Brighton

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Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom England South East England Brighton

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Introduction

Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier

© All Rights Reserved Di and Cam

The land at the foot of the South Downs has been settled since the 7th century with the founding of the sleepy fishing village of Brighthelmstone. In 1753 this changed when Dr Richard Russell suggested that a swim in the sea would be good for Londoners' health, and that Brighton would be the ideal place for it. Visitors began to arrive in droves, and Brighton has steadily grown from a sleepy fishing village to a vibrant, modern and cosmopolitan city.

Brighton has long been regarded as a vestige of the artistic, the rebellious, the intellectual and the marginalised. The annual Brighton Festival is England's largest, and second only to Edinburgh in the UK. The city has more Green councilors than any other, and two well-regarded universities. Brighton is also home to a thriving gay scene.

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Sights and Activities

Many daytrippers from London jump off the train and walk straight down Brighton's shabbiest streets to the most crowded section of beach, spend a fortune in the most characterless bars and head straight back the same way. Wandering a little off the beaten track will reward you with some interesting sights, fab food, great shopping and friendly, characterful pubs and bars. Below is a sample itinerary for a half day that would take in many of Brighton's attractions.

Sample itinerary

Starting from the station, ignore the stream of people heading towards the sea down Queen Street and head under the railway bridge down Trafalgar Street. Hidden in an archway under the bridge is the tiny Brighton & Hove Toy Museum - probably not worth a visit unless you're an enthusiast. At the bottom of the hill you can see the imposing St Peter's Church, built in 1828 but in the gothic style.

Carry on down Trafalgar Street until you reach the junction with Sydney Street, and then turn right. You are now in the North Laine, a string of narrow streets with colourfully painted facades and interesting, eclectic small independent shops and cafés - you won't find Borders or Starbucks here. Follow the obvious route (lined with shops and cafés) along Kensington Gardens and Gardner Street, and turn left down New Road.

On the left as you walk down New Street is the shiny Jubilee Library, opened in 2005 - it won the Prime Minister's award for best public building, and was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.

At the bottom of New Street is the Royal Pavilion. A genuine Royal Palace, the quirky and spectacular pavilion was built for King George IV in 1803. The exterior is inspired by the Taj Mahal. The interior is inspired by Chinese decorative art. A guided tour is definitely recommended. A quick wander around the pleasant, if small, gardens is also worthwhile, as is a nose around the Brighton & Hove Museum housed within the grounds.

Leave the Pavilion Garden through the entrance you arrived from, on New Street, and follow the wall around to the front of the Pavilion for a great photo opportunity. You're now in the Old Steine. To your left is bohemian Kemptown, also home to Brighton's 'gay village' with a wide range of shops, bars and clubs catering to the community.

Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier

© All Rights Reserved sophos


Follow the main road down to the seafront, to the entrance of Brighton Pier. Formerly known as Palace Pier until the West Pier finally succumbed to decades of mishaps including arson and storm damage, Brighton Pier is Britain's fourth most visited tourist attraction. It's worth wandering up to the end and back if it's not too busy - there are even a couple of half-decent rollercoasters, even if they are a bit expensive.

Just to the left of the entrance to the pier, along Madeira Drive, is the Volks Electric Railway. Created in 1883 by eccentric Brighton inventor Magnus Volk, the railway was only the second electric railway in the world, and is the oldest still operating. Part of the railway used to run over the sea on stilts, but this has long since been removed. The railway has stops by the new Beach Sports Centre, and by Brighton Marina at Black Rock. Give the Marina a miss, unless you like Marinas, as it seems to have been built exactly the same as every other Marina in the developed world. Back at the entrance to the pier, a right turn takes you down to the attractively developed esplanade, which is really quite pleasant if the weather's nice and it's not too busy.

From the seafront, take a right turn up Black Lion Street or Middle Street and head into the cobbled alleyways of The Lanes. This is the heart of old Brighton, with streets too narrow to fit a car down, and a great place to get lost in. There is a preponderance of cafés and expensive jeweller's shops here, but also some great independent shops including the indie music stalwart Rounder Records where you can pick up tickets fo pretty much any music event in Brighton. Leaving the Lanes through the exit on North Street leaves you opposite Bond Street in the North Laine, giving you the option of heading back to the station the way you arrived.

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Events and Festivals

Brighton Festival

Brighton Festival is England's largest festival.

Brighton Pride

Brighton Pride is a week-long summer festival, though the main events are the Carnival Parade and the hundreds of stalls and activities in Preston Park. The parade includes people dressed in extravagant costumes, music and huge floats. Dates very slightly year to year. In 2009 the main events will be held on Saturday 1st August.

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Weather

Brighton's weather is typical for what you get in England, though in general both winters and summers are milder than places more inland and to the north. Temperatures in winters are mostly above zero and fall and winter are the wettest time of the year. Spring and early summer is drier with some heavier rainshowers possible in summer, when temperatures are mostly around 20 °C or slightly more.

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Getting There

Plane

The nearest international airport to Brighton is London Gatwick Airport, 25 minutes by train from Brighton with very regular services. There are also direct trains from London Luton Airport, Southampton and Bournemouth.

If you're arriving from the north of France, or from Alderney, you could fly into tiny Shoreham Airport - just five miles (8 kilometres) from Brighton and home to Britain's only art deco terminal building.

Train

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.

Bus

Megabus and National Express both run cheap and regular services between London Victoria coach station and Brighton. National Express also connect with a wide range of destinations across Britain.

By Car

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.

Boat

Transmanche Ferries operates a regular service between Dieppe and Newhaven, a short train journey from Brighton.

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Getting Around

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.

By Car

Taxis are plentiful and reliable, and there is a fun 'tuk-tuk' service where colourfully painted tuk-tuks (like the ones you might see in Bangkok) ply a fixed route around the city. Another slightly wacky option, and a bona fide tourist attraction in its own right, is the Volks Electric Railway - the oldest operating electric railway in the world, and the second ever constructed.

By Public Transport

The Brighton & Hove Bus Company runs a very regular and comprehensive service within the city. If you're going to be doing a lot of travelling around Brighton, the cheapest option is to buy a 'day saver' ticket as you board any bus - this currently costs £3 and gives unlimited travel on all Brighton & Hove buses.

By Bike

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.

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Drink

There are many, many pubs and bars catering for all tastes. Any list of reasonable length will be far from complete; if there's a street in central Brighton there is likely to be a pub on it. LGBT-orientated pubs, bars and clubs are mostly in the Kemp Town area of the city, in the vicinity of St James's Street and Marine Drive.

  • The Basketmakers Arms is often considered one of the best pubs in Brighton. It serves good, traditional pub food and a decent selection of real ales.

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Eat

With so many cafés and bars, you're never too far away from a half-decent bite to eat, and the standard of food is good compared to most of the rest of England.

  • For cheap Italian, the area around Meeting House Lane seems to have about 10 places in competition, meaning you can get Pizza or Pasta for less than £4 and a full meal from around £6 per person (excl. wine). Pablos and Opposition are good bets.
  • Bombay Aloo is a Brighton favourite - an all-you-can-eat Indian vegetarian buffet for £4.
  • For tapas, Casa don Carlos is authentic, friendly and moderately priced with tables on the street during the summer, whilst Pintxo People is a very highly rated, more contemporary (and correspondingly pricer) place.
  • For pub food, try the Sovereign on Preston Street, or the Bath Arms in the pedestrianized bit of Meeting House Lane - both make a point of serving tasty, well-sourced food.

Brighton is home to two of the best vegetarian restaurants in Britain, if not Europe:

  • Terre a Terre is a spectularly good dining experience - the most you'll probably splash out for a veggie meal anywhere.
  • Food for Friends is fast catching up - gone are the days of bean stew served in the canteen, much to the disgruntlement of some older Brighton residents.

For the best thoroughly Brightonian dining experiences, here are two recommendations - one of the most expensive listed and one of the cheapest:

  • Due South has great food, full stop. Simple, creative, imaginative dishes created with ingredients sourced from within 40 miles of Brighton, in a great location under Kings Road Arches.
  • Bardsleys has a reputation as one of the best fish 'n' chip shops around - after all, this is the seaside.

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Sleep

The official YHA option is a very pleasant old building but is actually five miles (8 kilometres) out of town, at Patcham. There are regular bus services, but if you want to be in the thick of the action you might want to base yourself elsewhere. Budgies Backpackers is a cheap old favourite where some people end up for months. St Christophers Inn is a bit of a party hostel - great location, cheap and clean but don't expect much sleep if you stay there at the weekend.

The manky Brighton Backpackers has vanished, and in its place is the Grapevine Seafront Hotel, with really cheap, newly refurbished rooms. Grapevine also runs a cheap hostel/B&B in the North Laine.

Brighton is littered with B&Bs, most of which are perfectly OK. Make sure that you book ahead if you're travelling during mid-summer, or on an English bank holiday, as all of the accommodation in Brighton can be booked up. Check the Brighton Bed and Breakfast website for more details about prices and availability.

Some of the big chain hotels offer big discounts off season. There are plenty of swanky splash-out options. Lansdowne Place, Drakes and Hotel Du Vin are the ones getting rave reviews at the moment.

A complete overview including travellers ratings includes:

View our map of accommodation in Brighton

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 50.820931
  • Longitude: -0.139846

Accommodation in Brighton

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Brighton searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Brighton and areas nearby.

Brighton Travel Helpers

This is version 37. Last edited at 14:17 on Mar 8, 19 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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