Beyond London

How to Plan the Perfect Brighton Day Trip from London

The wind is consistent and comes ashore with a salty smell. Seagulls wheel overhead, hoping someone will drop a chip for them to feast upon. The waves crash and roll the rocks on the beach in a hypnotic sound. This is Brighton – “The Queen of Watering Places” according to the English poet Horace Smith. Located on Britain’s southern coast, Brighton feels like a world apart from London – but it barely takes an hour to reach this seaside escape. That makes it a perfect London day trip option; in this post, I’ll share how to plan what I consider to be the best Brighton day trip.

I first visited Brighton on my very first trip to London; a blogger friend from my earliest days on the internet who called Brighton home had sold me on a visit. I stepped off the train from London, wandered the windswept Brighton Beach (it was September, after all!), and walked through the Lanes to window shop and admire the street art before returning back to the big city later in the day.

Brighton Day Trip Hero

Since then, I’ve tried to make it back to Brighton every time I visit London. There’s something restorative and healing about the fresh air off the English Channel. Plus Brighton has a very different vibe compared with London.

All this to say, it’s easy to plan a day trip to Brighton from London. In this post, I’ll cover what you need to know about how to travel to Brighton (by train), what to do during the day (the beach and more), and how you can put it all together easily to fill a day of your London itinerary. Read on to discover why Brighton is my top London day trip suggestion!

This post was originally published in November 2022, and was updated most recently in February 2024.

Why to Plan a Brighton Day Trip

Just two words: the beach. Brighton is a lovely seaside town nestled along the English Channel that boasts a unique blend of cultural charm and coastal beauty.

The iconic Brighton Palace Pier, with its thrilling rides and arcades, adds a playful touch to the visit, while the pebble beach invites leisurely strolls with picturesque views. The town is also home to a diverse array of shops, cafes, and museums you can explore. Oh, and let’s not forget The Royal Pavilion, which stands as a testament to the city’s regal past, offering an intriguing blend of Indo-Saracenic architecture and opulent interiors.

Things to Do for One Day in Brighton

Once you’ve decided to include a Brighton day trip in your itinerary, you might wonder what there is to do in this seaside town. Unsurprisingly, there’s quite a lot! I’ve put this list in (roughly) order by popularity but as you’ll see, there’s something for everyone in Brighton.

1. Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach is the reason this city exists at all; the rocky shore was originally a landing place for boats, especially those in the fishing trade. Over time, Brighton grew up and eventually caught the eye of the royal family, who were advised that sea air was good for health. They in turn began vacationing in Brighton, built the Royal Pavilion (more on that below), and inspired Londoners and others from around the country to make the journey south to the coast.

Today, Brighton Beach is as good for the mind and body as it ever was. On a sunny day, you’ll see groups and families spread out on the rocky beach enjoying the sea and sun. On windier or rainy days, you still might locals out braving the elements to walk along the seashore.

In short, no trip to Brighton is complete without making your way to the beach, even if just to admire it before heading back indoors on a foul-weather day.

(If you love the idea of visiting a beach during your London trip, I’ve got a whole list of beaches near London to choose from.)

2. Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier (fully called Brighton Palace Pier) was opened in 1899 for entertainment along the shore. Today, as then, it houses amusements like rides and games, as well as a few fish and chippies. It still feels like stepping back in time even though the games and rides are modern.

Brighton Pier is a fun stop for families. You could easily spend an entire morning or afternoon here if you decided to splurge on the wristband to ride the rides. (I don’t love rides but even I was tempted to try a few – though definitely not the one that swings way out over the water!)

3. British Airways i360

At five years old, the Brighton i360 (sponsored by British Airways) is no longer a “new” attraction, though I have no memories of even seeing it from my two most recent trips.

If you can imagine Seattle’s Space Needle, except the disk moves up and down, you’ve got the general idea of the i360. After entering the observation pod, you’ll ascend a 162m (531ft) tower that runs through the center of the donut-shaped viewing area. From the top, you’ll have time to enjoy 360-degree views (hence the name) of Brighton, neighboring Hove, the South Downs, and the English Channel. It’s a stunning view and – like the London Eye – one that you have to do at least once.

The Brighton i360 is £17.95 for adults, £12 for youth, and £8.95 for children. You can book tickets online.

4. The Royal Pavilion

Whatever image you have in your mind of a royal building in Brighton, scratch that. Brighton’s Royal Pavilion is unique in architectural style, to say the least!

Beginning in 1787, the Royal Pavillion was built in three styles: Gothic, Chinese, and Indo-Saracenic architecture. Even more unusually, these three styles are blended, making it a truly unique (and understandably protected) building in British architecture. It was built for George, Prince of Wales, who became the Prince Regent in 1811, and King George IV in 1820, as a seaside escape for his health. (That’s where the idea came from!)

Today you buy admission to the Royal Pavilion (though if memory serves, no photos are permitted inside). Tickets are £17 for adults and £10.50 for children and you don’t typically need to book in advance. The grounds are also free to visit, which is a nice way to get into the building without paying to enter.

5. The Lanes

While I have eaten in many delicious spots in Brighton during my various visits, one place I always point first-time visitors to is The Lanes. These narrow, winding streets are part of the city’s historic district, and today are home to some of the most delicious restaurants in town. Best of all, these restaurants represent a variety of cuisines: I remember having Spanish tapas for one meal, a vegetarian brunch for another, and somewhere I drank Icelandic beer on an afternoon break.

Even if you’re not peckish, it’s fun to wander through The Lanes. You might even work up an appetite seeing all there is on offer.

6. North Laine

Not to be confused with The Lanes, North Laine is in an entirely different area (though not super far from The Lanes). North Laine is a residential and shopping district near the train station. It’s a bit like several of the London markets got together and had a baby: you’ll find vintage goods like Spitalfields, clothing like Petticoat Lane, and even some funky punk shops like Camden.

This is a great place to explore if you’re waiting to catch a train back to London or need a really unique souvenir.

7. (Banksy) Street Art

Brighton – like Brick Lane in London – is a great spot if you love and appreciate street art. And one of the most famous street artists has a work (well, a replica technically) on display in Brighton near North Laine.

While Banksy had been working for several years before he painted Kissing Coppers, it became one of his most iconic early works in part because of its controversial imagery. The replica of the original work (which was sold by the building owner) is still on display and is a good starting point for exploring Brighton’s street art scene.

In particular, explore Trafalgar Street (which borders North Laine on the north) to see all the colorful, bold street art on display. Who knows – you might even discover an up-and-coming street artist!

8. The West Pier and Bandstand

I left these last two things to do in Brighton to last even though they’re more related to Brighton Beach (where it all began). That’s because they’re actually a bit further away from the other top things I recommend. If you only have a short time in Brighton (for just a day trip), you may not prioritize them and the time it takes to walk there.

First up is the West Pier and neighboring Bandstand, both west along Brighton Beach. The West Pier isn’t anything like its sibling, the Brighton Palace Pier. First of all, it’s substantially older: it was originally built in 1866. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair and was closed in 1975. A fire in 2003 left little but the skeleton of the original building; even that changes every year as more falls into the sea due to winter storms.

The Bandstand is a beautiful historic structure that dates back to 1884 and was restored and re-opened to the public in 2009. Today it hosts musical events and is a gorgeous spot for photos.

9. Hove Beach Huts

Brighton Day Trip - Hove Beach Huts

Continuing even further west along the shore (about 2km/1.25 miles from Brighton Pier), you’ll arrive at one of the most picturesque sights in Brighton – that’s not actually in Brighton! The colorful beach huts you’ve probably seen on Instagram are actually in the neighboring city of Hove. Keep in mind: you’ll need to plan the time to walk to/from these beach huts if you’re keen on snapping a photo here during your Brighton day trip.

Guided Brighton Tours

Planning your own day trip works for some folks, but if you’d like to have everything arranged and just arrive in the city ready to explore – guided tours can help. That’s why I’ve included three guided tours you may want to check:

  1. City Highlights Walking Tour – The name says it all; this tour takes you to the main sights and districts of Brighton.
  2. Brighton City Bike Tour – For something a little different, here’s a 2.5-hour guided bike tour. You’ll visit the Royal Pavilion and bike the bohemian North Laine to discover artistic shops and cafés.
  3. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour – You can never go wrong with a good old Hop-On Hop-Off tour. The main advantage is that you can get a ticket for 1 or 2 days and explore at your own pace.

How to Travel from London to Brighton

Brighton Pier

Before getting into all the cool things to do in Brighton, I want to cover the details of how you get there. As Brighton is relatively close to London, you do have a few options; I’ve detailed them below so you can choose the one that makes the most sense given your London itinerary and budget.

How to Get from London to Brighton by Train

By far, the easiest way to get to Brighton is by train. While you can certainly arrange a car hire or coach (bus) to get from London to Brighton, the train is easy and takes you from the heart of London to the core of Brighton.

Trains run from London to Brighton literally hundreds of times per day. That means you’ll have multiple choices as to which train station you depart from in London; all end up at Brighton station roughly one hour later. (Trains typically take between 52-82 minutes depending on the route and stops.)

Train tickets start from £9.30 one-way (~$11.80 as of writing); try checking Trainline to see different train times and schedules. This makes a day trip to Brighton incredibly affordable depending on the other activities you plan and how many meals you have in Brighton.

How to Get from London to Brighton by Bus

The bus is another transport alternative to get from London to Brighton. On average, a direct service from London to Brighton takes 2 hours and 25 minutes. The average one-way ticket from London to Brighton will cost around € 13 if you buy it on the day, but the cheapest tickets can be found for only € 12.

There are 9 direct buses per day from London to Brighton, with the first bus departing at 6:00 AM  and the last bus leaving at 10: 59 PM. The National Express offers direct services between the cities and you can find great deals on omio.com

How to Get from London to Brighton by Car

If you’re up for an adventure, you can also drive from London to Brighton. The drive to Brighton, provided you leave from central London, can take up to two hours in normal traffic conditions, and the travel distance is 75 miles (120Km).

Economically speaking, driving from London to Brighton is an affordable option. You can spend €27.81 on gas on a round trip. 

Don’t forget, of course, that Brits drive on the “wrong” (aka opposing) side of the road compared to us in North America. You’ll also sit on the opposite side of the car. As I said, this is a real adventure!

How to Get Around in Brighton

Brighton is a compact city. So you can cover pretty much every spot on this itinerary on foot. 

However, if you don’t want to walk, you can rely on public transportation. Brighton has a great network of bus lines that provide links across the central areas. There are many bike tours and sightseeing buses that visit all the touristy spots in Brighton as well.

Have questions about planning your own Brighton day trip? Let me know in the comments!

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Valerie fell in love with London on her first trip to the city way back in 2011. Since then, she spent a year living in London and visits as often as she can (you can find her recent trip recaps here!). She launched LOMM in 2021 to help other travelers fall in love with her favorite city on earth.

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