The author has written about food and travel for an assortment of publications.
Once a fashionable seaside resort, Brighton was a favourite of King George IV during the Regency era. It grew during the Victorian times, with many famous landmarks, including hotels and piers, springing up. It continued to grow and was granted city status in the year 2000.
It's now a fun and eccentric city with an alternative feel. A vibrant arts and music scene has made it a popular draw for culture lovers. A large LGBT population has made it the unofficial gay capital of the UK. There's plenty of diversity in Brighton. There's something for everyone in the south coast city.
My wife and I spent a week in Brighton, taking in some of that bracing sea air that King George IV so loved, exploring the shopping area known as The Lanes, eating, drinking and having an all-round good time.
Map of Brighton
Getting to Brighton
If you are starting in London, getting to Brighton is easy. Trains from London to Brighton take around an hour from London Victoria with Southern Railway or Thameslink railway. Gatwick Airport is 25 minutes away by train. National Express coaches run a twice-hourly service from the airport to the centre of town (40 minutes). A taxi from Gatwick Airport takes around 35 minutes.
Where to Stay in Brighton
There are so many options for places to stay in Brighton. Opened in 1864, The Grand looks out to the sea and has elegant Art-Deco style bedrooms. At the other end of the expense scale, Happy Brighton is a relaxed and friendly hostel with shared dormitory rooms which have individual sleeping pods. If you want a truly historical place to rest your head, The Old Ship Hotel is a fascinating place. Brighton's first recorded inn, it opened in 1559. The Prince Regent held a ball there, Italian violinist Paganini played in the Assembly Rooms and Charles Dickens gave readings during his stay. We didn't choose any of these hotels though. We plumped for something a little different. Hotel Pelirocco is a boutique rock'n'roll hotel with themed rooms. We stayed in a room dedicated to American pin-up Bettie Page. It's certainly a fun, quirky place to stay.
What to See in Brighton
No trip to Brighton is complete without a stroll down Brighton Pier. Opened in 1899, the pier continues to be a popular tourist attraction. On a sunny day, you can enjoy a pleasant 1722 ft (524 m) walk down the pier. With a roller coaster, bars, amusement arcades and a children's soft play area, there is plenty to do for all the family.
You can check out the moored boats and yachts in this working harbour. There is also other entertainment available, including a cinema, casino and bowling alley. Feeling peckish? You can find a range of change restaurants, such as Nando's, Fice Guys, pizza Express and TGI Fridays, to satisfy your hunger.
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The Royal Pavilion
Also known as the Brighton Pavilion, this was built as a seaside home for George, Prince of Wales (who became Prince Regent in 1811). It was later frequented by King William IV and Queen Victoria. The Royal Pavillion was designed by architect John Nash, who chose an Indo-Saracenux Style, which is why the building has so many domes and minarets. It's a nice place to have a picnic and relax during the summer months. It's also worth paying the admission room to go inside and check out the impressive Banqueting Room and see where kings and queens used to sleep in the royal bedrooms.
The Brighton Dome
Opposite the Pavillion is the Brighton Dome, a live music venue and theatre. The Brighton Dome used to be the stables of the Royal Pavilion, and there is a secret underground tunnel that links the two buildings.
Near the West Pier, you can get a view of the Brighton coast from 452 feet above ground level in a glass viewing pod. Designed by the architects behind the London Eye, The British Airways i360 has a capacity of 200 and hosts The Nyetimver Sky Bar. Visitors can enjoy views across Regency Brighton, the South Downs and over 66 miles of coastline.
Sea Life Brighton
Opposite the Palace Pier is the world's oldest operating aquarium. Open since 1872, the attraction now houses over 3,500 creatures from all around the world. Watch sea life as you take a glass-bottomed boat tour. There is also a behind-the-scenes tour of the 'working only' areas by experts, where you can learn how they care for all of the beautiful creatures within the centre.
Shopping in Brighon
For big name shops, the likes of which you'll find in any high street in the UK, Churchill Square is a decent shopping centre. With more than 80 stores, you can spend a rainy day undercover zipping back and forth between Debenhams, HMV, JD Sports, LEGO, Mothercare, Victoria's Secrets and ZARA Home.
When the sun's out and you want something shiny, head to The Lanes. Once the heart of the fishing town of Brighthelmstone (the original name of the town) The Lanes is the historic quarter of the city. It's a twisty maze of alleyways, where you can find antique and jewellery shops, as well as designer boutique fashions. One interesting place that I found was The Lanes Armoury, which has a fascinating range of antique military stuff. Another find was the chocolate shop and café Choccywoccydoodah. A great name and a great place for finding some artistic cakes and fun chocolate creations.
Head north and you'll find North Laine. Full of colour and smelling of joss sticks, this is an area full of independent shops, cafés and entertainment venues. Snoopers Paradise is well worth a look if you want to fill an afternoon stocking up on kitschy collectibles, retro odds'n'ends and weird bric-a-brac for your flat. Being a big fan of the printed word, I enjoyed checking out City Books, Dave's Comics, and Magazine Brighton. All cool shops.