Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Brighton
Brighton is the largest and best known seaside resort on the English Channel Coast, an urban center of population which, together with Hove, spreads for some 6mi/10km along the pebbled shoreline and over the sometimes steep chalk hills of the South Downs. Once a fishing village with narrow winding lanes, after 1750 it developed into an elegant watering place where, especially in the 19th C, the English aristocracy and upper classes used to gather. In 1841 it was linked to London by rail. Relaxing under the benign influence of sea air and mineral springs, visitors took leisurely strolls along the boulevards and piers and relaxed in the ballrooms of the fashionable hotels. Reminders of this period still abound: charming Regency terraces, the delightful Palace Pier and the exotic Royal Pavilion, the extraordinary folly created by the flamboyant and eccentric "Prinny", Prince of Wales - later George IV. Today even once fashionable Brighton has surrendered to mass tourism, the 3mi/5km long terraced sea front being lined with souvenir shops and amusement arcades. In addition to a full calendar of cultural events there are race meetings in the summer months and the famous Veteran Car Rally in November; there are also several sports stadiums. Over and above the lucrative holiday trade, the resort is highly popular as a conference venue. The University of Sussex, founded in 1961, is located on the outskirts. With Brighton having abandoned any pretensions to being a port, the industrial center of gravity has shifted west to nearby Shoreham.
Over the centuries the town has played host to many distinguished writers and intellectuals including Samuel Johnson, Jane Austin and William Thackeray (not to mention Prince Pückler in search of a rich wife). Aubrey Beardsley was born here in 1872, and the philosopher Herbert Spencer died here in 1903. Edward Burne-Jones lies buried in the cemetery at neighboring Rottingdean. The resort has also provided the setting for several well known literary and other works, Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock" (1938) and Attenborough's satirical film "Oh, what a lovely War" (1966) among them.
First settled by the Anglo Saxons, Brighthelmstone is mentioned in William the Conqueror's "Domesday Book" but thereafter appears to have been forgotten. In the 16th century it was a fishing village of about 1,500 people living in narrow streets of cottages not unlike the 17th century ones seen in The Lanes today. In 1750 however all this changed when Richard Russell, a Lewes doctor, published a book on the virtues of seawater as a treatment for glandular disease. From then on visitors flocked to Brighton, as it was now known, in their droves. The first ballroom opened in 1766 and in the following year members of the royal family were among those who arrived to take the waters and bathe in the sea. The resort was to prove particularly captivating for the young Prince of Wales (the future King George IV) when he came for the first time in 1783. He fell in love with the beautiful Maria Anne Fitzherbert whom he secretly married in 1785, setting up house in "a superior farmhouse" in the Old Steine. Between 1815 and 1823, some years after his official marriage to Princess Caroline of Brunswick, the prince transformed his residence into a supremely elegant summer palace, the Royal Pavilion. These years, during which the prince was regent for his ailing father, have become known as the Regency Period. They gave rise to a distinctive architecture, the Regency style, determined largely by the prince's highly individual taste. The majority of the buildings on Brighton sea front date from this time, most being three storied and with bright white facades relieved by bay windows and wrought iron balconies. Further building took place in Victorian times, the great iron Palace Pier protruding far into the sea becoming one of the town's most famous sights. Sadly, in recent years, modern buildings have marred some of the town.