You can be absolutely anything you want to be in Brighton, and no-one will bat a spangly faux-eyelash.
As Lonely Planet put it: ‘Whatever your flavour, you’ll find it in Brighton’. They said that about the Brighton Pride Festival – but for me, that just sums up all of Brighton all year round.
I’ve been a regular visitor to Brighton all my adult life and I simply adore it! I still always discover delightful new things on every trip.
So, to celebrate just my top 10 ‘flavours’ of this uniquely wonderful, colourful, vibrant, hedonistic, bohemian city – my Travel in Pictures feature is holding a Brighton ‘summer season’ throughout the whole of August – just like the variety performers and comedians used to do each year in the long-demolished theatre at the end of Brighton Palace Pier.
For now, here’s just a taster of each of my top 10 reasons to visit Brighton – running the full gamut from the tasteful to the gloriously tacky. Keep a lookout throughout August for more posts delving into each one of them, with lots more pictures and review info.
1. The Beach & Seafront near West Pier
Brighton Beach and seafront is a long and glorious promenade, especially in the sunshine. My absolute favourite bit is the skeleton of the old West Pier sitting poignantly out to sea, giving just a whisper on the wind of the fun that must have been had there in a bygone age.
The arches along the beach have been converted into cafés, restaurants and arty independent shops. Near the West Pier end of the beach also is the fabulously futuristic new British Airways i360 – the world’s tallest moving observation tower, and Brighton’s take on the London Eye, up which you can take a trip.
2. Brighton Pride
The city with the UK’s biggest LGBTQ scene is gearing up this very weekend 4 – 6 August 2017 for Brighton Pride, widely regarded as the best Pride event in the UK, and one of the very best in the world. The main parade, festival and after-party are on Saturday 5th. And I’m going! Hurrah!!
3. The Royal Pavilion
In the late 18th century, the naughty Prince Regent, who later became King George IV, started building the extravaganza of over-the-top opulence that is the Royal Pavilion, so he could have top fun and be king of his own castle, without his father, King George III’s, prying gaze. Trust me, the interior is simply jaw-dropping – especially the banqueting hall and the music room – and you need to see it!
4. Street Art
Turn any corner in Brighton and you might encounter one, or several, of its murals or other examples of urban street art, some by individual artists like Minty who are becoming known in their own right as part of the city’s fabric. Tramping the streets to take in just some of this urban culture is worth a whole day tour in itself.
5. The North Laine
If you’ve heard Brighton being described as London by the sea, then the North Laine is Camden Lock (errr, without the lock bit). Several largely pedestrianised streets offer up tons of one-off bohemian shops and cafés, as well as a great deal of the street art mentioned above. And one of my favourite nights out in Brighton is there, the fantastic Komedia and its Krater comedy club.
6. Brighton Palace Pier
Brighton Palace Pier conjures up and offers everything that a traditional day at the British seaside used to be – fish and chips, a pint of beer, a stick of rock, the helter skelter, ice cream, and the amusement arcade. And if you’re into looking at fish at the seaside rather than eating them with chips, then right beside it is the Brighton Sea Life Centre.
7. The Lanes
The Lanes are a network of atmospheric, historic, twisting streets and alleys that once formed the original fishing village of Brighthelmstone. With their antique jewellery shops and some more mainstream restaurants, the Lanes have a more sedate and olde worlde, gentrified feel than the shopping area of the North Laine. Don’t miss at least a gawp, if not a purchase, at the truly astounding chocolate art at Choccywoccydoodah.
8. The Hotels
Hotel-wise in Brighton, your options range from scuzzy hostels, to elegant but faded grandeur, to cutting edge boutique, and everything in between. Brighton’s catering for all walks of life, remember?
A handful of the best hotels are a unique experience and a reason to visit Brighton on their own. My current favourite by far is the gloriously kitsch and decadent Hotel Pelirocco. Watch out for my review and more pictures later this month.
9. The Food Scene
You definitely get the full range of restaurants in Brighton. When I was there last month, I was delighted to revisit my old favourite Terre à Terre, which for me is a destination in its own right, ‘where vegetarianism is more about indulgence than abstinence’ – so my kind of place! And I finally tried for the first time Food for Friends, plus the seafood restaurant Riddle & Finns at the Beach, kooky Kooks in the North Laine, and a couple of the very many ethnic restaurants on Preston Street. I’ll be posting reviews soon, as part of this August season.
10. Iconic History & Notoriety
As well as the iconic landmarks I’ve mentioned above that you can still see on a visit to Brighton, the city evokes so many other iconic images from British history, since George IV made it such a fashionable place to visit more than two centuries ago.
Famous in the sixties for clashes between mods and rockers, and furtive unmarried couples on illicit weekends, Brighton’s iconography has been immortalised in books like Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (made into films in 1947 and 2010) and the film Quadrophenia. In 1980 Brighton opened the UK’s first naturist (nudist) beach (but I’m not going to be posting photos of that, in case you were getting your hopes up). And in 2010, the Brighton Pavilion constituency elected the UK’s first Green Party Member of Parliament. In your imagination you can immerse yourself in of all of this history and nostalgia as you walk Brighton’s streets.
Visiting Brighton: Basic Information
Where is Brighton?: The City of Brighton & Hove is in East Sussex, in South-East England, UK. It was formed in 2001 when Queen Elizabeth II granted the neighbouring towns of Brighton and Hove city status as one city.
Getting there: Frequent trains to Brighton take just under an hour from London Victoria; half an hour from Gatwick Airport; and there is a direct rail link from the Eurostar terminal at London St Pancras. The VisitBrighton website has more detailed rail information, plus instructions for reaching Brighton easily by road, including when travelling from the nearest ferry terminals on England’s South Coast.
Getting around: Once you get there, Brighton is a city far better done on foot to get the full experience. It’s well served for very central car parks with some, like this one, being bookable in advance.