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.
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 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.
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.