Are wondering what are the best things to do in Brighton, East Sussex? Brighton is one of the popular seaside destinations in the UK, that is worth visiting for a fun weekend break with family or friends. I absolutely love the quirky and energetic vibes of this city. They also host one of the most popular PRIDE festivals in the country.
Visiting Brighton will definitely brighten your day. Considered the “happiest place in the UK,” this seaside destination is only about 50 miles, or only about an hour and a half, south of London. Brighton is the perfect day trip destination from London with a stunning beachside and countless shops, cafés, museums and galleries, you’ll find plenty of activities to do in this small but bustling community.
Called “the Queen of Watering Places” by the poet Horace Smith, this seaside resort town has about 5.4-mile of shingle beach and is one of the favourite places for a day trip to the beach.
Aside from its natural wonders, Brighton is famous for its cafes and shops. As the UK coffee capital, Brighton has almost 400 coffee shops or 800 people per coffee shop. I’m sure you can find some of the best tasting coffee in town.
Brighton is also famous for its wonderful street art spread across the city, such as Banksy’s Kissing Policeman. And if you’re into retail therapy, Brighton offers a wide array of about 300 independent shops for all your shopping needs!
With so many activities to choose from, it’s no wonder that Brighton is included in our Best Places to Visit in the UK Recommended by Travel Bloggers.
Best Things to do in Brighton
1. Royal Pavilion
Surround yourself with the grandeur of royalty in this magnificent seaside palace. The fusion of Indo-Saracenic architecture and Chinese interior decorations, with a hint of Moorish and Gothic design, makes this architectural piece a true standout in Brighton.
Originally a farmhouse near the Old Steine, construction for the building started in 1797 by the Prince of Wales, who has later crowned King George IV, to serve as his seaside retreat house. Its current design features, particularly the Pavilion, the dome and minarets, are credited to the redesign of famous British architect John Nash.
Today, the Royal Pavilion is under the supervision of the municipality of Brighton and is now a popular tourist attraction. With King George IV’s love of art and luxury, he was able to secure some of the most beautiful art collections in the world, from the jaw-dropping interiors within the palace to the striking rooftop structure, as well as rare art pieces displayed throughout the palace.
Guests can explore and marvel at the stunning decorations in various places of the Pavilion, such as the banquet room, great kitchen, saloon, music room, and royal bedrooms. It houses more than 120 artworks that have been commissioned by King George IV. Kids and their families will also enjoy walking around the Pavilion Gardens.
And for the couples who wish to marry in a venue fit for royalty, the Royal Pavilion conducts civil ceremonies. Couples can choose between getting married in the Music Room or in the Red Drawing Room.
For more information about the Royal Pavilion, check here.
2. Brighton Palace Pier
At the heart of Brighton is the Brighton Palace Pier, a 1,722-foot-long Victorian Pier that has millions of tourists flocking the area to enjoy some seaside amusement. Considered one of the top free attractions in Britain, it was also named Britain’s most visited tourist attraction outside London in a 2016 poll.
Built in 1899 as a replacement for the Chain Pier, it is the only operating pier out of the three piers of Brighton. Even from the beginning of its operation in the 1890s, which was then called Brighton Marine Palace and Pier, the park has been a famous landmark and has taken part in many British pop cultural events. Hollywood artists Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel were both performers at the pier’s theatre before they found fame in the US. The pier has also been a favourite shooting location for films, tv series, and music videos.
Families visiting the amusement park can enjoy fairground rides like roller coasters, carousels, pendulum rides, haunted house rides and many more. There are also an arcade and various game and food stalls, cafes and restaurants. The park also offers tour packages as well as kid’s party packages.
For more information about Brighton Palace Pier, visit their official website.
3. The Lanes
Those looking to let their eclectic shopping feet loose will definitely love this famous market district. The Lanes is famous for its many small boutique stores offering unique and quirky products, as well as an array of cafes, tea rooms and traditional pubs.
The labyrinth-like design of the area provides visitors with a very distinct shopping experience. Shoppers will wander on foot as cars cannot pass because of the narrow roads. Some twittens or alleyways lead to hidden backstreets. Shoppers will also be entertained by the live music performed by the many buskers in the area.
Located just a stone’s throw away from the beach and the Royal Pavilion, it is about a ten-minute walk from Brighton Station and a five-minute walk from Brighton Palace Pier. The shopping district used to be a part of the original settlement of Brighthelmstone fishing town during the 16th century. Visitors can still experience some of its medieval atmospheres, with its brick-paved roads and old buildings. In particular, Cricketers Arms on Black Lion Street is considered the oldest traditional pub in the area, dating back to around 1545.
4. Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Located at the Royal Pavilion garden is the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. It is a municipally-owned local museum and art gallery and is part of the Royal Pavilion estate that was built by King George IV. Originally planned to be a tennis court, it was later used as a military barracks during the war. After its purchase by the Brighton municipality in 1850, it was open to the public as an art gallery.
Some of the notable collections displayed at the museum are archaeological relics as old as the Palaeolithic era, such as a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age Amber Cup. There is also a collection of Regency artworks of drawings, caricatures, and watercolour paintings. The museum also houses local art collections that tell the history of Brighton. There is also a “numismatics” display exhibit, an art collection of 6,000 coins and medals, some of which date back to the Greek, Roman, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval eras.
To know more about Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, check here.
5. British Airways i360
If you’re looking for the best view of Brighton and are not scared of heights, there is the British Airways i360, which, literally, gives you a 360-degree view of Brighton, the South Downs, and the English Channel. One of the newest attractions in Brighton, it started operating last August of 2016.
Located at the former site of West Pier, the observation tower stands at 162 meters or 531 feet and was designed by the same team who created the London eye. It has a massive circular viewing platform with curved glass walls that allows a full panoramic view. It has a capacity of 200 people and takes tourists up to 138 meters or 453 feet. The whole ride up takes about 25 minutes and departs every 30 minutes.
Aside from the breathtaking views when on top, tourists can also enjoy the Nyetimber Sky Bar and a bar and café on the beachfront.
For schedules and more information about the British Airways i360, visit their website.
6. Brighton Beach
For visitors looking to unwind at the beach, then the pebble beach of Brighton is the perfect getaway. Brighton’s proximity to London makes this seaside destination a favourite among London beach lovers and families opting for a day out.
Brighton Beach is a long shingle beach of about 5.4 miles or 8.7 kilometres. It is a public beach owned by the municipality of Brighton. Here, visitors can relax at the beachfront or take up some water sports being offered in the area.
What also makes Brighton Beach a favourite among tourists is the variety of attractions to be found just by walking along the beach. From the British Airways i360 and the West Side Pier to the Palace Pier and Sea Life Brighton, there are plenty of activities to choose from. Brighton Naturist Beach is also home to the first naturist beach in the UK.
7. Preston Manor
Nestled along the Preston road of Brighton is the Preston Manor, a beautiful estate of Georgian architecture. Despite its upper-class Edwardian charm, this stately manor is well known for its haunted history and ghost sightings.
Originally a manor house for the ancient Sussex village of Preston, the building was built in the late 1700s. Some records, however, show that parts of the manor were built as early as the 1200s. The manor was privately owned when it was turned over to the Brighton Corporation in 1932.
The Preston Manor is infamous for being one of the most haunted mansions in Britain. Sightings of a blonde woman claiming to be an excommunicated nun and a floating detached arm are just some of the ghost stories linked to the manor. Because of this, the Preston Manor had been part of several ghost tours and documentaries.
Aside from its paranormal attributes, the Preston Manor is also an ideal tourist attraction for families and groups of friends. A Grade II-listed building, it is also a museum displaying old furniture from the Edwardian era. Visitors can also explore the different parts of the house displaying old interior design, as well as the period walled garden and a pet graveyard.
For more information and booking details about Preston Manor, check here.
8. Booth Museum of Natural History
If you’re someone who loves birds, then you’ll enjoy visiting the Booth Museum of Natural History. This museum has the largest collection of taxidermied birds in Britain and over 300 Victorian-style dioramas of how birds would be in their natural habitat.
The museum was founded by Edward Thomas Booth in 1874 and became the Booth Museum of Natural History in 1971. The museum is open to the public and admission is free.
Aside from birds, the museum also features a collection of 525 insects, 50,000 minerals and rocks, 30,000 plants and 5,000 microscopic slides. There’s also a display of fossils, bones and skeletons. Kids will also enjoy the hands-on activities in the Discovery Lab, such as interactive displays, games and creative activities.
For more information about the Booth Museum of Natural History, check here.
9. North Laine
Another shopping haven in Brighton is the North Laine. What used to be a slum area in Brighton is now a vibrant and bohemian shopping district. Just a stone’s throw away from The Lanes, this retail, leisure and residential area have over 400 boutique shops, cafes and restaurants.
Aside from the specialist shops and vintage stores, there are also street art and street performers. There is also an entertainment theatre called Komedia. Some roads are even close to traffic on weekends and are then filled with stalls, tables, and chairs to accommodate the flock of tourists.
From Brighton Station, the North Laine stretches from Trafalgar Street, Sydney Street, Kensington Gardens, Gardner Street and Bond Street. The North Laine even extends to Upper Gardner Street for its flea market on Saturdays.
10. Devil’s Dyke
For visitors looking for some open space and stunning views, the Devil’s Dyke is the perfect destination. Located in the northwest of Brighton, on the South Downs of Sussex, Devil’s Dyke is a dry valley that is around 100 meters deep, with surrounding hills that are 217 meters. The park is currently being managed by the National Trust.
Records show that the Devil’s Dyke has been an area of human settlement dating back to the Iron Ages. Remains of a hillfort suggest that the Devil’s Dyke was used as a defensive site. There was also a fairground and an observatory during Victorian times.
A true wonder of nature, atop the Devil’s Dyke is a stunning view of the South Downs and the Weald’s grasslands and countryside. The park is perfect for leisure walks, as well as model aircraft flying and hang gliding. Families will also enjoy taking their kids on a picnic. Overnight camping and barbeques, however, are not permitted.
The name Devil’s Dyke came about from a local legend. According to the legend, a devil wanted to punish the people of Weald for converting to Christianity. He intended to drown the people by digging a dyke overnight that connects to the sea. However, an old woman woke up, and the devil never completed his plan. What then remained was the Devil’s Dyke.
For more information about the Devil’s Dyke, check here.
11. SEA LIFE Brighton
Right next to the Brighton Palace Pier is the SEA LIFE Brighton, the oldest continually operating aquarium park in the world. Originally called Brighton Aquarium, it opened in 1872 and was designed by the English architect Eugenius Birch, who also designed West Pier. Remnants of its original Victorian architecture are still evident in its structure.
The tourist attraction houses about 5,500 sea animals from about 100 different species.
Aside from getting up close with the sea creatures, there are various activities that visitors can enjoy. The Day and Night Ocean Experience includes an underwater viewing area, bio-fluorescent UV corals, a bio-luminescent artificial beach display, and a glass-bottom boat ride. The Rainforest Adventure will take visitors on an up-close tour of wild animals such as anacondas, piranhas, and terrapins.
For tickets and booking information, visit the SEA LIFE website.
12. Volk’s Electric Railway
Another historic site in Brighton is Volk’s Electric Railway. Opened in 1883, it is the oldest continually working electric railway in the world.
The railway was an invention of the English electrical engineer Magnus Volk. He was the first person on the south coast of England to use electric lights in his house, and the first person to have brought the telephone system to Brighton.
Currently, the electric railway runs the length of the Brighton seafront. It has three stations, namely: Aquarium Station. Located near the Brighton Palace Pier. It also has an exhibit display dedicated to Magnus Volk, as well as an activity room that can be rented out for events.
Halfway Station. The centre station is near Peter Pan’s Playground. It also has an exhibit display and interactive activities for kids. Black Rock Station. Near the Brighton Marina and at the east end of Madeira Drive.
For train schedules and more information about Volk’s Electric Railway, visit their official website.
13. Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Unleash the kid in you in the Brighton Toy and Model Museum. Situated in four Victorian arches at the forecourt of the Brighton railway station, it covers around 4,000 square feet in area. The four mentioned arches were built in the 1840s, but the toy museum was founded in 1991 by Chris Littledale. The entrance to the toy museum can be found at Trafalgar Street.
The toy museum has more than ten thousand toys and models. The central layout of the museum houses a 1930s gauge 0 model railway layout. There is also an exhibit of slot machines, which includes collections from John Hayward, an original Mutoscope flip-card player, and a 1930s Drunkard Dream animatronic diorama. Other types of toys on display are rare toy aircraft, dolls, dollhouse furniture, bears, diecast vehicles, and a lot more.
To know more about Brighton Toy and Model Museum, visit their official website.
14. Brighton Racecourse
The Brighton Racecourse is perhaps the most picturesque racecourse in the south of England. Nestled at Whitehawk Hill, it is about 400 feet above sea level. It offers one of the most stunning views of the Brighton sea coast.
Its horseshoe-like design of the race track makes it one of the few race tracks with incomplete circuits. Horse Racing in this area dates back to 1783, which was organized by the Duke of Cumberland. It hosts the three-day Brighton Festival, attracting about 15,000 attendees.
I wrote a blog post about Horse Racing in Great Britain (UK): Why British Love Horse Racing, I encourage you to read it to know more about this part of the British culture.
Map of the Best Things to Do in Brighton:
I hope that helped you in finding out the best things to do in Brighton, East Sussex. Have you been to Brighton? Let me know in the comment box below which one is your favourite attraction in the city.
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