There’s a sand bucket full of reasons to visit Brighton, located about 80 km south of London, including the traditional Instagram-worthy beachside huts lining the town’s pebbly beach. A spot to change into your swimsuit—or just hang out in comfort—these huts sometimes sell for more than $30,000.
The Royal Pavilion, a turreted, onion-domed confection with its own unique seaside story to tell, is another eye-popping attraction. It was built more than 200 years ago by George IV as a party palace away from London, says Rob White, a Brightonian working in the Pavilion’s marketing office.
“It’s unlike any other UK historic house. Its exterior is inspired by Indian designs and its interior by Chinese designs—it’s massively extravagant and flamboyant,” says White.
The result—from gilded ceilings to dragon-encircled chandeliers—is the ultimate seaside-house museum. “Ever since it was built, Brighton has had a reputation as somewhere to escape for fun and relaxation,” says White. “These days, the town is lively, laid-back and very open-minded.”
This attitude helped Brighton establish one of Britain’s oldest LGBTQ scenes, including a giant celebratory Pride parade staged in the town every August. It also underpins the huge popularity of Brighton Palace Pier, a boisterous fairground-on-stilts jutting 525 metres into the water.
On bright summer days, thousands flock to its dodgems, roller coasters, restaurant and seafood stands, while greedy gulls coast alongside watching for dropped chips. Shopping, though, runs a close second for pleasure-seekers. Hundreds of eclectic stores line the labyrinthine Lanes and North Laine areas, including busy Brighton Books, cool clothes shop Wolf & Gypsy Vintage and record store Resident Music.
Visitors with sweet treats in mind head straight to Choccywoccydoodah. The chocolate shop’s red-walled interior is like a well-curated art gallery lined with tall baroque cakes and tables teeming with confectioneries like fruit creams and chocolate popcorn lollies.
Spending her days making and selling these “crazy chocolates and cakes,” co-founder and die-hard Brighton fan Christine Taylor says the town is perfect for inventive enterprises. “This is such an artistic city, with tons of original thinkers.”
It’s that sugar-rich seam of creative energy that appeals to many visitors—and ensures there’s always something new to discover. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the hidden gems, says Taylor. “Afterwards, take a stroll along our seafront and meet some of the great people who live here,” she adds.
[This story appears in the July 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]