Brighton: Planning Your Trip

Things to Do, Places to Stay, Dining, Festivals and Fun at "London's Beach"

England, Sussex, Brighton, View of beach at Brighton Pier

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Brighton is a hip, colorful, and unusually urban seaside resort town about 54 miles from the capital. Known as "London's beach" and renowned for its many festivals and thriving LGBTQ+ scene, Brighton is a great day trip or short break destination all year long, offering much more than just its lively seafront. It's home to the most scenic pier in Britain, while shopping, dining, a hoot of a fantasy palace, a brilliant aquarium, great nightlife and theaters, block after block of Regency houses, traditional pub scene, and a tolerant and breezy ambiance make Brighton a very cool place to visit. Plan your ultimate Brighton getaway, whether it’s a day trip or a long weekend by the water, with our guide to the best places to eat, stay, play, and make the most of your time in this exciting British locale.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: Summer is busy but fun, with great weather for riding the thrill rides at Brighton Palace Pier and festivals happening all season long. The Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe are typically in May, while the Brighton & Hove Pride and Paddle Round the Pier Festival happen each July. Winter is cold and blustery by the water, but the annual Burning the Clocks event on December 21 is worth checking out if you're in town.
  • Language: While the majority of people in Brighton speak English, you may also hear other languages spoken by members of the international community who live in and visit this part of the U.K.
  • Currency: The pound sterling, also referred to as “the pound” (GBP) is the official currency of the United Kingdom. Credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Brighton, while others like American Express and Diners Club are not as commonly used. Be aware that smaller shops, cafes, and restaurants may only take cash or require a minimum of five pounds to be spent in order to use a credit card.
  • Getting Around: Brighton can easily be explored on foot, by bike (check out BTN BikeShare while you're in town), or by using one of the many available taxis or environmentally friendly zero-emissions buses. Guided sightseeing day trips from London or from Brighton to other nearby locales are another great option for checking out the area.
  • Travel Tip: Be prepared to wear a wetsuit in the water (it’s quite cold, between 45 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the time of year) and bring along some water shoes to protect your feet. Brighton Beach is often referred to as “shingle beach” due to the flint pebbles and stones you’ll see and step on along the shoreline.

Things To Do

While Brighton’s beach and pier are the main draws to this part of England’s southern coast, it's also home to many cultural and historical sites, as well as world-class shopping, beautiful gardens, and scenic walks along the English Channel. Give stand-up paddle boarding a try at Surf SUP Brighton or Paddleboarding Brighton, or rent a kayak from Brighton Watersports for a memorable day out on the water. Head to Brighton Palace Pier to play carnival games of chance, unleash your inner child on the theme park’s rides, or, like the Victorians, simply take in the view from a third of a mile out to sea.

If time and weather allow, take a ride up to the top of the British Airways i360 Viewing Tower, a 20-minute London-Eye-like experience offering incredible views of the region. Back on solid ground, check out Old Steine Gardens near Brighton Beach or head north to explore St. Bartholomew’s Church and Preston Manor and Gardens, each just a few minutes’ drive from the trendy North Laine neighborhood.

  • Catch a show at the Brighton Dome, a rocking theater where legends like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd once performed. The former King's stable is still the best place in town to see live music and stand-up comedy. Too tame? Why not sample the nightlife scene at one of Brighton's hottest clubs? Head to Concorde 2, Komedia, or The Hare and Hounds to see live music and comedy acts alongside the locals and other international visitors.
  • For a truly memorable night out in Brighton, head to the Kemptown neighborhood, where LGBTQ+ culture is celebrated among the many bars, clubs, cafes, shops, and bed and breakfasts along St. James Street. Catch a cabaret or drag show if you can.
  • See how the other half lived at The Royal Pavilion, an extravagant, fantasy summer "cottage" built for Prince Regent (and later, King) George IV in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Tour the royal bedrooms and great kitchen, stroll through the Saloon and Banqueting Rooms, and view the home’s various galleries and exquisite gardens. There’s also an interesting exhibit on the servants who helped bring the place to life.
  • Shop to your heart’s content as you wander The Lanes, a collection of narrow passages that are home to the last remnants of medieval Brightenhelm, as well as a wealth of antique and jewelry shops, bars, and cafes. For modern luxury and alternative fashion, head to North Laine, a residential and shopping district where chic, new age​, and boho styles exist side by side.

Find out about more things to see and do in Brighton with our full-length article on Brighton tourist attractions, with more details about the town’s top sights and tips for making the most of your stay.

Where to Eat and Drink

If you don't try some fish and chips during your time in Brighton, you are a fool to yourself. There is nothing quite so fine as a golden, crisply fried piece of fish and some nicely floppy British chips (fries) eaten in a bracing sea breeze. If the fish is landed locally, as it is in Brighton, so much the better. Avoid the stalls on Brighton Palace Pier, unless you enjoy paying too much for far too little, and try local favorites like family-owned Bardsley’s of Baker Street, Bankers Traditional Fish and Chips, or Regency Restaurant, known for its celebrity visitors and Italian-style twists on the popular dish.

Otherwise, traditional pub fare reigns supreme, with popular items like bangers and mash, meat pies, Sunday roasts, puddings (desserts), shepherd’s pie, and other gastropub bites on most menus. While in Brighton, make sure you try “Brighton Rock,” a popular snack made with hard-boiled sugar and peppermint (and other flavors) that also makes a good souvenir (pity your poor teeth, though). Another dessert, Banoffee pie, was born here in Sussex, the result of a botched coffee toffee pie being fixed by using bananas. Other regional favorites from the area include Arundel mullet, Pulborough eel, Amberley trout, Rye herring, Selsey cockle, Chichester lobster, and Bourne Wheatear. 

As far as beverages, Brighton Gin offers distillery tours and craft cocktails from its headquarters on Camden Street. Brighton is also known for its regional ales and Tuaca, an Italian brandy-based liqueur that’s recipe dates back more than 500 years. Mixed with vanilla spice, citrus, and sometimes, butterscotch, dried fig, and cola, it’s a favorite among local university students and visitors alike.

Where to Stay

Brighton accommodations range from luxurious suites by the sea and trendy boutique hotels to small guest houses, bed and breakfasts, and upscale hostels ideal for budget travelers of all ages. Camping in the beautiful English countryside is another popular option, as are vacation rentals, easily bookable through sites like VRBO and Airbnb.

There’s something for everyone in Brighton, whether you’re a beach bunny who wants to slumber near the seafront or you’d rather be closer to the shops in North Lane or near all the action in the city center. Just make sure to get a good recommendation or review the reviews on TripAdvisor and other similar sites if you’re not staying in a hotel or hostel, as some of Brighton's bed and breakfasts can be distinctly seedy and a number of its grand old dowager hotels have really seen better days.

Getting There

While driving offers the most flexibility (it’s only a 90-minute drive from London’s city center and you’ll be able to venture out beyond the seaside town and explore more of the countryside with a car), Brighton is just as easy to reach by train, bus, or ferry, depending on where you’re coming from. 

  • Trains to Brighton leave from London’s Victoria Station twice an hour for a journey of about 55 minutes. There’s also regular train service from London’s St. Pancras International station, which connects London with the rest of the U.K. and the European continent with Eurostar service from Paris and Brussels. 
  • If you’re planning on flying into the U.K., Gatwick is the closest of London's airports, only half an hour away by train, whereas the journey is two hours and 15 minutes from Heathrow via London Victoria, 2.5 hours with multiple changes from Stansted, and two hours from Luton via Thameslink.
  • Coach service is also available from the airports mentioned above as well as other parts of the U.K. via National Express, while Transmanche Ferries operates regular service from Northern France (Dieppe year-round and Le Havre in summer months) to Newhaven, located about 25 minutes by train or car from Brighton.

Money Saving Tips

  • Sticking to Brighton’s free attractions (the beach, pier, and marina, among others) can help you save money during your time here. The Booth Museum of Natural History, which originally served as a Victorian collector’s private museum, is free to check out, as are the Brighton Fishing Museum and the Hove Museum & Art Gallery.
  • For those who love being outside, Brighton is full of interesting and scenic walks. Start with a relaxing stroll along the Undercliff Walk, a sea wall walkway built in the 1930s that stretches from Brighton Marina to nearby Rottingdean Beach.
  • Take a walk along Brighton's free Public Art Trail, a one-hour walk from the train station that shows off sculptures, murals, architecture, and other works of art by local artists. Free guided walking tours with local guides are available through companies like Real Brighton Tours and the International Greeter Association.
  • Just a 15-minute drive from Brighton is the Devil’s Dyke, part of a free-to-enter National Trust area known for its scenic views and epic hiking trails through the stunning Sussex countryside.
  • Drive an hour northeast to South Downs National Park, where, for free, you can picnic as you take in views of the Seven Sisters white cliff formation and check out the Chattri War Memorial, built to honor the Indian soldiers who perished in WWI.