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Brighton: My Favorite Quirky Little City in England

brighton travel

“I am sure my sisters must all envy me. I only hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret; times have changed. Nowadays, Brighton is NOT the place to find husbands. What happened?

Sometime between the age of Jane Austen and now, Brighton has become the gay capital of the UK. Don’t ask me how. Don’t ask me when. But let me just say, around 75% of the young men I’ve met over the year in Brighton bat for the other team. Not that I mind. In fact, I love it.

Why?

brighton travel

Because Brighton is the coolest, hippest, trendiest, quirkiest little town in the UK, a place where you can just let lose and go wild. In fact, nowadays, I skip London altogether, and head straight down to the south coast to Brighton whenever I find myself in the area, and incidentally where my favorite Brit lives. At the risk of offending everyone, I will step out on a limb and say that Brighton is awesome because it’s so different from the rest of the UK.

Not that my deep abiding, everlasting love for Jane Austen has anything to with it. Cough cough.

Austen aside, with the beach within spitting distance of the town, a university nearby, an hour south of London and more funky shops, restaurants and bars than you can shake a stick at, it’s no wonder Brighton has always been a popular holiday destination for Brits. Sparkly, vibrant and just plain fabulous, what’s not to love?

brighton travel

It’s not easy for me to put a finger on why exactly I love Brighton so much, rather all the weird and quirky parts of the city tug at my heart over and over again, until I never want to leave, and end up spending longer and longer on each visit, overstaying my welcome and sleeping on my friend’s blow-up mattress.

Here are my nine favorite parts of Brighton, each one emblematic of this great, occasionally overlooked town and each one representative of why I love it so much here.

brighton travel

1. The colorful town

One of my favorite things about Brighton is, well, just how BRIGHT a town it is! It’s so colorful compared with many other cities in Europe, with vibrantly painted buildings, pastel houses and rainbows splashed just about everywhere. With my own personal belief that the more color the better, Brighton is the perfect place for me.

I never get tired walking along the different neighborhoods and exploring the old-fashioned lanes with Charles Dickens chimneys. Brighton has all the charm of historic Britain revamped with a twist and lots of neon colors. What more could you want?

brighton travel

brighton travel

brighton travel

2. The Seven Sisters

Brighton is located on the beach, and nearby you can find beautiful rolling green hills and the chalk cliffs so emblematic of the UK’s south coast. This time around, we had perfectly sunny weather, so we decided to escape to the beach outside the town for the afternoon. Hopping off a double decker bus in the middle of nowhere, I followed my friend through open fields towards the sea and a famous little spot called the Seven Sisters.

Have you heard of it? Does it look familiar?

brighton travel

brighton travel

If you’ve ever seen the movie Atonement, you might recognize this place from the postcard of a town that Keira Knightley and James McAvoy dream about living together in one day.

Excited to visit a place I’ve seen in a movie, we spent the afternoon wading around in the icy water eating ice cream and reminiscing. It’s a perfect day trip from Brighton.We finished up at the local pub watching the sun set and drinking a chilled Pimm’s and lemonade, a popular summer drink over on that side of the pond. Delicious.

I feel obligated to add a little note that I went to university at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, the first of the Seven Sisters consortium of women’s colleges in America. Almost feels like fate visiting a place with the same name on the other side of the world.

brighton travel

brighton travel

brighton travel

3. Kipps Backpackers

Normally when I visit Brighton, I crash on my friend’s floor. Not exactly glamourous. This time around since I was fresh off the plane from a transatlantic flight, my grown-up side took over and convinced me to stay in a place with my own room and bed. Cue Kipps Backpackers.

When I first started traveling around Europe years ago, I was always on a tight shoe-string budget which meant massive dorm room hostels were my bread and butter. Nowadays with tons of deals to be found online, I am happy to shell out a bit more for my own space. However, I travel alone almost exclusively and sometimes, well, it gets lonely and I want to meet people, which is when I usually check myself into a private room in a hostel. The best of both worlds.

brighton travel

With online reviews having more and more importance, I always make sure I check myself into a top-rated or luxury hostel, so I don’t have any unfortunate incidents, even with a private room.

Kipps is great for many reasons, but probably my two favorite aspects were the location and the cozy room. Located right smack in the middle of everything in Brighton, it couldn’t be more convenient and easy to find and to get places. My attic private room was exactly the cozy English den I could have wished for. Everywhere around the hostel you can find little quirky and unique touches, making it a memorable place to stay.

Downstairs in the lobby there are plenty of tables, chairs, and sofas to lounge around on and get to know people, along with a bar, kitchen and group activities every night, pretty much guaranteeing that you can meet new people. Verdict? Loved it.

brighton travel

brighton travel

4. The North Laine and the Lanes

There are tons of little neighborhoods and vibrant districts around Brighton to explore. My two favorite areas are mildly confusing, but equally fun areas to get lost in. The North Laine and the Lanes, not connected. The North Laine is an area of Brighton around the Royal Pavilion that is the bohemian, cultural side of the city. All my favorite cafes and shops are here, and I can easily spend hours walking up and down these streets, along with spending all my money.

With lots of pubs and cinemas nearby, there is a ton to do here, making it a really fun part of the city filled with colorful shops and colorful characters.

brighton travel

brighton travel

Just down the road you can find the Lanes, which is a different shopping area of the city, and feels much more like a neighborhood out of a Charles Dickens novel. Here the streets are super narrow and winding, not wide and straight like the North Laine.

Along these narrow alleyways you’ll find lots of cute shops and boutiques, with plenty of other posh restaurants and fun cafes. My favorite cafe in Brighton is called Naked, and it’s tucked away off of one of these little streets. It’s a hodgepodge cafe of random stairs, small rooms, low ceilings and exposed beams, something I love about the UK. The coffee ain’t bad either. This is a great place to work or spend a lazy afternoon with friends.

brighton travel

brighton travel

5. Brighton Pier

To be perfectly honest, I’m not generally a fan of piers, boardwalks or other common beach town spots; I think they are cheesy at best and trashy at worst. That being said, Brighton Pier is a fun spot to visit, and I am a fan of walking up and down the beach in Brighton, especially when the sun is shining. With the colorful chairs nestled in the sand, people cycling up and down the road and the twinkling blue FRIGID water in the distance, my heart warms every time I catch a glimpse of the pier.

Because it’s over one hundred years old, I also am a fan of this pier because it looks like something from a different age. I could imagine women walking around with parasols back in the day and little boys with knee highs on eating cotton candy. But maybe that’s just my overactive imagination. Just down the way on the beach you can find the creepy skeletal remains of another old pier that someone set fire to in 2003.

brighton travel

brighton travel

brighton travel

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

6. The food scene

I know what you’re thinking, right? British food? Good? Yeah right, in what world?

Get this – Brighton has a burgeoning, awesome foodie scene.  I’m as astonished as you are. Literally I have not had a bad meal in all the different trips I’ve been there, and that’s saying something. From cool fusion restaurants and plenty of ethnic dining spots to chose from, to awesome cafes, bakeries and theme bars, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

brighton travel

brighton travel

Personally, my favorite meal of all time is brunch. Serve me up a sexy, hearty in-between-breakfast-and-lunch, and I’m a happy camper. This time around my friend took me to the colorful Bill’s, a great place to dine in Brighton, for any meal.

Bill’s is the place to be in Brighton and it’s usually packed. A bit of a hidden gem, it’s almost restaurant meets grocer, with the walls lined with homemade goodies and juice for sale. They even have their own beer.

However, there are tons of great places to dine around Brighton, and I make it my mission to try all new spots every time I visit. Just have a peep on Yelp or ask around and I bet you’ll find somewhere fabulous too.

brighton travel

brighton travel

7. Brighton Pride

I mentioned before that Brighton is the LGBT capital of the UK, and it’s none more evident than during their annual Pride festival and parade. I first experienced this phenomenal pride even back in 2009, and let me just say, it did not disappoint.

Someone once told me that Brighton is kinda of like the San Francisco of England, which is something I can definitely see, especially since I finally visited San Fran two weeks ago. In fact, while I was walking around the Castro in SF, I spotted not one but TWO complete naked me trotting down the street with only a sock on their, um, business. Gold sparkly socks. of course.

Now Brighton may be a liberal freewheelin’ town, but it’s still in England. I have yet to see anything remotely similar on the streets, even during Pride.

brighton travel

brighton travel

The best part of Brighton Pride is the parade, where everyone comes downtown and watches the floats, cars and drag queens strut their stuff down the main road, all dolled up with rainbows everywhere.

It’s great fun, and everyone and their children show up for the parade, most covered in rainbows. The bars are overflowing, kids are in costume, adults are in costume, and there is just a general jubilation around town. It’s really the best time to see Brighton and if you have to pick a weekend, come during pride.

And if you’re homophobic, don’t worry – you’re not invited.

brighton travel

brighton travel

8. Banksy 

Banksy, Banksy, Banksy. One of my favorite people in the whole world.

I love a good mystery almost as much as I love saucy political messages, which means Banksy is perfect for me.

If you happen to live under a rock and don’t know who he is, Banksy is probably the most famous graffiti artist in the world. except nobody knows who he is. He’ll show up and mysteriously tag political messages and sometimes even put on pop up shows and has produced movies. His controversial art now sells for millions or is destroyed, depending where you are. Super cool, right?

Outside the Brighton train station, there is a famous Banksy tag of two (male) cops full on making out in perfect Brighton fashion, poking fun at all the homophobes around town.

brighton travel

9. The Royal Pavilion

Another quirky, random facet of Brighton is that smack in the middle of town is a royal residence that looks like it belongs in India, not in southern England.

The Royal Pavilion was built in Regency England as an extravagant place for the prince to escape with his mistress. Oh intrigue. Nowadays, it’s decadent, flamboyant, and to be perfectly honest, a little bit ridiculous, but it’s one more crazy addition to the Brighton personality that I love so much.

And in the summer, it’s a great place to lounge around the lawn in front of and have a picnic and try to tan, something always difficult in the UK.

brighton travel

Source

brighton travel

Just writing this post and revisiting all my favorite haunts around Brighton makes me incredible homesick for this part of the world.

Brighton is quirky. It’s charming. It’s colorful. It’s filled with happy, weird people and it’s a really fun, exciting city to visit. Next time you are in the UK, I heartily suggest skipping out on Londontown and heading south to where the real party is at: Brighton.

Just don’t expect to find any husbands.

Have you ever been to Brighton? Would you like to visit here? What’s the quirkiest, fun town you’ve ever been to?

brighton travel

Many thanks to Kipps for hosting me in Brighton. Like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own, like you could expect anything less from me!

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43 Responses to Brighton: My Favorite Quirky Little City in England

  1. P September 6, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    Wow! Such an amazing post. I am a big Austen fan too and as soon as I read ‘Brighton’ on the title of the post I had to read it. The town looks so classic, full of history and picturesque. I hope to visit Brighton someday. :)

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      I hope you make it there one day!

  2. Jess Dante September 6, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    I just went to Brighton for the first time last weekend and we ate at Terre a Terre, a vegetarian restaurant . It was probably one of the best meals of my life . Try it next time you’re there ! :)

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

      Yum! I’ll add it to the list, my friend who lives there is a vegetarian so I’m sure she knows it!

  3. florence September 6, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    what a beautiful city! they even got green telephone box too?The kipps looks very nice also, wish to visit there someday!

    http://briefcaseandsuitcase.blogspot.com

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Put it on your list! Brighton is fabulous, love it!

  4. Amanda @ Adventure Year September 6, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Such amazingly beautiful pictures! I love that it’s such a colorful town. Those sorts of places tend to melt my heart, for sure. With literary ties on top of that? Add it to the list, I suppose. ;)

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      Add it add it add it!

  5. Alisa September 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    I too went on an Austen trek to Brighton! …and alas, no husbands. Not that I’d trust Lydia’s opinion on where to get them, anyway. But I actually didn’t like the city very much. The whole washed-up former leisure town vibe just made me feel really sad and depressed…like this was once an “it” place to be and now it’s just a skeleton of that. I wasn’t there during the pride festivities, though, which I’m sure would have made it seem more fun and vibrant. And I never dared to venture outside the city itself, which perhaps I ought to have done. The palace was pretty cool, I will say, and imagining Jane Austen on the pebbly beaches was a pleasure all in itself.

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      hahaha love that you understand! I think you’re probably right about it feeling that way, I suppose it depends on when you go as well. I went once mid winter years ago and it wasn’t as fun as peak summertime. I’m also not super super social and I tend to do stuff on my own or just with my friend so it feels different that way as well. I always found with her more stuff to do than I had time for! I love it!

  6. Must for Wanderlust September 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Loved this post, awesome photos! I have to go to Brighton, I’ve been putting it off year after year, I actually have a ton of family that lives there though so I have no excuses left! Sounds like just my kind of fun :) x

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

      No excuses, you need to go asap! You’ll love it!

  7. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren September 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    While I was living in London last year, I took the fast train to Brighton several times! I could totally see myself living there… at least for a summer. Looks like you had some fabulous weather. I love your pictures! They have Bill’s all over England and it’s definitely a favorite for breakfast! Ahhhh, I must go back.

    Happy travels :)

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

      Yeah I heard Bill’s was a chain, I loved it. Great brunch spot! and brighton rocks!

  8. Valarie September 6, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    LOVE Brighton!! Some friends and I visited Brighton on a weekend while studying in London and we all fell in love. There’s just something so undeniably charming. I adore the Royal Pavilion too. My only negative was the stone beach, OW! And then the English Channel ate not both, but one of my favorite Converse sneakers! I was so sad, but I love Brighton too much to hold a grudge. Also, the Pier us so fun, we loved all the old-timey amusement rides!

    • Liz September 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Yeah the beaches in England suck, but then again, I never really went to Brighton to soak up the sun and swim haha, not after living on the beach in Spain!

  9. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    I’m sold! This place looks awesome!!! I might have a chance to experience it in October, fingers crossed.

    • Liz September 8, 2013 at 2:23 am #

      I hope you make it there Andi, it’s amazing!

  10. David @ That Gay Backpacker September 7, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Yay, I’m really glad that you included Brighton Pride in your list of reasons. I have fond memories of walking the streets of Brighton during Pride, drunk as a skunk, sniffing poppers on the street – always a fun weekend.

    • Liz September 8, 2013 at 2:23 am #

      such a fun weekend!

  11. amelie88 September 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Those cliffs remind me of the cliffs near Etretat. It’s no coincidence those cliffs are located on the other side of the English Channel. Pretty sure southern England used to be attached to France a long, long time ago before it broke off. The coastlines are eerily similar.

    There is actually a boardwalk/pier in my town and I can think of no better place to see the Long Island Sound. I practically grew up on it and I have many fond memories of walking along it in all seasons. (If you’ve ever watched the movie Big, the boardwalk Tom Hanks goes to at the end of the movie to wish himself back as a young boy is the one in my town!) Not all boardwalks are trashy/cheesy but the tv show Jersey Shore did nothing to help the case unfortunately.

    • Liz September 8, 2013 at 2:26 am #

      Aww that sounds lovely! I loved this boardwalk because it had an old fashioned turn of the century feel. I know there are some great ones out there, unfortunately most I’ve been to kinda sucked. Glad to hear there are some around Long Island :D have to visit next year!

  12. Heather September 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    Any town with a store called “Kiss Me Kwik” is a winner in my book!

    • Liz September 8, 2013 at 2:24 am #

      LOL agreed :D

  13. justine September 8, 2013 at 5:38 am #

    What a great review! i moved to Brighton recently and this really sums the place up.

    • Liz September 8, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

      Yay! I hope you are loving life there!

  14. Charlie September 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Ah, so great to read this post about my (almost) hometown! I grew up in West Sussex so Brighton was the “big city” where we’d spend all our time. You’ve really summed up brilliantly what makes the city so amazing, and you’ve make me super homesick! If I ever move back to the UK, I would definitely move back to Brighton. I agree with you, Brighton is so different to the rest of the UK.

    • Liz September 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

      That makes me happy to hear! I think if I lived in the UK, I’d settle in Brighton too. Love it!

  15. Sara Louise September 9, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    I spy with my little eye… PIMMS!
    Brighton looks like a crazy fun place for a weekend away. I’m adding it to the never-ending list :)
    And that photo, “I’m the oldest gay in the village”… I just about died! It’s hysterical!

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 6:19 am #

      I know so funny!!!

  16. Jennifer September 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Great article, and Brighton is only an hour or so on the train from London, so it makes a great day trip if you don’t have long to explore!

    • Liz September 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      Exsctly! Love it!

  17. Angela September 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Love the pictures. I would love to go there someday!

    • Liz September 10, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      Make it happen next time you’re in the UK, you’ll love it, I’m sure!

  18. Kellie @ The Fundamental Alchemist September 11, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Big Austen fan too which is one of the reasons I love Bath – although she didn’t. Great food too but then I don’t tend to agree with the food British stereotype.

    • Liz September 11, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

      Love bath!

  19. Kait September 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Liz! Brighton looks positively beautiful! I love this post. I am planning some big changes in my life, and now Brighton is on the ‘To be researched’ list. Your pictures really caught the spirit of the place (as you described)! :) Honestly, I already love it.

    • Liz September 21, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      It’s fabulous, you’ll love it, I promise!

  20. Hannah September 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    I’m gearing up for a year in England and I am, frankly, kind of terrified, but reading through your blog is making me all excited again and reminding me why I made the decision to move in the first place! Thank you!

    • Liz September 21, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

      wahoo that makes me really happy to hear :)

  21. Lindsay September 27, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    Ah man, I wish I’d had this awesome guide to read when I visited Brighton 2 months ago! For starters, I would have made it more than just a daytrip – but also, I totally missed Banksy :( Loving all your instagram pics!

    • Liz September 27, 2013 at 4:53 am #

      Ahhhhh you just have to go back :)

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  1. Bi-weekly Travel Inspiration - foodandphotosrtw.com - September 12, 2013

    […] Brighton: My Favorite Quirky Little City in England by Young Adventuress: I absolutely have to agree with Liz, I loved Brighton when I’ve been there years ago, it should be on your itinerary when you go to London or to the south of England […]

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