Like most Londoners I love Brighton. It is the quintessential English seaside town. Just over an hour away by train, it is London’s cool little sister. Everything is quite close together so it is easy to explore without a car. There are loads of fantastic food and drinking options and some great things to see.
Brighton and nearby Hove merged to become one city in 2000. Hove is Brighton’s slightly quieter neighbor and it is here that you will see the famous beach huts and the best collection of Regency Architecture. Nearby Rottingdean is also worth a visit.
The city is quite compact and can easily be explored on foot. The key tourism sights of the Pavilion, Brighton Pier and the British Airways i360 are an easy stroll from each other. You will also find fish and chips restaurants at least every 500 metres as well as extremely appealing bakeries!
A day trip to Brighton is a highlight of living in or visiting London!
Day Trip to Brighton – How to get there and how to Get Around
The easiest way to get from London to Brighton is by train. Trains run out of Kings Cross, Victoria and Clapham Junction. It will take about 90 minutes from Kings Cross and about 65 minutes from Clapham Junction. Trains run quite frequently eg 2-3 an hour. Once you get to Brighton station it is an easy short walk to the Lanes and the Pier.
Brighton is a very walkable town. Most of the key areas such as the Lanes, the Pavilion and the seafront are all very short walks. You can also hire a bike to get to the slightly further distances of Rottingdean.
There are local buses that can take you around Brighton, to Hove and to areas such as the South Downs. The actual buses are often named after some of the city’s most famous residents!
Brighton Travel Guide
1. Brighton’s Royal Pavilion
The Royal Pavilion is quite a shock when you first see it. It really does look like it has been airlifted out of Istanbul and sent to Brighton! This seaside palace was created by John Nash and is now one of the most famous buildings in the UK. The Royal Pavilion is stunning front and back so make sure you check out both sides
Before you enter the Pavilion there is a lovely garden in front of the main entrance. The garden in the foreground and the pavilion in the background makes for a lovely photo. Once inside there are displays of furniture and art inside. If you are into that kind of thing then head on in. Otherwise, the best bit of the Pavilion is the exterior and you can use the money you’ve saved for fish and chips! Or The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery are conveniently located next door to the Royal Pavilion if you’re keen on more culture.
⇒ Brighton is also near Eastbourne – if you like a cute English seaside town check out the Top 10 Things to do in Eastbourne.
2. Brighton Pier
No Brighton Day Trip would be complete without heading to Brighton Pier. This is perhaps the most famous pier in the UK and it is LOUD! Wander down the pier and try your hand at some of the amusement parlors and get some old fashioned photos. If you have any room grab some cotton candy (although I do think Brighton has much better food options on offer). If you are visiting on a weekend it will be crammed with people. There are many games to play and rides to go on if you are so inclined. Otherwise, walk down and walk back and get yourself to the Lanes! But don’t forget to get a photo where you stick your head through one of the classic beachside frames before you go!
Travel Expert Tip: If you are around Brighton at sunset the burnt-out old pier makes a great photo
⇒ Looking for another great coastal town in England? Check out this post on the 12 Unmissable Things to do in Newquay
3. Brighton Beach
Having said you cannot leave Brighton without walking down the pier I am going to have to add in the same for Brighton Beach! The first thing to know about Brighton Beach is that even though it is called a beach it does not have any sand – it has pebbles so you definitely want shoes! It also means there is a booming business in renting out stripey deck chairs etc as lying on pebbles is not a comfortable experience!
You can either walk along the beach – there is an easy path that is dotted with bars, museums, and restaurants – or stop and enjoy the beach in one of the comfortable and photogenic chairs. This is also a great spot for taking photos of Brighton Pier.
4. Take the Clifftop walk between Brighton pier and Rottingdean
There are 2 options on how to walk along the beautiful path between Brighton Pier and Rottingdean. Take the clifftop walk for more spectacular scenery or walk along the beachfront to savour the smells and sounds of the sea. The white cliffs are very photogenic. Or hire a bike and ride along the seafront.
Rottingdean is most famous for being the home town of acclaimed author Rudyard Kipling. It also has some brilliant fish and chips at Smugglers! If the weather is good pop in and order your fish and chips takeaway and have a seat on the beach. If it is a bad day there is a small area to eat in. The servings are huge and I highly recommend the haddock and chips.
5. Appreciate the Architecture
Brighton is famous for its wonderful examples of Regency Architecture. The streets around Brunswick Square in Hove have some of the best examples as does the Royal Crescent in Brighton. Hove is also home to the famous colourful beach huts.
Check out the Duke of York Picture House, an art-house cinema where you can enjoy a glass of wine with your movie in a beautiful art deco style building. It lays claim to being the oldest continuously running cinema in Britain. The cinema is in the Lanes and easy to spot as it has a pair of Can-Can legs jutting out from the building!
⇒ If you’re travelling around England check out my posts on Where to Stay in the Cotswolds, the best Cotswolds Tour from London options, the best London Food Tours, 2 Fantastic Luxury Hotels Yorkshire, the New Forest, Exeter, Exmouth and Unusual Experiences to have in London.
6. Wander the Lanes
For me, wandering the lanes is the highlight of a Brighton Day Trip. The Lanes and North Lane are a series of small mostly pedestrianized streets not far from the Brighton foreshore. They are populated with numerous restaurants, shops, cafes, bars and some street art. There are some great vintage shops like Finders Keepers and if you are after a sex toy there are quite a few options available!
They do tend towards more independent owners in the heart of the Lanes which makes for lots of interesting shops and food experiences. Snoopers Paradise has every type of vintage article you could imagine. Or try one of the UK’s last standing fragrance houses the wonderfully named Pecksniffs Fragrance House. The area is also known for its selection of adult shops! She Said Erotic Boutique is on the more female end of the spectrum here!
Finally, Brighton has such a sweet tooth and some fantastic stores that are all about treats. For a real treat try Roly’s Fudge Pantry.
7. Drink wine
When it comes to days out in Brighton for adults wine is going to be high on the list! The 2 best wine bars in Brighton are Ten Green Bottles and Fourth and Church. Both hold regular wine tastings so check out their schedules on their websites. There are also several wineries near Brighton including Court Garden, Albourne Estate, Rathfinny Wine Estates, Bluebell Vineyard and Ridgeview Wine Estates.
8. Soak up the Brighton Art Scene
Exploring the local vibrant art scene is a must for a Brighton Day Trip Itinerary designed for adults. Guided tours are on offer but Brighton Tourism has done a fantastic guide to the best street art in town – and you can explore Brighton at the same time. Galleries are everywhere in Brighton – particularly in The Lanes and North Laine and along the seafront. The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery cover an eclectic mix of art. And for photographers head down to the Hove beach hut for some shots.
9. Take a Tour
There are several options for tours in Brighton. Brighton Blue Badge Guides are highly reliable or you could try taking a cycling tour of Brighton. For something more relaxed try one of the many Brighton Walking Tours on offer like the Secrets of The Lanes walking tour.
10. See What’s On
Brighton loves a festival and attending one of them is one of the most fun things to do in Brighton. Here are some of the key ones:
- Brighton Festival – 3 weeks in May
- Brighton Fringe – May
- Kemp Town Carnival – June and free
- St Ann’s Well Gardens Spring Festival – May and free
- Brighton Naked Bike Ride!
- The Beach of the zombies’ zombie march – October
- Gay Pride – August
11. Make the most of the Food!
If you’re heading to Brighton for the day make sure you start it with an empty stomach! If you’re looking for some great coffee and breakfast when you arrive in Brighton check out Grow 40 or The Flour Pot. If you’re after something sweet grab one of the amazing cakes at Pelicano.
Brighton has every cuisine possible on offer. Terre a Terre offers great vegetarian food and is next door to a great Indian restaurant called Indian Summer. For Italian head to Edendum – who also offer great lunch and early evening meal deals.
The Sunday roast is another British classic and foody Brighton is a fantastic place to tuck into one! Two of the best pubs for a great roast dinner are the Earth and Stars and Lion and Lobster. Make sure you ask for a Yorkshire pudding – they are often served only with roast beef which I completely don’t understand as I believe they go with absolutely everything!
For fish and chips head down to Brighton Beach. There are loads of options along the seafront but a great classic is The Regency. Not only has it been open since the 1930s it is in a prime location with great views of the English Channel, the i360 wheel and the old pier.
Brighton Boutique Hotels
As you can see, there is A LOT of things to do in Brighton so one day trip might not cut it. If that’s how you feel after reading this post don’t worry as Brighton has loads of interesting boutique hotels!
The Oriental is one of the original boutique hotels in Brighton. This quirky hotel offers the opposite of a chain hotel experience and has a great location.
Brighton loves a themed hotel! Hotel Pelirocco contends that it is Brighton’s sauciest boutique hotel! And it’s Rock and Roll hotel. Some big claims! There are 19 themed rooms to choose between – from Dollywould to Modrophenia!
Sea spray has 15 different themed rooms from Elvis to Venice and also offers an insider’s guide to Brighton once you have made a booking.
Who Paid for What in this Post
I covered all of the costs associated with writing this post on one day in Brighton. However, this post does contain affiliate links. That means if you click through on the links in it and end up making a purchase I may well receive a small commission. Just wanted to make sure that you knew this.
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Also published on Medium.