A Day … Brighton

By | Category: Travel destinations
the Royal Pavilion

the Royal Pavilion

Brighton is one of those places that has something for everyone whether you go on your own, as a couple or with the whole family.

You couldn’t come to Brighton whatever the weather without a walk along the seafront and a visit to Brighton Pier, which has been there since 1899. Although entry is free there are lots of things on it to entice you to spend your money – amusement arcades, the Palm Court restaurant selling fish and chips, and a small fun fair with rides. Sadly the beach is pebbled although it doesn’t deter people from enjoying it. A walkway area with arches has a selection of cafés by day that transform into clubs at night. Here too there is a stall selling fresh fish. Above, the road running by the sea is known as the Promenade and is lined with hotels. Afternoon tea at the Grand, Brighton’s poshest hotel is where the locals go. Sit in the glass-terraced area at the front of the hotel that has sweeping views of the sea and enjoy an old fashion style tea. Served in silver service with a tiered cake stand that had finger sandwiches with their crusts cut off, scones, and a selection of cakes on it.

A must see is the iconic Brighton Pavilion, the architecturally Indian style Palace of King George IV. The oriental structure was designed by John Nash, the architect for Buckingham Palace. The interior decorated in chinoiserie is lavish, designed to increase in richness as visitors go further into the building, and not at all like any other stately home I have visited. Done in exquisite taste. Audio guides, which go into as much detail as you wish, come with the price of the entry ticket. The gardens have also been reinstated to their original Regency scheme. During the First World War the Royal Pavilion was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers from the Indian Army. There is an additional tour that visitors can take covering this aspect.

the remaining pier in Brighton

the remaining pier in Brighton

Just by the entrance to the pier is Brighton’s big wheel that is the equivalent of the London Eye although theirs has wonderful views along Brighton’s coastline. Here too is Sea Life, the world’s oldest operating aquarium. With over 3,500 creatures, the aquarium goes under the sea with an ocean tunnel. It is both educational as well as a fun place to visit. The exhibits are shown in a way to make it interesting for adults, as well as being geared to children who can go through low doors and holes to see what is there in a more exciting way. On top of seeing the fish in tanks, throughout the day there are talks on related subjects. At midday in their auditorium, visitors can learn what the aquarium does to protect the seas and how visitors can help. There are also additional tours behind the scenes and another on looking at sharks, turtles and tropical fish from an indoor glass-bottom boat.

Brighton is full of shops with a lot of the well-known brands around Churchill Square. Of special interest is The Lanes known as the old town, which starts in Duke Street just past the Clock Tower, Brighton’s focal point. This area of alleys and passageways is filled with small shops and cafes. The place to come to find individually owned stores although sadly, a proportion of these are now chains. However, here in the narrower streets where the antique jewellers can be found, I noticed Bloomingtails. Being a dog owner, and the fact that Brighton is promoting itself as being dog-friendly, I had to go in. It is definitely a must for original off-the-wall items for dogs, with a large selection of glittering collars.

Choccy woccy doodah

Choccy Woccy Doodah

Nearby is Choccy Woccy Doodah, a shop selling ornamental chocolate figurines. It was filled with visitors looking at the chocolate statues, some costing thousands of pounds. There were also items at more affordable prices! On the first floor there is a café. We didn’t stop there but carried on to Food for Friends, which is a welcoming restaurant serving modern vegetarian food on the corner of Prince Albert Street. People were tucking into beautifully presented food. I noticed stuffed Portobello mushrooms with pistachio pesto on my neighbour’s plate, which I incidentally found was gluten free. Snacks are also available, and we had their homemade leek and potato soup.

In the past few years North Laine, similar to London’s Camden Market, has become one of the areas of Brighton to explore. The Bohemian side of town, many of the shops sell vintage clothes with some having their wares on the pavement. A plaque on the wall denotes where Anita Roddick of Body Shop fame had her first shop.

Sometimes forgotten when there is so much to see, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery on the edge of the Royal Pavilion Gardens is somewhere to visit particularly when it’s cold or raining. Exhibits include fashion and style, 20th century art and design, and fine art. In addition to the permanent galleries, there are temporary exhibitions. War Posters are currently on display until June 7, 2015.

Brighton has a large gay scene with Kemp Town the area to the east of the Old Steine being their favourite place to congregate. Although not in the centre of Brighton, the city has a marina. If boats are of interest, this is the place to come to admire the luxury yachts with lots of cafes and restaurants on the boardwalk to sit and while away the hours.

part of the Lanes

part of the Lanes

Visitors can often see pre-London productions with famous artists at Brighton’s Theatre Royal. If planning a visit in May its worth checking out Brighton Festival’s programme, England’s largest arts festival, which takes place from 2 – 24. The Festival encompasses everything cultural from comedy and film to dance, and theatre, and includes a variety of musical events.

Many people might opt to drive to Brighton but traffic can be very busy  in the final three miles from Preston Park. Try coming in from the Hove side and driving along the beach for a shorter journety. Southern Rail  has a twice-hourly fast train service which takes just under an hour from London Victoria station and there are direct services to Southampton in the west, Bedford and St Albans (on Thameslink) in  -north of London – and Hastings in the east. First Great Western also run a direct service from Great Malvern in Worcestershire. Coaches from London are cheaper but travelling time is twice as long if not more, depending on the time of day and the traffic.

For more information about Brighton, click here.

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