Like most small towns in England, Brighton‘s tourist attractions are situated near its main train station (Brighton Station). One can just board the train from London for one hour or the coach for two hours, walk around Brighton on foot for a day, and then get back to London in the evening. That’s why it is one of the popular weekend destinations for Londoners (and that’s why it’s quite expensive to live in). In this blog post, I want to share the top five must-visit places in Brighton that are easily walkable from the main train and coach stations.
Beach and Seafront
Brighton, East Sussex, is always famous for its beautiful cobblestone beach. Especially during warm weather, the seafront is packed with people sunbathing, picnic, and swimming. For me, the water is too cold to swim even in the Summer, but I enjoy walking along the beach and watching the sea view. My other favorite thing is eating fish & chips and colorful gelato with my kid while avoiding seagulls from stealing our food. Prepare your children’s swimsuit or change clothes, because they can play sand in the King’s Road Playground and water fountain in its Paddling Pool for free. For historian people, tucked in between restaurants and souvenir shops, the Brighton Fishing Museum is open and free to enter where visitors can see antique boats and fishing artefacts.
If you’re not afraid of height and willing to spend £16.5/person, you can take a ride on British Airways i360, an observation tower that brings you up to see the ocean and Brighton & Hove city landmarks from above. The Hove part of the beach is less crowded than the central Brighton beach, that’s where you can find the iconic colorful beach huts. However, walking there from the train/coach station is moving away from other tourist places. If you have one day to explore Brighton, better to stay at Brighton beach only.
Brighton Palace Pier is an entertainment place dated since 1899. Now it serves as an amusement park with arcade games, and fairground rides like roller coasters. Small kids can enjoy the indoor four-storey soft play area. It’s a free entrance to just walking around inside the pier, but you have to pay for taking the rides. Each ride costs £3 to £5, and they also offer tickets (wristband) for unlimited rides.
If you just want to sit down enjoying the sun and the view, there are a lot of beach chairs that you can use for free. I like how they do not too monetise this place.
Royal Pavilion & Brighton Museum
This is the most iconic building in Brighton, and also the logo of Brighton & Hove city. When I first saw the logo in the trash bin on my first day in Brighton, I thought “wow is that a mosque?” Yeah, apparently I did not do much research before I moved there (surprise me, Brighton!).
It was built by King George IV in 1787 as his seaside resort, but now already belongs to Brighton, not a royal property anymore. The building architecture was inspired by Indian-Islamic fashion, while the interior has rooms with different styles like Dutch, French, and China (even though the designer was said never visited China), to impress the royal guests. The admission charge is £15/adult. Even though I was eligible for 50% discounts as a Brighton resident, but still, I waited until January to visit inside, when they opened the Pavilion for free one day a year.
The garden though is always free, and already worth it to visit. It’s a nice place during warm weather to sit on the grass while listening to the street musician, or playing chasing birds with the kid. Be careful tho to sit not too close to weed smokers (you can smell it!). Meanwhile, every Winter, one part of the garden is converted into an ice skating rink with colorful lights at night.
In the same complex as the Royal Pavilion, there is the Brighton Museum. I’ve been there twice (it’s free for residents yay!) and found some displays were quite entertaining. I always adore English museums, because they offered a lot of educational games for little visitors. On my first visit, there was a temporary installation about The Snowman, a famous family story created by Raymond Briggs, an English illustrator based in Sussex.
Other displays might be a little bit creepy, like the mummy from Egypt in a very dark room (the museum light itself was already dull enough outside that room!). There is also an LGBTQ section in the museum, as you may know, Brighton is very liberal about that topic, and well-known as the capital of it in the UK.
As the name describes, this place consists of rows of narrow lanes with shops, pubs, and restaurants. Most of them are jewellery and souvenirs stores. There was once a famous shop named Choccywoccydoodah selling premium chocolate bars and cakes with unique displays, but it’s closed permanently since May 2019. Another famous store is a gift shop called The Duck House which is selling none other than ducks items. In my last visit to North Laines around July 2019, I found a new shop selling Harry Potter and Games of Thrones items which made me very excited. But I do not remember its name tho. The shop is on the same lane as That Little Tea Shop in The Lanes (this is another famous shop too).
I think all the shops in The Lanes are very British, except perhaps the Street Thai restaurant.
North Laines is an artsy shopping district with a lot of vintage and independent shops. The streets are not as narrow as The Lanes, where cars can still pass. The buildings are merely the usual 2-storey shop building, not oldie-style like many pubs in The Lanes. Personally, I like The Lanes more for sightseeing, but in North Laines we can find many non-British exotics things.
One shop there called Brighton Chili Shop is selling, of course, varieties of chilis and chili sauces. There is also my Indonesian friends’ favorite shop named Yum Yum Oriental Market, where we can buy Asian foodstuff, such as tofu and Indomie. Another favorite of ours is the Burger Brother, a tiny burger shop with only has 6 bar seats (I usually did takeaways) but delicious patties. And last, for Harry Potter lovers, there is Oliver’s Brighton shop selling Harry Potter stuff, whose owner (Oliver) is a big enthusiast fan himself.
All the above places can be visited in just one day. The order may depend on your starting and endpoints. If you travel there by train, the best sequence might be The Lanes → the beach → Palace Pier → Royal Pavilion → North Laines (or the other way around). But if you arrive at the coach station, the following order should be better: Palace Pier → the beach → The Lanes → North Laines → Palace Pier (or the other way). But it does not matter tho, because all of them are located very near to each other, and you will enjoy their narrow streets even though you pass them several times.