Brighton by Day
A visit to Brighton Pier is usually the first stop for visitors spending a day in Brighton. The pier stretches an impressive 1,722 feet into the English Channel, and is claimed to be the finest pier that has ever been constructed. The Pier has been standing since 1823, when it was a dock for passenger ships arriving from Dieppe. It wasn't long before shops and souvenir stands became in institution of the Brighton Pier - a tradition that continues until today.
Today, the draw of the Pier is due to its overall carnival atmosphere. Admission to the Pier is free, although rides, food, games, and gambling have a charge, of course. The rides are perfect for kids and adults alike who have a love of classic carnival rides and games, complete with gaudy flashing lights and the scent of fried food mingled with the sea air wafting around you. Food choices range from churros with Nutella to classic fish and chips to carnival staples like cotton candy. For those who would prefer a pub atmosphere, there are two pub-style restaurants available - in traditional British fashion. With everything the Pier has to offer to visitors of all ages, wiling away the entire day at the Pier would not be a difficult feat.
A day at the Pier is one of the best ways to escape the bustling crowds of London. If you don't leave the Pier grinning from ear to ear from the exposure to so much sun and sea air (if maybe a little windblown), with a stomach full of deep-fried treats and traditional English fish and chips, and the proud new owner of a cheap carnival prize, then you have done something wrong - but you get bonus points if you managed to keep all of your food from the hordes of seagulls that seem to have made Brighton Pier their home.
Also known as the Brighton O and the Wheel of excellence, the Brighton Wheel is a new addition to Brighton's list of attractions and is an absolute must for first-timers to Brighton. The view from the top offers a spectacular view of Brighton in one direction and the English Channel to the other, and if you're feeling exceptionally posh, spring for the VIP access, which grants you access to a comfy lounge and champagne. The ride gives visitors a bird's eye view of many of Brighton's top sites, including the Royal Pavilion and Pier. However, the Wheel is only licensed to stand on this spot until 2016, so if taking a ride on the Brighton O is something that appeals to you, you might have to go sooner rather than later. The ride lasts about twelve minutes, and the Wheel is easily accessible from the pier, being located only a few hundred feet down the boardwalk.
Chill out by the seaside
One important fact to keep in mind on your visit to Brighton: you are still in England. The stone beach at Brighton is world famous, and is a popular destination for locals (particularly on weekends and during the summer months), but it is far from warm. In fact, unless you are visiting during an abnormal heat wave during July or August, swimming in the Channel will probably not be the most ideal ocean-side swimming experience that you have ever had. To put it bluntly, I visited in June, and it was bloody cold (and I'm Canadian and supposedly used to the cold). However, I did still notice a few brave individuals immersing themselves in the water, and they seemed to be having the time of their lives.
That being said, the beach is beautiful, and a trip to Brighton would be incomplete without spending some time there. Even if you choose not to swim, dip your toes in the Channel, and spend some time relaxing in a chair on the beach or along the boardwalk, where you'll find ice cream aplenty and several souvenir shops. Enjoy the sun, enjoy the fresh sea air, and read a book. In doing so, you'll be following in the traditional Brighton fashion. In the eighteenth century, drinking and bathing in seawater was prescribed as a cure for illnesses by doctors. This new fad resulted in a second boom of development for Brighton and led to its reputation as a fashionable seaside resort.
Brighton's Royal Pavilion is probably one of the United Kingdom's most little-known royal residences, and it is undoubtedly the strangest British royal house to visit. The building looks entirely out of place in an English town, but its unique qualities make it the perfect royal residence for a hip and funky city such as Brighton. The architecture is a bizarre mixture of Indian and Islamic influences on the exterior and Asian - particularly Chinese - themes for the interior. The building is spectacular and unsettling all at once - you might feel as though you accidentally left England with your first glance of the Royal Pavilion.
The Royal Pavilion began construction in the late eighteenth century as a seaside resort for the future George IV, who was following in the popular trend of retreating to the seaside for his health. The concept of the Royal Pavilion was appealing for George for an array of reasons. He could retreat from the public eye of the Royal Court and pursue his personal interests - in particular, women, wine, and gambling. George was infamous for his parties, which were known to last into the wee hours of the morning. The kitchen in the Pavilion is particularly fascinating in this regard, where food items that would have appeared at George's feasts have been recreated so that visitors can get a grasp of the splendor and extravagance of these parties. No costs were spared, and George had a particular taste for French cooking, employed a French chef in his kitchens. Ultimately, the extravagance and bizarre decor and architecture of the Pavilion was reflective of George's resentment of his much more conservative and traditional father. As a further measure of revolt, George married his mistress, of whom his father disapproved, in secret at the Royal Pavilion.
Queen Victoria, contrarily, was well-known to dislike Brighton, and did not like the open design of the Pavilion because it afforded her and her family very little privacy from the locals, who she considered to be nosy and invasive. Consequentially, she purchased a new summer home for her family during her reign in the nineteenth century.
Finally, during the First World War, the Royal Pavilion was converted into a military hospital. The Pavilion had 720 beds and cared for soldiers from the Indian army, and was doubly used as a form of propaganda for recruits from India. As such, this era of the Pavilion's life was well-documented, so that the British could shown potential recruits that Indian soldiers were being well-treated in Brighton.
The Royal Pavilion is absolutely not to be missed on a trip to Brighton. Many people opt out of visiting the site, perhaps due either to its lack of notoriety as a royal residence or to the more popular draw of the Brighton Pier, but the Royal Pavilion truly tells the story of Brighton through the past few centuries and encapsulates the culture of Brighton today.
Brighton today is known both as the happiest and the hippest place to live in the United Kingdom, as well as for its large LGBT community. Brighton by day has something to offer each and every one of its visitors, and is easily accessible from London, with trains leaving frequently from Victoria.