From days spent on the beach to nights spent clubbing, there are so many fun and interesting things to explore in Brighton that you may never get bored!
Brighton is one of the most popular seaside resorts in England, especially with visitors from London, but there’s definitely more to discover than just the beach.
In this post, we’ll be sharing our top picks for places to visit in Brighton, including the quirkiest shops and most unusual sights.
We hope you enjoy learning about this colourful seaside town and be sure to let us know in the comments which Brighton must-sees we should add to our list!
The Royal Pavilion
Possibly the most famous and definitely one of the most unusual places to visit in Brighton is the Royal Pavilion, a palace built with the visual style of India as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV.
The Royal Pavilion was built in three stages starting in 1787, when it was first enlarged from the modest lodging house Prince George used when staying in Brighton. After he became Prince Regent, he then commissioned John Nash to transform the villa into the Indo-Saracenic style palace that still stands today.
The exterior features many domes and minarets which look quite unusual in contrast to the rest of the city’s Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Queen Victoria later sold the Royal Pavilion to the city of Brighton, as she found it a bit too extravagant for her tastes.
Today The Royal Pavilion is an elegant museum where visitors can witness the luxury that members of the royal family enjoyed when staying there. Surrounding the pavilion is a fully restored regency garden, which is also delightful to explore.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: It costs £17 for an adult ticket to the Royal Pavilion, but you can return as many times as you like within a year with that ticket. Opening times also vary during the year, so make sure you check the website before planning your visit.
Brighton Palace Pier
The other most popular example of Brighton tourist attractions is the Brighton Palace Pier; a long pleasure pier with a funfair, restaurants and arcade halls stretching out into the sea.
While the Brighton Palace Pier was the third pier built in Brighton, it’s the only one which is still operational today. It was first established in 1899 as a replacement for the Royal Suspension Chain Pier, which was the first pier built in Brighton.
Over the years the Palace Pier has been damaged and repaired a number of times, as well as widened in the 1920s. There was originally a theatre located on the pier head, where both Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin performed early in their careers. The theatre was later replaced by an amusement arcade.
More than four million visitors come to the pier each year, to enjoy the many cafés and bars as much as the rides. Of course, the rides are very popular with children, but all ages will love a wander along to feel the nostalgia of a seaside trip.
Since the mid-19th-century, Brighton has been a go-to seaside escape for Londoners, thanks to the arrival of trains which made day trips an accessible possibility.
Little surprise then that one of the most popular places to visit in Brighton is its beach and seafront, although the majority of it is shingle beach consisting of not-so-comfortable pebbles.
What Brighton lacks in sandy beaches though, it makes up for in sights. A stroll along the city’s seaside promenade is a must during any visit, even on a gloomy day. There’s also an electric railway to ride on and enjoy the views.
We’ll be sharing a lot more beachside Brighton must-sees throughout this post, but the beautifully restored Victorian bandstand (used for concerts and performances) on the western end of the beach is especially noteworthy:
The Lanes is a neighbourhood in Brighton filled with narrow twisting alleyways that are packed with cool shops, tea rooms, restaurants, cafés and pubs.
Located directly next to the Royal Pavilion, the Lanes are considered to be within the boundaries of North Street, Ship Street, Prince Albert Street and Market Street. This area was once the centre of the fishing town Brighthelmstone, so most of the buildings are from the 16th and 17th-centuries.
There are often buskers entertaining the crowds among the winding streets, and shoppers are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to antique stores, independent boutiques, designer shops and galleries.
The oldest pub in Brighton is located here, the Cricketers, which dates from 1545 and was immortalised by author Graham Greene in the novel ‘Brighton Rock’.
The Ivy in the Lanes is a very Instagrammable restaurant and bar, while we definitely recommend trying some unusual ice cream flavours at Brass Monkey in The Lanes!
North Laine is another groovy neighbourhood in Brighton, although it’s located north of Brighton’s city centre, while The Lanes are located in the south.
Once known as the slums of Brighton, North Laine is now known as the cultural quarter of the city, with a real bohemian and alternative vibe. Creativity is encouraged here, which can easily be seen in the many colourfully-painted buildings and abundance of street art.
North Laine is also home to many pubs, cafés, restaurants, theatres, galleries, museums and shops, so you definitely shouldn’t miss it on a trip to Brighton.
The area is especially good if you’re looking to shop up a storm; our favourite clothing stores include Jump the Gun, offering 1960s mod-style fashion, and Beyond Retro, for unique pieces of 20th-century fashion.
A variety of cool and quirky shops make up some of the most popular Brighton attractions, and our favourite is the massive market known as Snoopers Paradise!
Located in the trendy North Laine neighbourhood, Snoopers Paradise (often shortened to Snoops by locals) is a 7,000 square foot space housing more than 90 different stalls filled with vintage treasures.
One could easily spend hours wandering through the labyrinth of retro furniture, vintage crockery, iconic lighting, kitsch homeware, rare vinyl records, books, memorabilia, cult toys, old coins, antiques, hats, glasses, jewellery, ornaments, art and clothing.
We definitely recommend you pop by and see what you can find!
The Artist Quarter
To the west of Brighton Palace Pier are a series of artist’s studios located right on the beach, known as The Artist Quarter. These art studios are actually located under the main road, so make sure you walk down the stairs to find them!
There are more than a dozen artist ‘lofts’ in the Brighton Artist Quarter, displaying and selling paintings, sculptures, photographs, jewellery and more. If you like art then it’s a must-visit, but it’s also a great spot to pick up some unique souvenirs or gifts while in Brighton.
Most of the studios open around noon and close around sunset. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars here, so the area is just as fun to explore after dark.
Brighton West Pier
As we mentioned earlier, there were three pleasure piers in Brighton at one point, because it was so popular as a seaside destination. The second pier built was known as Brighton West Pier, which opened in 1866.
Brighton West Pier once featured a concert hall, which was later converted into a tea room and theatre in the 1950s. There was also a funfair with rides and attractions similar to those found on Palace Pier.
It was the first-ever pier to be Grade I listed in England and Wales, but after closing down in 1975 it has gradually become so derelict that only part of the metal framework remains standing off the beach.
Today it’s a rather poignant reminder of the past, but it also makes for some pretty cool photo opportunities, particularly at sunset!
British Airways i360
British Airways i360 is a 162-metre tall observation tower and absolutely one of the best places to visit in Brighton for incredible views.
Designed by the same architectural company which designed the London Eye, the British Airways i360 is made up of a main ‘needle’ on which a circular viewing pod goes slowly up and down. Visitors can then enjoy 360-degree views of Brighton and the South Downs, as well as out over the English Channel.
There’s a fascinating exhibit about how the tower was built which shouldn’t be missed, and we recommend timing your visit with sunset for truly spectacular scenery. Regular events are also held in the viewing pod, from morning yoga to a special evening of fine dining and wine!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: A regular ticket for the viewing pod costs £19.50 for adults and provides a 25-minute ‘flight’ as well as access to the Sky Bar. Make sure you also check out the website for some great combination tickets and the special events.
The Upside Down House
One of the weirdest things to see in Brighton is located right next door to the British Airways i360, where you’ll see a house lying upside down on the seafront.
This unusual attraction isn’t just for taking photos of from outside though, it also features interior rooms for visitors to capture mind-bending shots where they also appear to be upside down, while living a normal suburban life!
The Brighton Upside Down House is a top pick for things to do with kids, although anyone who enjoys a laugh and/or wants some unique photos for their Instagram will love it. It’s also quite affordable at just £4.50 per person.
SEA LIFE Brighton
The world’s oldest aquarium is located in Brighton, and SEA LIFE Brighton (as it’s called) is one of the best Brighton destinations if you want to get up close and personal with aquatic creatures.
Originally opened in 1872 as Brighton Aquarium, this attraction contains around 3,500 sea creatures and over 100 different species for visitors to see! Highlights include black tip reef sharks and nurse sharks, as well as two beautiful green sea turtles.
Of course, there are also many colourful species of fish on display, along with seahorses, jellyfish, octopuses and rays. The aquarium building itself also showcases some lovely Victorian architecture, with a variety of aquatic exhibits throughout. You can even go for a ride on a glass-bottomed boat… inside!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: You can take advantage of savings by booking your tickets online ahead of time, along with annual passes and special packages.
Brighton Fishing Museum
There are many fascinating museums in Brighton, although our top pick for a quick (and free!) stop is the Brighton Fishing Museum, where you can learn all about the city’s fishing and seaside history.
Located on England’s coast looking out over the English Channel, it stands to reason that Brighton was originally a small fishing village. The Brighton Fishing Museum traces the stories of Brighton’s seaside community, showing how people lived here for over 1,000 years and how things changed.
One of the biggest changes Brighton experienced was going from a sleepy fishing village to fashionable seaside resort for the rich, and these developments are traced through the museum.
There are also (not surprisingly) a number of model boats on display within the museum, as well as restored pleasure and fishing boats sitting outside on the beachfront. The Brighton Fishing Museum is also free to visit, although donations are appreciated.
Brighton Toy Museum
Our other top pick for must-see museums in Brighton is the Brighton Toy and Model Museum, which is usually just called the Brighton Toy Museum.
This is an ideal museum for children, but even adults will be enchanted by the thousands of vintage toys on display here; from model trains to puppets, radio-controlled aircraft, dollhouses, teddy bears and slot machines, along with many dioramas.
The museum is located under the Victorian arches of what was once the Brighton railway station, which seems fitting since the large model railway layouts are a big drawcard for visiting! There are more than 60 different display areas though, so you can easily lose track of time.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING: The Brighton Toy and Model Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday and costs £6.50 for adults. Do make sure you double-check the website for opening times, as sometimes there are private events on.
The Prince Albert
If you’re looking for places to go in Brighton for a pint and some live music, you shouldn’t miss The Prince Albert pub.
The original three-storey townhouse was built in 1848, and the building was converted into a pub in 1860. The pub is cosy and eclectic on the inside, but the colourful exterior is the most famous aspect of The Prince Albert.
Begun in 2013 and regularly added to, repainted or updated, the massive colourful mural depicts many deceased musicians, from Kurt Cobain to David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Sid Vicious, George Michael, Michael Jackson and many, many more.
Not surprisingly, The Prince Albert is one of the best places in Brighton for experiencing live music.
And while Bristol is definitely the city best known for Banksy, you’ll find an iconic Banksy piece right here at The Prince Albert among all the vivid portraits!
“Kissing Coppers” was originally unveiled on the side of this colourful pub in 2004. Years later, it was sold off for just under $600,000, but a replica still remains today in the original location, under a layer of plastic protection:
The Brighton Dome
The Brighton Dome is an arts and events venue that’s most famous for hosting Eurovision in 1974, the year that ABBA won with “Waterloo”.
Like The Royal Pavilion, The Brighton Dome was built for the Prince Regent (later George IV) as part of the Royal Pavilion Estate, in the same architectural style on the exterior. The building which now houses the main concert hall was actually the (very ornate) stables!
After Queen Victoria sold the estate to the city of Brighton the building was converted into assembly rooms, a corn exchange and a studio theatre. Over the years the building has been updated, of course, now housing multiple areas for performances of all kinds, as well as a café and bar.
Hove Beach Huts
When Googling photos of Brighton, you’ll often come across shots of rainbow-coloured beach huts dotting the seafront… but fun fact: these delightful sights are actually located in Hove (a neighbouring resort town that was combined with Brighton in 1997 to form the city of Brighton & Hove).
To find them, simply continue walking westwards on the promenade from Brighton, past the Brighton Beach Bandstand. It takes around half an hour to walk to the huts from the Palace Pier.
All the huts are painted the same red and green on the outside, but owners can paint the doors any colour they like. A photo of the colourful huts (and perhaps some of the colourful owners if you can manage it!) is a Brighton must-do.
Did we miss any of your favourite places to visit in Brighton?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more Brighton must-sees to our list!