Whatever you want out of a seaside resort you will find it in Bright and breezy Brighton. You can experience the thrill of the Palace of Fun on Brighton Pier, or take a trip down the ‘Lanes’ – Brighton’s medieval alleyways packed with antiques, curios and vintage clothing - as well as enjoy its nightlife, which is well known for giving London a run for its money.
Brighton has been putting the ‘F’ into fun for quite a while now since George IV (then Regent) built his pleasure palace here in the 19th Century - the over-the-top Royal Pavilion. Since then, Brighton has been the place where the beautiful people like to hang out, and with over 400 restaurants, swanky boutique hotels and a cutting edge music scene it’s fast become the epitome of cool.
Brighton is also the place to catch a West End show either starting or finishing its run and is famous for its Gay Pride events, which attracts more visitors than any other event, partly due to its own large gay population.
Brighton’s Top 10
10. Too cool for school? Head for Quadrophenia Alley and make like a mod.
5. Theater Royal Built in 1806 and host to plays, operas and musicals.
9. Palace Pier Take a turn on the Helter Skelter allegedly referred to in the Beatles’ song, or buy some legendary Brighton Rock.
4. Komedia Theater Once a billiards hall and supermarket, now a comedy and cabaret theater.
8. Put your deck shoes on and take a wander around Brighton Marina – eye candy for top yacht lovers.
3. Brighton Dome was one the stables of George IV and now an Art Deco complex with 3 theaters.
7. Yellowave Beach Sports Venue offers beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee, beach rugby and soccer. Located at Brighton’s only sandy beach.
2. Brighton Sea Life Center is very up to date even though it has the world’s oldest operating aquarium. Ride on a glass bottom boat or take a trip round an Amazon Rainforest.
6. Brighton Fishing Museum Pop in for some fishy fun, just off the seafront.
1. Brighton Museum & Art Gallery has a few ‘naughty but nice’ displays. George IV would have approved.
- Royal Pavilion – This fascinating historical attraction in Brighton features Indo-Saracenic architecture by John Nash.
- Volks Electric Railway – This long-running public electric railway was opened in 1883.
- Embassy Court – A 1930s art-deco building that was recently fully restored.
- St Nicholas Church – Also called the “Mother Church of Brighton”, this is the oldest surviving building in Brighton.
- Royal Alboin Hotel – This classical-style building with a history of its own was built on the site of Richard Russell’s house and practice.
Brighton Art & Culture
- Duke of York's Cinema – This popular Brighton spot is the oldest continuously operating cinema Europe has to offer.
- Brighton Dome – This complex includes the Concert Hall, Pavilion Theatre and Corn Exchange and features various concerts, plays, dance and other performances.
- Brighton Festival – Held in May each year, this art festival is the second biggest in the UK.
- Brighton Festival Fringe – This festival takes place concurrently with the main Brighton Festival, featuring street performers and outdoor events.
- Brighton Museum & Art Gallery – This free public museum has extensive collections spanning art, film and media, handicrafts and textiles and more.
- North Laine – Home to an abundance of funky shops and cafes in a lively, colourful and pedestrian-friendly setting.
- Snoopers Paradise – This flea-market-like shop offers bric-a-bracs of all types and is a dream for shoppers with patience.
- The Lanes – This popular pedestrian shopping area is renowned for its antique shops and jewellers.
- Churchill Square Shopping Centre – This large Brighton shopping centre is home to more mainstream brands.
- Rounder Records – Brighton is known for its small record shops, and this one is a hidden gem located in the South Laines.
Gay & Lesbian Brighton
- Brighton Pride – This large LGBT pride festival attracts more than 100,000 people each year and takes place in late July or early August.
- Kemp Town/St James’s Street – Known as the “gay quarter”, there are a number of bars, cafes, hotels and shops that cater to the LGBT community.
- Aquarium Theatre Bar – One of Brighton’s oldest gay-friendly venues, this bar offers karaoke, drag shows and cabaret on certain nights.
- Queens Arms – This well-known gay bar has drag shows and karaoke to provide a fun night out.
- Revenge Club – This gay nightclub features theme nights and cheap drinks to get you out on the dance floor.
- Brighton Pier – Also known as the Palace Pier, there are seafront arcade attractions for the whole family.
- Brighton Beach – This pebble beach never fails to be packed with tourists and locals alike come summertime.
- Old Steine – This historic area has a park with beautiful flowerbeds, a fountain and occasional outdoor performances in the spring.
- Brighton Marina – This bustling marine features numerous pubs, restaurants and boat charters.
- Burning the Clocks – This popular Winter Solstice event features a children’s lantern parade and fireworks.
- Join the fans and watch the local Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club play at Falmer Stadium.
- Get in on a beach soccer game or just watch others play at Yellowave Beach Sport Venue.
- See the National Speed Trials, the oldest motor racing event in Britain, along the famous Madeira Drive.
- Participate or cheer on the runners in the popular women-only Race for Life held annually in July at Stanmer Park.
- Watch cyclists participate in the annual charity London to Brighton Bike Ride held each June.
The Brighton Festival is a celebration of the arts which takes over the town in May. World class entertainment for all.
The Brighton Fringe Festival is the town’s answer to Edinburgh’s. You can enjoy an eclectic mixture of comedy, cabaret, concerts and exhibitions during May.
The Brighton Summer Pride is the biggest of its kind in the UK, an annual event geared towards celebrating the diversity in the LGBT community.
Brighton’s Pride Parade and after party in Preston Park takes place in August. Booking ahead is seriously recommended.
In August the Brighton Food and Drink Festival comes to town. A must for all foodies with local produce and top chefs in attendance.
The legendary Brighton Veteran Car Run is a highlight. Fans of vintage cars love this London to Brighton race which takes place in November.
The Brighton Beer Festival takes over Brighton Seafront during July so get down there to sample over 250 top quality ales (well perhaps not quite all of them).
Get your Zoot Suit on and dig the Brighton Modernist & 60’s Weekender which takes place every year August Bank Holiday.
The Brighton Soundwaves Festival is a three day event during July which showcases the best in alternative music.
Take Part is a free event where you can get to meet top sporting athletes and try out a range of sports. Starts in June at Preston Park Brighton.
When to Go
Brighton’s coastal location means that even when it’s quite overcast and dreary in London the sun will be shining here, with the sea breezes having blown the clouds away. July and August are the sunniest and warmest months.
Temperatures in the summer have an average of between 17 and 20°C and in winter temps dip to around 5 or 6°C. Snow is rare, but ground frosts are common especially at night.
In line with everywhere in the UK rain can turn up at any time, so come prepared.
How to Get There
No wonder Brighton is so popular with the jet set – it’s only an hour from London by rail, and half an hour from Gatwick airport. There is a direct rail link from the Eurostar terminal at London St Pancras too. The railway station is just a short walk from the city center.
National Express coaches leave every hour for London Victoria and King’s Cross as well as to London’s airports, and there are also frequent services to many other intercity destinations.
London is only 75km from Brighton with excellent road links – the A23 providing a direct route.
Charming and vibrant, Brighton has reinvented itself in recent decades to become a hub of culture, fashion and fun. Once the destination of choice for the London gentry, Brighton has overcome its retro funk since being rediscovered by the new London gentry – those trendy creative types who take advantage of the easy commute to have their London cakes and eat them too. In Brighton. (Well, it was either going to be Brighton or Croydon, so it wasn’t much of a contest.)
Brighton Pier, the Royal Pavilion and the brightly painted beach huts that line Hove Promenade on Brighton Beach are national treasures. The nudist beach, happily, remains a national joke that we’re actually bizarrely proud of. And from shopping for antiques in The Lanes to gallivanting around in glitter during Brighton Pride, the city has a heart of pure energy pumping endless entertainment and creativity through its veins.
Like most places that are favoured as ‘lifestyle choices’ for crowd-weary city-folk, there’s an air of appreciation in Brighton, as though its residents take pause more often than most to enjoy the lives they’ve chosen – and as a result festivals, quality restaurants and quirky bars abound. Brighton is the place to enjoy the innovation and buzz of London without the anxiety, and the relaxed pace of seaside living without the hoards of retirees.
The only question is: does the fact that Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) lives there cancel out the fact that Simon Cowell was born there. In the interests of Cool Britannia’s international reputation, we certainly hope so!
More Info on Brighton's Top 10
10. Brighton Toy and Model Museum This may seem like an odd entry, but it makes for a fun day. Plus, it’ll remind you of your youth.
5. Brighton Pride An absolute must. You’re guaranteed a gay ol’ time!
9. Theatre Royal This regal venue will make you feel like royalty. Enjoy a show while you take in the beautiful surrounds. West End shows preview here, so get to see the blockbusters at a fraction of the cost.
4. The Lanes Shop your heart out in this labyrinth of, um, lanes. Shops and cafes aplenty.
8. Brighton Museum and Art Gallery In between the beach, the rides and the drinking, take in some culture right here.
3. Royal Pavilion Built by ‘Georgie Porgie’ himself (later George IV), it’s a truly stunning piece of architecture. Oh, and if you think the outside is incredible, wait till you see the gobsmacking interior.
7. North Laine Wanna get your boho/hipster/hippie on? This is the place to do it.
2. Brighton Beach Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside… Enjoy lazing in a deckchair on the pebbles and have a dip in the sea. Just watch out for the seagulls. They seem to view sunlovers as guano targets.
6. SEALIFE One of the coolest aquariums in the country. The ride on the glass-bottomed boat is worth the price of admission alone.
1. Brighton Pier – think Blackpool Promenade without the chavs and having undergone an extreme makeover. OK, it’s really nothing like Blackpool –which is a good thing! Enjoy nice views, markets, a funfair, bars, restaurants and a host of other activities.
This is Brighton’s cultural district and the place where you can soak up all the local creative energy. Grab a coffee and make a day of strolling in and out of some quality little galleries, boutiques and museums. The Royal Pavilion is a must-see – and a guided tour is well worth the money. If you think the Royals are scandalous these days (we’re talking to you, Pippa ‘Commando’ Middleton), check out what they got up to in the 1800s. The Pavilion was built by the Prince Regent – as played by Hugh Laurie in Blackadder III.
North Laine is also home to a fantastic array of restaurants or cafés, serving up everything from vegetarian, sustainable fare to pub grub at its best. Finish the day at the Theatre Royal, one of the oldest and most regal theatres in the country. Brighton’s arts scene puts out an endless stream of quality theatre each year, so if you get the chance to take in a show you won’t regret it!
Fun is mandatory at Brighton’s core of commotion. Run around on Brighton Beach (skinny dipping is virtually compulsory after a few bevvies – regardless of whether or not you’re at the designated nudist area) and let the rides on Brighton Pier play with your breakfast. And check out SEALIFE, the oldest aquarium in the country, and still one of the most impressive. Here’s where you can get up close and personal with fish that isn’t battered and wrapped in newspaper (which still happens in Brighton, rather than those horrible plastic trays that don’t absorb the vinegar properly).
Right in the heart of the city, this intricately woven area of narrow alleyways and streets hosts a bevy of shops, cafes, galleries and charming little bars and pubs. You can find everything from antiques and crafts to jewellery and local label boutiques… along with a hoard of people. The winding alleyways and pokey shops can take their toll after a while, so make sure you take a breather from the shopping with a hot cup of tea and enjoy the sound of the many buskers.
The undisputed gay capital of Brighton, which is the undisputed gay capital of the country. Here you’ll find St James Street, home to a stack of stores selling chic fashions, trendy home décor and the occasional pair of fairy wings, just so you remember where you are. You’ll also find the best coffees in the city at Small Batch Coffee Co.. Bohemian Kemptown hosts the annual Kemptown Carnival every June. Join in the fun of a huge street party.
Brighton Eat & Drink
Ohso Social Bring the fam for a meal and then ditch the kids for a drink and dance (not really – unless you want the Social to stand for social workers). Kings Road Arches
Café Koba It’s a modern and bright café by day and a sexy bar and bistro by night, serving the best in Euro eats. Western Road
Fishbowl It’s rustic and just a tad twee, but this place is lively and ever-popular with the cool crowd. Grab their epic beer-battered fish and chips and stay for a solid DJ set. East Street
4. Bill’s You can have all three meals here (and some snacks in between). The chow is remarkably good and so are the prices. Well done, Bill. North Road
King & Queen This pub is huge and caters to a diverse crowd. Whether you want to chill out over a pint or sing along to a rowdy live act, this is the place. Marlborough Place
3. English’s Go celeb-spotting while enjoying the best seafood in the city. Massive servings, too. East Road
Burger Off Worst. Pun. Ever. But if you like your burgers, this one’s a must. Big Macs have never looked less appealing. Hove
2. Audio Great atmosphere at this club, playing everything from hip-hop to dubstep and indie. Marine Parade
Food for Friends Vegetarians, unite! We’re talking the most succulent and flavoursome vegetarian cuisine you’ve ever eaten, with a Tarte Citron on the dessert menu that’ll make you cry with joy. Prince Albert Street
1. Havana It seems silly to describe this eatery/cocktail bar as sexy but it truly is. Whether you come for a meal or purely for a Cuban Spring Punch, you’ll leave… er… satisfied. Duke Street
More Info on Events
See the New Year in with a bang on Brighton Beach, then stick around for the dance party the next day.
Early to mid-May welcomes the Brighton Festival – three weeks of unbridled artsy celebrations. Everything from dance, theatre, music and even circus acts fill venues around the city with people after a good time.
Hundreds of naked people on bikes? It may sound like a really bad idea for a porno but it’s actually Brighton’s World Naked Bike Ride in mid-June. This kooky event is not just a laugh but is also about fighting ‘car culture’ and highlighting the vulnerability of cyclists on the roads.
Brighton Pride is a week-long GLBT pride festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of revellers every year in late July to early August. The highlight is definitely the parade, but the park event afterwards is pretty rockin’ as well.
The Brighton and Hove Food Festival sees thousands of people falling into food comas every September. This month-long foodie’s nirvana welcomes culinary masters from around the world to come together and present classes and workshops. We suggest wearing loose clothing to accommodate the bloated belly that’s sure to ensue.
More Info on When To Go & What To Miss
WHEN TO GO
The busiest times of the year in terms of tourists and festivals are spring and summer months. But this wouldn’t be England if you couldn’t stand in coat, hat, gloves and scarf beneath a grey sky watching grey waves washing up on a grey pebbly beach!
• Winter average: 6°C (43°F)
• Spring average: 15°C (59°F)
• Summer average: 25°C (77°F)
• Autumn average: 10°C (50°F)
WHAT TO MISS
• Alcohol-fuelled street violence is an increasing problem in Brighton (sound familiar?), so keep your wits about you and stay away from large rowdy groups that look like causing trouble.
• West Street can get particularly rambunctious on Friday and Saturday nights. There are plenty of other party venues, so unless you’re looking for a particularly un-charming crowd of youths drenched in cloyingly sweet fake cologne, steer clear.
Getting There And Around
Sitting at the end of the M23, Brighton is easy to get to by car. The only problem is parking at the end of the trip as many of the smaller hotels and B&Bs don’t provide car spaces.
Fast trains operate from London Victoria and King’s Cross (Thameslink) and most of Brighton’s attractions are within easy walking distance from the railway station. Alternatively, you can get around by bus for £2 a trip (less if you get a SAVER or CitySAVER).
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