Top 10 Things to Do in Brighton, England
Brighton isn’t a city – it’s an experience. The UK’s most popular seaside resort has a way of capturing people’s hearts and minds, making one‑time visitors into serial Brighton addicts.
There are a whole range of delights here, from top‑class restaurants to trendy shopping streets, and genteel Victorian architecture to beach‑side beer gardens. But what really sets this place apart is its unique atmosphere.
Whether it’s discovering a colourful piece of street art, tasting food you’ve never heard of before, or seeing buskers dancing and singing joyfully with tourists, this city will linger with you long after you’ve left.
So here goes – here are 10 of the absolute best things you can see and do when visiting Brighton.
1. Visit the Royal Pavilion
No, it’s not the Taj Mahal. The Royal Pavilion may look like an exotic Indian palace on the outside, but it actually started life as a seaside getaway from British royalty.
This impressive palace was created for King George IV, as a luxury retreat where he could indulge his extravagant lifestyle.
It was built at the height of the British Empire, and furnished with an eclectic mix of Indian and Chinese styles. I’d especially recommend a visit to the Music Room, where lotus‑shaped chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and painted dragons crawl from floor to ceiling.
2. Explore Brighton’s Independent Shops
Brighton has two main shopping quarters, the Lanes and the North Laine – each with their own special attractions.
The Lanes is home to many winding alleys, crammed full of little independent boutiques and heavenly cake shops. It’s a fun place to explore, but beware: the narrow old streets here can get crowded, especially in the summer months!
If you’re after a bargain, or simply a good time, you should also check out the North Laine. There’s a decidedly quirky vibe to this area, and you can find everything here from vintage clothes, to comic books, to ‘vegetarian shoes’ and healing crystals.
The North Laine might not be as upmarket as the neighbouring Lanes, but it’s as ‘Brighton’ as it gets.
3. Stay Out All Night
Ever since King George IV decided to build his pleasure palace here, Brighton has had – let’s say – a bit of a reputation.
Nowadays, if you want to let loose and dance the night away, you’ll find a bewildering array of pubs, bars and nightclubs across the city.
Many of Brighton’s pubs seem to have been designed exclusively for hipsters, with lots of neon lighting and expensive craft beer. But there are still many hidden gems here, including a pub that has been sculpted to look like a seaside cave, and a bar offering more than 100 types of gin.
The nightclubs here are also well worth a visit. Brighton’s seaside establishments are adept at pulling down big names from London – and with a big student population to cater to, you’ll find somewhere open late on every night of the week.
4. Take a Seaside Stroll
If you’ve indulged yourself a little too much, there’s nothing better to clear your head than a stroll by the seaside.
Turn right from the pier towards Hove, and you’ll come across pleasant seafront art galleries, fairground rides and the wonderful Brighton Music Hall, where you can have a beer in the sun while listening to live music.
Further on, you’ll come to Brighton’s grand Regency squares: first Brunswick, then Palmeira. These rows of tall, cream‑coloured town houses are seriously beautiful, and well‑worth taking the time to see.
Head in the other direction from the pier, towards Kemptown, to check out the elegant and derelict Madeira Terrace walkway. Eventually you’ll come to Brighton Marina, a great place to stop for a drink or snack by the waterside.
5. See Brighton from Above
Of course, if you really want to see Brighton in all its glory, the best way to do this is by soaring into the sky on the newly‑built British Airways i360.
The i360, recognised as the world’s tallest moving observation tower, takes visitors from ground level up to a lofty 138 metres above the city in a glass viewing pod.
From here, you can marvel at the whole of Brighton and Hove, stretched out beneath you. On a clear day, you’ll also be treated to great views of the English Channel, and the serene white cliffs of the Seven Sisters in the far distance.
6. Ride on the World’s Oldest Electric Railway
For those who are afraid of heights, you could always take in the sea air while riding on the world’s oldest electric railway.
Volk’s Railway was designed by the young entrepreneur Magnus Volk in 1883, and is a splendid piece of Victorian engineering. Riding in one of its handsome and old‑fashioned carriages is the perfect way to connect with Brighton’s past.
The railway line runs from the Brighton Aquarium all the way to the Marina, and is usually open from around Easter time until the end of October.
7. Laugh Your Socks Off at a Comedy Club
Comedy is a part of Brighton’s identity, just like the famous Pier or a stick of Brighton rock.
Head to the Komedia club, to see famous names that will have you rolling in the aisles. Or attend one of the city’s open mic nights, where amateur comics battle it out to tickle your funny bone.
Either way, Brighton’s comedy shows will definitely leave you with a smile on your face!
8. Go Vegetarian for the Day
If there’s anywhere that can convince you to go meat‑free, it’s Brighton.
You’ll find vegetarian restaurants of all shapes and sizes here, ranging from fine dining establishments to bustling cafes. What’s more, the chefs here are constantly coming up with new ways to get you to eat your greens.
There’s vegan pizza, vegan tapas – and for those who want to enjoy the full seaside experience, you can even try a plant‑based version of fish n’ chips!
9. Wander Down London Road
London Road used one of the city’s most run‑down neighbourhoods, but recent years have seen a transformation take place.
New shops and restaurants have sprung up, bringing life and colour to this inner‑city district. The newly‑built Open Market hosts a thriving community of traders, as well as a number of artists’ studios.
The area also boasts some of the city’s best pubs – including the World’s End with its retro gaming arcade, and the Hobgoblin, home to one of Brighton’s biggest and best beer gardens.
10. Join in the Fun at One of Brighton’s Many Festivals
Brighton’s calendar is packed full of annual festivals that bring joy and colour to the city.
The best time to visit is in May during Brighton Festival, the UK’s second largest arts festival after Edinburgh.
Also happening in May are the Brighton Fringe festival, the Great Escape music festival, and the Artist’s Open Houses events – weekends where hundreds of artists across Brighton open their houses and studios to curious visitors.
Finally, visit later in the summer for Brighton’s world‑famous gay pride celebration. This colourful, vibrant event is enjoyed by residents and visitors of all persuasions, and soaking up the atmosphere here will definitely restore your faith in humanity.
So, there you have it – 10 of the best things you can do on a visit to Brighton. From shopping to festival‑going, pub‑hopping to fine dining, culture to comedy, this really is one of the best destinations in the UK to have a good time.
But don’t take my word for it. Visit Brighton for yourself, and find out why so many people are in love with this city by the sea.
By Ben Steele
Looking to book a break to Brighton? The following websites are recommended:
- United Kingdom tours
- 10 amazing places to see in the UK
- TEFL courses in Brighton
- Learn English in Brighton