ten per cent discount. Go to www.hertz.co.uk for more details, and quote '635230' when reserving. From the M25, take the M23/A23; the coastal route A27 links the city east and west.
Gatwick Airport is about half an hour's drive up the M23; Heathrow is about 90 minutes' drive.
Just 50 minutes by fast train from Victoria, it's no wonder Brighton is nicknamed London-on-sea. National Rail enquiries: 08457 484950; www.nationalrail.co.uk. Brighton rail station is a ten-minute stroll from the city centre.
Country code for the UK: +44. Brighton: (0)1273.
Brighton Rock and The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.
Do go / Don't Go
Britain is an unpredictable blighter for weather, so don't let that dictate when you go. Weekends can be a lot busier, especially during holidays; so, for an uncrowded romantic escape, you may prefer to go midweek.
This is a great city for vegetarians; we recommend Food for Friends in the Lanes. Or do trad fish 'n' chips from English's or Banker's.
The city is compact, with most of what you'll want to do and see within walking distance. If you do fancy a cab, there are plenty to hail, as well as taxi ranks in the city centre, the main ones being in East Street, Queen's Square and at Hove Town Hall.
Ten per cent is standard, but many restaurants now add a discretionary 12.5 per cent, so be careful not to tip twice.
If you plan to take a splash in the sea, pack your jelly shoes - the beaches are pebbled.
Brighton is a lot more sophisticated and cultured than many of its visitors realise. The Royal Pavilion is an unforgettable sightseeing experience - inside and out. Originally built for King George IV as his seaside folly, it was transformed into its present Taj Mahal-like grandeur around 1820, and a more recent £10 million refurbishment has restored it to its full glory (www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk/RoyalPavilion/). Across the road, the contents of the Brighton Museum have appeal for all ages, too. For more activities and sights nearby, see our East Sussex destination guide.
The Lanes are a fun patch to wander through, with the little jeweller shops and designer boutiques to see before you stop for a coffee in Brighton Square. Amid the patchouli-infused student appeal of the North Laines, there are loads of cute homeware troves. One of our favourite places for artwork and homewares is Castor and Pollux in King's Road Arches (+44 (0)1273 773776; www.castorandpollux.co.uk). Gresham Blake on Bond Street does a particularly fine line in natty gents' attire and bespoke tailoring (+44 (0)1273 609587; www.greshamblake.com).
Get yourself onto the Booster ride or the old-fashioned rollercoaster precariously perched at the end of Brighton Pier for a bird's eye view of the sea. You'll then be fully deserving of a comforting drink somewhere nice and civilised afterwards.
Mid April-mid May Brighton Arts Fringe festival (www.brightonfringe.net). May 3-25 Brighton Festival is the biggest arts event in England. First week in August is Gay Pride (www.brightonpride.org). October Brighton comedy festival (www.brightoncomedyfestival.com). New Year's Eve Firework display on Brighton Pier, which can be watched from rooms with a view.