Brighton is a seaside resort town on the southern coast of England. It’s an extremely popular place to visit in the summertime with Brits (who rarely ever get to see the sun) and want to take advantage of the nice weather!
Brighton has most of their parties, festivals, and families during the summer months, so if you are coming in the off-season you won’t find much to do. However, there is still plenty to do here that doesn’t involve the beach or festival and I prefer it during the shoulder season when the city isn’t too crowded.
This travel guide to Brighton can help you plan an affordable and off-the-beaten-path trip.
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Brighton
1. Stroll the Brighton Pier
2. Visit the Royal Pavilion
3. Spend time at Brighton Beach
4. Day trip to Seven Sisters Country Park
5. Go to the Brighton Festival
Other Things to See and Do in Brighton
1. Explore the city through the eyes of a local
Brighton has a free program for its visitors called Brighton Greeters. Once you register, you’ll be paired with a volunteer local who will spend two hours showing you around the city. It’s a unique way to see Brighton and get a chance to connect with an insider. I can’t recommend it enough.
2. See contemporary art at Fabrica Gallery
This art gallery is artist-run and owned that deals mostly with contemporary visual art. It is only open for special exhibitions but, with free admission and a unique space, it’s a wonderful spot for afternoon inspiration. Visit their website for a schedule of shows.
3. Take a break at St. Anne’s Well Gardens
A beautiful and expansive park near the Hove seafront, St. Anne’s Well Gardens has tennis courts, a children’s play area, and beautiful, local and exotic trees. There’s a small garden café in the park open until 5pm every day.
4. Explore under the sea at Sea Life Center
First founded in 1871, this is the world’s oldest operating aquarium. There’s conservatory, a reading room, a fernery, a rockery, a cascade, and a roller-skating rink. The aquarium’s star attraction is the new Day & Night exhibition, which includes a 24-hour window into what life in a coral reef looks like with Black Tip Reef Sharks and stingrays. As you walk through the Day & Night aquarium, the lighting changes so you can see different species living in different environments. Admission is £15 ($19 USD) or just £10.50 ($13 USD) if you book online and in advance. Children under 2 enter free.
5. Go for a walk at the Devil’s Dyke
This valley stretches nearly 7 miles (11kilometers) north towards the Wealds and south to the sea. It’s the largest dike in the UK and is part of the Southern England chalk formation. There is a lot of beautiful wildlife to see from birds to butterflies and it’s also a popular spot for hang-gliding too. It’s a popular weekend escape, especially on Sundays when a lot of locals take out their dogs and go for walks.
6. Attend a special event at the Brighton Centre
This is where you’ll find big-name concerts, shows, and special events. Check out the calendar to find what’s on or, if you’re walking by, sometimes the special events and festivals have day-of tickets.
7. Get lost in the Brighton Toy & Model Museum
For something a little unusual, the Toy & Model Museum is a fun escape. Located underneath the central train station, you’ll find working toy trains and other vintage toys and 20th-century packaging & advertisements are set up in glass cases to view. Admission is £6.50 ($8 USD).
8. Party in Brighton’s Gayborhood
Brighton is famously one of the UK’s most LGBTQ-welcoming cities, and most of the gay and lesbian nightlife is in Kemptown neighborhood along St. James Street. Just a few blocks from Brighton Pier, there are a number of great LGBTQ-owned bars, venues, and clubs. The Charles Street Tap is a long-running gay bar with pub nights and pop music blasting on the TV screens, while The Queens Arms is a small gay cabaret. If you’re looking to belt some music, Bar Broadway plays showtunes with sing-a-longs and welcomes everyone.
9. Get panoramic views from the i360 tower
One of Brighton’s newest attractions (opened in 2016), the British Airways i360 tower stands 162 meters (531 feet) tall at the foot of the former West Pier. The tower offers panoramic views over Brighton and, on a clear day, you may even be able to see the Isle of Wight about 40 miles away. The experience takes less than 30 minutes and costs £16.50 ($20.50 USD) or £14.85 ($18.50 USD) if booked online.
10. Shop in the Lanes
The Lanes are a famous spot to catch a glimpse of that hippie Brighton vibe. It’s simply just a collection of narrow streets and alleys, or lanes, with lots of independent small shops, restaurants, and street art. Look for the North Lane Bazaar shopping streets and just poke around the different shops for souvenirs.
For more information on specific cities, check out these guides!
Brighton Travel Costs
Hostel prices –Hostels cost between £15-25 ($19 USD–$31 USD) for a dorm room, though you can find even cheaper prices during the off season (even if the beach isn’t as pleasant in the winter). Private rooms start around £50 ($62 USD) during the summer months. In the off season, they are sometimes as low as £12 ($17 USD) per night.
Since Brighton is surrounded by a national park, there are also plenty of camping options available in the area. For a basic plot, expect to pay £10-20 per night.
Budget hotel prices – Nightly rates for a budget two-star hotel room with a private ensuite bathroom start at about £60 ($75 USD) in peak season. In the off-season, budget rooms start from about £54 ($67 USD).
There are lots of Airbnb options in Brighton. A shared room (like a bed in a dorm) averages about £16 ($21 USD) per night, while a private room is about £48 ($60 USD) per night. A full apartment averages about £50 ($62 USD) per night.
Food – You can eat cheap in Brighton if you stick to street eats and food vendors (plus many of the hostels have free breakfast). You can find fish and chips or a kebab for about £5 ($6.50 USD) each. Indian and Asian food can be purchased for between £6-10 ($8-13 USD) for lunch entrees. You can buy pizza, burritos, and sandwiches for between £5-9 ($6.50-12 USD).
A McMeal is about £5 ($6.50 USD).
For a mid-range meal at a pub or restaurant, you can expect to pay between £12-16 ($16-21 USD) for a main course like pasta or a vegetarian meal. Fish or meat will cost slightly higher at about £18 ($23 USD) per dish. A pint of beer can cost up to £6 ($8 USD).
Sunday Roasts are a well-known tradition in Brighton, like most of the United Kingdom. Usually served with lots of vegetables, this is a hearty way to end your week. Some good places for it are The Royal Sovereign Pub, The Dover Castle, and The Dorset Bar & Restaurant.
A week’s worth of basic groceries (fruits, veggies, pasta, chicken, sandwich stuff) will cost between £40-£50 ($52—$60 USD). The best places to buy cheap groceries are Lidl, Aldi, and Sainsbury’s.
Backpacking Brighton Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Brighton, expect to spend about £56 ($70 USD) per day. This budget will cover a hostel dorm, public transit, street food, cooking some your own meals, and mostly free attractions.
A mid-range budget of about £100 ($130 USD) will cover staying in a private Airbnb room, eating out for most of your meals, public transit, and about one paid attraction each day.
On a luxury budget of about £305 ($380 USD) or more per day, you can get an excellent four-star hotel, eat at nice restaurants, have some drinks, and take a few taxis. You’ll also enjoy a tour or a few attractions. The sky is the limit!
If you come in the low season, you’ll save about 25% on accommodation.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Brighton Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
While England is one of the most expensive countries in the world, Brighton is more affordable than other cities thanks to cheap pubs, public parks, beaches, and lots of hostels. Here are my top ways to save money when you visit Brighton:
- Visit the parks and gardens – Brighton offers many parks and gardens that are beautiful to explore during the summer months, and they are free!
- Buy an all-day bus ticket – If you need to use the public buses to get around, save money by getting an all-day bus pass. They’re £5 ($6.25 USD).
- Eat cheap – Eating fish and chips at pubs along the pier will save you money on food. Meals here cost only a few pounds, and while it’s not the healthiest meal around, it’s certainly the cheapest. For further savings, simply cook for yourself!
- People watch at the beach – Sunday is beach day and the Brighton Pier and Brighton Beach crowd with weekend tourists and day trippers from the surrounding area.
- Take a free walking tour – If you want to get a better feel for the city, be sure to take a free walking tour. They only last a couple of hours and are a great way to engage with the city’s history. Both Free Walking Tours Brighton and the Visit Brighton Greeters have excellent guides and cover all the bases.
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. Using the Uber Pool option, you can share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too). You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
- Couchsurf – If you’re on a budget you’ll definitely want to try couch surfing. It’s an easy and enjoyable way to cut costs while connecting to the local scene. Many students will be away in the summer, however, so be sure to apply early.
Where To Stay in Brighton
As a relatively popular weekend destination, Brighton has quite a bit of accommodation options, though many are small, boutique hotels. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Brighton:
How to Get Around Brighton
Bus – The best way to get around Brighton, especially if you stick to the central area, is by foot. The city is relatively compact and most everything is easy to reach. However, there is an extensive bus network through Brighton and Hove to get around if you need to use it.
Rides in the center of the city are just £2.20 ($2.75 USD), while any other fare around the Brighton and Hove region is £2.70 ($3.30 USD). A 1-day pass, called a “citySAVER”, is £5 ($6.20 USD). Tickets can be bought on the bus or in advance through pay stations and shops around the city.
Bicycle – Brighton’s public bike-sharing program is BTN BikeShare and you can find docking stations all over the city. You can rent a bike for £1 ($1.60 USD) and then just 3p/minute.
Bike rentals from private companies start around £15 ($19 USD) per day.
Taxis – Taxis cost about £6 ($7.80 USD) per one mile, but the price decreases the further you go. For example, a six-mile journey will cost you around £24 ($31.20 USD) (but more during peak hours). You can also use an app such as “mytaxi” to order your ride. Given how expensive they are, I wouldn’t take one unless absolutely necessary.
Uber – Uber is available in Brighton but again walking or cycling are the easiest way to get around in the compact city. You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
When to Go to Brighton
Brighton doesn’t get too cold and, as a beach destination, it surprisingly doesn’t get too hot either. (But that’s England for ya!) Summer is peak tourism season, and temperatures are the warmest during this time – but rarely ever above 80°F (27°C). Brighton is bursting at the seams during this time, but the city offers a great, lively atmosphere thanks to the many seaside attractions. People make the most of the warm weather and there are constantly tons of events and festivals happening.
Spring (late March to June) and autumn (September to November) are also fantastic times to visit, as temperatures are mild, and it’s drier than other times throughout the year. Winter lasts from December to February, and tourism crowds will thin out dramatically during this time. Temperatures rarely dip below 37°F (3°C), and prices are slightly lower as well.
How to Stay Safe in Brighton
Brighton is safe and the risk of violent crime is low. Scams and pickpocketing can occur around high traffic areas, especially in Brighton around tourist attractions like the Pier and Brighton Beach. Pickpocketers tend to work in teams so stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
Avoid leaving your belongings unattended on the beach as bags and purses get swiped. If you’re out enjoying the nightlife in Brighton, keep your belongings close to avoid potential pick-pocketers.
You can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID.
As a general rule, if you don’t do something at home, don’t do it in Brighton!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Brighton Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Brighton. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and, overall, are better than their competitors. They are the ones I use the most and are always the starting points in my search for travel deals.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around England, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Brighton Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Brighton Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
It’s pretty impossible to not love anything Bill Bryson writes. After spending nearly 20 years living in Great Britain, Bryson decides to return to the United States. (To quote him: “I had recently read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.”) But first he sets out on a tour of his adoptive country, delivering hilarious social commentary on the nation that brought us Shakespeare and zebra crossings.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s most popular novel is one of those classics you read and can’t ever forget about it. It’s famous for a reason. When Elizabeth Bennet meets an arrogant bachelor named Fitzwilliam Darcy, she immediately brushes him off as too conceited – and he immediately ignores her good looks and charm. Elizabeth discovers that Darcy has become involved in the disastrous relationship of his friend Bingley and her sister Jane, which further deepens her disdain. What follows is an excellent commentary on England’s snobbish middle-class life, and the dangers of judging someone by first impressions.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
This is Emily Brontë’s only novel, but itsa impact has withstood the test of time. The story focuses on Lockwood, the newest tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the Yorkshire moores who is forced to seek shelter one evening at Wuthering Heights (the home of his landlord). He soon uncovers a love story between a gypsy orphan named Heathcliff and high society’s Catherine Earnshaw. She eventually succumbs to societal pressure and marries the well-bred Edgar Linton, and Heathcliff’s bitterness is cast upon the next generation. Somehow, the couple’s heirs must escape this painful legacy.
Sorry!: The English and Their Manners, by Henry Hitchings
The Brits are notorious for their polite behavior and the importance of having proper manners, and this book from Henry Hitchings is an investigation into this phenomenon. It isn’t just holding doors open and keeping your elbows off the table, either – there’s a whole system for things like sexual conduct, hospitality, chivalry, online etiquette, and so much more. This is a funny, upbeat read about British manners and what it all says about the English character.
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
An English reading list without Charles Dickens isn’t a reading list of all! The book is about the course of orphan Pip Pirrip’s life as he is transformed from a poor boy begging for soup to the heir of a mysterious inheritance from an unknown person. Dickens takes us through Pirrip’s life as he abandons his apprenticeship to a blacksmith named Joe Gargery and then takes up a new station as a proper English gentleman. Dickens is a masterful storyteller.
Brighton Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling England and continue planning your trip:
Photo credits: 6 – David B Young