Make the most of summer in the UK with a visit to ‘London by the sea’. Brighton is just an hour by train from the capital, and combines all the joy of the seaside with quirky city cool and historic Regency architecture. Come for a fantastic day trip or stay a little longer in one of the many seafront hotels, where you can breathe in the sea air and hedonistic vibe for a few more days.
Shop and drop
The Lanes, one of Brighton’s most popular attractions, is a network of historic hidden shopping streets weaving in and out of the central hustle and bustle. Lose yourself among the dozens of upmarket jewellers, art galleries and coffee shops lining the narrow brick-paved alleyways. Similarly named but very different in atmosphere, the Lanes are not to be confused with the North Laine, a boho shopping district minutes from the station full of vintage boutiques, pavement cafes and independent stores.
Treat yo self
One of Brighton’s most famous shops (it even has its own TV series) is Choccywoccydoodah. Not only does it have a fabulous name, the chocolatey confections it produces are out of this world. Huge cakes covered in chocolate roses, hearts, skulls and glitter adorn the store – but don’t worry, they sell smaller treats as well. They do serve a divine chocolate-themed afternoon tea, but the secret tea garden only has space for a maximum of five, so book ahead.
Palace Pier is heralded as one of the finest piers ever built and is steeped in history. Launched to great fanfare in 1899, over 3,000 bulbs lit it up on its opening night as it welcomed the public of Brighton for the first time. Now, 67,000 (energy saving) bulbs illuminate this enduring landmark. While away some time on the dodgems, fairground rides, arcade games and free deckchairs, and don’t miss an opportunity to tuck into the national dish in the place that chef Heston Blumenthal called the ‘spiritual home of fish and chips’.
It’s hard to miss the Brighton Pavilion – the city’s own ‘Taj Mahal’. Built as a seaside getaway for George IV, where he could cavort with his mistress in relative peace, work began in 1787 and was completed by architect John Nash in 1822. The eye-catching Indo-Saracenic style of domes and minarets is striking, and the interior is richly decorated in Indian and Chinese styles. The City of Brighton bought the Pavilion from Queen Victoria in 1850, and converted the adjoining royal stables to the Brighton Dome theatre which is still going strong to this day. Much effort has been made to restore and preserve the Pavilion, and many of the pieces of furniture inside the building are on loan from Queen Elizabeth.
What a ride
Volk’s Electric Railway is the oldest operating electric railway in the world. Started in 1883 by the enterprising Magnus Volk (who was also responsible for installing electric lights at Brighton Pavilion), the little railway now shuttles people between the aquarium, close to Palace Pier, and Brighton Marina. It’s an authentic way to experience the eastern end of Brighton seafront just as the Victorians once did.
With the English Channel so close, it’s a crime not to sample some fresh and fabulous seafood while you’re here. Beyond the realms of fish and chip shops, the Salt Room at the Metropole Hotel is perfect for a fishy feast on the terrace overlooking the sea. The Urchin in Hove pairs two Brighton staples – craft beer and seafood. If you can get a table (book way ahead), the Little Fish Market is owned by former Fat Duck chef, Duncan Ray, has two AA rosettes and is hotly tipped to be Brighton’s first Michelin-starred restaurant.