A holiday in Brighton, Brighton Pier and seafront attractions and Brighton Information for visitors and holidaymakers
What's in this article?
This is quite a long article, and there's plenty of information about venues and activities in Brighton. You may not have time to wade through it all just now, so to help you skip through to the part you want, here are the topics covered:
- A map of Brighton with some of the sights flagged
- A little about Brighton and it's history
- Arriving in Brighton by rail, bus or car, plus a word about parking!
- The new city's coat of arms
- Some photos of Brighton to whet your appetite
- Shopping in Brighton, a quick overview of the three main shopping areas, and what's on offer in each
- Brighton Pavilion, the Prince Regent's palace by the sea
- Brighton Pier, also known as the Palace Pier
- Volk's Railway, which runs along the seafront from near Brighton (Palace) Pier towards the Brighton Marina
- Yellowave sports beach sport's arena, including bouldering wall, beach volleyball and cafe
- Brighton Sea-Life Centre - check out this well-stocked, family-friendly aquarium opposite the Palace Pier
- Brighton sea-front between the piers, arty arches, pubs, clubs, galleries, cafes and restaurants. Not to be missed!
- Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
A City by the Sea
Brighton must surely be one of the most famous sea-side towns or cities in the UK, and quite rightly so. Ever since it was 'discovered' by George IV in the 19th century it has been a magnet for visitors and tourists from all over the world. Whilst it could scarcely fall into the category of a traditional bucket and spade destination, it's certainly a gem on the south coast, and not to be missed!
If you are considering a trip to the Sussex coast, whether for the day, or for the week-end, or even longer, Brighton has plenty to offer. Like many coastal towns, the sea-front is lined with hotels and guest-houses, and there is no shortage either of accommodation or cafes and restaurants. Despite a pebbly beach, families find plenty to do here, but it's equally popular with hen and stag parties, more mature visitors, and history buffs alike. The presence of two Universities ensures a lively pub and club scene, but equally, some of Sussex's most famous historical treasures are either in the city centre, or within a few miles. Oh, and the shopping's not bad either!
Brighton and Hove, a new coat of arms for a new city
In April 1997, a new coat of arms was approved by Royal Garter in acknowledgement of the creation of a new 'City by the sea'. The design of the new coat of arms merged aspects of the arms previously held by Brighton and Hove boroughs, and came about when the two districts unified to become a single city.
The original Brighton Borough Council Armorial Bearings were issued by the College of Heralds in 1897, and the two dolphins which were their main feature, have a long tradition in Brighton, although their exact origin has faded from memory. Certainly dolphins and porpoises are sighted quite frequently in the seas off of Brighton, although rarely near the coast. When you are out and about in Brighton and Hove keep an eye out for the dolphin logo, as you can see it used in many surprising locations!
The Hove Borough Council Armorial Bearings were issued in 1899 by the College of Heralds, and features a French Galley similar to those employed by the French during their skirmishes on the coast of Hove in the 16th Century. Fortunately, their attempts to win land and honours in Sussex failed, and the blue border containing six martlets that surrounds the coat of arms represents the county of Sussex, rather than the French nation!
The Latin motto featured on the new armorial shield is "INTER UNDAS ET COLLES FLOREMUS" which translates to "between downs and sea we flourish" Well you can't argue with that!
Getting there by road or rail, and a word about parking
Brighton is easily reached by road and rail, though you need to be aware that the roads can get quite congested at weekends and in the summer. If you're coming to Brighton by car, plan to get here early to avoid the rush. You're also more likely to find a parking space! Parking in the city centre can be both daunting and expensive at peak times, so if you are a good walker, and happy to enjoy the pleasures of Brighton on foot, aim to park further along the coast, either on the coast road at Hove, travelling West (pay and display, but still cheaper than the NCPs), or east of the Palace pier on the lower road, where there are parking spaces (also pay and display so keep some change handy) almost all the way to Brighton Marina. The Marina itself has free parking for up to 4 hours, available in a multi-storey car park, and is around a 20-30 minute walk from the Royal Pavilion. Don't be tempted to chance parking in the back streets without first checking street signs for parking restrictions.Traffic wardens are red-hot in Brighton and Hove, so be warned!
The railway station is at the top of Queens Road, and buses and taxis are available virtually from the door. The sea is visible on the horizon from the station entrance, and it is an easy 5 minute stroll down to the main shopping streets from here, although maybe not so easy walking back up weighed down with a hearty lunch and several shopping bags!
Other options for getting here include bus (there is a 700 coastal service which runs to Chichester and beyond, as well as coach services from London etc.) and park and ride schemes which can be a blessing if you like bus journeys and are good at maps.
Brighton in pictures
Like shopping? Love Brighton!
If mooching around shops all day and stopping here and there for coffee and cake is very much your thing, than Brighton can scarcely be beat. The main shopping areas all have their own distinct character, and here are some things the first time visitor should know:
Brighton's Churchill Square is perfect if;
- you like to confine your shopping experience to tried and trusted chains of shops
- you prefer to be under cover with a strategically placed public toilet close at hand
- you have a baby with you who might need changing
- you like to park close to the shops (if so, then head for Brighton seafront, turn up West Street, and choose either of the two large car parks on your left. They feed straight into Churchill Square)
- you just really, really love shopping malls
To find Churchill Square by foot from the station, head straight down Queens Road towards the sea and turn right at the clock tower. This takes you to Western Road where most of the big High Street names can be found, including Marks & Spencers, New Look, Gap and Primark. Churchill Square is on the left hand side, fronted by such shops as H&M, WH Smith, and Top Shop.
Brighton's North Laines are perfect for shoppers who:
- Like small independent traders
- Enjoy finding a second-hand bargain
- Love quirky and original shops
- Are interested in vegetarianism, veganism, new age, or alternative lifestyles
- Love second-hand books, comics and magazines
- Are interested in tattoos and piercings
- love kite-flying, juggling, skating and skate-boarding
- enjoy watching a wide cross-section of humanity walk past whilst you are sampling what's on offer in some of Brighton's fabulously varied eateries
The North Laines start just outside Brighton Station. There is a tunnel under the road immediately in front of the station which takes you down to Trafalgar Street. Keep heading east until you hit the first of the shops. After a while there is a turning called Sydney Street on the right. Take this turning and then keep going in roughly the same direction. The main shopping roads in this area are Sydney Street, Kensington Gardens, Gardner Street and Bond Street. At the end of Bond Street, you will find yourself back in the land of chain stores and multiples, but all is not lost. Cross the road here and take a little pedestrianised side alley which is signposted 'To the Lanes'.
n.b. If you're visiting Brighton on a Saturday morning, and you like rooting around for antiques and other second-hand bargains, then don't miss the street market in Upper Gardner Street, which runs parallel to Kensington Gardens to the West.
Brighton Lanes are for you if
- You're looking to buy jewellry, antiques, perfume, or expensive lingerie
- You've heard of the Lanes from other visitors (this is quite possible, as they are very historic)
- You like shops that sell drapy Indian cotton clothing, jade ornaments and incense
- You enjoy pedestrianised shopping in narrow, atmospheric alley ways and pretty squares with fountains in them
The Lanes are very famous and have featured in many books and films. They are also only a short distance from both the sea-front, and Brighton's main historic attraction, the Royal Pavilion.
The Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Excellent footage of the interior of Brighton Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion, George IVs Marine Pavilion
When George, Prince of Wales first came to Brighton in 1783 at the age of 21, he was a fine, frisky young man with an eye for the ladies, and a love of sport, and wit and style. In those days, Brighton was still often referred to by it's earlier name of 'Brighthelmstone', and was little more than a small fishing town, but made popular by the attentions of the heir to the throne, the town soon blossomed.
Before long, the Prince became enamoured of a young widow named Maria Fitzherbert, who he was unable to form a legal union with because of a Law forbidding a monarch or future monarch to marry a Catholic.. The Prince saw this as no obstacle, however,and married her anyway, in a secret ceremony. Separate houses in close proximity were then acquired in Brighton so that the young couple could continue their liaison with a modicum of discretion.
The Prince's 'modest farm-house' in the Old Steine was soon undergoing a major makeover courtesy of Henry Holland and John Nash. Over the next 35 years, the marine pavilion was transformed into a fairy-tale palace with Indian style domes and minarets on the outside, and elaborate silk wall-papers, and extravagant decorations and furnishings on the inside.
Meanwhile, the Prince was to supercede his illegal marriage with an arranged liaison with Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Only one child was produced by the union, a girl, Princess Charlotte, who was later to die in child-birth, leaving her cousin, Princess Victoria to eventually succeed to the throne.
Brighton's Royal Pavilion is a unique and beautiful historic palace with many stories attached to it. If you have even a crumb of interest in history and art, then it's not to be missed.
All the fun of the fair on Brighton's Palace Pier
After you've had your culture fix in the Royal Pavilion, you might care to saunter down the Old Steine to the sea front, and check out some of Brighton's most famous family friendly attractions.
First up is the Palace Pier, also known as Brighton Pier
The last of three piers to be built on the sea-front here, it is now the only one remaining as a functioning attraction. An earlier pier near this site, and known as the Chain Pier was badly damaged in a storm,and eventually dismantled, and the sad remains of the West Pier can still be seen standing in the sea at the Hove end of the city.
The Palace Pier (Brighton Pier) offers:
- drinks and snacks
- childrens fun-fair rides including mini-dodgems
- fun-fair rides for older children and adults including a helter skelter, a ghost train, and the Super Booster which transports a maximum of 4 brave souls 38 metre into the air, then let's gravity take over. As you hurtle towards the sea reaching a speed of 60mph in less than 3 seconds, you may find yourself wondering if having lunch first was such a good idea!
- Weddings and wedding receptions are licensed on the Palace Pier so if your looking for a venue with a difference, look no further!
- Amusement arcade with all the usual slot machines and arcade games
Entry to the Palace Pier (Brighton Pier) is free, but the various entertainments are not. However, if you just fancy checking it out, it's a pleasant walk and need not cost you a penny.
Opened in 1883, Volk's Electric Railway is the 'world's oldest operating electric railway'. It was conceived and created by inventor Magnus Volk and runs for just over a mile along Brighton seafront between Aquarium (for Brighton Pier) and Black Rock (for the Marina).
These days the railway is operated by Brighton & Hove City Council, but it still has a dedicated group of fans known as the Volk's Electric Railway Association (VERA). The train journey is a fun way to make the trip from the city centre to the Marina, and en route, you will get to see one of Brighton's less well known family attractions, namely:
Yellowave Beach Sports Arena.
The first of its kind in the UK, the arena holds six beach volleyball or foot-volley courts which can be turned into two 5-side beach soccer or rugby pitches or one international size beach soccer pitch. Taster sessions are available for families and groups, and there are drop-in training sessions. Local leagues run Mon-Thur evenings with dedicated sessions for all age groups and ability range.
Open year round from 10am-10pm week days and 10am-8pm weekends (summer hours) and floodlit at night, the centre is situated on Madeira Drive, about half-way between the pier and the Marina. It also boasts an excellent cafe where parents can watch their kids practising their skills on the bouldering wall which is also on site.
Volks Railway with Brighton Pier in the background
Some fishy goings-on at Brighton Sea Life Centre
The Brighton SEA LIFE centre stands at the end of Madeira Drive, diagonally opposite the Palace Pier, and it offers a fun and educational day out in any weather. Featuring over 150 species and 57 displays, there's plenty of fishy goings-on to enjoy. Sharks and giant turtles glide above you in the underwater tunnel, and there is some interesting and beautiful live coral in the Tropical Reef display which also features a shark encircled wreck.
The Sea Life Centre is housed in a fabulous original Victorian building, and is said to be the oldest operating aquarium in the world. If you're a fish fan, then it's a must see,and children will enjoy the atmosphere and the displays which are very much geared towards a younger audience.
The West Pier, Brighton. Here today, gone tomorrow?
Arty Arches on the Sea front, Brighton Seafront, always a pleasure
Between the two piers, and a little beyond Brighton's West Pier lies an area known as 'the Arches', and it's the ultimate place to chill out in the Summer. Does it matter one jot that Brighton has a shingle beach? The answer is not at all when you have this fantastic collection of Art Galleries, beach cafes, great pubs, night clubs, quirky little boutique shops, traditional bucket and spade shops, seafood stalls, a fantastic Victorian style merry-go-round, a beach volleyball court, and even a fishing museum. A market selling jewellry, African clothing, second-hand books, and other assorted knick knacks can be found by the West Pier, and a great playground for the kids complete with canopied paddling pool and ice cream kiosk is a little beyond it. You could while away many pleasant hours along this little stretch.
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Fabulous Art plus Family Fun at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is in Church Street, just around the corner from the Royal Pavilion. It's entrance can be found in the Royal Pavilion Gardens, and it's free to visit, although you may care to contribute a small sum towards it's upkeep, once you've sampled the treasures within.
Quite aside from being an architecturally beautiful building, the museum has some fabulous, world-class exhibits, and some dedicated child friendly areas where the little ones can have some fun if the weather turns inhospitable. There's also a pleasant cafe on the first floor where you can have tea and cakes overlooking the main body of the museum, where a sofa in the shape of Mae West's lips is just one of the items on display.
Lovers of art might want to check out some of the museum's excellent collection of Glyn Philpot paintings, and works by other well-known artists including Edward Lear and Osias Beert. Pre-Raphaelite fans will no doubt appreciate the two gorgeous Alma-Tadema paintings which are often on display.
The museum houses lots of Brighton memorabilia, including the turnstile from the Goldstone football club, and the whole of the front of the original cork shop which once stood in Gardner Street. There's a great gallery of costumes dating back several centuries, which includes some shoes that would once have been worn by a Chinese lady with traditional foot binding. A large section downstairs is dedicated to china, pottery and porecelain, and other curios dotted around the building include items excavated from a burial mound which once stood near Palmeira Square in Hove.
Click this link for a Google Map
This link takes you to a map of central Brighton with Churchill Square shopping centre and car park as the main feature. Most places mentioned in this article are within a 15 minute walk of here.