Brighton's Beautiful Seafront and Piers

01 of 09

A Typical English Seaside Resort...

Brighton beach and pier
Christopher Steer / Getty Images

For more than 100 years, Brighton's Piers and its long terraces of stately Regency guesthouses facing the English Channel have drawn visitors to this seaside town that many refer to as "London's Beach".

About 60 miles - and less than an hour by train - from London, it makes a great day out, short break or family excursion any time of year.

The seafront, in particular, is dazzling. During the day, long terraces of grand pastel colored houses glow in the reflected light of the sea. At night, the lively scene and nightlife are illuminated by the pier's colorful neon lights.

Walk out on the pier, have some fish and chips, go on a thrill ride, try your hand at a carnival game or just watch the sunset and enjoy the buzz. Brighton's seafront offers traditional pleasures with a modern urban twist... with a bit of extra style. Like most English seaside towns, Brighton has had its ups and downs since first becoming fashionable in the early 19th century.

Where the Prince Regent (later George IV) entertained at his fabulous Royal Pavilion, all of the fashionable society followed. After Queen Victoria abandoned Brighton for bigger family accommodations on the Isle of Wight, it became a summer resort for the emerging middle classes.

Today, Brighton is a hip and popular resort, attracting sophisticated Londoners and visitors, a strong gay community and local people from nearby towns to its beaches, arts and entertainment, shopping and summertime amusements.

Its seafront, lined with tall, pastel-colored townhouses, is typical of many English seaside towns yet somehow more raffish and attractive in a louche sort of way.

02 of 09

Brighton's Elegant Seafront

Brighton sea front, Sussex, England
Laurie Noble / Getty Images

Elegant houses, some dating all the way from Brighton's fashionable Regency days at the start of the 19th century, face the afternoon sun over the Channel.

Near Brighton Pier, elegant townhouses command the best views - the English Channel and the picturesque pier itself. A mixture of Regency, Georgian and Victorian houses, along with the odd modernist and art deco construction, Brighton's seafront houses were originally guesthouses and hotels. Today, while some guest accommodation remains along this stretch, most have been converted into smart apartments and flats. Some are even owned by Londoners who commute the 55-minute train journey.

03 of 09

Remains of Brighton's West Pier

Golden winter sunset viewing rays of light passing through West Pier
Pete Reynolds / Getty Images

At one time, Brighton's Victorian West Pier (circa 1866) was considered one of the loveliest piers in Europe. It was destroyed in two arson attacks in 2003.

Of the two Brighton Pier's, the West Pier was considered the classier. Many called it the finest pier ever built. In its heyday, it had a theatre and concert hall, as well as a steamer landing stage, and was a masterpiece of lacy Victorian ironwork and glass. By 1975, it had fallen into disrepair and was derelict, although plans for its restoration were continually mooted about.

In 2002, a violent storm tore into the West Pier and broke its walkway in two. The following year, ​a fire broke out on the pier and, having been brought under control, was reignited. Authorities attributed the fires to arson but no one has ever been charged. After the fire, there were plans to restore the pier and a trust exists to raise funds to do it but most local people, who mutter darkly about likely suspects of the arson, believe the pier will never be rebuilt. Today, all that remains is the graceful ironwork skeleton of part of the pier, battered on all sides by the sea.

04 of 09

Standup Paddleboard Surfing Near Brighton Pier

Paddle boarder, starlings and West pier
paul mansfield photography / Getty Images

During an afternoon high tide, paddle board surfers ply the waters near the pier.

Brighton Pier is a marine theme park on the sea. At the very end of the pier, a full sized roller coaster (looking deceptively small in this picture) along with several other hair raising rides, stay open year round, wind and weather permitting.

While enjoying fantastic views of the Brighton waterfront, thrill seekers can try the 'Wild River' flume, climbing a water mountain for a scary splash landing. The spinning and twisting 'Crazy Mouse' requires a strong (or an empty) stomach.

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05 of 09

Brighton Pier at Sunset

Starling murmuration over Palace Pier - the starlings gather over roost site at sunset
Images from BarbAnna/Getty Images

At all hours, Brighton Pier makes a photogenic subject. At sunset, when it's lights begin to come on, it is particularly magical.

Designed in 1891 and completed just at the turn of the 20th century, Brighton Pier was originally called The Palace Pier - a name locals and local newspapers still prefer. It was renamed Brighton Pier by the current owners.

The pier is open year round but evening strolls along Brighton Pier are more popular in warmer weather, for obvious reasons. Closing hour for the theme park and other amusements depends upon the weather.

06 of 09

Brighton Pier at Dusk

People Looking Up at a Spinning Funfair Ride on Brighton Pier
Matt Gibson/LOOP IMAGES / Getty Images

Imagine Pinocchio being led astray by the wily fox. The photogenic lights of Brighton Pier promise summer seaside excitement.

In addition to amusement arcades and a theme park of rides for adults and children, Brighton Pier also has several bars and restaurants. Admission to the pier is free, as is the use of deck chairs in good weather. But you could quickly run up quite a bill on the traditional games of chance and fish and chips for all the family.

07 of 09

One of Brighton Pier's Amusement Arcades

Inside Palace of Fun on Brighton Pier.
Roger Gaess / Getty Images

Brighton Pier has two amusement arcades and a family entertainment center full of cheesy, traditional and newer digital seaside games.

08 of 09

Old Fashioned Games of Chance on Brighton Pier

Seaside Couples
Photo by Roo Lewis / Getty Images

Inside Brighton Pier's amusement arcades, it's all digital games and flashing lights. But along its "side stalls" (closed here on a winter evening) old fashion carnival games of chance and stalls selling shellfish and fish and chips remain ever popular seaside entertainments.

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09 of 09

Brighton as Seen From the Pier

Twilight on Brighton seafront
Loop Images/Slawek Staszczuk / Getty Images

Built in the days when most people had few opportunities to go out in boats on the sea, a stroll to the end of Brighton Pier - 1,722 feet or a third of a mile long - was like being at sea for most visitors. The decorative ironwork, seen in this view from mid-pier, is among the Victorian pier's original features.

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