Just 60 minutes by train from the center of London, you can be transported to the seaside resort of Brighton with a boardwalk, amusement park rides, and a beach.
At one time the dominion of King George IV during the late 1700s and early 1800s, and after attracting other royalty and aristocracy, Brighton became a popular place for day-trippers from London to enjoy the seaside.
Today, Brighton still attracts visitors who crave a quick getaway from the big city, but it also has a thriving cultural and arts scene, a fun and diverse shopping area, and a large LGBT community. Brighton was named the hippest town in England plus the happiest place to live in the UK.
Things To Do In Brighton, England
Brighton is chock full of museums, historic sites, parks and gardens, eclectic boutiques and shops, and a variety of restaurants and cafes to please everyone.
The creamy, off-white domes of the Royal Pavilion, or Brighton Pavilion, make you dream of a bygone era of royal palaces. Built in three stages starting in 1787, the Royal Pavilion was the summer retreat of George Prince of Wales, who later held the title of King George IV. The palace’s architectural style, designed by architect John Nash, is Indo-Gothic, which was dominant when England occupied India and constructed scores of buildings.
Among the rooms you can visit in the palace is the Banqueting Room, a massive dining room where marathon dinners were served with up to 70 dishes. The Banqueting Room has a one-ton crystal chandelier and a table set with a facsimile of a dessert dish service. There’s also the Music Room, with six authentic Chinese pagodas, nine lotus-shaped chandeliers, and walls painted with Chinese-style dragons. The Long Gallery is an extensive reception area connecting all the rooms on the ground floor, with pink painted walls featuring trees, stones, birds, and shrubs.
The Royal Pavilion Garden is a fully restored Regency-style garden and retains almost all the original plant and flower specimens requested by King George IV.
Fun Fact: Scenes with Barbra Streisand from the 1970 movie On a Clear Day You Can See Forever were filmed in the palace’s Banqueting Room.
On the opposite end of the cultural spectrum is the Palace Pier, a nostalgic but still currently popular destination with amusement park rides, games of chance, and food stalls. Jutting over the English Channel, Palace Pier has a carousel, a roller coaster, trampolines, a water ride, and bumper cars. When you are hungry, enjoy sweet donuts, ice cream, milkshakes, savory fish and chips, sausages, and veggie dishes.
Brighton Museum And Art Gallery
Opened in 1861, the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery expanded to larger quarters in 1873, where it occupied the Royal Pavilion’s former horse stables. The museum is a potpourri of natural history, fashion and style, historic images of Brighton, 20th-century art and design, fine arts, and pottery. The museum also features quirky temporary exhibitions.
Old Steine Gardens
A lovely English garden, Old Steine Gardens was the original town square when Brighton was a fishing village. The center part of the garden has a Victorian fountain and formal flower beds surrounding it. Old Steine Gardens are the site of a number of public events, including Brighton Pride and the Brighton Festival in May.
The biggest event of the year is the Brighton Festival, which takes place every May for three weeks. The multi-arts festival began in 1967 and is the largest festival of its kind in England. The festival includes theater, music, art, dance, film, and literature, plus outdoor and family events. Every year they select a guest artist to curate the festival, and past artists have included Brian Eno, Vanessa Redgrave, Laurie Anderson, and Anish Kapoor. The festival commissions works from some of the top artists in the world.
In a compact area of less than a half a mile, North Laine is the hip and happening area of Brighton packed with over 300 shops, cafes, galleries, and restaurants. Local craftspeople and artisans have set up their shops and studios in North Laine, including jewelers, sculptors, ceramicists, and artists.
British Airways I360
Standing over 525 feet above Brighton, British Airways i360 is a glass-enclosed observation tower located on the West Pier. Opened in 2016, British Airways i360 was put together by the same team that created the London Eye. The tower has 360-degree views of the English Channel and Brighton. The Nyetimber Sky Bar serves champagne, cocktails, wine, and beer, and the West Beach Bar and Kitchen on the ground floor of the tower features lunch, snacks, and afternoon tea. Alternatively, the outdoor West Beach Cafe overlooks the English Channel and serves a vegan menu along with cakes and pastries.
Best Places To Eat
Brighton is packed with cafes, restaurants, quirky, hole-in-the-wall food stalls, and gourmet coffee shops. Plus, there are many vegan menus and restaurants.
Billie’s is famous for its breakfast menu, and on the weekends, it’s packed. Decorated with blue checked tablecloths and simple wood chairs, it’s akin to an American corner diner. Their house specialty is their hash with various fillings such as avocado and bacon, corned beef, and baked beans. Pancakes, Welsh rarebit, eggs Florentine, and an authentic English muffin with a fried egg and bacon are some of the other mouthwatering breakfast dishes at Billie’s.
Terre A Terre
Consistently voted the best vegetarian restaurant in the UK, Terre A Terre elevates vegetarian cuisine to a whole new -- and sophisticated -- level. Opened in 1993, way before the vegan movement in the 2000s, Terre A Terre was the first sustainable and ethical restaurant in Brighton. The imaginative menu lists dishes such as KFC, Korean fried cauliflower on par in taste with the real KFC, baked eggplant with sesame seed crust, and Puttanesca Polenta Plumps with capers, olives, and roast pepper. Terre A Terre offers an organic-only wine list with little to no sulphites.
The Salt Room
No visit to the seaside would be complete without having seafood, and The Salt Room is one of the top-rated seafood restaurants in Brighton, winning the Seafish award for the Best UK Restaurant of the Year in 2017. Seafood specialties include Whole Roasted Lemon Sole, Roast Loin of Cod, and BBQ Monkfish. There’s a selection of sharing dishes of fish and steak for two cooked over a flame. The glass front of the restaurant and the outdoor cafe have scenic views of the sea.
Talk Of Tea
A cozy tea shop and tea salon, Talk Of Tea is for the serious tea drinker, specializing in a large range of loose-leaf teas. They serve a light lunch menu and afternoon tea with scones.
The size of a coat closet, Helm Ston Cafe has such mouthwatering vegan sandwiches, savories, and sweets that even die-hard carnivores would be satisfied. They also have a juice bar with fresh pressed and squeezed vegetable and fruit juices, and organic tea and coffee. Close to the train station, it’s the perfect place to grab something to eat on the ride back to London.
Best Places To Stay
Just a four-minute walk from the sea, Snooze is a boutique hotel decorated in funky furnishings from the 1970s, complete with shag carpeting and platform beds. The eight individually decorated rooms have en-suite bathrooms with cotton towels, a TV and DVD player, and a docking station. Room prices are an excellent value, starting at less than 75 pounds or $98 per night.
Brighton Harbour Hotel And Spa
A luxury hotel right on the seaside with moderate prices, Brighton Harbour Hotel and Spa is the ideal place to spend the night. Many of their 75 rooms and four suites have views of the sea, and the Superior Seaview Double Room comes with bay windows, Egyptian cotton sheets, a Nespresso machine, and a complimentary gin and sherry. Their spa and gym, formerly subterranean smuggling caves, has a heated indoor pool, sauna, Scandinavian hot tubs, and a hydrotherapy pool. Spa treatments include massages, a sea salt exfoliation, mud wraps, and facials. Harby’s Bar and Diner is a hotspot for locals and visitors and is known for its homemade fish burger.
Traveling by train is the fastest way to get to Brighton. Trains leave from London’s Victoria and London Bridge stations a few times an hour, and the journey takes anywhere from one to two hours.