Brighton is one of my favorite day trips from London. The seaside resort and city of Brighton is located just a one hour train ride outside the British capital. Since the mid-1800’s, Brighton has been a popular destination for tourists who come to enjoy its beaches, amusements, shopping, art and cultural scene, and historic structures. Brighton is also considered to be the unofficial LGBTQ capital of the country. With over 7.5 million visitors a year, Brighton is the most popular seaside destination in the UK for overseas tourists.
Brighton Palace Pier is one of the highlights of any visit to Brighton. Originally opened in 1899, the pier became an entertainment venue until the theater was damaged in 1973 and demolished in 1986. Today, Palace Pier features an amusement park with rides, arcades, roller coasters, games, concession stands, a carousel, trampolines, and an indoor soft play area for children. Brighton Palace Pier is old fashioned fun for the entire family!
While in Brighton, you can’t not visit the truly mesmerizing Royal Pavilion. The Royal Pavilion was built in stages between 1815 and 1822 as a seaside pleasure palace for King George IV while he was Prince Regent. Instantly recognizable, the Royal Pavilion is an Indian-style palace, complete with domes and minarets. The interior is lavishly (and that’s an understatement) decorated with French antiques as well as furniture and objects in the chinoiserie decorative style, which was popular at the time. The palace also featured the latest technologies of the day including gas lighting, fully-plumbed bathrooms, and water closets. In 1845, Queen Victoria, who disliked the public attention she attracted when staying at the palace, had the British government sell the Royal Pavilion to the city of Brighton. During World War I, the Royal Pavilion functioned as a military hospital for soldiers from the British and Indian armies. After the Second World War, the palace was renovated to return it to its original appearance during the reign of George IV, and the Royal Pavilion was subsequently re-opened as a tourist attraction. The interiors are breathtaking, and I was most impressed by the sumptuous Banqueting Hall with its 30 foot high chandelier hanging from the claws of a giant silver dragon. Below it, six smaller dragons appear to be breathing light into lotus-shaped shades to illuminate the room. I’ve never seen anything like it! Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside, so you’ll just have to visit the Royal Pavilion to see it for yourself.
The lovely gardens at the Royal Pavilion are the only fully restored Regency Era gardens in the United Kingdom. The creation of the original gardens took over 40 years. To achieve this feat, rows of houses were demolished and the main road of the town was even diverted! The original gardens featured plants brought in from all over the world, but the restored Regency garden purposefully only includes plants known to be grown in England before 1830. Today, the Royal Pavilion gardens are tended using organic principles and are a haven for migrating wildlife. Bring a picnic and a good book and enjoy!