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An English seaside town with a bohemian attitude, Brighton is beloved by students, artists, families, clubbers and drag queens. The city went from sleepy fishing village to royal retreat when the extravagant Prince Regent (later crowned George IV) arrived here in the late 18th century.

Today, his influence remains in the city’s reputation as a well-heeled and hedonistic party town with a cosmopolitan population that includes a large gay community. Located just over an hour’s drive from London, Brighton is unlike anywhere else in England.

Originally part of the old fishing village, The Lanes is the heart of Brighton’s alternative community. Hipster bars, vegetarian restaurants, art galleries, antiques stores, tattoo artists, independent shops and a wide array of nightclubs and music venues line the narrow passageways here. The atmosphere is dynamic and youthful, with brightly painted shopfronts and outdoor cafe seating crowding every corner.

Brighton’s charms, however, go well beyond the commercial — you’ll find grand Regency-era buildings interspersed with innovative galleries, imaginative street art and a giant, pebbled beachfront. The city’s quirky character has been featured in the literature of Jane Austen, Graham Greene and Henry James as well as on the big screen in the Mods-and-Rockers-themed Quadraphenia and crime drama Brighton Rock.

Behind the Regency-era buildings that line the waterfront you’ll find the Royal Pavilion at Brighton. Then Prince Regent hired architect John Nash to create a seaside pleasure palace in the early 1800s and what resulted was an exotified version of an Indian mogul’s palace. The fantastical forest of minarets, domes and pinnacles are matched by lavish interiors replete with flying dragons, gold palm trees on scarlet brocade and water-lily inspired chandeliers. 

George’s presence had a dramatic influence on the city’s fortunes and prompted an influx of visitors and investment. Grand terraces sprang up, the beachfront promenade was improved and eventually several piers were constructed to entertain the masses who came here. Today, the Victorian Palace Pier remains a quintessentially English seaside attraction with a fairground, fish-and-chips stalls and brightly-striped deckchairs. 

Just north of the city, the South Downs is an area of chalky hills, ancient woodland and lowland heath dotted with traditional villages. It’s a tranquil place for walking, cycling and horse riding, providing a pleasant contrast to the bustling city.

Best time to visit Brighton

Brighton makes a good year-round destination but really comes into its own in summer when the beach is packed with families and the calendar fills with festivals and sporting events.

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Map of Brighton

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    Places near Brighton

    Ideas for experiencing Brighton

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Brighton, and which use the best local guides.

    • Brighton Royal Pavilion

      Brighton walking tour

      Brighton

      Uncover the history behind the vibrant and dynamic city of Brighton on a half-day privately guided walking tour, which takes you along its streets and lanes and reveals its humble origins, regal endorsement, Regency heyday and modern pride.