With breathtaking scenery, top tourist attractions and that oh-so-cool beach scene, if Brighton isn’t already on your radar it should be. Caroline Mason, marketing officer for VisitBrighton, takes us through why Brighton is such a unique place to visit and live.
Brighton has long been known as a happy, carefree city by the sea, but there is much more to this lively, diverse, European city than meets the eye. One of the major cities on the south coast, Brighton is famous for its welcoming and laid-back attitude. The city has an enviable range of top attractions, from the towering modern heights of the British Airways i360 (it rises to a breathtaking 450ft in the air) to the exotic party palace of George IV built in the Regency period and everything in between.
For many, their seaside trip hasn’t started until they’ve been on the famous Brighton Palace Pier and indulged in some fish and chips. With an assortment of rides and amusements or a nice quiet deckchair, nothing says seaside like a trip to the pier. Brighton boasts the world’s oldest operating aquarium, the Sea Life Brighton. Whilst the building may be historic, the forward-thinking conservation and research that you discover when walking around is very much future driven.
The city’s huge success started when the then-Prince Regent George IV took a shine to the city in 1786, rented a farmhouse in the town and set about building a party palace, setting the precedent for a city that knows how to have fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Even in the Regency period, Brighton appealed to those looking to relax and feel revived by the sea’s rejuvenating properties; this led to Brighton soon becoming a hugely popular health resort in the 18th century. Whilst we no longer advocate drinking the sea water as Dr Russell did in the 18th century, the restorative nature of the sea and the culture of living by the coast continues to be an attractive pull to those looking to visit or relocate.
Travelling to Brighton & Hove couldn’t be easier. With direct rail services to and from London, you can be in the city in just under an hour, plus with an average of 126 trains a day, travelling between the two locations you won’t be waiting long either. With direct access to Gatwick airport (only half an hour away) and direct trains to St Pancras International, links to international travel are also stress-free. Once in the city, Brighton boasts an efficient public transport service with regular, low-emission buses connecting the city, most of which offer an overnight service, so you needn’t let transport curb your fun on a night out. If you’d rather get on your bike the city has a hugely popular bike scheme, with pick up points across the city so you can hop on and off to your heart’s content. Brighton’s proximity to some smaller, countryside villages make it an attractive proposition. Towns such as Lewes and Ditchling nestled in the countryside are perfect if you need a slower pace of life for the day.
Brighton’s stunning coastline combined with its enviable position on the edge of the South Downs National Park, gives visitors plenty of opportunity to immerse themselves in nature, whilst having all the benefits of city life. Living by the sea has long been proven to lower blood pressure and encourage a ‘blue mind’ meditative state, maybe the reason why so many Brightonians’ main pull of living here is to be close to the sea and all the activities on offer. With numerous water sports venues on the seafront and at the Marina you will be paddle boarding or kite surfing like a pro in no time. For those who prefer a gentler exercise, there is nothing better than strolling along the promenade whilst listening to the waves, truly magical. Being so close to the sea and countryside has many other advantages, especially when it comes to food and drink.
For visitors and those looking to relocate, Brighton offers one of the best foodie scenes in the UK, with an emphasis on local produce prepared to the highest standards. You can eat out in Brighton and Hove every night and not go to the same restaurant twice in a year. This leads to an unrivalled foodie scene that is so vast you need a guide. Brighton Food Tours offer a brilliant walking tour where you sample local restaurants and producers’ goods, the perfect introduction to the vast array of what is on offer. Nothing goes better with good food than good drink, and the outskirts of the city are brimming with vineyards producing award-winning English sparkling wines. Throw in some truly original microbreweries and you have some of the best produce in the UK.
Today Brighton is a fantastic mix of Regency architecture and modern innovative design. Walking around the city you get all the benefits of a modern bustling city, whilst the sea and the sweeping Regency crescents transport you in a moment back to another time, giving the city an old and new feel all at once. The Lanes area, once the heart of the fishing town of Brighthelmstone, is the city’s historic quarter with a fabulous maze of twisting alleyways. There are twittens and catcreeps offering an extraordinary mix of antiques, and jewellery shops nestling alongside specialist contemporary and designer boutique fashion. If you’re after something more unusual don’t miss the North Laine area, a collection of independent shops boasting everything from rare vinyl to handmade glassware and dozens of independent food producers.
Accommodation is as varied as the city. From grand seafront hotels to the boutique bed and breakfasts that pepper the city’s streets you can find the perfect pad to enjoy whilst you explore the city. VisitBrighton work with a wide range of hotels and self-catering properties and as the resident experts, our website gives all the information you need to make the perfect choice of where to stay when visiting. If you are looking to make the stay more permanent (and who wouldn’t be!) Brighton and Hove has a thriving housing market. Professionals and young couples will love the vibrancy of Kemptown to the east of the city, with vintage shops and quirky cafés, while those needing an easy commute will find the balance of Preston Park with its train station and beautiful park the best balance. For families, the romantically named Poets’ Corner offers access to outstanding primary schools alongside a real community feel. Meanwhile, Hove Park offers a great base for those wanting a more established property; alongside the sprawling 40-acre park itself, there’s all the amenities you could ask for and good access to senior schools.
Looking for a culture injection? Brighton has it in spades. Alongside its world-renowned Brighton Festival and Fringe festival every May which offers a diverse and family friendly programme of dance, theatre, and arts, the city hosts a plethora of music and arts events. Brightonians also look forward to May to take part in the Artist Open Houses, a fantastic initiative that sees local artists throwing open their doors in order to exhibit their work. You’ll find everything from a new piece of art to handmade jewellery, bags and clothing; best of all you get to meet the artist!
The fun doesn’t stop after May; Brighton truly is a festival city throughout the year. With Paddle Round the Pier, the Foodies festival and one of the biggest Pride parades in the UK, you’ll discover all year-round entertainment. The city boasts numerous theatres and venues such as the Brighton Centre and Brighton Dome which proudly host the headliners of the music and comedy scene. Smaller venues like the Komedia, a firm favourite amongst those looking to see new acts coming through, sit happily with grassroots venues all contributing to the buzzing nightlife Brighton offers.
Be warned: this quirky, diverse, never normal city will steal your heart. The people and architecture combine to make this a truly unique place to visit and live. We think the inscription on the gateway to the city is as appropriate today as it was when written:
HAIL GUEST, WE ASK NOT WHAT THOU ART.
IF FRIEND. WE GREET THEE. HAND & HEART:
IF STRANGER. SUCH NO LONGER BE:
IF FOE. OUR LOVE SHALL CONQUER THEE.