When it comes to UK tourism, most foreign visitors think first of London. But not far away from the capital, the seaside town of Brighton on the south coast of England is well worth exploring. Brighton has been a resort town since at least the nineteenth century when doctors touted the benefits of sea bathing to stressed-out Londoners.
This history of tourism can be seen everywhere, and many of the town's top attractions date back to this era. That's part of what gives the city its charm. But along with this historic appeal, Brighton offers the same beaches that attracted those early holidaymakers. Plus, the city has a vibrant arts scene. Generally recognized as the gay capital of the UK, Brighton is also known as one of the country's hippest and most exciting cities.
A weekend in Brighton
A weekend in Brighton gives you enough time to explore some of the city's top attractions. Besides lying on the beach and taking a refreshing dip in the sea, you'll find enough in Brighton to keep you occupied for a weekend and then some.
- The Royal Pavilion was built as a royal residence in 1787 for the British Royal family to use when enjoying a trip to the city. The unique Asian-inspired architecture of this place makes sure it stands out, and it's a great place for photos while you admire the opulence of the British Empire.
- Take a trip under the sea at Sea Life Brighton. This state-of-the-art aquarium allows you to get up close with ocean creatures such as sharks, rays, starfish, and others. Drop off any unneeded bags at a luggage storage locker in Brighton and see the creatures that call the ocean home.
- Check out Brighton's historic pier. One of the UK's top leisure destinations, the pier is home to rides, amusement arcades, and restaurants, offering something for everyone. Opened in 1899, the pier has been the center of Brighton's tourist appeal for over a century.
For all its attractions, Brighton is still a relatively small town. And most of the main sites you'll want to visit are close together along the seafront promenade. For that reason, Brighton makes a great place to explore on foot. You can make things easier on yourself by leaving any heavy bags at a Brighton luggage locker. Your unneeded possessions will be safely looked after while you explore what the city has to offer.
Off the beaten path in Brighton
Brighton is the way it is because of tourism. The city still receives millions of leisure visitors every year, and tourism remains an important part of the local economy. So you wouldn't think the city has much that remains hidden. However, there are a few spots in Brighton where you can get away from the crowds and see a different side of this popular city.
- Get a glimpse of the fishing village Brighton used to be at Ship Street Gardens. This narrow passageway is one of the few remaining alleys known as 'twittens' that hark back to an earlier era of the town before the tourists arrived.
- See a truly unique collection of items at Anna's Museum. This museum is a shop front window full of items collected by a local woman named Anna, complete with handwritten labels. There's no particular logic to the collection except Anna's own whims and preferences, making this a deeply personal and truly unusual place to visit.
- Get away from the busyness of the seafront at Kemptown Secret Garden. Once the residence of the brother of the Prime Minister, this sculpture garden is a tiny but relaxing place to discover in the heart of the city. Only open on certain days, the plants, sculptures, and water features of the garden will help you relax from the chaos of the city.
Top Tours in Brighton
Free Walking Tours Brighton-Real Brighton Tours
Whether one is a first-time visitor to Brighton or a seasoned traveler, there's always something new to uncover. The company's founder, Nat, has roots in Brighton that stretch back an astonishing 480 years, making him a treasure trove of fascinating local lore. Ever curious about who in Brighton's history spent three hours each day perfecting his tie? Or why tourists once mixed seawater with milk? From tales of a submerged railway to a king of questionable utility, and even a war hospital adorned with chandeliers, the stories are endless. In addition to offering engaging tours, the company has a strong commitment to community; a portion of all tips is donated to a local charity focused on aiding the homeless.
Visit: realbrightontours.com to join the fun.
What to do alone in Brighton
With its young and hedonistic population plus the constant stream of tourists, Brighton is a great place to visit by yourself. Whether you're taking a solo vacation or traveling on business, this small city has a lot to offer those who travel in a party of one.
- Check out the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. Dating back to 1805, this museum is home to some unexpected items from Brighton's history, including a pair of King George IV breeches and a toy toolbox that once belonged to Lewis Carroll. You'll also find Vietnamese water puppets and the Hove amber cup, one of the most important Bronze Age artifacts in Britain. It's an eclectic collection that offers something for everyone.
- Hire a bike and take a ride along the seafront. Brighton's beautiful scenery is best enjoyed on two wheels, and you'll cover a lot more ground this way. Stop off wherever you feel like for some ice cream or delicious fish and chips and enjoy the coastal views.
- Do some shopping at the Open Market. This multistory covered market sells just about everything, in keeping with Brighton's eclectic and artsy vibe. Drop off your heavy bags at a Brighton bag storage and browse unique gifts and souvenirs in this local gem.
The best souvenirs in Brighton
Brighton Rock is the traditional souvenir from this coastal town. This brightly colored sugar candy comes in long sticks and can be found in just about any souvenir shop along the Promenade. Check out the Brighton Rock Shop on Kings Road, for example. For something more adult, Brighton is becoming a hub for craft beer, and the cheekily named Brighton Bier is a great way to remember your trip. Or if you prefer something a bit more unique, check out the artist quarter close to Palace Pier and purchase some original artwork from one of Brighton's many resident artists.