Brighton is the epitome of the classic British seaside resort, attracting generations of pleasure seekers from London (an hour away by train) and further afield since the early 20th century. Visitors can expect striped deck chairs scattered along the city’s famous pebbled beach, a Victorian pier and promenade, and ‘chippies’ serving up some of the best battered cod in the country. But the city’s appeal isn’t all nostalgia; today it’s a hub for LGBTQ+ nightlife, alternative culture and the arts, great coffee, craft beer, gigs, galleries and much more.
One of the best ways to see it is on foot, following this walking tour of Brighton’s must-see sights.
Pull up to Brighton's grand Victorian station on Queens Road
One of the best ways to get to Brighton is by train, pulling up to the grand Victorian station on Queens Road, which is one of the city’s main thoroughfares and a good place to start your stroll. It was constructed back in 1845 and retains many original historic features, such as the classical Jubilee Clock Tower and cream buildings that line the road as it slopes down towards the sea. Wander past small boutiques, cafés and patisseries with vibrant displays of macaroons and magnificent pastries. Or time your visit with one of the regular farmer’s markets held at Brighthelm Church Gardens. If you fancy spending the night in Brighton, check in to the ibis Brighton City Centre just opposite the train station so you can drop your bags before heading off on your walk.
Neoma, one of the independent, artisanal businesses found near North Laine in Brighton
Queens Road also borders the boho market streets of North Laine, a small neighbourhood characterised by antique and vintage clothes shops, a booming café culture with lively terraces that spill out onto the pavement, and independent, artisanal businesses. Stop for refreshment at craft brewery, The North Laine, or gastropub, Earth and Stars, and perhaps even a flick at the oldest cinema in the UK, The Duke of York’s Picturehouse. If you find yourself charmed by North Laine, stay at Cappadocia Guest House in the heart of the area.
Brighton's Royal Pavilion
Next up, the Royal Pavilion – George IV’s seaside palace retreat and Brighton’s top architectural must-see. Construction began in 1787 and took over two decades to complete, culminating in an excessively extravagant building of Orientalist cupolas, dragons and meringue-like domes in a strange medley of Chinese and Indian influence. During WW1, the palace was temporarily converted into a hospital for Indian soldiers who had been wounded fighting for Britain in the trenches. These days, it serves a museum hosting exhibitions on history, art and contemporary culture, sitting within fully restored and manicured regency gardens – grab a drink from the Pavilion Garden Café before continuing your walk along sweet-scented paths past manicured flower beds towards shopping area, The Lanes. Check into the delightful Market Inn, just next to the Pavilion.
Expect narrow alleyways lined by 17th- and 18th-century architecture in The Lanes
Head to The Lanes for shopping within narrow alleyways lined by 17th- and 18th-century architecture; expect crooked houses topped with old weathervanes and decorated with overhanging flower baskets and bunting. The appeal of this little pocket of Brighton is similar to North Laine, offering visitors old-fashioned teahouses, pubs and eclectic design shops such as Papillon, which specialises in homewares. Check into the nearby Q Square by Supercity Aparthotels.
Brighton Palace Pier
Brighton Palace Pier is perhaps the city's most recognisable sight
Though it’s not the city’s only pier, the 1,722ft-long Brighton Palace Pier is certainly the most recognisable. And an absolute must-see with elaborate filigree ironwork and Victorian charm that defines the whimsical seafront vista. Work began on the Palace Pier in 1891, with it opening eight years later having cost a record £27,000 to build. Walk up and down the pier, stopping to buy some greasy British fish and chips, Brighton Rock candy or candy floss and perhaps partaking in the Pier’s numerous attractions, from fairground rides to karaoke and arcades. Right next to the pier you’ll also find the Volks Railway, the world’s oldest still-functioning electric railway and of course the city’s signature pebble beach. To spend the night with a view of the beach and the pier, stay at the Brighton Harbour Hotel & Spa.
Wander along the elegant promenade and soak in the sea view
Continue westwards from the Pier along Brighton Promenade, an elegant and wide paved boardwalk, lined with turquoise wrought iron railings and dotted with attractions such as the old Carousel. This is the perfect place to soak up Brighton’s atmospheric sea views while seagulls swoop all around, stopping to peruse crafts, prints and artworks from the shops and stalls beneath the promenade. Check yourself into a suite with a sea view at Hotel Du Vin & Bistro Brighton.
Watch the sunset behind the ruined West Pier
Having strolled along the promenade in a westerly direction for 10 minutes, you’ll reach the ruined West Pier. Burnt down under mysterious circumstances, all that’s left is an eerie collection of cast iron poles that have become home to hundreds of starlings. It’s a gorgeous place to watch the sunset (and round off your day’s walking tour), with starling murmurations fluttering through the often flame-red sky as the sun sinks behind the silhouette of the derelict pier. Wake up to sunrise with the same stunning backdrop by spending the night at The Grand Brighton.