The 11 Best Museums In Brighton
Brighton has been a center of British tourism ever since 1750 when Dr. Richard Russell advocated bathing in seawater to cure a variety of ailments. The science behind that may have been debunked since then, but Brighton still has plenty to attract visitors looking for a good vacation. With a beautifully rugged coastline, some of the best weather in England, and a range of attractions designed to keep vacationers happy, Brighton remains a popular place to enjoy some time off.
But maybe you're not the type who can sit on the beach all day, day after day. Maybe you like your vacations with a touch of intellectual stimulation. Or maybe you're just looking for something to do in Brighton on a rainy day. Either way, you'll be pleased to know that Brighton has a great selection of museums that will expose you to fine art and teach you more about the history of the city and the region. Plus, while museums and kids often don't go together, some of the museums in Brighton are also some of the best things to do in Brighton with kids.
You know what else doesn't go together? Museums and heavy bags. Make your trip to Brighton easier on yourself by dropping off your unneeded luggage at a Bounce luggage storage in Brighton. That way, you won't have to worry about breaking any rules as you explore these museums.
The Best Museums in Brighton
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Brighton certainly isn't the biggest town in the UK, but its municipal museum definitely punches above its weight. The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery covers a broad range of human knowledge including fine art, archaeology, film, textiles, social history, and performing arts. Housed in a building that dates back to 1805 and is part of the Royal Pavilion Estate, the museum has occupied its current position since 1902.
Nowadays, Brighton Museum is divided into several different theme areas that let you explore different facets of history and the world while you visit. The World Art collection holds items from around the globe, with a particularly impressive selection of artifacts from Asia. The Archaeology collection contains prehistoric artifacts not only from Brighton and the region surrounding it, but from as far afield as ancient Egypt. The Costume and Textiles collection includes a pair of breeches once worn by King George IV, and the Film and Media collection includes a Kinemacolour camera from 1910, the first commercially successful method of color film production. In other words, the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery has an incredibly eclectic collection, so there's something here for everyone.
Booth Museum of Natural History
Part of the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, the Booth Museum of Natural History stands out for its impressive collection. As well as holding one of the largest collections of birds in the entire country, the Booth Museum curates over half a million insects, including hundreds of butterflies. The museum even contains the fossil of an unknown species of pterosaur. Kids will get a kick out of the dinosaur bones, and the incredible array of natural specimens will teach visitors of all ages more about the natural world.
Old Police Cells Museum
In the basement of Brighton Town Hall, you'll find another of the city's more unusual museums. Brighton's Old Police Cells Museum is exactly what it says - a museum set in the city's former jail. Devoted to crime and punishment through the years, the museum collects items used by both criminals and police in the ongoing battle between law and order, and you'll learn more about the cops and criminals who left their mark on the seaside town. Tours of the museum are often led by retired police officers, so you'll get a first-hand account of what it takes to police a resort town like this. Plus, you'll also get to hear some of the most exciting tales from the dark side of Brighton's history.
The Royal Pavilion
While you're at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, it would be silly not to visit the Royal Pavilion. This unusual building has been an icon of the city since it was built in 1787 as a royal residence for King George IV. The building is worth visiting for its unique Indian-influenced architecture alone, but inside, you'll find lots more to keep you entertained. The opulent rooms of the palace will give you a glimpse back to the lives of royalty in the 18th and 19th centuries, and you'll also get a sense of what went on downstairs in the servants' quarters. The Royal Pavilion also contains an impressive collection of clothing from the Regency period and exhibits detailing the use of the building as a hospital during the First World War. And because the Royal Pavilion is located close to the tourist heart of the city, once you've explored the museum and worked up an appetite, you can indulge in some of the best street food in Brighton.
Hove Museum and Art Gallery
The cities of Brighton and Hove are generally considered as a single municipality, but each has its own museum with something different to offer. The Hove Museum is famous for containing the Hove Amber Cup, one of the most significant prehistoric artifacts ever found in the UK. Operating since 1927, the Hove Museum also has an impressive collection of toys from different eras of history which may make your kids more grateful for what they currently have. The museum is also renowned for having one of the finest craft collections in the country. Best of all, this museum is completely free to visit.
Located just outside Brighton itself, Preston Manor is a charming historic house that once belonged to the Stanford family, the richest family in Sussex. Now the property of the city, this building that dates back to the 18th century has been preserved in Edwardian style so that you can take a wander through the rooms and grounds and see what life was like for Brighton nobility over the last couple of centuries. Seeing the artifacts of a vanished way of life brings home just how much the world has changed in the intervening years. And if you're a fan of the paranormal, you may be interested to know that Preston Manor is reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in all of the UK. There's no guarantee you'll see a ghost during your visit, but you will definitely be able to enjoy the historic atmosphere of this impressive mansion.
The Fishing Museum
With so much seafront to explore, it will come as no surprise to hear that Brighton has a long tradition of fishing. Long before the first tourists ever arrived in the South Coast town, Brighton residents depended on the sea to make their living. This unusual museum tells a fascinating story of fishing in and around Brighton through historic fishing artifacts, old boats, photographs, video, and other exhibits. It's a fascinating way to peer deeper into a side of Brighton many tourists don't get to see, and this specialist museum offers a great way to learn more about the working-class side of the town. Plus, the museum is located right on the Brighton waterfront, so once you're done exploring you can enjoy some fresh seafood to celebrate the ongoing work of the fishermen and fisherwomen of Brighton.
Brighton Toy and Model Museum
It's tempting to say that this is one for the kids. But honestly, who doesn't have fun recollections of the toys they played with in their youth? Seeing some of your favorite childhood toys as exhibits behind glass may make you feel old, but will also bring back nostalgic memories of your own childhood. Plus, at Brighton Toy and Model Museum, you'll get to see toys and games that go much further back than your own childhood.
Located close to Brighton train station, this entertaining museum has one of the best collections of model trains you'll see anywhere, with some of the exhibits dating back to the 1860s. However, most of the museum's exhibits are dedicated to the early 20th century. There are over 10,000 toys collected here, so you're bound to run into old favorites as well as new surprises as you explore the history of play.
Just outside Brighton itself, the impressive 19th-century fortress of Newhaven is a must-visit for fans of military history. Built to defend the coast during the 19th century, this was the biggest defense facility ever built in Sussex. The fort was maintained and strengthened during both world wars when the threat of invasion of Britain seemed imminent, but fortunately, the fort was never called upon to defend against German attack. As a result, it remains incredibly well-preserved, and exploring the towers and tunnels of this imposing fortress is a great way to spend a day in Brighton. The on-site museum explains more about how the fort was built and used and what life was like for the soldiers stationed here. It's a great way to learn more about local history and appreciate how different the world could have been.
Brighton has long had a countercultural vibe that has seen it become the LGBT capital of the UK. In a city like this, the quirky is often embraced more than in less progressive towns. Anna's Museum is probably the most unusual museum in Brighton, and is a unique tribute to the eccentric side of the city.
Located in a shop window in the center of Brighton, Anna's Museum is the work of a local woman who has made it her mission to collect and display natural history exhibits from in and around town. Taxidermied animals and skulls are displayed alongside handmade puppets and other curiosities, all of them carefully posed and hand-labeled for maximum effect. You may not learn a great deal from visiting this museum, but you can't help but be intrigued by the mind that put it all together.
Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft
Ditchling is a village just to the north of Brighton that has long been a haven for artists and craftspeople of all disciplines. As a result, this small settlement boasts a museum that is far more impressive than Ditchling's small size would suggest. The museum proudly displays the work of local woodcarvers, printers, tailors, silversmiths, and others, making this an excellent place to admire human ingenuity. After all, not everything has to be fine art. The passion and skill that went into making the artifacts on display at this museum is every bit as impressive as you'll find in any of the top museums in the world.
What are the best free museums in Brighton?
Although it contains one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the whole UK, it won't cost you a penny to visit the Hove Museum and admire the Hove Amber Cup. That makes this museum easily one of the top free things to do in Brighton and Hove. And while there is an admission charge for the Brighton Museum, the Booth Museum and its incredible natural history collection is also totally free. If you're after something quirkier, the Old Police Cells Museum is also free, though you're welcome to make a donation to support the upkeep of this collection. And Anna's Museum is free to anyone who happens to wander by.
Which are the best museums in downtown Brighton?
The Brighton Museum, the Royal Pavilion, Anna's Museum, and the Old Police Cells are all located in Brighton city center. Despite the fact that they are each within walking distance, they cover an incredibly diverse range of interests, so you could easily spend a day or more just visiting these museums in Brighton.
Are there any cheap museums in Brighton?
As well as the many free museums in Brighton, you can save some money by visiting museums that charge more affordable admission fees. The Brighton Museum is certainly one of these, with a full adult ticket costing only £6. Likewise, an adult ticket to Brighton Toy Museum is very reasonable £6.50.