Brighton Tourist Attractions
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.
Exuding a distinctly Indian Mogul style of architecture, the ornate Royal Pavilion in Brighton once served as the summer residence for the Royal family. The Pavilion features splendid decor and furnishing.
The neo-Classical Theatre Royal not far from the museum was built in 1806, although the colonnade was not completed for another twenty years. Many famous actors and actresses including the Kembles, Grimaldi and Sarah Siddons have appeared on its stage, a tradition of good theater which is still maintained today.
St Nicholas' Church
At the far end of Church Street, stands the town's original parish church, St Nicholas'. The church itself was begun in the 14th century but the beautiful Norman font, carved with scenes of the Last Supper, the baptism of Christ and the Legend of St Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers, dates from about 1160.
The center of the old fishing village of Brighthelmstone once stood on the site of the narrow alleyways known as The Lanes, where the charming little 17th century cottages have mostly been turned into antique shops, boutiques and cafes. Some of the facades are still "weather boarded", colorfully clad with painted wooden boarding as protection against wind and weather.
The Old Steine, to the east of The Lanes, was at one time the village green. Now it is a well tended square which extends north to Grand Parade - a magnificent boulevard, lined with trees and planted with flowers - and south towards the promenade. When compared with the stately neo-Classical facade of Marlborough House (1786), Maria Fitzherbert's house (1804) with its wrought iron balconies is a perfect illustration of the change of architectural style at the beginning of the 19th century. The same innovation in design is continued by the long rows of Regency houses between Marine Parade and St James Street/St George's Road.
St John the Baptist's Church
A short distance north of St James Street, in Carlton Hill, stands the church of St John the Baptist, with the tomb of George IV's beloved Maria Fitzherbert. Following their separation she lived in seclusion in Brighton until her death.
No more than a few paces from the Old Steine lie the sea front and promenade, set off in spectacular fashion by the long iron pier. The original Chain Pier of 1823, immortalized in a painting by Constable (1827), was wrecked by a storm in 1869, while the West Pier (1866), although still standing, is derelict. Only the 1700ft/520m-long Palace Pier (1891-1899) with its volute ironwork remains in use, jutting out to sea like the upper deck of a steamer on spindly iron legs. The days when the pier was fashionable have long since gone, replaced by a culture of amusement arcades and snack bars.
Magnus Volk's Electric Railway
Magnus Volk's electric railroad (opened in 1833) runs the length of the eastern section of the sea front from near the Palace Pier to Brighton Marina.
Much pleasure can be had simply by taking a walk through the residential areas of Brighton with their Regency style terraces and squares. West of the center, going towards Hove, are street after street of houses with round bay windows and iron balconies: Regency Square, Brunswick Terrace, Brunswick Square (1825; facing the sea), and the horseshoe shaped Adelaide Crescent. Sussex Square, Lewes Crescent (1824) and Arundel Terrace, all east of the center, are equally worth seeing.In urban history, these houses are a further development of forms originating in Bath.
Booth Museum of Natural History
Devoted to natural history, the Booth Museum is situated in Dyke Road, in the northwest of Brighton. In addition to an outstanding collection of stuffed birds displayed in their natural habitats, there are butterflies from all over the world and numerous skeletons of extinct species.
Address: 194 Dyke Road, Brighton BN1 5AA, England
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 2pm-5pm; Closed: Thu
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Good Friday - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Gift shop
This 18th C manor house in Preston Road was the home of the Stanford family. Renovated in 1905 it recaptures the atmosphere of life at the turn of the century as well as being a showcase for antiques from earlier periods.
Address: Church Street, Brighton BN1 1EE, England
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 2pm-5pm; Mon: 1pm-5pm
Always opened on: Spring Bank Holiday - Britain (last Monday, May), Summer Bank Holiday - Britain outside Scotland (last Monday, Aug)
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Good Friday - Christian
Useful tips: Phone for details on guided tours, special events and room hire.
Disability Access: Partial facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Interpretive sessions sometimes available.
Transit: BritRail: Preston Park.
This annual three-week festival runs from early to late May. International musicians from around the world gather to perform in events ranging from orchestral and church concerts, to jazz and comedy shows, to theater and dance performances. Film screenings and recitals are also among the 400 events offered in this diversified festival. The repertoire is equally varied, although nineteenth-century music predominates.The venues include the Royal Pavilion, the Theatre Royal and many local churches.
Piltdown - Walking Trails
The town of Piltdown is home to one of the world's greatest scientific hoaxes. It was here that the supposed missing link was found, only much later to be revealed as a carefully fabricated fraud. A trail leads visitors through the buildings and fields.
Opening hours: Closed: Mon
Barkham Manor is set in 35 acres of rolling countryside. Visitors can take a tour. The 18th century Great Barn is an ideal venue for weddings and special events.
Sea Life Centre
At the Brighton Sea Life Centre visitors can take close-up looks at live sharks, stingrays, starfish and other sea creatures. The underwater viewing tunnel is particularly interesting.
The first item that catches a visitor's eye is the vivid red ironwork that spring from slender columns of Central Station.
Sussex Toy and Model Museum
The Sussex Toy and Model Museum in Brighton has over 10,000 items on display. Its exhibition features toys from the world's top toy makers over the last 100 years.
Address: 52-55 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 4EB, England
Opening hours: Jan 1 to Dec 31: 10am-1pm, 2pm-5pm; Sat: 11am-1pm, 2pm-5pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Entrance fee in GBP: Family £10.00, Adult £3.50, Youth 20 & under £2.50, Pensioners (OAP) £2.50
More Brighton Pictures
Map of Brighton Attractions