A far cry from kiss-me-quick hats and stripy sticks of rock, modern Brighton is an exciting place to spend a long weekend. With historic locations like the Palace Pier and the Brighton Royal Pavilion and major attractions like the 300+ independent boutiques in The Lanes, there’s plenty to do, but if you want to discover some of the resorts lesser known sights follow this guide.
Funfair rides, fish and chips, fortune-telling, doughnuts and candyfloss: head for Brighton Pier and the Brighton Wheel for a traditional seaside holiday experience
Take a train ride through history
The famous 1930s Art Deco Brighton Belle train that set me humming ‘Michelle My Belle’ is currently part of an ambitious restoration project. Head for the Palace Pier, though, and you’ll find Volks Electric Seafront Railway. Opened in 1883 Brighton’s electric railway is one of the world’s oldest. It runs from the pier to Brighton Marina every 15 minutes from Easter to the end of September every year.
Hop into an open-sided train carriage and take an airy ride along the seafront to The Barefoot Café, part of Yellowbeach Sports Venue, where you can relax in a deckchair with a beer, then wander over to Brighton Marina for lunch in one of the many waterfront cafés or even in the most attractive Weatherspoons in the South.
Shop till you drop
Brighton Marina offers designer discount outlet shops, but to discover the real Brighton shopping experience, ride back towards the pier, hop off halfway, cross Madeira Drive, climb the steps and strike inland before the Aquarium to Kemp Town. which is home to independent wine shops, second-hand stores, the Red Roaster Café and designer boutiques. Afterwards, head west to those famous Brighton Lanes, which offer a world of shopping in themselves, with antiques, hand-made jewellery, gifts, off-beat fashion and curios. Heading further west takes you to the main Churchill Square shopping centre and under the arches on the seafront, where there are unique arts and crafts cabins, selling the work of local artists like Alice Mason.
Satisfy gourmet cravings
Brighton’s food scene has exploded over the past few years and the good news is that there’s something for every budget. For a lunchtime snack we found that The Coal Shed in Brighton served generously sized sandwiches, including a scrumptious shrimp po-boy stuffed with fried shrimp and smothered in homemade sauce. It's a distinctly up-market choice, for those who favour small portions of delectable food and good service.
Meanwhile, Food for Friends restaurant in Prince Albert Street in the Lanes has a great value range of vegetarian food.
If you fancy some giddy upmarket dining try GB1, the swanky new seafront seafood restaurant in Brighton's De Vere Grand Hotel, where you can enjoy everything from Beluga caviar to beer-battered Sussex Pollock and chunky chips.
Take in a show
When evening falls, the seafront, Brighton Pier and Brighton Wheel are soon glittering with lights, and Brighton has plenty to offer all night long. You can see West End shows at Brighton's Theatre Royal, comedy and bands in the intimate surroundings of the Komedia, or the brand new Emporium.
A lesser-known venue where you can spend a fun evening is the Brighton Ballroom. This historic venue has been used as everything from boxing club to air raid shelter over the past two centuries. Now, this ornate theatre hosts cabaret evenings where you can enjoy a three-course supper and watch a Frank Sinatra sing-alike introduce a host of burlesque acts oozing old-world glamour.
Follow the guide
Finally, if you really want to get to know this lively seaside town, why not take a guided tour? The Brighton Greeter Scheme puts you in touch with a local who will take you for a walk to visit some of their favourite, off-the beaten-track areas, for free. But if you want to delve deep into belle Brighton’s colourful quirky side, join an Only In Brighton walking tour and learn about the links between Mount Everest and a supermarket in Hove, the story behind Britain's 'most useless' monarch and much, much more.
Caravan Sitefinder's guide to:
Parking in Brighton
Brighton is a lively city with excellent public transport, so the best way to see it is to leave your motorhome or caravan on a campsite, then catch buses, trains and taxis around Brighton. You can drive round town (20mph mostly), but car parks are expensive.
- Buses: buy daily or weekly 'saver' tickets for Brighton's buses, which are frequent and go everywhere. Here's a list of Brighton bus services.
- Seafront parking meters from Hove to Brighton Marina are great for motorhomes as well as cars, but don't overstay your ticket, as there are a lot of wardens patrolling.
- Park-and-ride is a good option: it's at Withdean Stadium, with regular buses into the centre during traditional shopping hours.
- The Marina's multi-storey car park is excellent, and there's an Asda Superstore in the Marina, with a ground-level car park.
- The Churchill Square shopping centre multi-storey car park is fine for short-stay cars, but not motorhomes.
- Trains run all the way from London to Brighton and east and west along the coast, so you can always pitch up on a campsite near a station further along the coast or up country and get into the heart of Brighton as free as a bird.
- Volks Electric Seafront Railway will get you from Brighton Pier to the Marina every 15 minutes from Easter to the end of September.
- Brighton taxis: 01273 20 40 60
Campsites for Brighton
Caravan Sitefinder is the place to find campsites in any location in Britain and here's a selection of caravan parks you can use to visit Brighton.
Sheepcote Valley Caravan Club Site, Sheepcote Valley, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 5TS
Southdown Caravan Park, Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9XH
(Suits motorhomes, RVs and caravans)
Blacklands Farm, Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9AT
Worthing campsites (there's a good train service from Worthing to Brighton)
Eastbourne campsites (there's a good train service from Eastbourne to Brighton)