15 million visitors flock to Brighton each year, be it for the sightseeing and cycle trails in the spring, the buzzing beaches in the summer or the winter ice skating and Christmas shopping.
What is Brighton most known for? The beach, Brighton Pier, Traditional Fish and Chips, Pavilion Palace, Gay Pride, Mods and Rockers, Bohemian North Laine, Fat boy slim, Zoe and Alfie and more. That ought to be enough to keep you busy for a week or two when you visit.
The Beach: One Of The Best In The World
A seaside town needs to have a beach and Brighton’s may be covered in pebbles rather than sand but that doesn’t make it any less popular with tourists. In fact, Lonely Planet magazine once dubbed Brighton & Hove one of the 10 best beach cities on the planet.
There’s nearly always something happening on Brighton Beach and it’s a great place to spend a Bank Holiday or a longer vacation.
If lounging around in a deck chair and soaking up some rays feels a little too passive, it’s also a great place to take lessons in watersports such as paddle boarding and kayaking or beach sports like Frisbee and volleyball.
We can also recommend finding some nice flat stones and seeing if you can make them skip across the water, but please do this away from anyone actually using the sea to swim in.
Then you might want to take a stroll down one of the most welcoming promenades in the world. You’ll find art galleries and art installations, ice cream and seafood and much more on Brighton’s seafront.
We should also give a passing mention to the section of the beach at Black Rock, Maderia Drive. It’s one of Britain’s most famous naturist beaches and while it is predominantly popular among gay men, everyone is welcome to shed their clothes and go au naturelle there.
Brighton Palace Pier: The Classic English Seaside Experience
The Pier is 1,760 feet long and was first opened to the public on the 20th of May 1899. It was originally home to a theatre, but this was closed (and then demolished) after a barge crashed into it in 1973.
The site of the original theatre is now home to an amusement arcade and pleasure dome.
Figures from Visit England says that Brighton Pier is the 5th most visited free attraction in the whole of the UK and that it sees nearly 4.5 million visitors each year. It’s also the most popular attraction in the UK outside of London!
Every visitor to Brighton should take a walk down the pier as it is one of the few remaining examples of British traditional seaside heritage. While the entertainment options have changed over the years, the idea of a sunny day and good fun on Brighton Pier, never gets old.
Fish And Chips at The Regency Restaurant: The Seaside Meal Of Champions
“If you want fish, simply but expertly cooked at a price
that won’t make you feel like you bought the fishing boat that landed the
ingredients, there’s not much to beat The Regency.”
Jay Rayner – The Observer’s Food Critic
Even Rick Stein, the celebrity chef, is a huge fan of fish and chips at The Regency Restaurant and you know that given his obsession with great fish dishes, this means you’re looking at something very special, indeed.
There is no food more associated with British seaside towns than fish and chips and there may be no better place in England than Brighton’s The Regency Restaurant to eat fish and chips in. It’s been there since the 1930s and it only serves fish caught locally in the English Channel.
You’ll be amazed to learn that its prices are quite reasonable too. You’re not looking at the typical tourist rip-off of other seaside resorts, Brighton’s best fish and chips is not going to kill your wallet.
However, given its popularity, we’d strongly recommend that you make a reservation online or you risk being disappointed or waiting for a very long time if you just turn up on the day.
Brighton Pavilion: The Most Impressive Building In Town
This former royal residence is, without a doubt, the most iconic building in Brighton. It was constructed in 1787 and was the home of the then, Prince of Wales, George who would go on to become the Prince Regent.
If you think, when looking at it, Brighton Pavilion has a certain flavour of India about it, that’s because it has. The influence of the crown in England’s colonial rule is unmistakable and the “Indo-Saracenic” style of architecture dominated India for nearly 100 years.
You can’t take photos inside because the collections are on loan from The Queen and that means you need her permission to photograph them but it’s a spectacular location that is very much worth visiting. It costs between £7 and £14 to go in and you get the best deals on tickets online before you travel to Brighton.
Gay Pride: The Nation’s Finest
Brighton’s accepting and tolerant spirit is internationally famous, and it hosts the largest Gay Pride event in the nation. It’s the single biggest event of the year in Brighton.
It takes place on Preston Park and aside from celebrating the freedom to love whoever you wish in whatever way you wish; it also raises a lot of money for charity.
In fact, as we write this in 2019, the 2020 event has already raised nearly £1 million for good causes and it’s still 34 weeks away! The event is run by a not-for-profit which funnels all profits into the community.
Visitors to Pride in the Park will find themselves in amongst a rich international blend of people all out to have a great time. The objective is to create a citywide feeling of goodwill and kindness which lasts long after the lights on the stages have been turned off and all the way through the following year.
Kemptown: An LGBT Favourite
Kemptown is the heart of Brighton’s LGBT community and it’s home to the city’s annual Pride Parade. However, it doesn’t matter what your sexuality is, for the most part, because it’s also a lovely area with real character in its own right.
You’ll find charity shops, cafés, clubs, tea shops, great architecture, and much more when you take a stroll around the neighbourhood and it’s not far from Queen’s Park which is also worth a visit as it’s an attractive and well-kept green space.
We’d recommend taking a stroll around Kemptown with a camera as its most striking feature is the incredible regency architecture.
The 1964 Mods And Rockers Riot
The weekend of the 16-18 of May 1964, lives on infamy, if you took the establishment viewpoint then you would have been aghast at the tales of the “Battle of Brighton” which took place between the mod and rocker sub-cultures of the 1960’s era.
A previous skirmish between the two groups had taken place in Clacton earlier that year and 97 people were arrested during that brawl, and it seemed that there was now an unwritten agreement to carry things on at the next opportunity when the two groups met in the seaside town of Brighton.
The rockers represented the previous generation, they sported Elvis’s style and epitomized Teddy Boy culture. The Mods, on the other hand, had a fashionable look imported from the continent and instead of bikes, they rode Vespa and Lambretta scooters.
Brighton saw fights between approximately 1,000 bored and angry youths when they came to town and despite the headlines, only 76 of them were arrested. While the occasional serious fight took place most of the action was handbags at dawn type stuff with punches thrown and some deckchairs used as makeshift weapons.
Today, this might barely make the evening news with so many more serious events around the world but in the 1960s, this was shocking stuff.
It was the baby boom generation announcing it had arrived and it was going to take what it wanted, and it wanted it now. In truth, it was a storm in a teacup more than a full-fledged rebellion and within a year, the “war” was over.
But Brighton’s day of infamy lives on in memory as in 1979 the 1964 riot was immortalised in the film Quadrophenia and Mods and Rocker still ride down to Brighton to revel in the nostalgia and Iconic 60’s Brighton dream.
The Lanes and North Laine: An Standout Shopping Experience
BLet’s get it right from the get-go. The Lanes and the North Laines are two separate areas in Brighton and although next to each other, they are not the same place. Now forgive me here for going in caps, but, THERE NO SUCH PLACE AS THE NORTH LANES.
The original village of Brighthelmston was located in the heart of what is today called ‘The Lanes’ It is the oldest part of Brighton, surrounded by East, Street, North Street, West Street and the seafront (there is also a South Street, but its just a small alleyway today).
As you walk these cobbled narrow twittens (alleyways) you feel like you could be in a Charles Dickens novel. Today the shops in the Lanes are predominantly jewellery shops, then coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, bars and art galleries.
Sadly, Choccywoccydoodah which was once the most famous chocolate shop in England is no longer in The Lanes as they ceased trading earlier this year. A great place to visit and people watch, but if it’s shopping you want, it’s really the North Laine you want.
The North Laine (Not the North lanes)
North of Brighton seafront is the Lanes, and North of The Lanes is the road called North Street, and North of North Street is the Begining of The North Laine. Got That?
When the population of Brighthelmston got too big, dwellings and habitats started popping up in fields and Rocky areas on the Northside of the village. The old Sussex dialect term for this flat of land at the base of the downs was called ‘Laine’. This is where it gets its name from.
Today the North Laine is the most Buzzing part of Brighton, Filled to the brim with funky fine coffee shops and bistros. This is the place to come clothes shopping if you looking for street funk and grind clothing or bohemian chic. During the weekend a lot for the streets in the North Laine are closed to cars and opened up to pedestrians, making it the funkiest part of Brighton. Or the trendiest place in Briton if you’re a daily mail reader.
Fatboy Slim: The Dance DJ With Brighton At The Core
Fatboy Slim, better known as Norman Cook when he’s not working, is one of Brighton’s biggest and most loved stars and has done a lot for the city as well as for the British music scene.
In 2001, he founded the Brighton Beach Boutique festival and more than 60,000 people turned up to party on Brighton Beach. It was considered a huge success and Norman remarked, “We didn’t know how many people would turn up. The official number was 35,000 – in fact it was more like 60,000. It was such a thrill. Everyone brought their families down to have a barbecue and listen to the music. I came off stage and said to my manager, ‘That’s it, we’ll never top this.’
The second year of the festival in 2002, however, drew a crowd of 250,000! The police, sadly, had to close it down because it was far more people than the area could safely cope with.
Mr Cook also owns a 12% share of Brighton & Hove Albion football club. And somehow, he also manages to do quite a bit of charity work for Oxfam and Young Epilepsy despite having one of the busiest schedules we’ve ever seen.
Alfie and The Vloggers: Brighton’s YouTube Hub
Brighton has also become a major YouTube hub and everyone who is anyone is now based in Brighton or it seems like that at times.
Certainly, the world’s biggest YouTube star PewDiePie, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjelberg, calls the city his home today and with over 100 million subscribers, he has the second biggest channel on the platform.
However, it would be doing a huge disservice not to credit Alfie Sidney Deyes of the Pointless Blog for much of Brighton’s popularity in the YouTube community. The local lad has over 5 million subscribers on his main channel and millions more on his other two channels which he built up over a period of 10 years.
He’s also considered to be one of the 500 most influential figures in the UK and it was his efforts that put Brighton firmly on the vlogging map.
His partner, Zoe Suggs, or Zoella as she’s better known is Britain’s biggest female YouTube star and she has another 10 million subscribers to her name! They live together in Brighton in a 7-bedroom home that they purchased in 2017.
Other vloggers who based themselves in Brighton are Jacksepticeye, (aka Sean Mcloughlin), Wiishu (aka Signe Hansen), Soviet Womble, Jordan Houston, Jed Barker, Joe Weller, Jack Maynard, Casey Barker and there are many more. Not forgetting myself, once I find my camera and start a youtube channel that is. hee hee.
Sea Life Brighton: The Oldest Operating Aquarium In The World
The original Brighton Aquarium, now known as Sea Life Brighton, was opened in 1872 and that makes Brighton’s Aquarium the oldest operating aquarium anywhere in the world. It’s quite expensive to visit with tickets starting at around £12 online but they can be more expensive if you try to purchase them on the day that you visit.
It’s worth it though with over 3,500 marine animals in the aquarium. Kids love rockpools, where they can touch a real starfish, among many other interactive experiences.
Sea Life Brighton is also involved in important conservation work and it’s a good idea to visit just to better understand the scale of the plastics problem in the world’s oceans and how we can all play a part in making things better for the creatures that live in the sea.
Don’t forget to buy a ticket for the glass-bottomed boat at reception as you can’t go on the boat without one.
Volk’s Electric Railway: The Oldest Electric Railway In The World
Magnus Volk was an inventor extraordinaire and he was born in Brighton and spent most of his life here too. One of the gifts he gave the city was the Volk’s Electric Railway (VER) which is a narrow-gauge railway line that runs parallel to the beach for a short stretch of Brighton’s coastline.
Volks original motivation to build the Electric railway was simply to demonstrate to Queen Victoria, what electricity could do for the country. There is a wonderful old photo of Queen Victoria sitting on a Volks Carriage, looking somewhat unamused.
It was completed in 1883 and that means it is the oldest electric railway still in use in the world. It is currently being repaired over the Winter months and is closed to the public, but it will be reopening in March 2020 when they’ll be happy to give you a ride in historic surroundings.
In 2014, the British National Lottery provided a grant of £1.6 million to help expand the work of the Volk’s Electric Railway and this, amongst other things, paid for the restoration of 3 more rail cars.
The Devil’s Dyke And The South Downs
The Devil’s Dyke is rumoured to have been caused by a glacier during the last ice age but sadly, while this would be a great story, it’s just not true. It’s actually a river valley though the river has long since run dry.
The valley itself is approximately 100 meters deep and it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest and for a very long period of time, the Dyke would have been one of the top tourist draws in all of the south of England.
Today, it offers unparalleled views over the South Downs, England’s newest national park, and that makes it the perfect place to escape the throngs of the city and to commune with nature.
If you climb up to the highest point on the hills overlooking the Dyke you can see, on a clear day, all the way to the Isle of Wight.
Why is it called the Devil’s Dyke? Well, because the local legend is that the devil was caught there digging a trench which would allow the seawater to come in and flood the area’s churches. An old lady with a candle (or possibly a crowing rooster) disturbed the devil in the act and he fled leaving the dyke unfinished.
They say that as he fled, he tossed a shovel full of earth over his shoulder and it landed in the sea, to become the Isle of Wight.
Whatever the stories, the area is one of the most beautiful places in the United Kingdom (described by the painter, john constable as ‘The most beautiful place on earth) and apart from transport to get there (Buses 77, 78 and 79 ; ), your visit won’t cost you a thing.
As you can see, there are an awful lot of things that Brighton is most known for. In fact, it’s fair to say that the city has plenty to see and do to keep every kind of visitor busy and we didn’t even mention the exceptional food culture and nightlife that you can find here.
Brighton is one of Britain’s most charming and interesting
cities and nobody ever needs to be bored here.