With traditional pubs and a thriving arts scene, this town blends a cosmopolitan atmosphere with old-world seaside charm.
Once an important military and trade port, Hastings is now a pleasant seaside town with a rich seafaring heritage and bohemian outlook. Wander the narrow lanes and passages of the Old Town, build sandcastles on Hastings Beach and take a daytrip to Battle Abbey, the site of the famous Battle of Hastings.
For many people, Hastings is best known for the 11th-century battle between the Normans and French. However, the Battle of Hastings didn’t actually take place here but rather 6 miles (10 kilometers) outside town in Battle Abbey. Visit the battlefield site, learn about the conflict through displays at the Visitor Centre and wander amid the ruins of the abbey itself.
Hastings is actually three separate towns, joined by one connecting promenade. Trek the busy lanes of the lively Old Town and delve into the town’s maritime past at the Shipwreck Museum and the Fishermen’s Museum. Immerse yourself in the contemporary art scene at the Jerwood Gallery, where 20th- and 21st-century British art takes center stage. Nearby is the Stade, a seafront area where people gather to sunbathe, watch fishermen at work and eat freshly caught fish at cafés and restaurants.
Other popular attractions include Hastings Castle, built by William the Conqueror, and Smugglers Adventure, underground tunnels that tell of the lucrative smuggling trade of the 17th and 18th centuries. Descend into dark caverns and learn about the history of smuggling in Sussex through waxwork displays. Take the East Hill Lift to Hastings Country Park, a clifftop expanse of grass, heath and woods.
Move west to the Town Centre for ample shopping opportunities. The neighboring town of St Leonards, farther west, has grand regency architecture, fashionable art galleries, independent shops and friendly cafés.
Hastings, on England’s southern coast, is about a 2.5-hour drive from London. If you aren’t driving, take one of the trains running regularly from London’s Charing Cross. The nearest airport is Gatwick. The compact town center is walkable, although local bus services also operate here.