There’s nowhere quite like the southern British seaside city of Brighton.
Located just under an hour from London by fast train, this bubbling pot of creativity, intellect and individuality is one of Britain’s most popular holiday destinations. The city is defined by the iconic image of Brighton Pier, the eclectic maze of ‘The Lanes’, colourful beach chairs, ice cream and the aromatic overtones of freshly fried fish ‘n’ chips.
Everyone should experience Brighton once in their lives, but be warned — you may be tempted to run away and join this crazy, colourful circus.
Enjoy this Brighton travel guide.
Cultural things to do in Brighton
Brighton’s cultural scene is what gives the city its famous edge.
A history of creativity and individualism is stitched into the fabric of life here. The huge underground arts, music and performance scene not only accepts ‘different’, it positively celebrates it — and you don’t have to go far to find it, with a street performer on just about every corner.
You’re never far from a quirky gallery or museum either. Some of the more mainstream options to tick off are the Hove Museum and Art Gallery (which has a magnificent collection of regional art), Phoenix Art Space (an excellent contemporary artist-run studio), and the Booth Museum of Natural History (if you’re into birds, bones and butterflies, welcome to Nirvana).
Brighton for history lovers
Throughout its evolution from a tiny 5th century Saxon village (called Beorthelm’s Tun) to the cosmopolitan 21st century city you see today, Brighton has played a key role in the history of East Sussex.
The Keep is an outstanding historical resource centre, which holds an archive of records relating to the East Sussex region that dates back more than 900 years.
The city began to gain serious renown in the 18th century when it became popular with royalty and the aristocracy, who believed in the healing properties of bathing in the sea. The state-of-the-art Brighton Museum and Art Gallery — located in the must-see Royal Pavilion complex — has an extensive library of local history records, as well as an important collection of British and international artworks.
Great places to eat in Brighton
From pop-up food vans and vegan hipster joints, to celebrity chef-run eateries and famous fish and chipperies, there’s plenty of variety on the menu in Brighton.
For the best of British breakfasts and afternoon teas, check out The Mock Turtle Tea Shop — a local hangout of students, creative types and the odd cross-dresser. Just around the corner is local institution Terre a Terre, which does tasty vegetarian food with a twist.
If you’re shopping in The Lanes (see our top tips for retail therapy), treat yourself to dinner in the bold, glamorous surroundings of the super-trendy Flint House in Hannington’s Estate. With relaxed small plate dining downstairs and a cocktail bar and terrace upstairs, it’s an Instagrammer’s dream. You can’t get cooler than this in Brighton.
Serving up a front row view of the ocean, Murmur offers modern British cuisine with a celebrity twist. The second Brighton offering from Michael Bremner (the Great British Menu TV series winner for 2017 also has the award-winning 64 Degrees), Murmur offers superb set and a la carte menus with a focus on fine but healthy food.
And, although it’s a cliché wrapped up in yesterday’s newspaper, you simply can’t leave Brighton without enjoying fresh fish ‘n’ chips from the iconic Harry Ramsden’s.
Where to shop in Brighton
While there’s a pretty well trodden high street representing all the familiar mainstream brands, it’s all about The Lanes in Brighton.
This ancient part of the city is a collection of twisty lanes and alleys lined with a curious selection of shops and boutiques, with everything from contemporary home wares, apothecary products and antique jewellery, to food, furniture and vintage fashion.
The Lanes are as much a place to see and be seen as to shop. Let your inner Austin Powers out for an airing and commission yourself a ‘cool Britannia’ bespoke suit at Gresham Blake, or try to resist the irresistible at Velvet boutique. Located on the former site of Brighton’s grandest department store, Hanningtons Estate offers a curated mix of cafes, restaurants and quirky retailers sitting shoulder to shoulder with established names like Cath Kidston and Kurt Geiger. This new ‘cultural quarter’ is the hottest spot in town, and only adds to the lure of The Lanes.
For antique lovers, Snoopers Attic is a glorious hotchpotch of clothes, books and textiles.
Top ways to relax in Brighton
It’s hard not to relax when you’re at the seaside.
Aside from the beach itself (by the way, don’t expect any sand — it’s pebbles all the way), the main attraction is the famous Brighton Pier — a glitzy piece of British historical homage to beachside pleasure. While some consider it past its prime, there’s no denying the pier’s popularity and tourists flock there for all the charmingly innocent fun of the fair.
If you’re looking for the best views in town, you don’t have to go far but you do have to go high! The British Airways i360 Viewing Tower takes you up 140 metres in a futuristic glass viewing pod to enjoy 360-degree views as far as the eye can see. There’s even a bar on board.
When the weather’s fine, the Royal Pavilion Gardens is a fantastic place to stop and smell the flowers, enjoy the regular free entertainment, or just lie back with a stick of the famous Brighton Rock and contemplate the exotic domes and spires of King George IV’s retreat by the sea.
Five Brighton tours and experiences we love
Save up to 35 percent on three of the city’s signature experiences with the Brighton Explorer Pass. You’ll explore the Royal Pavilion, ride to the top of the British Airways i360 Viewing Tower, and meet plenty of marine life at SEA LIFE Brighton aquarium.
Choose a one or two-day ticket and explore the city at your leisure on this fabulous Brighton Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. Hop on and off at any of the conveniently located stops along the route and explore key sights like the Brighton Marina, Brighton Pier and Imperial Arcade. Engaging commentary is provided.
Brighton’s streets are full of colour and one of the best ways to explore is on two wheels. This 2.5-hour bike tour with a local guide will give you the backstory on many of the city’s iconic landmarks.
Over the course of three delicious hours, you’ll visit some of Brighton’s foodie hotspots, and, best of all, try plenty of tasty treats. There are around seven sampling stops in total on this tour.
Brighton is renowned for its social scene and you’ll visit five great bars and clubs on this fabulous guided tour. Some drinks are included, along with fast-track entry to every venue.
Do you have any tips to add to our Brighton travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket.