This time last year I got to spend a few hours in Brighton and I fell in love with the place almost instantly, its strange yet perfect mix of modern city and seaside village makes it in my opinion, the perfect summer holiday destination and so this year I visited again, but instead stayed there for a week so I could further explore and learn things one cannot when you only have an afternoon in the city.
One of the first things I learnt was that not only do the shops on Brighton’s beach and promenade make it seem like a seaside village but also the shops in the side streets or as they’re more affectionately known, ‘The Lanes.’ The Lanes are a collection of narrow side streets in which many quirky, small, independent and artisan shops are set up. The maze like way they are constructed with endless ‘cul de sacs’ and junctions makes each trip into them unique and means when you see something you want in a shop that you have to get it then and there as you might never find that shop again!
My highlight of shops in the lanes was ‘Choccywoccydoodah’ an upmarket chocolate and bespoke cake shop. It was around 11 o’clock when I found it and so I was straight past all the cakes portraying different scenes to their café so I could enjoy my ’11 o’clock tea break,’ or in my case, ‘hot chocolate break!’ The only way to describe the café is to compare it to something out of Alice in Wonderland, high ceilings with exposed beams and a miss match of tables. I ordered my hot chocolate and brownie and received a delicious mug of melted chocolate, frothed milk, marshmallows and cream as well an indulgent cakey brownie covered in melted dark, milk and white chocolate, it was heaven!
Being a city of course there are plenty of shops besides those small ones you can find in the lanes, with the shopping centre ‘Churchill Square’ being located on the busy main street being filled with all the big name shops you’d expect in a 21st century city. Brighton rail station is also only a walk away from most of the major hotels and 10 minutes walk from the seafront so day trips to London and other destinations on the Southern railway lines are easily arranged, just be sure to book online well in advance to save on fares. While staying in Brighton however, the highlight for me has to be the seafront.
Brighton’s seafront is dominated by the ‘Palace Pier’ which goes over half a kilometre out into the sea. On this suspended town is everything you’d expect on a seaside resort, restaurants and food stalls, slot machines and roller coasters, it really has it all! One could spend an entire day on the pier constantly discovering new things, however if you want to experience the true Brighton seaside you have to walk along the beach and explore the many shops and galleries that are under the promenade road. Here is where you’ll get the best and most unique souvenirs, including shells of every variety and hand made wooden key rings.
Eating on the seaside is a no brainer, it has to be fish and chips, as the take aways say themselves, it’s the ‘Plaice’ to be! The fish and chips from any of the take aways there that I’ve visited has always been freshly made and has tasted delicious, the original and best seaside treat. The only warning I’d give is to beware of the seagulls, when they spot poorly guarded food on the beach they will hover above you and swoop down to grab the food, the Brighton seagulls have been known to eat entire fish portions and ice creams in one mouthful, you’ve been warned!
If all the shopping and slot machines have you worn out, sunbathing is always an option. While the beach is quite stony and all but impossible to sun bathe on, the stereotypical seaside deck chairs are available for rent cheaply and you can set them up wherever you want on the beach and relax to the sound of the sea.
For me one of the highlights of my trip was watching the sun set behind Brighton’s West Pier, the original and now derelict skeleton that was the jewel Brighton’s crown in the late 1800’s when it was built. After a fire in 2003 the pier was left as a skeletal ruin awaiting restoration which still has not been started, it provides a stark contrast to the flashing lights of the newer ‘Palace Pier’ and watching the sun set behind it with only the noise being the waves filling the air is truly an amazing experience, something I definitely didn’t get to do in my afternoon there last year and something I recommend you do should you ever visit there.
Brighton is an amazing city and has so many contrasting areas that it’s perfect for holidays as there’s something to keep everyone amused. To keep costs down I recommend you travel mid week if possible, traveling mid week also ensures you have a comfortable nights sleep as noise from the many student nightclubs that fills the air every weekend making it difficult to sleep, if like me, you’re from the quiet countryside! Other than that just be sure to explore and enjoy yourself in the wonderful city that is Brighton.
All my photos from my trip can be found on my flickr.