Discover the independent shops of the 'Lanes', the Royal Pavilion and enjoy fish and chips
Brighton on the south coast is known as London by the sea. Brighton is one of the first modern seaside resorts. Dr Richard Russel promoted sea bathing in the fishing village as a form of therapy during the 1700s. The Prince Regent spent much of his spare time in Brighton and built a magnificent palace, the Royal pavilion. The building of accommodation in the form of luxury squares, crescents and terraces attracted large numbers of well to do visitors.
The seaside city became a popular day-trip from London after the building of the London to Brighton railway in the mid 19th Century. Brighton grew steadily over the next 100 years. Today Brighton is associated with the youth culture of the 1960s, alternative fashion and high-end restaurants.
Tour the Royal Pavilion and wander the independent shops of the 'lanes' in the old quarter. Our day tour from London; Brighton, Arundel and the Sussex Downs Tour is the perfect introduction to the South of England.
Young, vibrant and happening
A brief history of Brighton
In the beginning
Brighton is mentioned in the Domesday Book, an 11th-century record of England's property and wealth. It was known as Bristelmestune, and the crown required rent of 4,000 herring each year. In 1514, French raiders burnt the entire town to the ground; this event took place during the War-of-the-Holy-League, a war between the French and the Habsburgs. Henry VIII (1509-1547) came down on the side of Spain, the Habsburgs, due to his wife, Catherine of Aragon being the daughter of the King of Spain. The narrow 'lanes' of Brighton survived the attacked and remain the historic quarter today.
Dr Richard Russell
The entrepreneurial Dr Richard Russell of nearby Lewes prescribed sea bathing and the drinking of seawater as a cure for various diseases, particularly of the enlargement of lymphatic glands. The use of seawater was widely acclaimed, and therefore he opened a new practice in Brighton in 1753.
A fashionable resort
By the late 1700s, the grand Regency homes in the terrace-style had started construction, and the old fishing village became the high-end resort of Brighton. The arrival of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) in the 1780s secured the prestige of the developing new town. The Prince used Brighton as an escape from the stifling court etiquette of London. He also used Brighton to liaise with his secret wife Maria Fitzherbert, a commoner and Roman Catholic, noting that the Act of Settlement (1701) barred Catholics from succeeding to the throne.
Coming of the railway
The London to Brighton railway line was completed in 1841. For the first time, Londoner's could visit the seaside in a day. The city grew rapidly as a result. During this huge growth period, two pleasure piers opened, and the famous Grand Hotel opened its doors in the year 1864. In 1997, the conurbations of Brighton and Hove joined and were granted 'city' status by Queen Elizabeth II in the year 2000 as part of the millennium celebrations.
Today Brighton remains a vibrant young and liberal city with an independent spirit.
What to do and see in Brighton
Brighton Pier (1899) features a fairground and is great to take in the fresh air blowing up the English channel. The famous West Pier has been closed since 1975 awaiting re-building.
The council announced plans in 2006 for erecting a new landmark in place of the West Pier; the i360, a 162m (531 ft) observation tower designed by London Eye architects Marks Barfield. The 'London Eye team' conceived the building as a vertical pier with ascending and descending doughnut-shaped viewing platform. The huge pod takes up to 200 people and contains a champagne bar. There is full wheelchair access, and the capsule is air-conditioned. The i360 is the World's thinnest tower, with a height-to-diameter ratio of 40 to 1.
Volk's Electric Railway
Volk's is the World's oldest working electric railway taking passengers along the beach's edge, delivering people to the Pier. It opened in 1883.
Brighton Sea Life Centre
Modern aquariums are great, but, there is something special about the old Brighton aquarium, firstly it is the second oldest operating aquarium in the World. It has a wonderful Victorian aura of magic about it – with arches, dark passages and alcoves. The upgraded attraction has over 100 species of sea creatures, totalling 3,500 specimens and a glass-bottom boat ride and a shark tunnel attraction.
The Royal Pavilion - The Palace of pleasure and illusion
The Royal Pavilion is the bizarre but beautiful former Royal Palace built as the Prince Regent's home in the early 1800s. It is notable for its Indian architecture and Oriental interior design. The town owns the Palace today, so you will not see the Queen there.
The Prince Regent visited the town in 1783 when 21. He was a spoilt man, but intelligent with an interest in fashion, food, music and members of the opposite sex. The Prince Regent's new Palace was a place to set his own rules and do what he wanted, away from prying eyes. Mainly the Pavilion was a retreat for the Prince and his wife, Mrs Fitzherbert.
After the King's death, the new King William IV and Queen Victoria used the Palace occasionally only. Queen Victoria sold the Pavilion to Brighton town in 1850.
Inside the Palace
The exterior of the Palace will get your mind racing, and the interior will blow you away. The style of the interiors is called 'Chinoiserie', which is a European interpretation of Chinese decoration. The Palace was all about pleasure, defused lights and reflective surfaces and mirrors to create illusions. It is pure magic and eccentric in so many ways.
The Banqueting Room is were the Prince held elaborate dinner parties with up to 60 dishes. The Chandelier is 30ft long and a ton in weight held in the claws of a silver dragon. Dining at the Pavilion was a relaxed affair with men and women sitting side by side, which was not acceptable in London at the time.
The Music room is another great room: Music, food and fashion were the Prince Regent's passions. Nine lotus-shaped chandeliers lit the room. The King's band entertained guest, and on one occasion the Italian composer Rossini visited the Pavilion and performed for the King.
The Pavilion was much like a Royal Hotel, with the latest heating, ventilation and lighting systems. Guests were asked ahead of time as to their preferences to food and music. Dinner always served at 6 pm followed by games and drinking into the night. Guests had options to breakfast in-room or in a gallery. Royal household staff were paid well and even had final salary pensions.
Queen Victoria: 'The Pavilion is a strange, odd, Chinese looking place, both inside and out – low ceilings and I can only see a morsel of the sea.' You can see that the Pavilion is an acquired taste for some, but a must-visit because it is so strange and wonderful at the same time.
The 'Lanes' are network streets, alleyways and narrow passages, which was once the old settlement. Small shops occupy the patchwork of roads, mostly run by families and independent traders. There is a high concentration of diamond merchants since Brighton is a lovers retreat; romantic weekends turned into engagement weekends. There are plenty of tea and coffee shops and trendy restaurants of every genre and level. There are a few antique retail spaces, which are worth a stroll around. You will also find alternative and vintage fashion stores. Your private guide can help navigate around this maze of retail options.
Touring and accommodation
There are hundreds of places to stay in Brighton, and the offering changes frequently. Therefore we can advise you accordingly if you wish to remain in the city. Brighton is in the centre of England's Wine Country; many of the vineyards have tasting rooms, offer tours and have high-end restaurants or great cafes. See our English Sparkling Wine Tasting page for further information.
Our recommended Sussex hotel is South Lodge Hotel and Spa near the town of Horsham. South Lodge is in an excellent location to tour the region's vineyards, castles, gardens and of course, Brighton. The beauty and historic Amberley Castle Hotel is nestled within the South Downs National Park and is an easy day trip to Brighton. Our suggested day tour from London; Brighton, Arundel and the Sussex Downs Tour works very well too.
Another option would be to include Brighton as part of an extensive tour of the south coast. Our suggested England's South Coast Tour which our Tour-designers can customise to meet your preferences and available time.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
A Traditional Seaside Experience
The Vibrant City on the South Coast
- Tour the Royal Pavilion
- Ride the i360 Observation Tower
- Shop in The Lanes
- Stroll on the Pier
- Choice of Hundreds of Restaurants
Brighton's Grand Georgian Terraces
The i360 (531ft)
i360 Champagne Bar
View from the i360
The i360 Brighton
Inside the i360
Retro Shops in The Lanes
Pubs in the Lanes
Shops in the Lanes
Sunset in Winter
Alleyways in the Lanes
The Pavilion Domes
The Royal Pavilion Music Room
Help us make your trip exceptional
Our UK, EU and US office-based staff will listen to what you want to see and experience.
Whether you are a honeymoon couple, a family or a corporate incentive group, our team’s collective resources will be brought together to build the experience that’s right for you.
We will require your arrival and departure dates, details of your personal preferences and places that you would like to visit as well as the events you would like to experience.
We will then prepare a draft itinerary and send it to you by email for your approval. Once agreed, we will send you a Booking Confirmation with Personalised Itinerary and Information Pack via email.