Brighton is, hands-down, one of my favourite places in the world. Having lived a 10-minute train journey away from the small city for 17 of the 20 years I’ve existed, I’ve always known it as my closest city and have seen it change and grow throughout the years. It’s beautifully diverse; boasting old traditions like a great fish and chips as well as also being a LGBT capital and the only Green Party seat in the UK. Brighton is often dubbed “the hippest city in the UK”, and I would not dispute this claim. It’s this uniqueness that gives Brighton its unparalleled charm. With an abundance of things to do and explore it’s hard to know where to start but, hopefully, this article will explain why this tiny city on the South coast is worth a visit.
As it was originally a seaside resort for Victorian holidaymakers desiring to escape the bustle of London, Brighton is supremely accessible – providing your train is on time. You will most likely have to go via a dreaded Southern Rail train but, being the end-of-the-line stop for many networks running through London, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get to, even if you’re a few hours late. On arrival, you are greeted by the cry of seagulls larger than pugs and a station which showcases some classic, Victorian glass architecture. Pokémon GO deemed the building worthy of a Pokéstop so it’s certainly worth looking up and taking it in.
There are a few landmarks within Brighton. You can visit the Royal Pavilion, which due to its Indian design, sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the colourful and western houses of the seaside. The pavilion is lit up in an array of colours when the sun goes down and it really does become a beautiful oddity worthy of any Instagram account. Rumour has it that the one reason Hitler refused to bomb Brighton during WW2 was that he wanted to use the Royal Pavilion as his own personal HQ after he invaded Britain.
Another site of interest is the Brighton Pier. Not to be confused with the West Pier – the one that burnt down – the Brighton Palace Pier opened in 1899 and is still in full operation today. While it comes complete with a funfair, arcade and what Heston Blumenthal calls “the spiritual home of fish and chips”, there is one essential reason to visit the pier: doughnuts. The pier has been producing donuts for years and somehow has sustained a five-star hygiene rating. It is so iconic and the doughnuts are so good that resting aside the nearby groyne is a doughnut sculpture, creatively named ‘Doughnut Groyne’.
However, the main attraction for me is the Brighton Lanes. While the traditional Lanes are more a staple of culture, the North Laine area is, from a local and personal point of view, far superior. A bustling set of roads full of cafés, restaurants, shops, cheap vintage stores, bars, street art and buskers; the North Laines are where Brighton truly shines. The most wonderful thing about the area is that about 90% of the institutions are completely independent. The bohemian and quirky atmosphere of the city comes alive in the North Laines. A personal favourite “Laine” for me is Kensington Gardens. Kensington Gardens has an antique shop called Snoopers Paradise in which you could quite literally find anything, a fudge shop where you can see them make this delectable treat through the shop window and, to top it all off, the best music shop I have ever been to, GAK.
If you prefer shops with a well-known brand name on the sign, Brighton is also host to a huge shopping centre called Churchill Square. Around this area there is a five-floor Waterstones, a flagship Topshop/Topman and other stores including Victoria’s Secret and Zara.
As Brighton is situated between the South Downs and the sea it also has scenic walks and cycle paths. If one were to travel up to Ditching Beacon or Jack and Jill they would be rewarded with a view of British countryside on one end and overlook a city that borders the sea on another.
When it comes to food and drink, personal favourites of mine include Foodillic, Pom-Poko, and Marwood Café but there are still so many places I’m yet to try, so you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice. Brighton as a whole is extremely vegetarian and vegan-friendly, a lot of places exclusively serving food without meat. No matter your tastes the city will accommodate for you.
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, there is simply nothing better than sitting on the famous pebbled beach and watch the sun set and shine through the rusting pillars of the West Pier. If one could not tell already, I love Brighton. I feel as if I’ve hardly scratched the surface of things to do but, even if you don’t like it yourself, it’s certainly difficult to be bored there.
Feature Image courtesy of Martin Hesketh via Flickr, license here.
All other images courtesy of Daniel Lyons
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