Things To Do In Brighton
Brighton is flying high with a new observation tower on Brighton beach’s West Pier. When British Airways i360 opens, it will be the world’s tallest moving observation tower and the world’s first vertical cable car. Designed by Marks Barfield Architects – the team behind the London Eye – the 531ft-high attraction has an enclosed glass pod with room for 200 people. The pod’s Nyetimber Sky Bar allows you to enjoy drinks as you’re whisked 450ft above the beach for 360° views of Regency Square below, and the city and South Downs further afield.
At the base of the tower there is a gift shop, exhibition and kids’ play area. If you’re hungry, stop by the new restaurant Belle Vue, which seats 400 indoors and on its beachside terrace. The restaurant serves dishes made from local ingredients by chefs Josh Stanzl and Steven Edwards, winner of BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals. You can also have afternoon tea in a former West Pier toll booth that dates from 1866. Like the restaurant, the tearoom has great views of the beach and pier.
Brighton Pier is further east along the beach. There has been a pier on this spot since 1823; after the original was damaged by storms, this one opened in 1899. The pier is still home to a bandstand from the early 1900s as well as traditional rides such as a carousel and dodgems. It also has roller coasters, theatre shows and trampolines, all illuminated by 67,000 lights.
Stroll the gardens north of the pier and you’ll come to the Royal Pavilion. Like the pier, it has a fascinating past, even though it was originally built as a simple home. In 1815, King George IV commissioned the architect John Nash to transform it into an Oriental palace with minarets, domes and pinnacles. The interior is just as elaborate, inspired by the king’s passion for French decorative art and mid-1700s Chinese wallpaper, bamboo and lacquer furniture. Visit today to tour its banqueting rooms, royal bedrooms and Prince Regent Gallery. You can also tour its basement and tunnels (1 & 15 Aug).
The pavilion’s upper floor was reserved for Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, which displayed art, souvenirs from abroad and natural history exhibits. In 1873, the exhibition moved to its current home, in the king’s former stables. Visitors can now look at everything from shadow puppets from Myanmar to historical photos of Brighton and Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips sofa. You can also see designs from bloggers and stylists in the temporary exhibition, Fashion Cities Africa.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall is next door. Originally part of the king’s stables, it dates back to 1805. It became a music venue in 1866, and now seats 1,700 – it’s where Abba rose to victory with Waterloo in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. Take a backstage tour (13 Aug). Theatre Royal Brighton is behind the dome; August highlights include the variety show That’s Entertainment (2-6 Aug); Present Laughter, a comedy about a womaniser (8-13 Aug); and the new show What I Go to School for – The Busted Musical! (18-20 Aug).
What else to see: Part of Brighton’s charm is the streets around North Laine, which are lined with independent shops and cafés. The shops in the cobbled alleyways closer to the seafront sell silver jewellery, vintage treasures and traditional sweets. In either direction you’ll spot Regency townhouses – see them in Regency Square near i360, and in Kemp Town, east of the pier. Sea Life aquarium is opposite the pier; walk east along the beach – or take a ride on the Volk’s Electric Railway – and you’ll come to Brighton Marina, home to restaurants, cafés, shops and the Laughing Dog art gallery. visitbrighton.com, visitsealife.com/brighton, brightonmarina.co.uk
Where to eat: Treat yourself to a portion of fish and chips from a ‘chippy’ along the seafront or pop into a café. You’re spoilt for choice, although Wheat & Beans near Sea Life is among the best. The family-run café serves pizza and empanadas, sandwiches and cakes. wheatandbeans.co.uk
Where to stay: No. 27 Brighton B&B in Kemp Town is a short walk from the beach. The Regency townhouse has traditional décor with quirky touches such as Oriental cushions. Roomswith breakfast cost from £84. Meanwhile, Artist Residence Brighton is close to i360 and the beach. The boutique hotel has a cocktail bar, ping-pong room and 23 rooms, some with sea views. Rooms with breakfast cost from £129.