Enjoy the Victorian splendour and Bohemian allure of Britain’s most progressive seaside resort with our guide to visiting Brighton on a day trip.  

By: Paul | Last Updated: 26 Jan 2024 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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Since King George IV built his party pad, Brighton Pavilion, for regular royal romps by the seaside, Brighton has been the go-to-destination for a weekend of revelry.

Closer to modern times, Brighton prides itself on being the poster child for inclusivity and counterculture. It has the highest density of vegan restaurants in the country, a thriving LGBT scene, edgy street art and quirky shops in run-down Victorian buildings.

Our day trip to Brighton covers the most important attractions in the right order so you can see the best of Britain’s diverse seaside resort.

The map at the end of this guide provides a walking route to take with you on your Brighton day tour.

brighton seafood and oyster bar

BRIGHTON DAY TRIP / MORNING

COFFEE

Brighton has excellent coffee, fuelled by a competitive independent café scene. Start your day out in Brighton with Coffee@33 near the train station.

NORTH LAINE

After coffee stroll around North Laine, (not to be confused with The Lanes, see below) a collection of quirky independent shops spread along a couple of narrow streets.

The main section is based around Sydney Street, Kensington Gardens, Gardner Street and Bond Street.

It’s our favourite part of Brighton with a laid-back, alternative vibe. You’ll find everything from vintage clothes to musical instruments. Stores packed with curiosities overflow onto the streets. There are cool record shops, bookstores, cafes, and plenty of great finds to be discovered.

Keep an eye out for the street art and rooftop installations giving North Laine area its distinctive personality.

Here are some of the shops to check out:

  • Snooper’s Paradise – This famous vintage shop on Kensington Gardens sells bric-a-brac, clothing, vinyl, antiques, toys and much more.  
  • Photomatic – Get a retro-styled snap at the Photomatic booth to remember your Brighton day trip.
  • Dave’s Comics – Check out the excellent selection of graphic novels, comics, posters, children’s books, and Manga at Dave’s Comics.

ROYAL PAVILION

After exploring North Laine, continue down to the Royal Pavilion.

The Royal Pavilion is a Grade I listed former royal residence. It was built as a seaside pleasure palace for King George IV while he was the Prince of Wales. His extravagance and passion for the good things in life resulted in the richly decorated whimsical palace you see today.

It’s one of the most popular things to do in Brighton and it’s well worth visiting on a day trip.

Tickets // Book Royal Pavilion skip-the-line tickets.

brighton pavilion
BRIGHTON PAVILION

PAVILION GARDENS

Don’t miss the beautiful garden that surrounds the Pavilion. The organic garden maintained by a team of volunteers is a lovely free green space in the centre of Brighton.  

BRIGHTON MUSEUM & ART GALLERY (OPTIONAL)

The Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is just across the gardens from the Pavilion.

The Fine Art collection contains some old masters and modern artists. The Ancient Egypt section is one of the largest in the country.

There’s also a fashion collection, images of Brighton through the years and a section on design and technical innovation.  

// Pavilion or Museum

For a day trip, we’d recommend doing either the Pavilion or the Museum, but you probably wouldn’t have time to do both.  

THE LANES

Next head downhill and into The Lanes. It was once the hub of the old fishing port of Brighton. Today it’s an area of tight lanes with restaurants, tea rooms, and some traditional pubs.

It’s an often-recommended Brighton attraction. However, in our opinion, it’s only worth a quick stroll. It’s mostly dominated by jewellery stores, but there are a few interesting spots including the Lanes Armoury and Paxon & Glew Art Gallery.

BRIGHTON DAY TRIP / LUNCH

By now you’re probably ready for lunch. You could either grab something in the Lanes or walk down to the Fishing Quarter on the seafront and try some fresh seafood. Here are some suggestions:

  • Lost in the Lanes – A contemporary restaurant in the Lanes with an excellent brunch and lunch menu.
  • Brighton Shellfish & Oyster Bar – A Brighton institution on the seafront selling an excellent range of shellfish including Oysters from Jersey.
  • The Brighton Smokehouse – Try a sandwich with traditionally smoked fish at this hole-in-the-wall café.

BRIGHTON DAY TRIP / AFTERNOON

FISHING QUARTER

The Fishing Quarter is home to Brighton’s fishing heritage. Take a quick look around the free Brighton Fishing Museum then visit the other old vaults occupied by local artists, photographers, and independent traders.

BRIGHTON BEACH

Head along the seafront, towards the i360 to explore the beach. If the weather’s good you might have time for a quick swim. Alternatively, there are plenty of water sports available.

You’ll also find plenty of bars and pubs spilling onto the beach.

BRIGHTON i360

Stroll past the iconic Brighton Grand Hotel on your way to the Brighton i360. Experience 360-degree views of the city and the seafront from the 162-metre-high rotating observation deck.

Tickets // Book Brighton i360 skip-the-line tickets.

WEST PIER RUIN

Just opposite the Brighton i360, is the West Pier Ruin. It originally opened in 1866 and it was the first Grade I listed pier in England. Closed since 1975, the pier fell into gradual ruin until fires in 2003 destroyed much of what was left. It remains a slightly eerie photo spot.

UPSIDE DOWN HOUSE

Continue along the foreshore to stop at the Upside Down House. Combining street art with an entertainment space, experience the illusion of zero-gravity inside the mind-bending house. Purchase a combined entry ticket for the Brighton i360 and the Upside Down House, saving 20%.

BRIGHTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Just behind the Upside Down House in the King’s Road Arches, we recommend popping into Brighton Photography. They have stunning images of the city and South Downs area by local photographers.

upside down house brighton
UPSIDE DOWN HOUSE

BRIGHTON BEACH BANDSTAND

Continue along the seafront to the Brighton Bandstand. The ornate structure opened in 1884 and it was restored to its original condition in 2009. It’s considered to be one of the finest examples of a Victorian bandstand still surviving in England today.

BRIGHTON PALACE PIER

Retrace your steps and head back to the Brighton Palace Pier. The iconic Brighton attraction opened in 1899 and has provided fairground entertainment ever since. There are rides, arcade games, side shows and various play areas. The Helter Skelter is one of Brighton’s most recognisable attractions.  

BRIGHTON DAY TRIP / EVENING

SUNSET DRINKS

After getting your kicks on the Palace Pier, grab sunset drinks. Palm Court Restaurant occupies a prime spot on the pier with unbeatable sea views.

From November to January, large numbers of starlings congregate at dawn and dusk around Brighton’s pier. When they take to the skies it is a fantastic wildlife spectacle known as a ‘Starling murmuration’.

brighton beach
BRIGHTON BEACH

NIGHTTIME ENTERTAINMENT

Brighton has a long reputation as an inclusive destination. At just 50 miles from London, it’s easy to take advantage of the nightlife on a day trip.

The area of Kemptown is the gay capital of Brighton and it’s the perfect spot for a pub crawl. Black Dove, Plotting Parlour and Proud Cabaret are all worth checking out.

The Brighton Dome is the top live music destination in town. It’s a unique venue that features everything from classical music to dance and comedy.

At the end of the night, walk back to Brighton train station and take the train back to London.

brighton dome
BRIGHTON DOME

MAP | BRIGHTON DAY TRIP

Starting at the train station, this map provides a route through North Laine towards the seafront then back to the Palace Pier to capture all the attractions on this day trip.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


OTHER THINGS TO DO IN & AROUND BRIGHTON

Here are a few more things to do in Brighton if you have some more time, or perhaps for a 2nd day trip.

SEA LANES

The Sea Lanes opened in June 2023 and transformed a previously neglected area of the Brighton seaside. While you may not have time to visit on your Brighton day trip, it’s a fantastic swimming venue with several bars and cafes overlooking the water.

BEACH BOX SPA

The Beach Box Spa is an all-year sauna set on the pebbles of Brighton. There are 3 different saunas: two 6-seaters and one 12-seater. The wood-fired, converted horse trailers also have panoramic views of the sea. Several treatments are available, and they host regular events with a healthy and mystic focus.

SEA LIFE & ZIPWIRE

Sea Life Brighton holds the distinction of being the oldest operating aquarium in the world. It opened in 1872 and continues to be one of Brighton’s star attractions. There are around 5,500 creatures in the Victorian aquarium. Just across the road Zip Wire Brighton is the longest zip line on the South Coast.

BRIGHTON TOY MUSEUM

The Brighton Toy Museum is located underneath the Victorian arches of the railway station so it’s a good thing to visit on your way in or out of town. It’s home to an extensive collection of toys from the golden age of toy manufacturing including rare vintage model train sets.

BRIGHTON MARINA

Brighton Marina is a harbour with shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Most of the restaurants are chain outlets you could find anywhere and it’s around 40 minutes’ walk from the Palace Pier, so we suggest you give it a miss on your Brighton day trip.

HOW TO GET TO BRIGHTON

Brighton is a seaside resort, 47 miles (76 kilometres) south of London.

The fastest route to Brighton from London is by train from either London Victoria or London Bridge.

Direct trains depart regularly and take just under 1 hour.  

Check cheap train tickets on thetrainline.com

DAY TRIPS FROM BRIGHTON

If you decide to stay on a little longer in the South Downs area, here are some great day trips from Brighton we highly recommend.

  • The Seven Sisters Cliff Walk is one of the finest in the country and just a 20-minute bus ride from Brighton.
  • Lewes is a traditional market town and a great day out from Brighton. The high street has a mix of nostalgic and contemporary shops, and Lewes Castle dates back to 1066. It’s around 20 minutes by train.  
  • Devil’s Dyke is a 100-metre V-shaped valley, 6 miles from Brighton. It’s a great place to enjoy the wonderful outdoors of the South Downs.

IS ONE DAY ENOUGH IN BRIGHTON?

Given the proximity to London, one day in Brighton allows you to see the main attractions including North Laine, the Pavilion, and the Palace Pier. You’ll also be able to enjoy Brighton’s great food scene and stay a little later into the day to enjoy sunset.

Turning your Brighton day trip into a weekend break is a great option in summer when you can laze on the beach and take advantage of the newly opened Sea Lanes.

WHERE TO STAY IN BRIGHTON

If you decide to stay over and enjoy a longer, lazier day in Brighton, here are some hotel recommendations.

VICTORIAN SPLENDOR

GRAND HOTEL

The Grand is the premier Victorian address in Brighton with seafront views, a piano bar and luxury spa.


OUR PICK

CHIC PUB

THE GINGER PIG

Blending tradition with contemporary style, The Ginger Pig is a luxurious stay in a modern pub with excellent food and cocktails.


LUXURY

DRAKES HOTEL

Mix with A-listers in this cool boutique hotel set across 2 Georgian townhouses opposite the pier with excellent views.


brighton day trip

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