Hastings has been on my mind for a while. If like me, you are looking for a nice post-lockdown getaway, look no further than Hastings. The historic and quintessential British seaside resort town is perfect for a staycation. Even though the weather might be on the colder side right now, it is still good for a long walk on the beach.
When I think of British seaside, I always picture a pier, amusement arcades, fish and chips, pebble beach and obviously freezing water. Hastings has all of these and more Located on the south coast of England in East Sussex, the town famous for the battle of the same name has plenty of things to do for all, whether you are travelling solo, with friends or as a couple/ family.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Hastings:
- 1 Things to do in Hastings
- 2 Where to eat in Hastings Old Town
- 3 Where to stay in Hastings
- 4 How to get to Hastings
Things to do in Hastings
Hastings is a popular summer destination. The shingle beach stretches from the old fishing village in the East to Hastings Pier all the way to St Leonards-on-Sea.
The best way to explore the beach and Hastings for that matter is to start from East to West. Once you have dropped your luggage at the hotel, start by exploring Rock-a-Nore beach, walk around the fishing boats scattered on the beach. The stunning cliffs at the back gives off a postcard feel. As you continue, you’ll walk past the Stade, onto Pelham Beach and Hastings Pier.
Pelham Beach is predominantly pebble but once the tide goes out, it reveals plenty of sands.
The walk is quite nice, offering views of the sea on one side and the seafront on the other. The seafront is lined several Regency style hotels, bed & breakfasts with beautiful facades, restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlours.
Sadly Hastings Pier Hastings has gone through a series of unlucky events. Built in 1872 by Eugenius Birch it was destroyed by a storm in the 1990s. Two years after reopening in 2008, it was once again destroyed by fire and therefore closed again. A brand new pier finally reopened in 2016 much to the delight of children and families.
Walk along the boardwalk, feel the breeze and take in the amazing panoramic view. There is a small arcade where kids can have fun while adults enjoy a refreshing drink in the cafe.
It is interesting to note that Brighton’s West Pier experienced the same fate. It was also destroyed by a fire but contrary to Hastings Pier, it has not been rebuilt.
Hastings Old Town
The quaint old part of Hastings cosily situated between two hills has a medieval feel. It offers more things to see than the newer part of the town. The Twittens or lanes and passageways make the High Street worth a wander as well as the selection of Georgian homes, half-timbered homes and antique shops.
There are lots of quirky shops (AG Hendry), antique shops (Nelson House Antiques) and so on to explore. I couldn’t resist browsing some of the antique shops and ended up buying an old camera!
Battle of Hastings / History of Hastings
The history of Hastings is interesting. After the King of England died at the beginning of 1066, he was subsequently replaced by Harold Godwinson. However, the new appointment was contested. Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror had previously agreed that William will take the crown but failed to keep his promise. Elsewhere, the king of Norway also believed that the throne should be his. He felt that with the absence of a “blood” heir, the throne should have reverted to Norway by a previous agreement.
Norway attacked England but was crushed by Godwinson’s army. Meanwhile, William the Conqueror gathered his army to also attack England. On 15th October 1066, Godwinson sent his army for what would become the Battle of Hastings (even though the battle happened about 10 kilometres away). After Godwinson was killed, his army fled the scene so William ended up winning and taking over the crown on Christmas Day with some difficulty.
West Hill Lift & Hastings Castle
Hastings Castle is reachable via the West Hill lift or funicular. It can be accessed via George Street, a nice pedestrianised street full of charm. Instead of taking the lift which had a long queue due to restrictions relating to Covid-19, we decided to walk up the steep hill. Halfway through our route, we met a gentleman whose dog photobombed my below shot. He joked that we needed oxygen masks due to the steep hills. Well, he wasn’t wrong!
As you reach the top of the hill, you have the remains of the castle on one side and the West Hill Cafe and a park. On the other side. Take your time to wander around and admire the amazing view on offer.
The castle was built by William the Conqueror before the battle of Hastings took place. Previously built as a wooden castle, it was rebuilt in stone. Over the years, the castle which looks over the English Channel suffered several attacks from invaders (mainly French) and had some parts collapsed into the sea due to storms softening the sandstone rock below it. If that wasn’t enough WWII added more damage to the building. Now, the only thing you see are the ruins of the castle; a few arches and dungeons.
I recommend you see the short ‘The 1066 Story’ video at the start of your visit to learn about the battle, the history of the castle through the centuries and also to picture what the castle looked like in its prime time.
Access to the castle is £4.75 for an adult. Some people might find it expensive for what it is but, I think it’s worth it if you have a genuine interest in the history of the city.
You can also combine your tickets with another popular attraction: the Smugglers’ Adventure.
Hastings Smugglers’ Caves (St Clements)
Smuggling was common centuries ago in Hastings. The sandstone caves on the West Hill were deemed the best location to store the contraband goods like rum.
After being discovered in 1820, St Clements Caves became a tourist attraction. The fun and interactive activity take adults and kids through a series of caves and tunnels. Through the course of the tour, visitors learn about the story of smuggling and piracy that took place around the coast centuries ago. It’s a fun activity to do with kids or when the weather is not great.
Hastings love of railways
Hastings seems to love railways. The town has no less than two funicular railways, known locally as the West Hill and East Hill Lifts respectively. they both offer different rides. The East Hill Cliff Railway is a shorter but steeper ride and is open all the way up, so you can get a great view of Hastings and the sea. There’s also the cute Hastings Miniature Railway which operates along the beach from Rock-a-Nore to Marine Parade.
The other part of Hastings’s history is linked to the sea. The town surprisingly doesn’t have a port. They have tried many times to build a fishing port without success as they were systematically destroyed by storms. So instead of a port, what you will find in Hastings is the Slade. The name comes from the Saxon word for ‘landing place’.
Since Hastings has no harbour, boats are dragged daily from the sea to the shingle beach. This means that the boats can’t be either too big or too heavy. Don’t be surprise if you see tractors!
Walking along Rock-a-Nore Road, you will see tall, black wooden huts, which are “net huts”. They go back to the 19th century and use to serve as weatherproof storage for nets and other fishing gear.
The small area of Stade is packed with interesting museums and gallery worth visiting. The Hastings Fishermen’s Museum was the first we came across. Constructed in 1956, it takes visitors along the history of Hastings’ connection to fishing. Entry is free but you can donate to help preserve it. Continuing on the maritime theme, there is the unusual and rather interesting Shipwreck Museum where you can find artefacts of ships that went down in the English Channel.
Lovers of contemporary art will love Jerwood Gallery. The gallery opened in 2012 displays modern British art. The modern building with a black facade copying the net huts stands out nicely with its roof terrace.
Elsewhere in town, you will find the CRIME Museum and Hastings Museum & Art Gallery to satisfy your cultural needs.
Where to eat in Hastings Old Town
Cafes in Hastings
Whether it’s for your morning caffeine intake or afternoon break, Hastings has lots of coffee shops to satisfy your daily caffeine fix. The High Street has a selection of baked deliciousness and coffee places like Judges bakery who offer yummy scones and cakes, with gluten-free option too! If you are looking for a coffee shop with character, these two coffee shops are for you.
Hanushka Coffee House is the perfect place for bookworms. It’s a cafe meet library with wall to wall books which people can read while they enjoy their hot beverages.
Cake Room is a lovely cafe with both delicious treats (with gluten-free and vegan options too) and pretty decor. With a relaxed atmosphere and a friendly resident dog, Cake Room is worth a visit. Their toasted tuna sandwich is the best I’ve ever had!
Restaurants in Hastings
To stock up on seafood, head to the Stade. The area is the perfect spot to pick up some of the freshest seafood and fish, fresh-off-the-boat type. You’ll find mussels, fresh fish, lobster, crabs etc…sold from some of the tall, black huts. Once you have your fish sorted, grab the chips from a shop in the seafront and claim a good spot on the beach. Beware of the hungry seagulls!
Alternatively, head to Maggie’s Fish & Chips. Can’t miss it with the queue forming outside the shop. Some of the items on the menu are straight off the boat.
Surprisingly Hastings has lots of gluten-free eateries too. Radley’s. was a nice find. They have a nice menu with good portions of food. Everything on the menu is gluten-free and delicious.
Where to stay in Hastings
With so many things to do in Hastings, a day trip might not give you enough time to do all the above activities. Hastings has good accommodation options to suit all budgets. Whether you are looking for a cottage, luxury spa, a boutique or budget hotel, Hastings has all. Check all the deals via Booking.com.
How to get to Hastings
Hastings is easily accessible by car and train. Southeastern trains run from various stations like Charing Cross, Waterloo East, London Bridge and take bout 1.5 hours. From London Victoria with Southern, the travel time will be around 2 hours.
Trains also depart from St Pancras on the High-Speed train but on top of requiring a change at Ashford International, they are more expensive.
The Old Town is only 10 minutes’ walk from the train station.
To plan your trip to Hastings or find out more about 1066 Country, East Sussex: East Sussex Tourism Board
Other East Sussex / Seaside blog posts
- Whistable: A day trip in a seaside town
- A day stroll in quaint Rye, East Sussex
- Day trip in the seaside town of Dinard, France