Brighton was a sleepy little fishing village, then known as Brighthelmstone, until Dr Richard Russell of Lewes began to prescribe the use of seawater for his patients. He advocated the drinking of seawater and sea-bathing in 1750. In 1753 he erected a large house near the beach for himself and for his patients. A further factor in Brighton’s growth came in the early 19th century when the Prince of Wales built the Royal Pavilion, an extravagant Regency building designed by John Nash. But it was only with the development of the railways, around 1840, that Brighton truly started to boom.
The city is close to London, and is increasingly popular with media and music types who don’t want to live in the capital. It is sometimes called “London-by-the-Sea” for this reason. Brighton is typically referred to as the gay capital of Britain. There is a significant gay district in Kemp Town which adds to the Bohemian atmosphere of the city.
Whilst a day trip to Brighton, or even a long weekend, will offer activities and culture for the visitor all year round, it is in the springtime that the city really starts coming to life, and May sees the return of two of the most popular festivals, Brighton Festival and Festival Fringe (see the events section). In the summer Brighton truly flourishes, with residents and visitors enjoying lazy days and beautiful sunsets on what is perhaps the city’s greatest asset, the more than 5-mile stretch of shingle beach, facing south onto the English Channel.
How to get to Brighton & Hove
Trains to Brighton run from Victoria and London Bridge stations in London, taking about an hour (faster for the Brighton Express services from Victoria, although expect to add another 20 minutes if travelling during peak commuting times). Trains also run along the coast from Hastings and Lewes in the east, and Portsmouth and Chichester in the west. Brighton is on a direct line to Gatwick and Luton airports (Gatwick is much closer, being to the south of London).
Brighton has 2 stations: Brighton Terminus and London Road station. All trains stopping in Brighton stop at Brighton Terminus, on Junction Road. Local trains to Newhaven via Lewes also stop at London Road station, on Shaftesbury Place, just off Ditchling Rise. This station is only really useful for the northeastern part of Brighton, and isn’t too far from the main Brighton station. When travelling to Brighton, it would be easier to just plan to go to the main Brighton station, as it is also closer to the town centre.
Trains to Brighton are operated either by Southern, or Thameslink. Southern operates trains to Eastbourne, Hastings, Ashford, Newhaven, Portsmouth and London Victoria; while Thameslink operates trains to Bedford, St Pancras, Luton and London Blackfriars.
Southern tickets to London and some other destinations can be purchased from as little as £3 (£2 with railcards) one way, if purchased online from their website. The tickets can then be collected from the automated machines at your departure station.
You may wish to research before a visit on a Saturday, whether Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club are playing at home; on these match days, expect trains towards Brighton around lunchtime to be busy, and trains towards London around late afternoon to be busy. Arriving a little earlier – and leaving a little later – than planned should be a consideration if you dislike very busy trains.
Brighton is a congested city, and not easy to drive or park in at peak times. The principal route from London and Gatwick Airport to the north is the A23, which turns into the M23 just after Crawley. The A27 runs along the south coast from Portsmouth in the west to Pevensey (near Eastbourne) in the east, and is a dual-carriageway for the much of its length west of Brighton but is primarily a congested normal carriageway to the east of Brighton, the A27 turns into the M27 after Portsmouth and continues on into the New Forest National Park. There are several car parks in central Brighton – expect to pay about £1.50 per hour, even on Sundays, although they can get quite full at times, so don’t count on finding somewhere to park.
The Ethos Parking website shows where available parking spaces are in some car parks with entry barriers around the city on a map. However, it doesn’t show all car parks.
For a day at the beach, parking is available, though very limited, on the two roads parallel to the beach between the main pier and the marina, Madeira Drive and Marine Parade. As with many popular seaside resorts in England, the earlier you arrive on a warm, sunny day, the better your chances of getting yourself a space! Charges vary between seasons and the location premium, but generally in the height of summer expect to pay £15-20 per day closer to the pier, and £5-7 per day further east.
As an alternative to driving to the city centre, parking (charges apply) is available at Worthing, Hassocks or Lewes rail stations, both about 20 minutes by train from the city centre. Another alternative is to use the city’s Park and Ride service, where you park at a free car park about a 45-minute walk away from the main train station, then get a bus to the city centre.
There are particular days in the year when it is very inadvisable to drive into Brighton:
- The children’s parade day at the start of Brighton Festival. Usually the first Saturday in May. Many roads in the centre of Brighton are closed.
- The day of the annual London to Brighton Bike Ride. This is on a Sunday in June – tens of thousands of cyclists plus their support vehicles are in the city, so many roads will be blocked or difficult to get across.
- The parade day of the Brighton and Hove Pride week. Around first Saturday of August. Many roads in the centre of Brighton and around the pier area are closed to all traffic, and diversionary routes are long and/or not built for heavy traffic. Gridlock often ensues on Pride Saturday.
- The Brighton Marathon in early April (so much so that even the council has a whole webpage about parking during the marathon), where many roads in the city are closed.
- The first Sunday of November when the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is held (unless, of course, you own a veteran car!)
- Any day with a significant amount of snow, as a storm may come suddenly or the roads may simply be unsafe.
- Any summer’s day when the sun is shining and the whole of London decides to head to the Brighton beach.
The city’s proximity to London means Brighton is well served by airports. Brighton can be reached from Gatwick by train in as little as 25 minutes £8.50-10.50, Dec 2017).
Shoreham Airport (Brighton City Airport),
To access the airport, it is [robably best to get a train from Brighton to Shoreham – about 15 minutes, then a taxi from there to the airport)
This airport (ESH ) is 5 miles (8 km) to the west of Brighton. It is the nearest airport for light aircraft and also offers sightseeing flights. However, there are no scheduled flights from here. Air Alderney is planning to start flights between here and Alderney. This is the oldest licensed airport in the UK.
Brightonians often give directions relative to a prominent landmark, the Clock Tower, which stands due south of the rail station where Queen’s Road meets Dyke Road (oh yes it does), West Street, North Street and Western Road.
The oldest part of the city is the Lanes, which is bounded by North Street, West Street and East Street, through which runs Middle Street – and Ship Street. Beware the spelling of the similar-named North Laine(meaning “north fields”) which is a boutique and alternative shopping nirvana, to the north side of North Street.
Western Road, a major shopping street runs East-West from the Clock Tower, whilst Eastern Road runs up a hill towards the main hospital from the area known as the Old Steine (rhymes with clean) which has Brighton Pier at the seafront here.
Running north from the working Pier, you find the memorable Royal Pavilion, a run down church St Peter’s, and The Level, which is being developed. Going north east from here is Lewes Road (pronounced “Lewis”) which takes you out to the city boundary and both of the Universities.
Hove (actually) is found to the west of Brighton. To the east of the city, there is Brighton Marina.
Although the area is hilly. cycling is a growing form of transport in Brighton. The city is one of Cycling England’s “Cycling Demonstration Towns”. The city council’s website has more details on cycling, including a map of routes.
There is an extensive bus network in Brighton and Hove. In the city centre, services are very frequent and many stops have ‘real-time’ bus information. The majority of buses are run by one company, Brighton & Hove Buses. The best option for a visitor is to get a £4.40 CitySAVER all-day ticket to avoid the £2.20 single fares.
Children travel at half price, and pensioners free after 9AM (with a suitable RFID card). If travelling by train, you can add a “plus bus” CitySaver option on your ticket for £2, or get a CitySaver for £3 at Brighton Station bus stops.
There are three routes on weekdays (route 52 on Saturdays too) between the City Centre and the universities with a bright yellow bus company called the Big Lemon, costing just £1.50 for a single and £2 for an all day pass.
On a few days a year, buses are disrupted by parades etc. – the same days as in the “by car” section above.
Many of Brighton & Hove Bus’s vehicles are named after celebrities (some living, some deceased) and individuals who have made a contribution to Brighton & Hove city life in some significant manner. You can even suggest names for the buses to have at the bus company’s website!
Brighton Station is one of the most important rail terminals in the South East and from here the city of Brighton has a small suburban rail network with London Road station, Hove station, Preston Park station, Aldrington station, Falmer station and Moulsecoomb station serving the city (Moulsecoomb and Falmer for the universities in the city).
Southern and First Capital Connect services do not carry bicycles during peak hours (7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM).
There are lots of blue and white taxis in Brighton, with the council logo on the door. They are, however, more expensive than most other towns and cities in England. In Friday and Saturday after midnight, the hire charge for a taxi is £4.10 before the journey starts.
The main taxi ranks are at Brighton train station and at East Street (near the Lanes). Smaller ranks dotted around include: Queen Square (opposite Churchill Square), the north side of St. Peter’s Church and the bottom of Montpelier Road.
- The Palace Pier aka Brighton Pier has all the usual seafront arcade attractions. There is also the wreck of West Pier which was derelict for some time before finally burning down recently. Brighton Pier is all owned by the same company, so there’s no real point shopping around for bargains on it (unlike other UK piers); but this does mean it has forced off threats to close it. The pier stands at the foot of the Grand Parade, south of the Old Steine. Beware as the pier security have been known to use excessive force against customers as well as concealing their security licences. Also be wary of your belongings as there are many opportunities for items to be taken – particularly if you are going on the fairground rides.
- Brighton Beach. In the summer, the pebble beach is covered in tourists and Brightonians alike. Poi twirlers strike a beautiful image against the sunsets, and flaming lanterns are launched into the air on summer evenings. To the east of Brighton there is a designated nudist beach. The pebble beach gives way to a flat sandy seabed just below mid tide line so time your swimming to the low tide and avoid the painful feet. Just beyond the Marina is an area for surfers. Fishermen cast their rods from the Marina or by the giant doughnut.
- The Lanes -an area of small shops, the tumbled street plan reflecting the layout of the original fishing village of Brighton which was located here. Almost every shop in the Lanes is a jewelery shop, although there are also cafes, bars, record shops, a shop that sells vintage weapons, and a whole host of Italian restaurants.
- North Laine (sometimes incorrectly called the North Lanes). A wild nest of alternativism, North Laine is walked by dreadlocked hippies, bright colours, punks, goths and oddballs. The shops sell everything from bongs to magic potions, from giant wooden hands to fairy wings and from bagels to fire staffs, as well as a full complement of cafes, bars, second hand clothes stores and newsagents. The area is north of the Lanes on the other side of North Street.
- Sea Life Centre An aquarium with walkthrough underwater tunnel, adjacent to Brighton Pier. This is the oldest working Aquarium in the world.
- The Royal Pavilion,, Oct-Mar 10AM-5:15PM daily (last tickets 4:30PM), Apr-Sep 9:30AM-5:45PM (last tickets 5PM), closed from 2:30PM 24 Dec and all day on 25-26 Dec, admission £15, £9 children, other concessions available, (10% cheaper if bought online), tel +44 1273 290900 – An interesting architectural attraction, transformed between 1815 and 1823 by the architect John Nash, at the direction of the then Prince Regent (later King George IV), into a sumptuous pleasure palace by the sea. The exterior has an Indian theme, whilst the interior was decorated with Chinese decor. Guided tours available and well worthwhile.
- The Old Steine The centrepiece of Brighton’s ‘floral gateway’, this features a rotating selection of flowerbeds, a fountain, and cafe. During the Brighton Fringe Festival (in May) there is often a large outdoor exhibition where performances take place.
- St James’s Street and the corresponding stretch of seafront east of the pier constitute Brighton’s gay village, lending the city the title of ‘Gay Capital of Britain’ is a short walk east of the city centre. Not only does it cater to the LGBT community but also is home to a wealth of restaurants and cafes. Continuing in the same direction you reach the rather more low-key and genteel area of Kemptown, with another clutch of antique shops.
- Theatre Royal, Pavilion Theatre, Corn Exchange Theatre, Dome Concert Hall Theatre and music venues all located in the ‘Cultural Quarter’ that encompasses New Road, Jubilee Street and parts of North Laine.
- Brighton Museum and Art Gallery An interesting Museum and history, culture and art to do with Brighton and beyond. An excellent permanent collection as well as brilliant exhibitions from international artists.
- Toy and Model Museum A little, unknown museum hiding under the viaduct of Brighton Station.
- The Booth Museum of Natural History Situated a bit out of town up Dyke Road, this spectacular collection of taxidermy features over 300 bird specimens, a giant bear, a feejee mermaid and the infamous “Bone Room”.
- Komedia Major comedy club in North Laine.
- Brighton Marina with boats, pubs, restaurants, a supermarket and even a hotel, well to the East of the town centre.
- Volks Railway The first public electric railway in the world, opened in 1883, runs from the Aquarium at Brighton Pier to Black Rock near the Marina (operates April to September).
- Fabrica, . Contemporary art gallery that specialises in new commissioned site specific work. As an artist led space this is a unique venue in the southeast that shows important new works by international artists. Fabrica is not a selling gallery but a place that offers access to exciting large scale work and media installations. It is housed in a renovated church on the corner of Ship St and Duke St in the City centre, entrance is free.
- Lighthouse Another contemporary art gallery located in Kensington Street, North Laine. Like Fabrica it has no permanent collection and is purely artist led. The gallery itself is a the site of a disused warehouse.
- Grand Parade An art gallery located in Brightons most central university campus. The gallery often has exhibitions of students work as well as a wealth of international artists. It is located near St. Peter’s Church just north of the Old Steine.
- Phoenix Another art gallery housing works from artists from all over the world. The gallery is in quite a central part of the city and is right next to Grand Parade.
- Ink D A small but trendy little space that exhibits obscure artists works as well as design. It is located at the bottom of North Road, North Laine.
- Jubilee Square A modern redevelopment towards the south of Brighton’s North Laine. As well as the location of the magnificent Jubilee Library, the square also offers upmarket restaurants and cafe culture.
- Roedean School, Roedean Way, one of Britain’s most famous and expensive girls’ schools, the huge stone building looks out across the Channel.
- University of Sussex. Spacious campus with notable architecture by Sir Basil Spence. (Three stops from Brighton Station on the line to Lewes).
- St Bartholomews Church One of Europe’s tallest churches (from floor to ceiling). Towering over Brighton, this extraordinary church is not exactly the prettiest church in the world, however its gigantic structure and incredible decoration makes this church a must-see attraction. A real gem in Brighton’s history which needs tourism and donations as it has recently been under threat from closure.
- Embassy Court This famous 1930s art deco building was nearly demolished in the early 2000s, but has since been fully restored to its modernist reality. There are artists studios underneath. Tours of the building take place during the Festival.
- the Brighton Festival, in May each year is the second biggest arts festival in Great Britain (coming closely behind Edinburgh). Music (all sorts), art exhibitions, book debates, and much, much more.
- the Brighton Festival Fringe,. The Fringe runs at the same time as the main Festival, and features over 600 events, including comedy, theatre, music, and “open houses” (local artists exhibiting in their own homes) and tours (haunted pubs, Regency Brighton, churches, cemeteries, sewers etc.).
- Brighton Pride, Considered by many to be the biggest and the best Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trangender Pride Festival in the UK, attracting more than 100,000 people annually to Brighton for the weekend festival in late August. Witnessing its 20th anniversary, Brighton Pride Festival starts Saturday 1st Sept.
- the London to Brighton Bike Ride A 58 mile charity ride held each June to benefit the British Heart Foundation. The Ride has raised over £26 million for heart research since its inception in 1980, from the efforts of over 550,000 riders. Suitable for all levels of riders, the route passes through glorious countryside on the approach to Brighton.
- Brighton Theatres, . Brighton is a great place to see a theatres show or even a gig. There are many theatres and venues in and around Brighton.
- Watch Brighton & Hove Albion play at their brand-spanking new ground at Falmer, or check out their old place Withdean Athletics Stadium where there is still regular track & field meets.
- Shop until you drop. Calling into many of the quirky shops in North Laine looking for that elusive deleted LP/ leather bound book/ one-off party dress/ organic beer, can be a highlight and a chance to uncover hidden gems.
- Duke of York’s Cinema, Preston Circus (15 minutes’ walk up the London Road from the Steine), . The Duke of York’s Cinema is Brighton’s art house cinema, and the oldest continually operating cinema in Europe. Opened in 1910, it still has a single screen, which shows a mix of art house and more mainstream films, with a Kid’s Club on Saturday mornings. The building itself is recognisable by the giant fibreglass legs on the roof. The bar on the first floor is a good place for a drink before the film, with a balcony that has good views of the street below. The (screening-room) balcony at first floor level has two-seat sofas, the ground floor regular cinema seats.
- Glass Bead Making Classes (Lampwork) (Bead Making (Lampwork / Flamework) Classes), 81 Portland Road / Hove / BN35DP (Take bus No. 49, 2, or 46), 01273773684, . Beginner & intermediate glass bead making classes introduce students to both basic and advanced lampworking techniques and help pave the way towards finding your own artistic voice. Private and 2-person group classes available.
Shopping is one of the main reasons to visit Brighton. But don’t get stuck in the mainstream shopping area around Western Road. There are a huge array of shops catering for all tastes but the impressive assortment of independent shops and boutiques is something that differentiates Brighton from many other British cities. The atmosphere in the North Laine and in The Lanes is one of the intangible aspects of the city that leaves many wanting to return time and time again. Brighton is especially good for Music, Books and independent clothes shops. Head towards Hove on Western Road and you’ll find a haven of quality charity shops outside of the centre.
- North Laine contains heaps of shops and market stalls to tempt everyone’s quirky or vintage fancies without a chain shop in sight. There is a flea market with numerous stalls in Kensington Gardens and another, ‘The North Laine Antiques & Fleamarket’ in neaby Upper Gardner Street. Shops tend to get less mainstream, the further north into the North Laine area you go.
- The Lanes are known for their independent shops, especially antique shops and jewellers. Can get somewhat repetitive but the indoor market Snooper’s Paradise is always a joy to wander. The Lanes Armoury is world famous for selling antique war memorabilia and weapons.
- Brighton is packed full of independent record shops, most of which sell vinyl, including Resident (Kensington Gdns)  which was voted “England’s favourite indie record shop” in 2011, Borderline (Gardner St) and Across The Tracks , all in the North Laine area. The Record Album (8 Terminus Rd., just above the station) is a small shop specialising in vinyl soundtracks and other retro curiosities.
- Churchill Square Shopping Centre and the surrounding area offer more mainstream goods, standard fare on UK high streets and in shopping centres.
- London Road is an unglamorous “High Street” type shopping area with some genuine bargains, particularly at the Open Market. There is a concentration of electronics, photographic and hi-fi retailers towards the northern end, around Preston Circus.
- Brighton Marina contains more up-market shops.
- The pedestrianised George St. is Hove’s main shopping area, but it is not really worth a detour if you are already in central Brighton