10 Things to See and Do in Brighton, UK

Located on the south coast of England, Brighton (ancient “Brighthelmstone”) dates back to some time before 1086. During the 18th Century it became a popular sun bathing health resort and was used as a seaside getaway by the Prince Regent. In 1841 the railway reached the town making it a popular destination for day-trippers from London. There are many historically important and beautiful landmarks to be seen in Brighton including the Royal Pavilion, the Brighton Wheel, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Brighton Toy & Model Museum and Brighton Racecourse, just to name a few. It’s also a great place to shop and play, so take the time to visit this town of about 480,000 before venturing to other parts of the United Kingdom.

10. Devil’s Dyke

The Devil’s Dyke, located on Dyke Road in Brighton is an elegant country pub and restaurant with rustic character and charm. The surrounding area is a picturesque backdrop for your dining experience. The restaurant features a cozy fireplace adding to the ambiance of the place. You can even take advantage of nice weather by eating alfresco if you like in their beautiful beer garden. It’s a hidden treasure in Brighton that you won’t want to miss. You can make an entire day of it here with the Devil’s Dyke playing host to The Dyke Golf Club and Golf Course. There’s an exquisite view of Brighton and on a clear day you can even see London while enjoying a delicious meal of seasonal pub-food and/or nurtured cask ales and fine wines. It’s a great way to unwind at the end of a long day and round out a great vacation.


Devil's Dyke

9. Mechanical Memories Museum

Situated on Brighton’s seafront, the Mechanical Memories Museum, formerly known as the Old Penny Arcade Museum is a museum unlike most others. The exhibit consists of about 50 working vintage coin-operated amusement machines dating from the early 1900s to the 1960s. Usually, when you go visit a museum, you get to see displays of antiques or historically significant items while reading or hearing about them. But, that’s the end of it. This museum offers so much more. You don’t have to just go and only observe the exhibits here. Using some old British pennies which you can purchase upon entry to the museum, you can actually play with some of the working antique machines. It’s a chance to step back in time and experience playing with the same toys as children in the past. Some displays work with a mere 20 pence instead of the old British pennies. Other games found there include: what the butler saw, the laughing sailor, working models, puppet machines, skill games, fortune tellers, the popular…allwins. Children will be fascinated by the old games and the more mature people who visit will have fun reminiscing about their childhood playtime.

Brian S / Shutterstock.com
Brian S / Shutterstock.com

8. Theatre Royal Brighton

The Theater Royal Brighton is a live theater venue which hosts musicals, plays, opera and ballet, as well as Creative Learning events, workshops and courses. With a seating capacity of 952 over four levels, it is one of the oldest theaters in the country. It opened June 27th, 1807 hosting Shakespeare’s Hamlet as its very first performance. The theater struggled to survive until 1854 when it was purchased by actor Henry John Nye Chart. He revamped the theater with expansions to improve its reputation and finances while making it a respected venue. When he died in 1876, his wife took over and continued its success becoming one of the first female theater managers. Choosing something a little different from the traditional Christmas pantomime, the theater has featured such shows as Priscilla Queen of the Desert (2013), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (2012) and Spamalot (2011). The Ambassador Theater Group purchased the theater in 1999. They developed the infrastructure of the theater, as well as investing in new productions and creating alliances with art organizations. This world-class theater is definitely a place to go to enjoy talented entertaining performers.

PlusONE / Shutterstock.com
PlusONE / Shutterstock.com

7. Brighton Racecourse

If you want a little adrenaline pumping entertainment, then the Brighton Racecourse has to be included on your vacation agenda. It is an English horse racing track located about a mile northeast of Brighton’s city center. Situated on Whitehawk Hill, the track is in the form of a horseshoe and is one and a half miles long. Being one of the few racecourses not make a complete circuit, it is sometimes compared to Epsom, a racecourse in Sussex. The first public races were held here in 1783 with contestants being members of the armed forces who were stationed in town. Though Brighton Racecourse is one of the smaller race tracks in Britain, in terms of prize money and quality of race, the average prize money offered in 2012/13 was still over £26,000. The highlight of the season is the three-day Brighton Festival held in early August with the main event being the Brighton Mile Challenge Trophy Handicap. So for some great racing and excitement, visit the racecourse. Bigger is not always better.

Jacqueline Abromeit / Shutterstock.com
Jacqueline Abromeit / Shutterstock.com

6. Churchill Square

Built in the 1960s, Churchill Square is a major city-center shopping venue, National Car Park and central bus station in Brighton. Originally, the center included high-rise office blocks and featured a variety of shops, as well as a supermarket with covered, but open walkways between them. In 1998 it became a fully indoor mall which created road closures and changes to the street layout. When fully occupied, the mall contains 85 shops and several “open-air” stalls in the corridor areas. It is three storeys, with larger stores occupying two storeys, and a food court on the uppermost level. Because of its central location, the square is easily accessible by car. Otherwise, it is a five to 10 minute walk from Brighton Station. The mall contains many major retail chains popular in the U.K. and abroad such as Aldo, Apple, Bershka, Blue Inc, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Car Wash Company, Clarks, Crocs, Costa, Foot Locker, H&M, HMV, Lego, Levi’s, Kids, Smiggle, Swarovski, Urban Outfitters and more. Your shopping experience will be a great one at this well equipped mall with its convenient location, large variety of shops, food and family fun areas. You can easily spend a whole day here with your kids and not get bored.

Photo by: Editor5807 via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Editor5807 via Wikimedia Commons

5. Brighton Toy & Model Museum

With over four thousand square feet of floor space, the Brighton Toy & Model Museum contains a virtual treasure trove of over 10,000 toys and models in a building featuring four Early Victorian arches supporting the Brighton Railway Station’s forecourt. The collection focuses on the first half of the Twentieth Century, including model trains and period antique toys. A range of classic manufacturers are featured and include Bing, Dinky, Hornby, Marklin, Meccano, Pelham Puppets, and Steiff. In the lobby, you will be greeted by a working quarter-scale traction engine and Spitfire fighter planes – the first of a collection of working scale models to be found throughout the museum. The collection is constantly under review and change. These improvements to the museum add to your museum experience with better lighting for viewing while protecting the artifacts themselves. If you want to see more than what is located in the first arch, you can venture deeper for a nominal fee after getting a taste of what the museum has to offer. Its proximity to the Brighton Station makes it a convenient stopping point to visit, pick up some maps and get some tourist information before venturing out further.

Photo by: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Photo by: Brighton Toy and Model Museum

4. Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

If you are looking for something fun and exciting to do and your wallet is a little empty, then the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery should be added to your agenda. The building was built for the Prince of Wales and was originally intended as a tennis court, but later served as cavalry barracks. This municipally-owned attraction is free-to-view for everyone and conveniently part of the Royal Pavilion – talk about a two for one deal! In September of 1851, the building was appropriated for annual art exhibitions with the first being held two months later. The stable building adjacent to the current museum was even used as a museum in 1856. It is now the Brighton Dome and serves as a performance venue. Some of the collections housed there include: The Decorative Art Collection including ceramic, glass, metalwork, furniture and jewelry from the 17th century to present, The Natural Sciences Collection which includes zoological and geological collections, and The World Art Collection with reference materials from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific and Americas.

Photo by: By The Voice of Hassocks via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: By The Voice of Hassocks via Wikimedia Commons

3. North Laine

While visiting Brighton, you will want to visit North Laine, a shopping and residential district on the English south coast immediately adjacent to the Royal Pavilion. It’s hard to believe that the area now full of pubs, cafes, theaters and museums was once a slum area. Today, it is known as the bohemian and cultural quarter in Brighton. The area was originally set for demolition to allow for high rises, a flyover and carpark, until Ken Fines, who was the Borough Planning Officer from 1974 to 1983, had it designated North Laine Conservation Area in 1977. As a result of his efforts the save the area, tourists and locals will continue to enjoy the charm and history of this unique bohemian shopping area riddled with entertainment venues. Some of the types of retailers you will find there include art, antiques, architectural salvage, second-hand books, music, retro clothing, graphic novels, musical instruments and new age paraphernalia. There are several boutiques as well, but they often change so two visits here may not be the same.

Photo by: North Laine Brighton
Photo by: North Laine Brighton

2. Brighton Wheel

Also known as the Brighton O and the Wheel of Excellence, the Brighton Wheel is a transportable Ferris wheel erected in October 2011 on the seafront in Brighton. The planning permission allows for the wheel to be in place there until 2016. Because it is located in a conservation area with many residential buildings around, the location has been quite controversial. It was built with private funding and it is anticipated that the wheel will receive several hundred visitors. If you would like to experience this wonderful 12-minute ride, you may want to hurry since their planning permit is only valid until 2016. They are applying for a 5-year extension to that permit, but until it is passed, there is no telling how much longer the wheel will remain where it is. The panoramic view of the city of Brighton is like no other. From atop the Brighton Wheel, you can see the city’s famous landmarks, the picturesque coastline and enjoy a commentary on Brighton’s and Hove’s heritage. It is beautiful, exciting, educational and fun all packed into a 12-minute experience.

Brighton Wheel

1. Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion, located in Brighton, England was a former seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales. Though construction began in 1787, it was built in three stages and was not completed until 1823 after expansions and redesigns. Built with an Indo-Islamic style, the pavilion looks like it belongs to 19th century India. The interior of the building is quite extravagant being heavily influenced by Chinese and Indian fashion demonstrating exoticism and grandeur as opposed to the mainstream Regency style. The Pavilion was the location for many of the very first legal same-sex marriages in the United Kingdom in 2014 since the passing of the 2013 Same-Sex Couples Act. Transforming from a modest 18th century lodging house to the exotic palace visible today, the Royal Pavilion is an instantly recognizable symbol of Brighton. With all the extravagances evident in the pavilion, the palace itself has become a work of art furnished with French, English and Chinese furniture with accessories showcasing gilded dragons, carved palm trees and imitation bamboo staircases. It is quite a sight to behold.

Royal Pavilion(2)

More On MapQuest

A dish of oystersTop Raw Bars in Baltimore
11 Iconic Bridges of the World
12 Days of Giving: The Gift of Less
World’s Top 10 Snorkeling Destinations
Virgin Islands National Park
6 Amazing Underwater Attractions
Street Foods You Need To Try in Bangkok
7 Castles You Don’t Know Are in America