I moved to Brighton from Sydney in February 2011 because I wanted to move to England but thought an Australian living in London was too much a cliché for me (also because of a boy, but that’s beside the point. I was being INDIVIDUAL, dammit). Brighton is a small city or a big town on the south coast of England. It’s arty, gay, left-wing, weird and awesome. It’s been a party-town since the Prince Regent built a holiday house (aka Palace – see below for picture) there and went for lavish orgies and feasting with all his society mates. These days it’s more a destination for over-the-top stag and hen dos, but being only an hour south of London it makes it a pretty easy weekend destination.
Being foreign, I had loads of out-of-town visitors come to stay, so I honed an excellent day’s sight-seeing for my visitors:
Tour the Royal Pavilion
It’s pretty expensive (around £10 entry) so it’s understandable that you might baulk at going inside here, but by golly it is something else. It’s19th Century Orientalism gone bananas, featuring a staggeringly reductionist understanding of Asian culture. There is a giant chandelier encircled by a lizard-like dragon, wall decorations that blend Japanese, Chinese and Indian themes and the most glorious extravagant furnishings you could imagine. It’s also got the biggest collection of copper cookware you could possibly imagine. While you’re there, you can also pop into the nearby Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. If you’re totally skint, just make like the Brightonians and eat a sandwich in the Pavilion Gardens, where you will almost definitely find a busker and a lot of seagulls.
Take tea at Metrodeco
This is a gorgeous art deco tea shop. They do their own tea blends, make delightful cakes (Guinness chocolate cake…mouthwatering) and a lovely mishmash of have beautiful vintage furniture and old crockery. It’s in what I call Brighton’s vintage quarter – there are some excellent antiques shops, especially the Brighton Flea Market, which is full of wonderful junk – furniture, bric-a-brac, taxidermied animals and some clothes. Rest your feet at Metrodeco for a well-earned (and thematically suitable) break.
Visit the beach – even in winter
Being Australian, it took me a long time to accept Brighton Beach as a beach, as it is a pebble beach. However, I discovered some merits to the pebble beach, namely that you don’t get sand everywhere. What was also weird for me was the fact that it’s on the southern coast of a northern hemisphere country, meaning the sun passes across the horizon as you look out to sea, rather than from in front of you to behind you, as it does on the east coast of a southern hemisphere country (as in Sydney). While there, you can also view the crazily outdated Brighton Pier, and also the truly awesome West Pier, which was burnt to the water in a suspected arson-for-insurance-policy attack about a decade ago. Its charred skeleton is epic at sundown, as flocks of starlings swam around it.
Have a shot of Tuaca
Tuaca is a “Brighton thing”. It’s a liqueur that originated in Italy, and the owners of a Brighton pub found it on a holiday and started importing it from Tuscany (there’s even a plaque on the outside of the St James Tavern, the first pub to sell Tuaca in Brighton – that’s how entrenched it is). If you’re in a pub that doesn’t stock Tuaca, leave.
Check out the Banksy
It’s one of Banksy’s most famous stencils, of two extra-tall policemen making out. It’s located on the side of the Prince Albert pub, just near the station. It’s said to have been sold to an art gallery in America, but that was two years ago and it hasn’t gone anywhere yet, so see it while you can.
Eat at Little Bay
This little restaurant has unfeasibly low prices for the quality of food: you can have two spectacular courses for less than a tenner at lunch, and less than £15 for dinner. It’s down on the seafront and boasts cute little raised booths that snugly fit two in a kind of grandiose opera box (red velvet curtains and all), and sometimes features live opera in the restaurant. A. Maze.
Note the quality journalism of the Argus
Another “Brighton thing” – headline spotting in the local newspaper. They are reliably hilarious and always displayed outside local news agencies. Gold.
Take in some culture
Brighton’s full of awesome performance, theatre, music and comedy. Try the Basement for some awesome avant-garde performance art, the Komedia for some decent comedy or any number of pubs for live music. You also might find a bigger touring gig at the Dome or the Concorde 2, so check out listings.