Top things to do in Brighton

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, food, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. We call them our Big Five and they’re everything you'll need to experience the essence of a new city. Here, Julietta Henderson checks in from fabulous Brighton on the south coast of England, long renowned as the Brits' favourite beachside retreat...

Things to do in Brighton

Top things to do in Brighton

Top things to do in Brighton


There’s nowhere quite like the southern British seaside haven of Brighton.

This bubbling pot of creativity, intellect and individuality is one of Britain’s favourite cities, defined by the iconic image of Brighton Pier, the eclectic maze of ‘The Lanes’, colourful beach chairs, icecream 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 and never go home…

Here’s a city guide to the top things to do in Brighton.

Things to do in Brighton

Brighton is a seaside microcosm all of its own.

Culture

There are plenty of cultural things to do in Brighton; it’s what gives the city its famous edge. Its history of creativity and individualism are stitched into the fabric of life and are a vital part of its social and economic mainstays. 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 every street.

Things to do in Brighton

Things to do in Brighton. Image courtesy of Hove Museum and Art Gallery

There’s a quirky gallery tucked into every available corner, along with some more mainstream ones like the Hove Museum and Art Gallery (a magnificent collection of regional arts and crafts); the Phoenix Gallery (an excellent contemporary artist-run space); and Booth Museum of Natural History (if you’re into birds, bones and butterflies, welcome to Nirvana).

Things to do in Brighton

Image courtesy of Booth Museum of Natural History

Food

From pop-up food vans and vegan hipster joints to famous fish and chips and celebrity chefs, the good news is you are never going hungry in Brighton.

For the best of British afternoon teas, the fabulous Mock Turtle is a local hangout of students, creative types and the odd cross-dresser.

Things to do in Brighton

Things to do in Brighton. Image courtesy of Terre a Terre

For tasty vegetarian food with a twist, Terre a Terre is a local institution, while Jamie’s Italian is more than just a celebrity endorsement. And, although it’s a cliché wrapped up in yesterday’s newspaper, you simply can’t leave Brighton without enjoying fish ‘n’ chips from the iconic Harry Ramsden’s.

Things to do in Brighton

Image courtesy of Jamie’s Italian

History

Brighton has played a key role in the history of East Sussex with its evolution from a tiny 5th century Saxon village (called Beorthelm’s Tun) to a cosmopolitan 21st century city. But its Palaeolithic roots can be traced back far, far beyond that; around the cliffs of Black Rock, near the pier, palaeontologists have uncovered fossils dating back over 200,000 years.

Things to do in Brighton

Things to do in Brighton: Enjoy the eastern-inspired opulence of the Royal Pavilion.

The city first began to gain 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. For those who want to delve into the fascinating history of Brighton and Hove, 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 international and British art.

The Keep is an outstanding historical resource centre with an archive of records relating to the East Sussex region dating back more than 900 years.

Shopping

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, dress up and trawl the labyrinthine laneways to discover shops including the infamous Choccywoccydoodah (yep, it’s all about the choccies), commission yourself a ‘cool Britannia’ bespoke suit at Gresham Blake, or try to resist the irresistible at Velvet boutique.

Things to do in Brighton

Things to do in Brighton. Image courtesy of Choccywoccydoodah

For antique lovers, Snoopers Attic is a glorious hotchpotch of clothes, books and textiles.

Relaxation

It’s hard not to be relaxed when you’re at the seaside, and Brighton’s laidback ambience and creative undercurrent played out on the streets are the icing on this very quirky cake.

Things to do in Brighton

Things to do in Brighton

Aside from the beach itself (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 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.

Things to do in Brighton

Relaxing things to do in Brighton include a visit to Brighton PIer.

When the weather’s fine, the Royal Pavilion Gardens is a fantastic place to take in the beautiful flowers and regular 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 Asian-inspired pleasure palace by the sea.

Do you have any tips for things to do in Brighton? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.

Additional images: Bigstock

 

Julietta Henderson

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying 10 years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. She 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. Apart from travel, she writes on subjects as diverse as photography, business, and well-being, and is halfway through her first novel. An avid lover of cold weather, Julietta’s master travel plan of never having to sweat again has somehow slipped out of synch and she’s currently on her third consecutive year of non-stop summer.

  1. Alison Evans says:

    I live in Brighton & think this is the perfect advert for the city I love (although I prefer Bankers for fish & chips)

  2. Hi Julietta Great to read your piece on Brighton. Although visitors may be confused about the actual layout of the old town. Choccywoccydoodah is in Meeting House Lane in THE LANES however your photo shows Gardner Street which is in NORTH LAINE as is Gresham Blake and Velvet. Jamie’s Restauarant is also in THE LANES. These are two distinct areas. If you would like a pic of The Lanes I can send you one . Thanks for the promotion tho’ , it’s great. Kind regards. Denise Taylor Secretary Brighton Lanes Traders. [email protected]

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