En route to Gatwick airport (well technically a bit of an overshoot), I spent the weekend in Brighton. I like Brighton and I don’t go there often enough. I’ve done a few day trips over the years, but the last time I stayed overnight I was teenaged.
What to do (or what I did) with 2.5 days in Brighton.
The Brighton Pavilion is the ultimate iconic symbol of Brighton. The loose copy of the Taj Mahal was built for George 4th (son of George 3rd the ‘mad king’) when he was Prince Regent.
It’s worth paying £12 to go in if you haven’t done it before. The Indian Gothic exterior gives way to a Chinese-style interior (no photos allowed inside so you’ll have to go see for yourself).
George liked to entertain a lot as a young man and the palace reflects this. Eventually he was forced into a loveless marriage in order to get his debts paid. However he died without any legitimate heirs and the throne passed to his brother William. From William it passed to Victoria.
Queen Victoria didn’t like Brighton; the new railway made the town more accessible and so she complained that she had no privacy there. Eventually the palace was sold to the town of Brighton for £53,000.
The Regency style architecture can be seen all over the city. George also influenced fashion a great deal, popularising loose fitting trousers, darker colours and high necklines. George’s excesses soon left him quite plump and so he favoured fashions that disguised this as much as possible.
Nearby to the Pavilion is the Brighton Dome, a concert venue in the Pavilion’s stables. Sarah’s irrelevant piece of trivia: Abba won the Eurovision song contest there in 1974.
The Lanes and their slightly ‘edgier’ companion North Laine contain lots of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Nice to wander around, although does get very crowded. I didn’t buy anything but I wasn’t looking to either. Some nice cafes; I have no particular recommendations because they’re all good and I’ve never found a bad one. Unlikely to be the cheapest place you’ve ever eaten, but worth it.
I doubt I’d bother going back here again. Really just a place with some upmarket shopping and (mostly chain) restaurants.
Brighton’s pier has the usual pier activities: eating drinking, funfair and slot machines. As a grown-up (well sort of) I’ve fallen out of love with piers, although when I was a kid I used to love them. I can remember nagging my parents constantly to take me for a walk along the pier; they used to ration me to once a year, even though it was free. My parents, I often felt, had a pathological fear of having too much fun. Now I can go to piers as often as I like, but unfortunately my interest has waned. Still free though.
The old West pier
You can still see what remains of the old West pier. It closed in 1976 when it was found to be sinking and then it caught fire in the 1980s. Next to it is the Brighton observation tower, the i360, where for £15 you can go up and see views over Brighton and beyond (supposedly you can see as far as the Isle of Wight, 79 kilometres away, on a clear day).
I didn’t do it because I thought it was a bit expensive. However one advantage to being in the tower is that you wouldn’t have to look at it, I suppose.
There has been a lot of local opposition to the ‘big grey pole’, unsurprisingly since it is completely out of step with everything else on Brighton seafront. There is some talk of money from the i (I refuse to use its corporate name) being used to rebuild the west pier.
If you walk West along the sea front you will eventually come to Hove. Gradually the people you meet will look less trendy and grungy and more smart and wealthy. This will be your first clue that you are leaving Brighton behind and entering Hove. Hove considers itself a cut above its neighbour, hence it’s nickname ‘Hove actually’ due to residents qualifying that they live not in Brighton but in ‘Hove actually’.
Where to stay
I stayed in Kemptown, which is now full of little ‘boutique’ guesthouses and trendy pubs and cafes. It was nice and I’d definitely recommend it. Brighton lacks a lot of real budget accommodation these days. In my memories of going there as a teenager there was a whole pile of cheap and (far from) cheerful hotels or ‘boarding houses’ complete with bathroom down the corridor and ‘battleaxe’ landlady, but those places don’t seem to exist anymore. In their place is a more upmarket ‘boutique style’ Kemptown.
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so good for my trip. You would think travelling in July would bring you good weather, but this is England after all and it rained every afternoon. However even in the rain Brighton is still pretty good.
Most annoying thing about Brighton in July: the place is teeming with language students. They stand around blocking streets with their lanyards (I’ve learnt a new word; I’d always called them ID badges; who knew there was a word for them? I learned so much in my recent three weeks as an English teacher). They walk at the speed of an asthmatic snail, chattering incessantly and stopping to take selfies next to every street sign.