Don’t let the fact that very few true born-and-bred Brightonians live in Brighton put you off. Many people who visit this seaside city – particularly students who attend the area’s two universities – choose to never leave; a real sign that Brighton has a magnetic attraction!
Having lived in Brighton all my life I like to think that I know a little more about the nooks and crannies and the lanes and allies to be found there than most of the residents. I always find it amusing how first-time visitors are absolutely in awe of Brighton Pier and treat a visit to buy a stick of rock there as some form of pilgrimage; a true Brightonian never visits the pier unless they’re working there or introducing friends to the city. Perhaps I take some of Brighton’s charms a little for granted – but there are plenty of places in my home city which still give me goose-bumps and a genuine sense of pride…
I’ve mentioned Brighton Pier already – this is your typical touristy place complete with arcade machines, candy floss stalls and palm-reading gypsies. To the east of the pier is the Brighton Wheel; Brighton’s answer to the London Eye. I was a big opponent to the Brighton Wheel being put up but I must admit (rather sheepishly) that it does look pretty good!
A stone’s throw from the Brighton Wheel is the stretch of promenade where the Mods and Rockers famously smashed deck chairs over each others’ heads in the 1960s. The 1970s Mod Revival film Quadrophenia was filmed in Brighton and the city is still a mecca for Mods and Rockers who motor down to the seafront from all parts of the world each Bank Holiday. Thankfully, they’re much better behaved these days!
Opposite the pier is the Sea Life centre which houses some very impressive fish and a massive turtle. You can get in a boat and journey inside the large flotation tank where the turtle swims if you’re feeling brave.
Of course most people prefer to take a dip in the sea outside the Sea Life centre. Sadly, Brighton beach is very pebbly but there is some (artificial) sand to be found on Yellow Wave beach – a popular venue for volleyball players. And if photography is your thing then why not visit the strangely beautiful decaying corpse of Brighton’s West Pier. The pier was damaged by fire a decade ago but which still stands as a haunting reminder of a bygone saucy seaside-postcard era.
A walk on the seafront promenade can be a tiring thing so it’s always a good idea to hop on the Volks miniature seaside railway to save your legs and make a novel journey to Brighton Marina to see the shiny boats and yachts of Brighton’s moneyed classes.
Brighton has always attracted the rich; the Prince Regent set up home here in the 18th century and what a home it was. The Royal Pavilion is a Taj Mahal-style building with onion-shaped turrets which is located inland from Brighton Pier and is a popular tourist (and wedding) location.
Brighton has two piers and it also has two sets of shopping ‘Laines’. The South Laine, nearest the sea, is a warren of antique shops, pubs, restaurants and outlets selling hippy paraphanelia. The North Laine, nearest Brighton Station, offers more of the same and also boasts cheese shops, guitar shops, vegetarian leather shops and shops selling vinyl records.
Brighton also loves its clothes boutiques and is a great place to find first and second-hand clothes. As Brighton has connections with the Mod movement of the 1960s you won’t struggle to find some razor-sharp 1960s ‘threads’ – check out a shop called Jump The Gun for inspiration.
Brighton might not yet be a Premier League football club but it does now have a football ground which would grace the top flight. The Falmer Stadium is just a short train ride away from Brighton Station and, as it was only opened in May 2011 is still box-fresh new.
Brighton’s Theatre Royal is handily positioned between the Laines and has a great bar called The Colonnade adjacent to it which serves drinks at the interval. You are never far from a bar in the city centre and you will find plenty of public houses along the route of Brighton’s haunted places ghost tour.
West Street is the place which hen and stag parties head to in order to sample the nightlife; you might be familiar with it from a recent fly-on-the-wall TV documentary about Brighton’s emergency services! More upmarket entertainment can be found at the Duke of York’s cinema which hosts all the obscure foreign arthouse films the main cinemas don’t show.
Live music still survives and thrives in Brighton and much of it is concentrated near Brighton Station. The Prince Albert pub boasts a mural of radio legend John Peel outside and Peel would certainly approve of how the Albert, and the nearby Green Door store, support up-and-coming bands.
Brighton might have acquired city status but it still has a lot of super rolling countryside on its doorstep. The rolling South Downs is just a short bus ride away and there are interesting walks to be found at the mysterious Devil’s Dyke.
The best time of year to visit
Take your pick: the Brighton Festival takes place each May and offers a superb chance to see plays, talks, exhibitions and wander around artist’s open houses admiring living room art. Brighton’s Great Escape festival weekend also takes place in May and sees wristband-wearing festival goers dashing from venue to venue to try and cram in as many bands as possible.
Then there is Brighton’s Pride Festival – an event which takes place in August and features colourful carnival floats and much merriment in pretty Preston Park.
However, my favourite event near Brighton has to be Lewes’s Bonfire Night. The costumes, music and fireworks make this small-town event a not-to-be-missed experience. I went for the first time last year and the evening’s festivities reminded me that even cynical Brightonians can sometimes be amazed by what’s on offer near and around the city.