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I recently spent a day in Brighton and I’m raving about it. Not only is there a beach, but the city is colourful, quirky and friendly with a fantastic eating scene. It’s easy to take a day trip to Brighton from London as well as several other UK cities.
I’d been to Brighton a couple of times before but not in the last few years (given my recent globe-trotting I’ve not exactly been anywhere in the UK in a couple of years). I was expecting street art, the beach and food & drink from my Brighton day trip – and that’s what I got plus a bit more!
After this trip, it’s safe to say Brighton is one of my favourite places in Southern England, apart from of course Bristol, Bath and my hometown of Oxford!
If you’re looking for UK day trips, read about my day trips to Bath, Oxford, Cardiff and Liverpool. If it’s the beach you’re craving, consider a London to Margate day trip. I also have a post on the top 10 London to the Cotswolds 1 day trips.
BRIGHTON QUICK LINES
Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld.com
Copy of Lonely Planet England
Getting there: Trainline / Busbud
Must read: Complete guide to UK travel on a budget
Brighton day trip from London by train
I use Trainline for booking train tickets in the UK. You can compare prices and times throughout the day to get the best deal, plus the website shows live departure times which is helpful when travelling. Tickets from London to Brighton start at £19.50.
When taking a day trip to Brighton from London, there are several London stations you can depart from. For a direct journey of just 1 hour with no changes, your best bet is catching:
- A Great Northern or Thameslink train from London Blackfriars
- A Southern Railway or Gatwick Express from London Victoria
- A Great Northern, Southern Railway or Thameslink train from London Bridge.
Regardless of the service, use Trainline to book tickets. Consider getting a Railcard if you’re aged 30 or under. After a few uses, you make back the cost of the card and then some.
Day trip to Brighton from London by bus
If you just have one day in Brighton, taking the train is much quicker meaning you have more time in Brighton. However if you’re short of cash, it’s worth noting that Brighton is well connected to London and other UK cities by bus. Journeys to Brighton from London cost just £5 and take 2 hours 30 minutes from London Victoria.
How to spend one day in Brighton – quick itinerary
10am: Arrive in Brighton and head for brunch (see my top picks below)
11am: Wander Brighton Pier and relax on Brighton Beach
12pm: Visit the Royal Pavilion
2pm: Browse shops on North Laine
4pm: Stroll the Promenade and spot other Brighton sights
5pm: Pass Brunswick Square and reach Hove Beach Huts
6pm: Eat dinner in Hove
Finish your day out in Brighton & head back home!
How to get around during a day in Brighton
I explored Brighton on foot which is easy to do. You can see most of Brighton in a day without a car or public transport and even make it down to Hove, the other part of the city that is Brighton & Hove.
Sightseeing bus: If you’re not much of a walker or prefer the novelty of exploring from the upper deck of a big red bus, book a hop-on-hop-off bus for £14.
By bike: Another fun way to see Brighton (and get around a bit quicker) is a Brighton bike tour led by local guides. This will take you from Royal Pavilion to Brunswick Square (opposite ends of the city) in just 2.5 hours meaning you have more time later to relax on the beach and shop at the Lanes.
Best things to do during 1 day in Brighton day trip
Now for the good bit. Let’s run through everything to do during a Brighton day trip including visiting costs and info, plus where to eat and other Brighton travel tips.
Here’s how to see Brighton in a day…
1. Begin with brunch
Depending what time you begin your Brighton day trip from London, you may wish to begin with a hearty feed. If you didn’t guess from my many food blogs, feeding myself heartily is the joy of my life!
Billie’s Cafe: There are plenty of cafes in Brighton but I would highly recommend Billie’s Cafe on Hampton Place. With the blue checkered tablecloths and generous mugs of builders tea, Billie’s has an old-school vibe that you won’t find in some of the gentrified Brighton restaurants. I had salmon & avo but apparently the star dish is the farmhouse stack with potatoes, sausages, eggs, cheese and beans.
Joes Cafe: Another fantastic option for brunch lovers in Brighton is Joe’s Cafe. This cosy independent gets busy on a weekend but it’s well worth the queue. The best dish is Lucie’s healthy breakfast with smoked salmon, poached eggs, mushrooms and avocado.
2. Take a walking tour
Want to learn Brighton’s stories from a local? Taking a walking tour is one of my favourite ways to get orientated in a new city. This TripAdvisor award-winning Brighton story walking tour (£15) takes 90 minutes and will bring you up to speed on Brighton’s history and best neighbourhoods.
3. Tour the street art
After finding street art in Bristol, Camden and Shoreditch lately, I’m a huge fan. Set against some of the elaborate townhouses, the Brighton street art is quite the contrast. Lart, much of it tells a story. One urban mural above encourages young women to vote.
If you just have one day in Brighton, this is a fun and free activity that will introduce you to Brighton’s quirky side.
Mini Brighton street art tour:
- Head past the train station onto Trafalgar Street where the street art begins
- Turn into Trafalgar Lane (where 90% of the above photos were taken)
- Walk along Gloucester Street
- Connect to Gloucester Passage and Kensington Street.
More street art locations in Brighton: Seek out the Astoria building on London Road where there’s a recreation of Banksy’s Kissing Policemen. Find more art on Orange Row off North Road, and on turn-off streets from North Laine.
4. Brighton Palace Pier
It wouldn’t be a Brighton day trip without eating ice cream and checking out the arcades at Brighton Palace Pier. There are also fair rides if that’s your cup of tea but I’m a 27-year-old with less capacity for adrenaline than a toddler so I stuck to my Mr Whippy and chocolate flake!
Having survived two wars, Brighton Palace Pier is a Grade 2* listed building with all the charm of yesteryear. But following some big refurbishments, it’s now firmly in the modern day with free Wi-Fi so you can ‘gram your Brighton day trip!
Brighton Pier is free to visit but you can purchase a wristband if you’ll be going on the rides. Buying one online in advance saves you 25%. Wristbands are priced differently for weekdays and weekends so make sure to buy the right one.
5. Relax on Brighton beach
I’m so envious of Brighton locals for having a beach on their doorstep (even if it’s stony).
If you have time towards the end of the day, return to Brighton Beach and grab yourself a couple of beers (and a blanket to sit on if possible!). This is the perfect way to end a Brighton day trip from London if you’re taking the train and don’t need to drive.
6. Try some classic English foods
What better way to enjoy the British seaside than with ice cream? If there is one, I’m yet to hear about it. A few English seaside foods to try include:
- Mr Whippy ice cream and flake
- Fish and chips (do not take your eyes off them for a second or an evil seagull will steal your chips!)
- A stick of rock (to take home as a souvenir or gift)
- Candy floss!
7. British Airways i360
Near the remains of the old West Pier is this brand-spanking-new (well, newish – it was built in 2016) addition to the seafront. While some locals were initially iffy about it, you can’t deny it’s a fantastic attraction for tourists wanting a bird’s eye view of the coast. From the glass viewping pod at the top, you can see 360-degree views of Brighton, the English Channel and South Downs.
Book a British Airways i360 Ticket for £16.50.
8. The Royal Pavilion
If you’re trying to see Brighton in a day, you can’t squeeze in everything… But I’d recommend prioritising the Royal Pavilion! This is one of the most impressive buildings in Brighton with a colourful history to boot.
King George IV built the Royal Pavilion as a seaside pleasure palace, taking inspiration from India and China. Having been to India a couple of times now, I could appreciate the Indian influence. It’s sometimes called the ‘Taj Mahal of Brighton!’
Inside, there are some incredible rooms to peruse including the Banqueting Room, the Music Room, the Saloon and the Royal Bedrooms.
Entrance fees: £16 for adults, £10 for children (under 18). For a free option, snap it from outside and relax in the Pavilion Gardens.
Opening times: 9.30am-5.45pm (last admission at 5pm).
Address: 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton, BN1 1EE.
9. Shopping in the Brighton Lanes
Right in the heart of Brighton, the Lanes are where to pick up souvenirs during 1 day in Brighton. It’s worth visiting even if you’re not much of a shopper; there are also cafes, pubs and theatres. The spirit of boho, alternative Brighton is best discovered in this part of town.
There are two main areas:
South Lanes: Here you’ll find lots of cafes, jewellery shops and gift shops.
North Laine: My personal favourite! This is the place to be for trinkets, antiques and retro fashion. There are more than 400 independent shops and cafes in this area so I was more than happy to ditch the Starbucks and get stuck in.
Food & drink in the Lanes: I visited on a beautiful sunny day so settled myself outside Kooks Restaurant for a G&T and snacks whilst I read my book and people-watched. If you visit at lunchtime, check out Curry Leaf Cafe for casual Indian food or Lost in the Lanes for hip, wholesome lunch and brunch.
Browse the shops in this A-Z to the Lanes.
10. Wander the promenade
After visiting Brighton Beach and Brighton Pier, take a stroll along the promenade. Here you’ll spot some other famous features of Brighton. You can walk all the way to Hove, spotting colourful beach huts and finishing your Brighton day trip with a tasty dinner in Hove.
Some sights to see along Brighton’s seafront promenade include:
- The skeleton of West Pier (sandy lost to a fire)
- Brighton Beach Bandstand.
After walking past Brighton Beach Bandstand, you’re just a few moments from…
11. Brunswick Square
It may not be the most common thing to do during a Brighton day trip but I’m always amazed by this part of town. Go and ponder how the other half live at this millionaire square!
Built in the 1820s, Brunswick Square was (unsurprisingly) created for the upper classes who were expected to behave accordingly while living in them. While the classes may not be as divided these days, it’s still the fanciest part of town.
After having a nosy around, keep walking towards Hove. These two parts of the city are close enough together that you can see Brighton in a day and tag on Hove, too.
12. Hove Beach Huts
I’m no minimalist; I’m obsessed with anything bright and colourful so I was in heaven in Hove, 10 minutes’ walk down the road from Brighton. There’s not much to say about the Hove Beach Huts (apart from some sell for up to £14,000!) but they’re worth checking out as an Instagrammable destination in Brighton!
13. Eat dinner at Fatto Amano
After walking to Hove to check out Hove Beach Huts, I stopped for dinner. If you have just one day in Brighton and limited stomach room, save yourself for pizza at Fatto Amano! This pizzeria is inspired by Naples and exclusive to Brighton. The freshly-cooked woodfire pizzas cost between £5.50 and £9.50, perfect if you’re travelling on a budget. If you don’t head all the way to Hove, there’s a branch in the Lanes, too.
Check out all the best places to eat in Hove.
14. Take a food tour
Taking food tours is one of my favourite things to do in new cities. I’ve taken them in Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa and now even back home in the UK! To get stuck into the Brighton food scene including chocolate, beers, pies, Belgian fries, crumpets and more, check out this foodie walking tour with Viator (£58).
15. Take a self-guided treasure hunt
For a final fun thing to do during a day trip to Brighton, why not take a scavenger hunt? I love how many of these are popping up in cities all over the world. You use your mobile phone to unlock clues and learn about the city. Being outdoors, they’re great for travel in 2021. Check out this Brighton treasure hunt with Viator (£14).
Where to stay after a day in Brighton
If you choose to stay over in Brighton, use Booking.com for hotels and self-catering apartments and Hostelworld.com for hostels.
Best budget accommodation – Selina Brighton. The Selina chain is a great option all around the world so you can expect top quality standards. This venue is perfectly placed on Brighton Promenade with rooms from £50.
More budget hotels – Britannia Study Hotel / The Lanes Hotel.
Splash out hotel – Malmaison Brighton.
Thanks for reading my Brighton day trip itinerary!
I hope you have a wonderful time exploring this city. Whether you’re taking a Brighton day trip from London or any other UK city, there’s loads to do.
Check out some of my other England posts:
- My London archives
- How to spend a weekend in Oxford
- How to spend a weekend in Bristol
- The Manchester weekend guide
- The perfect weekend in Dorset
- How to spend a weekend in Norfolk
- Things to do in Liverpool in winter
- How to spend 2 days in the Lake District
- The ultimate Bath day trip from London
- And my guide to backpacking the UK
Visiting the UK?
Guidebooks – LP always get my seal of approval. Use the latest copy of Lonely Planet England.
Getting there & around by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in the UK (and all around the world).
For UK trains, I use Trainline. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.
For buses, I use Busbud. It’s the only site that compares UK coaches and buses. Find London to Manchester journeys for £1!
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse UK tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
For food tours pairing travellers with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
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See you next time for more adventures,
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