Visit Hastings for independent shops filled with quirky dungarees and glittering notepads, coffee shops pouring steaming lattes with the smell of cinnamon in the air, and antique shops stuffed with wooden furniture which spills into the streets. Here you’ll find a town packed with attractions for a weekend break, and is simply a place to enjoy a quieter pace and mooch, and where it seems dogs almost outnumber humans. For more information on Hastings and other fabulous English destinations, the Rough Guide to England has got you covered.
The pier is where to find your next pooch friend. Big, small, fluffy and short-haired, these lovely four legged creatures scuttle over the cobbled beach, while owners lick ice creams quickly, in a bid to catch it all before it splats on the ground, or their dog mops it up. This is where to find a cone of chips or a battered fish – after all we are by the sea.
Children come with their plastic collections of buckets and spades and pour stones into containers, the pebbles pouring between their fingertips. Little ones spin on arcade rides with lights flashing through the air, while older teens compete at penny machines to win a stuffed animal figure hanging on the wall.
A Hastings holiday is to be enjoyed by the seaside, with its sprawling boulevard-style roads and palm trees floating in the afternoon breeze, but it’s also a town coated in history and thrilling hikes. What’s more, which Line of Duty fan could forget Adrien Dunbar’s infamous quote when clarifying his character’s name: ‘The name’s Hastings, like the battle’?
Intrigued? Find out how Hastings became the UK's must-visit seaside town.
Hastings Castle is the ultimate stop for history in the area. Enjoy learning about the history of the Norman castle, which was built by William the Conqueror in 1067. There are a number of information boards on the way to the castle, but step through the entrance and you can see the castle up close, along with tremendous views of the town below.
You can learn more with the ‘1066 Story’ a 20-minute film on the history of the castle, and afterwards enjoy a picnic lunch here. If you’re going to be exploring more of Hastings’ attractions why not opt for a 3-in-1 Combi ticket, which grants you entry to Blue Reef Aquarium and Smugglers Adventure at a discounted price?
Smugglers Adventure tells visitors the history of smuggling through caves on the South Coast of England 200 years ago. If you are more interested in creative pieces, head to the Hastings Contemporary and delve deep into contemporary British art.
Hastings is home to some wonderful walks. St Leonards Walk is a pretty patch to stroll around in, hang by the lake and spot the ducks and jumping frogs on the lily pads. For a longer walk, head to Hastings Country Park, with Rough Guide Walks in and Around London in tow. If you are looking for a more detailed walk plan and a map, make sure to peruse its pages.
Hop on the speedy East Hill funicular railway and shoot up the cliff. This is the steepest funicular in the country at 39 degrees, but you move at surprising speed up the clifftop. If you want to skip the funicular, you will have to head up the cliff using the Tamarisk Steps which are to the left of the train tracks.
You will find this next to the Dolphin Inn pub. At the top you will land in Hastings Country Park. Here you will be treated to spectacular, sprawling views of Hastings and beyond. Spot the gentle tidal waves of the sparkling blue sea and follow the lanes of the town with its pastel-coloured walls and chimney tops. You can’t miss the bright yellow gorse during the summer.
The cliff top is a great place to enjoy a picnic, so bring plenty of goodies for yourself. And you will spot an endless number of dogs running around the greenery and exploring the great outdoors. There is a slight incline to the walk, but if you can, carry on and you’ll pass a reservoir. If you are a keen walker, you can continue all the way to Fairlight, where you will follow part of the Saxon Shore Way.
There is plenty of vintage clothing to be found in Hastings. Think flowing dungarees, vibrant scarves and glittering bags. There are plenty of hand-made items to find which are perfect for souvenirs such as beaded pouches and sparkling notebooks. Head to Kings Road in Hastings to find a whole collection of items.
Paisley and Friends is a great place to find gifts, while Tails of Leonards provides optimum dog spotting as a dog grooming parlour and Kings Oriental sells a plethora of candles and essential oils. On High St, you can enjoy sifting through the vintage pieces at Hawk & Dove, and Hastings Antiques Warehouse and The Hastings Bookshop sell what they say on the tin.
Hastings is rife with eating spots. Head to the seafront for a plethora of fish and chips shops, naturally, while as an alternative head to Half Man! Half Burger! for the biggest meat feast you could ask for. All the meat burgers feature two patties and you can choose from a wide array of sides. We recommend the Slawsome ‘Slaw for something really refreshing. Vegetarians and vegans can happily eat here with plant-based patties, too.
Trundling down other streets, you will find Tommy’s Pizzeria for well-priced, thin and delicious pizza with all the usual toppings you could ask for. Finish off with their lime key pie. To really start your day right head to Fika 44 with friendly staff and a relaxed atmosphere. There is a lovely covered outdoor area at the back filled to the brim with hanging plants and is a popular dog hangout spot.
There is a full menu for hot drinks, we recommend the turmeric latte, and packed breakfasts with the likes of poached eggs, balsamic glazes, cherry tomatoes, salmon and prosciutto. For a sweet start opt for the banana bread layered in mascarpone, granola and a berry compote with a delightful crunch.
Inspired? Find your perfect place to stay in Hastings and discover more to see and do in the area with the Rough Guide to Kent, Sussex and Surrey.
Top image: Hastings old town dominated by the east cliff and funicular railway © Nicola Pulham/Shutterstock