Get your dose of vitamin sea and explore the fizzy buzzy seaside resort towns of Brighton & Hove on a day trip from London. Trains leave London hourly from London Victoria as well as London Bridge station. The journey is about an hour plus depending on which train you get. Most trains from London also stop at London’s Gatwick airport so if you have a long flight layover you may have time to pop down to Brighton. Hove is known as the quieter sister town to Brighton and although packed with pubs and restaurants, Brighton is the most popular destination.
History of Brighton-Hove
Brighton has long been known as Britain’s favorite seaside town, but it wasn’t until the Prince Regent aka Prinny aka King George IV discovered it in 1783 that Brighton became known as the place for royal fun and fashion. The Fashion (wealthy) had already been flocking there for the sea cure promoted by Dr Richard Russel and Brighton soon became renown as a swanky hot spot for discerning clientele. From bathing machines to race courses, it was all the rage.
One of Brighton’s most distinct monuments to this excess is the Brighton Pavilion. King George had architect John Nash transform a humble building into a new royal palace complete with minarets, domes and gilding in 1786. Well worth a visit if you’re a fan of Regency architecture and exotic royal extravagance. The Pavilion is at the epicenter of Brighton.
Your train from London will arrive into Brighton Station (BTN), at the top of Queens Road. Once you leave out the front entrance of the station, you’ll see taxis to your left. Simply hail one if you want a quick drive down to the main part of town or the beachfront. Following Queens Rd. south leads directly to the beach But to get a feel for Brighton first, either walk or take a taxi to the intersection of North St. or Church St. and turn left. Both streets straddle the grounds of the Pavilion if you want to head there first. There’s also a North Road just to make things confusing.
For Your Day trip from London to Brighton & Hove:
Head down Queens Road if you’d like to find a bite to eat or want to hit the shops. Here’s a few options:
- By turning left on North Road you’ll be in the North Laines area, with oodles of small funky independent shops and restaurants.
- Or keep walking and turn left on Church St., then keep going and you’ll run into the Pavilion or if you turn right down Bond St. you’ll find more shops and restaurants.
- If you’ve headed all the way down Queens Road to North Street, (Boots is on the corner) turn left on North St. then right on Ship St. You’ll walk down into the Lanes, another funky chic shopping district with restaurants, pubs and bars. As you keep walking through the Lanes to East St. you’ll see High street retailers such as All Saints and Jigsaw.
All streets lead down to the beach and Brighton has it’s own surfy scruffy boho beach culture. It’s easy to walk along the main Kings Road that follows the beach and soak up the sun and seaside vibe, but take the steps down to Kings Road Arches, a lower walkway that’s freckled with little beach huts, restaurants and bars. A perfect spot to get that quintessential dish, fish and chips.
It’s not called shingle for nothing. Brighton’s beach isn’t sandy, instead it’s made up of small to large pebbles, which makes it challenging to walk on but still a perfect spot to sit and soak up the sea air, watch boats on the Channel and relax after a shop-a-thon. If you’re up for a carnival atmosphere, stroll out on the Brighton or Palace Pier built in 1899. You can’t miss British Airways i-360 ride further down the beach towards Hove. It’s a 162 meter (531 foot) high futuristic bar in the sky that offers stunning views across the channel and up and down the coast. Open during the off season from 10:30 to 4 PM.
Brighton is a fun, buzzy spot to visit that combines the best and worst of British culture. Gorgeous Regency buildings are spray painted with graffiti and the vibe is funky artistic and in your face at times. Brighton is well known for it’s festivals.
The Brighton Fringe is the largest art festival in Britain and one of the largest fringe festivals in the world. The Fringe runs from May 4 to June 3 (2018).
Brighton Festival celebrated it’s 50th year in 2016 and attracts crowds for it’s art, film, dance, theatre and literary events. It runs from May 7-25 (2018).
Another huge event is the Brighton Marathon event taking place on April 15 (2018).
Please be aware if you are planning on traveling by train to Brighton during any of these events to expect huge crowds and possibly delays. I made the mistake of trying to get to London from Brighton by train on Marathon day. The runners weave throughout the city and from certain points in the city it’s almost impossible to cross the race course.
Getting to Brighton & Hove:
The easiest way to get to Brighton from London is by train. From London Victoria to Brighton is about an hour direct. I highly recommend using Trainline to book your tickets. Super easy. Use the Trainline app. (The train to Brighton is a Southern train and also stops at Gatwick Airport.) You can book and pay for your tickets online or through the app, then pick them up at the station. It’s a popular destination so book up to 12 weeks in advance to get the best pricing for your day trip.
Getting Around Brighton:
It’s very easy to walk from the station into the hub of Brighton to the shopping areas I’ve described. However if you’ve shopped till you drop and don’t feel like walking back up the hill to the station, Brighton-Hove radio cabs are plentiful. They’re managed under the City Council and are relatively inexpensive. The app is useful to pre-book, but you’ll see the blue/green/white taxis everywhere if you want to hail a taxi on foot. You’ll also find Uber cabs in Brighton & Hove.
There’s nothing quite like sitting on the shingle on a sunny day on Brighton beach. You may see surfers as I did the other day or paddle boarders. Nice place to chill before you head back to London’s bustle.