Known as the UK’s LGBTQ Capital, and boasting the country’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, Brighton prides itself on its reputation as a cultural and environmental powerhouse. Once the destination for curative sea-bathing, people have been flocking to Brighton for hundreds of years. But it’s not just something in the water; the city hides a plethora of riches in its diverse streets – plentiful pubs, boutiques, cafés and a cultural quarter bursting with offbeat offerings. From the South Downs to the Channel, here’s a list of must-sees for the seaside experience of a lifetime.
The Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion Flickr/Richard Randall
The flamboyant charm and vision of George IV is responsible for the iconic Pavilion, which is still holding court in the heart of Brighton some 230 years later. Richly eccentric, the one-time pleasure palace of a robust, gambling good-timer blends Mughal and Islamic architectural traditions with stunning results.
Not to be outdone by the shadows of spires and onion domes, the promenade winding through the Royal Pavilion and its neighbour the Brighton Dome is worth a stroll any day of the year, but is most resplendent in the spring and early summer.
Each spring, the cultured, artistic masses descend on Brighton for a stellar lineup of unique festivals; the Brighton Festival, curated this year by Kate Tempest, spans the month of May. The Brighton Fringe brings the weird and wonderful to venues throughout the city while The Great Escape showcases new and unsigned bands during a whirlwind month of carnivalesque proportions.
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
Part of the Royal Pavilion Estate, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery hosts a considerable archival collection from early Brighton in print, as well as many personal pieces from King George IV. An exhibit entitled Constable and Brighton opens in April 2017.
The North Laine
Before heading down to the sea, amble and browse over 400 unique shops and cafés in this colourful quarter. Some of the best watering holes the city has to offer are situated here – as are some of the best venues for an evening of entertainment – the stunning, Grade II-listed Theatre Royal and the Komedia.
Small, but perfectly formed, the labyrinthine Lanes guard a trove of shiny treasures – antiques, jewellery, cake and enough restaurants to fill an afternoon. The salt from the sea is nearly perceptible here – but don’t rush.
It may sound like a no brainer, but no trip to Brighton would be complete without a bumpy seat on the city’s infamous pebble beach – better yet, take a ride on candy-floss painted horse on the classic carousel before renting a striped deck chair to watch the sunset.
Brighton Palace Pier
Cheap thrills, spills and stuff-your-face fills await on this icon of a bustling seaside retreat. To the west, you can glimpse the Pier’s elegant, fading sister – the West Pier – still standing regally in the distance.
The world’s tallest moving observation tower climbs the sky, like a lone alien from an H.G. Wells novella. From 138 meters up, it lends panoramic views of the city, the South Downs and, on a clear day, even the Isle of Wight.
One of Europe’s largest marinas and a village in its own right, Brighton Marina boasts restaurants, a cinema, and even glow-in-the-dark dinosaur mini-golf. For those who want to get in the water, there’s diving courses and jet ski rental – with picturesque views of the moored yachts.
The sea can be a scary place to try out any water sport; Hove Lagoon offers wakeboarding, kitesurfing, paddle boarding and more for novices or experts alike. Once you’ve got your sea legs, you might get lucky enough to be sent out into the drink for a spin.
There are plenty of notable green spaces in the city, but following a recent revamp, The Level, hailed as Brighton’s Central Park, now boasts a busy skate park, well used by locals. There’s also Pétanque and plenty of space to share a picnic.
The elegantly terraced space – Britain’s largest municipal rock garden – was recently voted England’s Best Park during the Fields in Trust awards. A woodland oasis, the Rockery is a space for exploration, as well as a haven for the bees and birds.
This striking red brick building dates back to 1874, the project of the relatively unknown architect Edmund Scott. Rising up behind London Road, it is visible throughout the city, but its great height is most impressive from within.
A viridescent carpet drifting towards the top of the world, this enormous sweep of hills, thickets and chalk cliffs spilling to the sea offer spectacular vistas. Encompassing the Seven Sisters, Devil’s Dyke and Ditchling Beacon, the air up there, it seems, is just a bit sweeter too.
The Low Carbon Trust’s pioneering project culminated in country’s first Earthship, a sustainable, low-impact community centre designed to educate and inspire climate-friendly lifestyles. Tours of this special space explore clean energy initiatives and the ingenious building methods that went into this trailblazing build.
With imminent promotion, the home of the Brighton and Hove Albion is worth a visit. If you can’t get a ticket, it’s best viewed on the South Downs, mimicking the sweep of the lush surrounding landscape.
A sea of sand in an otherwise shingled landscape, Yellowave is the UK’s first beach sport centre of its kind. Catch a beach volleyball tournament on the weekends, while those who don’t fancy jumping around can just stop in for a cuppa and a cake.