There’s nowhere quite like the southern British seaside haven 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, 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.
Here’s a city guide to the top things to do in Brighton.
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 just about every corner.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For antique lovers, Snoopers Attic is a glorious hotchpotch of clothes, books and textiles.
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.
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.
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
About the writer
Julietta Henderson is a travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying 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.