Day Trip to Brighton: How to Spend a Perfect Day near London (2024)

Thinking about a day trip to Brighton, the seaside town along England’s southern coast? Here’s everything you’ll need to know to plan the perfect outing from London or the surrounding areas. You’ll find advice about where to eat, where to shop, and all of the best activities near the beach to help you make the most of your time in Brighton. 

By visiting Brighton, you can get a sense of how non-Londoners live in England. It’s also a chance to experience a quieter, more accessible version of British culture, like eating a soft serve ice cream on the seaside. From vintage shops to street art to the chance to view the city from above, you’ll find plenty of local favorites while exploring Brighton, but without the hustle and bustle of London. 

The beach in Brighton. Couples line the beach looking towards the ocean.
A few people enjoy a sunny winter day on the beach in Brighton.

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About Brighton

Located along the southern coast of England, Brighton is a city full of brightly colored houses, fun cafes and restaurants, and a fabulous pebbly beach. This eccentric city is full of artwork, with building walls covered in brightly painted murals. There’s even a Banksy mural located near the train station. 

Brighton and nearby Hove are known as the unofficial “Gay Capital” of the UK. With records of LGBT community members dating back to the 19th century, Brighton has long been established as a gathering place for the community, with several lesbian and gay pubs in the city. As of 2014, between 11 and 15% of Brighton’s population is thought to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. 

A sunny day on a quiet urban street in Brighton.
Parts of Brighton reminded me of San Francisco, California.

What to do on a Brighton day trip

Here are just some of the things that you can do while in Brighton on a day trip, and it’s plenty to make up a full day’s itinerary. From fabulous coffee, tasty restaurants, shopping in open air markets, and walking along the seafront, you’ll get a little bit of everything this seaside city has to offer. 

You’ll want to move around the city pretty freely, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and drink plenty of water. Sunscreen, an umbrella for rainy days, and warm enough clothes are a must. You won’t need cash for most activities and vendors in Brighton, but it couldn’t hurt to bring a small amount for tipping street performers or small purchases in the Lanes. 

Have a coffee near the train station

I love to try different coffees when I travel, so of course I had to make a stop as soon as I got off the train at Wolfox. There’s a cute stop right near the entry barriers for the trains where they also sell premade sandwiches if you’re trying to get out the door and on with your day. 

My favorite coffee of the day was just a few steps further at The Botanist. They have a few pastries and other treats, but I’d mostly go to have a great coffee and enjoy the space, which is full of indoor plants. You can, of course, order your coffee for takeaway if you’re eager to get started exploring Brighton. 

A closeup of a mural of two police officers kissing in a warm embrace
Banksy’s “Kissing Coppers” up close.

See Banksy’s “Kissing Coppers” mural

Originally painted in 2004, Banksy’s “Kissing Coppers” is a fixture on the Prince Albert Pub in Brighton, located just a few steps from the train station. The piece is a nod to Brighton’s history as a central hub for the UK’s LGBT community. The original was removed in order to preserve it, but a replica can be seen and enjoyed by the public today. 

Check out some street art

While the Banksy piece may well be the most famous bit of street art in Brighton, it’s certainly not the only thing worth seeing. You’ll find the biggest collection of street art murals along Trafalgar Street and Trafalgar Lane, both of which are not far from the train station. 

I love to venture out of my way to appreciate street art when I travel, and I particularly loved the vibrancy and creativity of the pieces I saw in Brighton. It’s well worth a small bit of your day to take in some artwork during your day trip and, as a bonus, it’s free!

A mural that reads "Trafalgar Street"
A mural dedicated to Trafalgar Street.

Eat breakfast at a local spot

Brighton has loads of fabulous restaurants, many of which offer better prices than you’ll find in London. Two local favorites are Billie’s and Nowhere Man, both of which are popular local spots serving up tasty breakfasts. Nowhere Man is known for their American style pancake breakfasts, while Billie’s has heavier offerings like a breakfast hash or a traditional English fry up. 

For a light and quick option, you can always grab a croissant or other breakfast pastry at one of the coffee shops on this list. Some cafes will even offer avocado toast or other simple breakfast dishes, which can be a great option if you’re looking for lighter fare. 

Visit the Lanes

The Lanes in Brighton are a collection of narrow streets and alleyways that date back to the 18th century. Today, these streets are filled with hip vendors, restaurants, and cafes. If you’re looking to do some shopping in Brighton, you’ll want to head here for the most unique options. Unless you’re looking for something specific, you can simply browse the streets and see if any vendors catch your eye. 

It’s not terribly important where you start exploring the Lanes, but I enjoyed the shops around Sydney Street and along Kensington Gardens. If you’d like an address to put into Google Maps, try 16 Kensington Gardens, Brighton BN1 4AL. This will take you to the top of a street with plenty of activity and cute shops. 

Royal Pavilion

Most any guide to Brighton will tell you to visit the Brighton Pavilion, and this post is no exception. The Royal Pavilion is an Asian-style palace that was built for King George IV, combining elements of both Indian and Chinese architecture and design. The pavilion also includes expansive gardens, offering views of the building’s unique rooftops. 

Tickets are required to enter the Royal Pavilion. You can purchase them by visiting the main website for Brighton & Hove Museums.

Colored flags line an indoor market, with a chalkboard sign advertising vegan hot chocolate.
The interior of the Open Market in Brighton.

Have lunch in a covered market

In addition to the open air markets and shopping areas of the Lanes, you can find fabulous food in some of the more tucked away spots. Expats from the US are renowned for missing Mexican food, so if you’ve been craving a decent taco, make your way to the Open Market where you’ll find Casazul. This little taqueria has delightful tacos, including plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, that are served with some salsa that was so good I bought an extra jar to take home. 

If Mexican food just isn’t your thing, you’ll find tons of other highly rated restaurants in the city. I included a few of my local friend’s favorites, but you could simply look around and find one with a long queue – usually the sign of a great restaurant. Most places will have options to meet various dietary restrictions, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free meals. 

Visit the Feminist Bookshop

Despite its unassuming entrance, the Feminist Bookshop is a beloved spot among locals and a great place to visit while on a day trip to Brighton. This bright and welcoming space houses shelves of great reads, as you might have guessed, and helpful staff who will share their recommendations. 

If you’re still not sure what to read next, the Feminist Bookshop often has “blind date” books, where you buy a book based on a brief description without knowing the title or seeing the cover. There’s also a lovely reading nook and coffee bar, so you can enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and get a headstart on your new book before you even leave the shop. 

Tragically, the Feminist Bookshop was closed when I visited, but it’s on my must-visit list when I return to Brighton. If you’re interested in some of my favorite books, here’s a list that I made a while back. 

The front door of The Feminist Bookshop, one of the must-visit places on a day trip to Brighton
The Feminist Bookshop was closed when I visited, but my friend who lived in the area said it was one of her favorite spots in Brighton.

Head to the seaside

One of the top attractions in Brighton is the seaside, where you’ll find views of buildings looking out over the ocean and a pebbly beach. The seafront is lined with restaurants and bars, most of which have seating that looks out towards the beach and a fun, relaxed atmosphere. The path that runs along the beach is full of people, young and old, walking parallel to the water. 

Brighton Beach

You can swim at Brighton Beach or just take a self-care break and relax on the nearby pebbly beach. The general atmosphere here is very laid back, and you’ll find that most of the other beachgoers are relaxing and chatting with their friends. This stretch of coastline is beloved by locals and visitors alike, so it’s a must-visit while you’re in Brighton.

Best sure to wear sunscreen near the beach, even on overcast days, to protect yourself from the sun. If you bring a reusable water bottle, many of the local restaurants and shops would be happy to refill it for you so that you can stay hydrated. There are public toilets available for you to use, if needed. 

An empty boardwalk in Brighton on a sunny afternoon
The boardwalk in Brighton.

Walk along the paved path 

There is a paved pathway that runs most of the length of Brighton Beach, passing by a collection of shops and attractions. If you’re looking to get your steps in, be sure to walk a stretch of this path. One must-see landmark is the upside down house, which is located near the main bandstand. 

Even from the outside, the upside down house is a bit of a marvel. I didn’t realize until later that you can actually enter the house, which is fully furnished and you can explore the interior. If you’re looking for a unique Instagram post or unusual photo, you might want to consider paying the fee to enter the house. 

Get a bird’s eye view of Brighton from the i360

Visitors who might have decided to skip the London Eye might instead consider the i360. This vertical lookout tower that extends over the beach and offers – as the name suggests – a 360 degree view of the city. This experience is on the pricier side, but if you enjoy seeing cities from unusual angles or perspectives, you can’t beat the views you’ll get from the i360. 

I didn’t take the i360 on my visit, but I have a friend who did and said that she loved it. This activity is best enjoyed on a nice, clear day, so if you visit when it’s a bit foggy or rainy you might skip it. 

A life size sculpture of an upside down house on the Brighton boardwalk
This house is one of the most memorable features on the walking path that stretches across Brighton Beach.

Brighton Pier

The Brighton Pier is probably the most family-friendly activity you can do in Brighton. The pier is full of arcade games and includes a carousel and a few rides – plenty to keep kids busy for a few hours and create some lifelong memories. There aren’t many dining options on the Brighton Pier, so be sure to eat before you go or plan to simply grab a snack from one of the vendors.

Watch the sunset

Brighton is known for its fabulous sunsets, especially if you enjoy them from the beach. If you’d prefer a more unique sunset experience, you could choose the sunset “flight” on the i360, where you can also enjoy a glass of wine or champagne with your view of the city. 

Where to eat and drink in Brighton

One of the top reasons to visit Brighton is for the fabulous food and coffee. I’ll focus in this post on breakfast, lunch, and coffee stops because most people will head home before dinner when they’re visiting for a day trip. This list is a combination of the spots I found and tried while in Brighton and some recommendations from a friend who is a former local. 

Brighton coffee shops

I was immediately impressed by the coffee shops that I encountered when I visited Brighton. The cafes were cozy, the coffee was great, and there were many more options than I was expecting. Here are some of the best coffee shops you’ll find in Brighton. 

The Botanist

This coffee shop was my first stop after dropping my bag at the luggage storage counter. I looked it up before I went in, but I was drawn to it because I love houseplants… and this spot was full of them. I loved the bright, sunny interior and the fresh feeling that the shop had from all of the plants growing on shelves and in corners. 

The coffee was fabulous, too. This was the sort of place I’d go back to again and again, and it’s a must for my next trip to Brighton. If you’re trying to ward off the post-vacation blues, the Botanist would be a great spot to do a little journaling. 

Plants drape down framing the logo for The Botanist Coffee Co.
My favorite coffee from my trip to Brighton was from The Botanist, a cafe located a short walk from the train station.

Stoney Point

Located along Montpelier Place in a mostly residential area of Brighton is Stoney Point, a cafe that serves fabulous coffee drinks and small breakfast dishes. I tried to visit Stoney Point on my day trip to Brighton, but they were closed for renovations. 

Stoney Point has fabulous looking breakfast dishes, including avocado toast and tasty pastries. The coffee is said to be excellent, with a few reviewers noting that the flat whites were the best they’d ever had. My friend who had lived in the area suggested getting the coffee for takeaway (to go) and wandering the city with it. 

Wolfox

I wouldn’t put the coffee from Wolfox on the same level as, say, The Botanist, but it definitely deserves a spot on this list. They have a stall in the train station, so it couldn’t be more convenient to grab a flat white or a cappuccino when you first arrive in Brighton. I liked that they also had plenty of food options, and there was the telltale sign of a local favorite: a long line of people waiting to order a coffee. 

Brighton restaurants

This list of Brighton restaurants is short but mighty. My friend who lived in Brighton didn’t have many restaurants to recommend, but she had plenty to say about each one and assured me that these were the best spots in the city. I ate lunch at Casazul and had a chai latte at Nowhere Man when I visited Brighton. 

A guava flavored Jarritos, tacos, and a side of rice and beans at a taqueria.
Vegetarian tacos from Casazul in Brighton.

Casazul

I would put Casazul on a list of the best restaurants I’ve been to in Europe, it’s truly a gem. This authentic Mexican restaurant serves street tacos along with basic sides, each of them prepared with care and thought. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, along with the more traditional chicken, beef, and pork tacos. 

I asked the owner where he sourced the cheese used to top the tacos, which reminded me of a queso fresco you might find in the US or Mexico. He told me that he’d found an English cheese that had a similar effect when grated, and I’m still impressed with this find (most restaurants just use feta). There’s something about a great plate of tacos that helps me ward off some lingering feelings of homesickness

I brought back a small jar of the homemade salsa and my only regret is that I didn’t buy more. 

Nowhere Man

Nowhere Man is a cozy, bohemian spot known for their American style pancakes. These pancakes come piled high with powdered sugar, fresh fruits or fruit compotes, and sides of whipped cream. The interior reminded me of spots I’ve visited in Berkeley, California, with large leather couches, vintage decor, and some happy looking houseplants. 

I had already eaten when I visited, but I grabbed an iced chai here on a quiet weekday afternoon. The chai was tasty, and I loved having a little break during my day to enjoy the space. 

A sign reads, "Nowhere Man. Coffee, bagels, pancakes, iced tea, and coffee"
Nowhere Man is a popular cafe in Brighton.

Billie’s

Known for their generous portions, this breakfast joint serves traditional English breakfasts alongside dishes with modern twists. The house specialty at Billie’s is the Farmhouse Hash, which is served with sausage, bacon, baked beans, and mushrooms then topped with cheese. They offer a few variations, including a few vegetarian options. 

This is the sort of breakfast that might fill you up for a full day, so be sure you’re hungry if you choose to visit Billie’s. The service can be a bit slow, so be prepared to enjoy the sunny windows and take your time with your breakfast. 

Real Patisserie 

The Real Patisserie is a pastry stop and bakery in Brighton that serves desserts that are not overly sweet from a small storefront near the Brighton train station. Here, you’ll find sweet treats like a tart with apple or  raspberry and blackcurrant. This could be a great top on your way back into London if you’d like a small treat for the train or your hotel room. 

Luggage storage

If you come directly from Gatwick or otherwise have luggage with you when you arrive in Brighton, I cannot recommend enough that you drop your bags before heading off into the city. I used a bag drop service, which was convenient and just what I needed in order to be able to enjoy my day in the city. 

I used CitySpareSpace Luggage Storage to store my luggage, a small operation set inside of a corner shop. They were located just a few blocks from the train station, so it was convenient for both drop off and collection. 

While the service seemed secure to me, I would probably avoid leaving any valuables in the shop just in case something happened. I opted to bring my laptop with me when I explored Brighton, leaving most of my clothing and other items behind in my suitcase. I’d also recommend checking recent reviews on Google Maps to ensure there aren’t new issues that have popped up. 

There are also bag drop services in the train station, including lockers, that you could use instead. Again, be sure to read a few recent reviews before leaving your bags so that you’re aware of any problems other users might have experienced. 

A clock tower in the center of Brighton with a small dedication to the Prince of Wales
A clock in the center of an intersection in Brighton.

Getting around Brighton

Once you arrive in Brighton, you can easily navigate the city on foot. You’ll find sidewalks throughout the city and a lovely walking path along the beach, in addition to open air markets. Bring comfy, waterproof shoes and plan to walk everywhere you need to go if you can. 

For those who prefer not to walk, you can rent bicycles and explore the city on two wheels. There are some hills, but the city is small enough that you can easily get around with a bike. Alternatively, you could purchase a hop-on hop-off bus tour that includes stops throughout Brighton and Hove, which would allow you to see even more of the area. 

How to get to Brighton

Like many other English cities, Brighton is easily accessible by train. Most visitors will take the train directly from London, though you can easily access Brighton from other English cities and regions. Alternatively, you can reach Brighton by car from other regions of England. 

Train from London

The National Rail Service operates the train system between London and Brighton. You can take the Gatwick Express from the Victoria station in central London directly to Brighton station. You can check for prices and schedules by visiting National Rail Enquiries, and Google Maps typically also has accurate schedule information. 

Pro tip: if you fly into London Gatwick in the morning, visit Brighton before making your way to London

When I flew into London for the first time, I had booked a flight into the London Gatwick airport. This was perfect for a day trip to Brighton because I was already nearly halfway from London to Brighton, saving overall time spent on the train. The train left Gatwick and went directly to Brighton, where I was able to store my bags near the station before heading out on my day adventure. 

People calmly walk towards the exit in the Brighton train station
The Brighton train station.

What to do in Brighton at night

For fans of Taylor Swift who are considering spending a Friday or Saturday night in Brighton, consider joining a Swiftie-focused club night. Swiftogeddon is an event where a nightclub or pub will dedicate an entire night to only Taylor Swift’s songs, including favorites like All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version). You can check dates and ticket availability on Eventbrite.

Otherwise, the best way to spend an evening in Brighton is at one of the city’s many pubs and bars. 

Best time to visit Brighton

If you can, try to visit Brighton in the summertime for the best experience at the beach. Even on a cooler summer day, you’ll likely find people swimming in the sea, eating 99s (soft serve ice cream cones topped with a Flake chocolate bar), and generally enjoying the sunshine. 

However, it’s worth visiting Brighton even if you’re considering a day trip during the winter. I would suggest, however, that you choose a sunny day if possible. 

Day trip to Brighton: FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting Brighton on a day trip from London. 

Is Brighton nice for a day trip?

Yes, Brighton is a great spot for a day trip from London or other English cities. This funky and artistic city is a lively spot with plenty of activities to fill up a day’s visit. I especially loved visiting the seaside, where you can look out over the ocean and enjoy some time listening to the soft crash of waves on the beach. 

Additionally, you’ll find plenty of great restaurants, coffee shops, and shopping areas to enjoy in Brighton. 

How many days do you need in Brighton?

You can easily see Brighton’s main attractions in one (albeit long) day. To see the city in one day, you will need to keep a decently quick pace in order to see everything the city has to offer. If you’d prefer to shop for a while in the markets or spend a full day at the beach, you can consider spending more than one day. 

You will want to try to arrive as early as you can manage from London, as there’s a lot to see (and eat). Plan for a minimum of 6 hours in Brighton, from when your train pulls into the station to when it leaves. 

A Banksy mural on the wall of a pub in Brighton. A portion of the wall reads Dirty Weekend in Brighton.
A collage of murals containing Banksy’s “Kissing Coppers” (it’s the one on the door on the street level).

Is Brighton worth a day trip from London?

I was so glad to spend a day in Brighton when I visited London on a 5 day trip, so I would say that it’s absolutely worth a day trip from London. Visiting Brighton gives you a chance to see where people live and work along England’s southern coast, far from the tourist centers in London. Even the most touristy parts of Brighton will feel local compared to, say, Camden Market in London. 

Is it worth visiting Brighton in the winter?

I visited Brighton on a sunny but chilly day in February and absolutely loved my time in the city. As I shared in my packing list for Ireland, the weather on the British Isles can often feel much colder than the temperature suggests. Bring a warm coat that will protect you from the wind if you decide to visit the city in the winter. 

If you do decide to visit in the winter, I’d encourage you to choose a sunny day. You’ll be spending most of your time outdoors, and a visit to the seaside will be much more enjoyable if you’re able to soak in some sunshine. Keep in mind that the weather may be colder on the coast than it is in the more protected areas in and around London. 

Is Brighton a walkable city?

Yes, Brighton is a walkable city. There are plenty of sidewalks and most of the attractions are located within a central area. If you decide to walk the streets of Brighton, be sure to bring comfortable shoes and be ready for a few hills. 

Can you get around Brighton without a car?

Yes, you can absolutely get around Brighton without a car. In fact, you might find it difficult to navigate Brighton with a car, as the city doesn’t have a tremendous amount of parking and is very walkable. 

If you prefer not to walk around Brighton, you might consider renting a bicycle for your day trip. That way you can travel around the city a bit faster, but you’ll still get to enjoy all of the sights. 

A mural of baby apes in the foreground with an angel mural on a wall nearby
There is street art throughout Brighton.

Is it possible to walk from London to Brighton?

No, it’s not possible to walk from London to Brighton, the distance between these two cities is about 54 miles (87 kilometers). From London, you’ll want to take the train, bus, or drive to Brighton. Most visitors will take the train, as it is convenient and easy to navigate once you buy your ticket. 

Final thoughts: Day trip to Brighton

There are so many wonderful things to do on a day trip to Brighton. There’s something for everyone to enjoy in Brighton, from solo travelers to those traveling with their parents to families. Whether you’re interested in exploring the more progressive parts of the city, like the Feminist Bookshop or strolling past the street art, or you’re just ready in a day by the seaside, there’s a Brighton itinerary for you. 

This post would not have been possible without my wonderful and talented friend, Ely. She lived in Brighton while attending graduate school and encouraged me to visit for a day trip, offering priceless suggestions and tips for my visit. She has a project called Me Voy de Casa (“I’m Leaving Home”) which showcases the stories of women who have traveled or immigrated alone.