Brighton: England’s Coolest Seaside City

Due to growing up in Michigan, the seaside has always been a treat for me. Around the world I’ve loved all kinds of seaside towns from grungy port cities like Valpo, Chile, to upscale and elegant Biarritz.

But Brighton is special. Brighton is like the San Francisco of England with a Victorian seaside flair. Young, colorful, LGBT-friendly and on the sea; what’s not to love?

This March I took a day-trip to Brighton with Amanda and by the end of the day I was swooning.

Here’s what I loved most about Brighton.

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Spotting My First Banksy

I love Bansky and have followed his work for years. So right after alighting from the train, I beelined for the famed “kissing coppers” piece, conveniently located near the train station.

Needless to say, mysterious Mr. Banksy did not disappoint.

IMG_6915“Kissing Coppers” is now covered in glass which I found sad- who would want to paint over it?IMG_6913

Window-shopping

While I wasn’t in the market for a $400 pair of heels or a pearl ring, hey, I still had fun window-shopping. I even spotted lots of my favorite French stores in town: COS, Comptoir des Contonniers, Maje and Sandro.

For the record, COS, H&M’s high-end spin-off, is kind of amazing. It’s where I’ve bought some of my favorite clothes, including a backless black dress I purchased in my Paris days.

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And even if you can’t afford to buy anything, the colors of Brighton make it worth a gander. How cute are these doors?

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Riding Roller Coasters on the Pier

As a lifelong lover of roller coasters (Cedar Point, anyone?) I jumped at the opportunity to ride a few on the old-fashioned pier in Brighton. And while the rides cost £4 each, Amanda and I had great fun careening over creaky rails with the sea directly beneath us.

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And you have to love the ever-so-English touches from the candy floss stand to the fish and chips takeaway. The views of Brighton Beach weren’t so bad either.

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Exploring the Royal Pavilion and The Lanes

Brighton does not lack for quirky architecture. First we stumbled upon the Royal Pavilion, a former royal residence built in 1787 in the Indo-Saracenic style. (A.k.a. revival Indo-Islamic designed by British architects. You know.)

As far as architecture is concerned, there’s a very fine line between whimsical and downright tacky and I’m not really sure where the pavilion falls on that spectrum.

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Next we headed to The Lanes, adorable little alleyways filled with shops, cafés and restaurants. I loved the red brick streets and narrow buildings and kind felt like I was wandering Diagon Alley. (Sigh- if only.)

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Enjoying the Seafood Dinner of my Life

I’d like to think I’m something of a seafood connoisseur. Between working at an oyster bar in San Francisco and dating a Chilean for years (Chile being the seafood capital of South America, in my humble opinion), I know good seafood.

Which is why I was surprised to have the seafood meal of my life at Riddle & Finns, a local Brighton restaurant.

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I ordered smoked mackerel on a bed of colcannon, drenched in a sauce reminiscent of my beloved New England Clam Chowder, topped with a poached egg and crispy prosciutto. Heaven.

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And Amanda loved her crispy-skinned sea bass with polenta and eggplant purée. In fact we kept trading dishes and arguing about whose was better- it was really that good.

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And have I mentioned the ambiance yet? The restaurant was snug and intimate, with tiled walls, old fishing photos and antique candelabras. Swoon.

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By the end of the day Brighton had taken top-spot for my favorite city in England, and I’d go as far as to say one of my favorite cities in Europe. I can’t wait to visit (and order the entire Riddle & Finns menu) again in the not too distant future. And because Brighton is only an hour south of London, it’s luckily an easy day-trip.

Have you ever visited Brighton? Would you want to someday?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

22 thoughts on “Brighton: England’s Coolest Seaside City”

  1. Brighton is definitely on my hit list for my next visit to the UK. The las time I was over there it was winter so I’m saving it for a summer visit! It’s nice to get some tips!

  2. Brighton looks awesome. It seems like it would be fun to visit but it really sounds like the type of place I’d like to live! And that’s so cool you were able to see a real-life Banksy!!

  3. I visited Brighton a few years ago, and I definitely agree with you on the Royal Pavilion. Did you go inside? Because that’s where I think it definitely crosses the line from possibly tacky to definitely tacky :)
    P.S. As a midwesterner, I enjoyed the Cedar Point shout-out too! The absolute best.

  4. My sister lives near Brighton (in the much less cool Eastbourne) and it really is such a hip and fun city! Your photos captured it perfectly.

  5. Fantastic photos of Brighton. You caught its essence: the Pier, rides, fish & chips, gay pride, vintage shops, and, of course, the Lanes. Such a fun and free-spirited places to live and visit. Glad you enjoyed it.

    P.S. I’d be all over that dish of crispy seabass and eggplant purée. Great choice by Amanda!

  6. sadly I don’t know England very well but this looks like a place I’d enjoy big time, especially the street art scene! Guess I should look into some cheap flights :)

  7. That’s so cool! Brighton looks great! I should visit sometime, as during my studies in Leicester I ‘ve never went that South :(
    xx

    debsbug.blogspot.com

  8. Brighton’s a great city! I used to escape down there when I lived in London (along with half of the city – it gets so bust when the sun comes out!) and thought of moving there for a while. I love the laid-back feeling and all the quirky touches.

  9. Brighton is one of England’s most popular and famous seaside resorts. Famed for having a large gay and lesbian population, is is considered by most to be the UK’s gay capital, and is home the largest Gay Pride event in Britain.

  10. I am gutted that in three times to England I have not been to Brighton… I mean to every time and never make it happen! This post has ensured I won’t make that mistake again. These are the best photos you’ve ever taken!

  11. Loved this post and opened my eyes to some of Brighton’s nicer ‘quintessentially British’ features which, when living here, we often overlook! Fish and chips on the beach can’t be beat. Enjoyed your post, thanks.

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