by Matthew Head,
Details about a budget break in Brighton, with information on B&Bs and Hotels, places to eat, and fun places to visit.
Brighton is a beautiful sea-side town on the south coast of England. It’s a 50-minute train ride from central London, and the train stops at Gatwick Airport too. That’s convenient if you’ve flown in from overseas. I recently went for a short break with a friend of mine, and it was absolutely amazing! Here are my top tips for what to do whilst you’re there, and how to avoid spending a lot of money.
When to go
Obviously if you really want a beach holiday then it is best to go in the spring/summer between May and August because then you’re more likely to experiece warm weather for lazing about on the beach. However, do bear in mind that Brighton is a pebble beach (no sandcastles!) and if you’re not actually that fussed about laying out and topping up your tan then I would highly recommend going out of season.
My friend and I went in early January, and when I’ve been before it has usually been in January and February. Providing you are wrapped up against the cold, the beach in winter can be a marvellous place, and I can tell you the sea views out from Brighton pier on a beautifully clear and crisp winter’s day are stunning. Huge flocks of starlings swoop and dive over the water. When you’re standing on the more or less deserted beach watching it, it is truly breathtaking.
The other advantage of visiting in the low season apart from the lack of crowds is the cheaper price you will get on your accommodation. It might only be £20 or £30 less, but if you think that £20 will buy you a couple of lunches, you’ll see that you really are saving money.
Where to stay
I can whole-heartedly recommend two places that I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in. If you prefer a hotel, then I would suggest the Kings Hotel, which is about a five-minute walk along the sea-front from the very centre of town, out towards the ruins of the west pier. It’s modern, clean, friendly, stylish, and above all – good value for money. Deals vary but they usually have an offer on which appeals.
If B&Bs are more your thing, then why not try the Kelvin Guesthouse, which is again about a five-minute walk from the very center of town, but this time in the opposite direction to the Kings Hotel. Don’t let the outside appearance fool you – inside this B&B is warm, clean and pretty luxurious, but it retains that friendly and homely atmosphere that B&B goers love. Again, I found the price to be very reasonable, and of course
with a B&B, breakfast is automatically included.
Avoid the Travelodge in the center of town like the plague. It is situated on a busy road which you will hear all night, and it is right next to one of the busiest nightclubs in town, so you’ll get a lot of disruption from that too.
Where to eat
There’s a pub/restaurant called the Cricketers that I can fully recommend. Situated in the Lanes area, this pub has a great selection of food available, and the portions are very generous for the price. My friend and I ate a lunch there, just a sandwich and chips, but still felt full come dinner time. The style of the place is very quirky, lots of odd things stuck on the walls and nicely upholstered seating, so it’s a very pleasant environment to be in.
If you’re looking for somewhere more swanky for dinner, then I’d suggest Alfresco, an Italian restaurant that is quite literally on the sea front. It’s out by the ruins of the west pier, and it’s shaped to look a bit like a ship that’s jutting out from the promenade onto the beach. The walls are all glass, and sitting inside you’re given a cracking view of the beach and the sea around you. We were lucky enough to see a rainbow that came down and looked like it landed right on the old pier last time we ate there. It was truly special. The price is a little higher here, although I don’t think it’s any more then what you’d pay at a standard high street Italian restaurant.
What to see and do
Brighton’s got more stuff to do then you could hope for, so how much you see really depends on how much time you’ve got. Shopping is the obvious thing. There are hundreds of shops in Brighton, from well known brands to independent boutiques and vintage stores, and we spent a good few hours rummaging through some of the ones situated in the North Lanes area. If you’re after something, the chances are you’ll find it here. I’d been after a cardboard cut-out of David Tennant for ages, and there it was, hiding in a brilliantly random shop in the north lanes.
If you’re not into shopping, then in the town center you’ve got plenty of other options. The Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is free to enter, and there’s loads of different exhibits in there, from ancient world history to interesting local history, including a mock-up of an old shopping street, complete with old fashioned store fronts.
Across the road from there is the Brighton Pavilion, world famous as a palace built in the Indian style for English royalty of the 18th and 19th centuries. The architecture and artwork within are amazing, and although you do have to pay to get in, I think it is well worth it.
On the seafront next to the pier you’ll find the Sea Life Center, a public aquarium. Prices to get in here are quite steep, so I would only recommend going in if you’re really interested in sea-life, or if you’ve got children in tow.
The pier is great fun needless to say, and you can spend as much or as little money in here as you like. A couple of pounds to play on the 2p machines was more than enough fun for me! A walk along to the ruins of the west pier is nice if you’re in a reflective mood. I find the ruins eerily calm, and it’s quite nice to take some sandwiches along there and sit for a few minutes.
If you exhaust the town center then hop on a train to Falmer, only seven or eight minutes away, and you’ll be rewarded with Stanmer Park, a beautiful slice of English countryside settled next to Brighton’s two universities. The scenery is breathtaking here, and there are lots of tracks for walking and rambling. In the center of the park there’s a little village with a farm, a church and a tea shop, which makes for a picturesque rest point. Alternatively, bring your own food and have a picnic. Then the only cost for the afternoon out is the train fare, which will be small anyway.