London’s great, but sometimes you just need to catch a breath of fresh air.
Somewhere away from the eight million people, chain shops, pollution, noise and all those things that can sometimes make a big city a hell of a place to be. Which is why you should take a break from it all and jump on a train at Victoria or London Bridge heading 60 miles south to Britain’s most famous sea resort town—Brighton.
Aside from being a popular location for a weekend away for many Britons, the city is known for its informal and inclusive attitude since its beginnings. Now it’s a renowned liberal capital, home to musicians, creatives and the UK’s biggest LGBT community—even Nick Cave and Adele choose Brighton as a home for its uniquely friendly and peaceful environment.
Before getting lost in the city centre, walking down towards the seafront, or into the narrow, colourful North Laines, take a right leaving the station and climb up West Hill to go to Joe’s Cafe; the slightly arduous 10-minute walk up the hill is worth the effort. At Joe’s they are really serious about breakfast, from the classic English breakfast to the homemade hash.
Now that you have a full stomach, you’re ready to start your day in town. Walking back down towards The Laines, your first stop should be one of the UK’s oldest record shops, The Record Album. It offers one of the greatest soundtrack collections in vinyl, selected by the shop owner, George Ginn. This is just one of the many cool local independent music shops you can find in town—to get an idea of how good the Brighton music scene is, make your next stop Resident Records. It’s probably the only music shop that, instead of closing its doors a couple of years ago, doubled its size. It’s also a good spot to scope out future gigs, as out the front there are endless lists of shows going on in town.
Another place to check out is the wall on your right as you walk down the station underpass—try to name all the musicians pictured on the Prince Albert pub’s wall of fame. At the bottom of the mural you’ll also find the original Kissing Coppers by Banksy.
If you love vintage then Brighton’s a mecca. Some of the most famous shops are in the North Laines, it could take you hours to visit all of them. From the characteristic smell to the gems you can unearth, the whole thing is an experience. If you’re looking for an old Brownie camera, a 50’s lamp, or an unknown polaroid archive then you’ve got to visit Snoopers Paradise. If you finish up there and are still in the market for a pair of jeans or an original hippie gown from the 70’s, go to Waiste Vintage.
It’s not time to head to the beach yet. Not before going to have a look at Royal Pavilion, Brighton’s most famous landmark. Over the years I’ve heard and read many stories about this seemingly misplaced Indian-style building. The one I loved the most is that George IV, who never went to India, commissioned the building to be built by an architect who based the design of the building on some ancient Indian drawings.
Now you can head to the beach, and don’t be put off by the weather; it’s fascinating even with gusty winds and grey sky. Have a walk on the Palace Pier and you’ll have a great view of Brighton off the coast, then walk up to Hove where all the coloured beach huts are. If the tide is low, try to get as close as you can to the ruins of the West Pier.
If you’ve ended up between Brighton and Hove, wander back to Western Road and have a drink at The Bee’s Mouth. Take your pick from a good selection of local and imported beers and stare at the spinning head nestled into the bar.
Brighton is famous for the vast variety of food on offer. From Italian to Indian, to burgers and top class vegetarian. If you are starving and looking for a juicy burger, Coggings & Co. is what you are looking for. Or, if you’re in the mood for something a little more sophisticated, check out Terre A Terre, one of the UK’s most famous vegetarian restaurants. Whatever your choice is, make sure you book a table. If you’re not in a rush to hop on a train just yet, go hit up Green Door Store; it’s a music venue in a disused railway yard, and the best spot to go for some late night tunes.
Words and photos by Andrea Venturini