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A guide to Lewes, East Sussex: What to see, eat, drink & shop

a guide to lewes in east sussex

 

A day trip guide to Lewes in East Sussex

 

Lewes is a beautiful and quaint little market town in East Sussex with a population of about 17 000 and a long, long history stretching back all the way to prehistoric times. It was the Saxons, though, that gave the town its name – it’s thought that the name is probably derived from a Saxon word, ‘Hlœw’ which roughly translates to ‘a hill‘!

 

I’ve visited Lewes on several occasions since moving to Brighton, and I’m certainly not done yet – I discover something new each time, and even though it’s a small town, there’s a lot to do. I’ve compiled a small guide on the best things to do, eat & drink in Lewes below which I hope will serve as inspiration and a good starting point to those wanting to visit.

 

How to get to Lewes?

 

From Brighton – Lewes is only a 17-minute direct train ride away from Brighton or about 25 minutes on the bus. There’s not much difference in the price, so I’d definitely recommend the train if you’re close to the station – it’s more convenient and a bit faster!

 

From London – There’s a direct train from London Victoria to Lewes that’ll take about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

 

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Shopping in Lewes

 

Flint – I love Flint so much! It’s a carefully curated little boutique (housed in a gorgeous 14th-century house on top of everything!) full of beautiful items from clothing and shoes to beauty, candles & homeware. Every item in the shop compliments each other so well and you can really see how much thought has gone into choosing each brand and product.

 

Charity shops – There’s lots of charity shops in Lewes and all the ones I’ve been to have had such a great selection! My favourite one (so far, anyway!) is the British Heart Foundation one (I bought a pair of shoes and The Party book by Elizabeth Day on my last visit) but there’s honestly so many great ones to choose from!

 

Paperturtle – A little independent shop specialising in unique greeting cards. They’ve got loads of really cool ones – my favourites are these hand-drawn Lewes ones!

 

Goods – This shop is kind of in the same vein as Flint above – they sell a beautifully curated selection of small and independent brands from fashion and beauty to homeware and haircare – and so much more in the middle! I have my eye on these gorgeous tea towels and these little canisters for the kitchen.

 

Closet & Botts – Another one that sells all sorts of stuff! I really like their selection of clothes (please can I have this dress?!) and their kitchenware, but there’s lots more to explore too, like furniture, homeware & haberdashery (god, I love that word!).

 

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Things to do in Lewes

 

Lewes Castle – The Lewes Castle is a 1000-year-old Norman Castle in the centre of the town. If you buy a ticket, you can climb all the way to the top of the highest of the towers where you can see magnificent panorama views over the entire town. The fee also includes entrance to Barbican House next door, which is home to the Museum of Sussex Archaeology as well as a little cinema portraying the history of the castle.

 

The Anne of Cleves House – An authentic Tudor house from the times of Henry VIII and his six wives (of which Anne of Cleves was one!). There’s also an authentic Tudor garden which uses traditional plants and Tudor planting schemes, and where you can enjoy a cream tea and a drink too. The house showcases how the Tudors & the Elizabethans lived, so if you’re at all interested in history, this one’s definitely for you.

 

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Restaurants and cafes in Lewes

 

Bun + Bean – A tiny little independent cafe specialising in two things: veggie burgers and really good coffee. They do two different veggie patties at a time – when we went, the options were a sweet potato one and a pumpkin one. The burgers come with salad, tomato & cucumber, and then you can add other things such as avocado or cheese as an extra if you want. The end product is really good and feels really fresh, too. The decor is very light and cute – I’d definitely visit again!

 

Flint Owl Bakery – An independent bakery known for their sourdough bread which they supply to cafes, restaurants and shops around the Sussex area. Their cafe is situated on the high street in Lewes and also serves lots of other sweet and savoury items from cakes and pastries to salads and quiches.

 

Riverside Cafe – Situated on – you guessed it – the riverside of river Ouse, this cafe is right in the heart of the historic Cliffe High Street. The Riverside Cafe prides itself on serving locally sourced and seasonal food from breakfasts and lunches to afternoon tea. They also have an outdoor space and an alcohol licence, which makes it the best place for a cold beer or cider in the summertime – I personally can’t wait!

 

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The best pubs in Lewes

 

Snowdrop Inn – This is by far my favourite discovery in Lewes so far! It’s a bit further from the station (but still only about a 15-minute walk) but it’s well worth a visit. It’s really quirky and homely at the same time and sitting there almost felt like being in someone’s living room – the staff is so lovely and friendly and the decor is amazing! My favourite thing about the pub has got to be the colourful winding stairs (see photo below!). Another cool little tidbit about The Snowdrop is that in the 90s John Peel named it as one of his favourite pubs – how cool is that? If you visit only one pub during your day trip to Lewes, make it this one.

 

The Pelham Arms – A traditional and cosy English pub on the main high street. They have an extensive food menu (with lots of vegan and veggie options!), a sizeable beer garden & even their own little mini brewery, Abyss, a few miles away from the pub.

 

John Harvey Tavern – This one I haven’t been to myself but really loved the look of it! It’s super cosy and hosts a variety of live sessions from local bands every first Sunday of the month.

 

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